We’re currently in the middle of the long process of teaching my fourth child to drive. She has completed the driver’s education classes, passed the test for her permit, and is now working on fulfilling the 40 hours of supervised and documented road work that the law in Georgia requires. After a half year of practice, I’ll have to admit that Leia is very good at remembering most of the rules of the road. She has those down so well that she often points out where Clif and I make mistakes! However, one area where she still needs a little work is in changing lanes. While she knows to look in her side and rear view mirrors and to give a signal before she moves over, she doesn’t always follow through when it’s time for her to actually merge. When I remind her of the things that she should do, she often says “I know. I know.” And she’s right. She does know, but the problem is that she doesn’t always “do.” And when it comes to driving in heavy Atlanta traffic, it only takes a second of “not doing” to wind up paying for damage to someone else’s car or worse.
I wonder how many Christians function in a similar way, unintentionally becoming people who’ve heard hundreds of sermons, been to countless classes, and have read their Bibles for years… who know most of the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and can even quote a few verses from memory. If asked a question about what God says in His Word, they can probably do a decent job of answering correctly, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of actually ‘doing’, they just might be more like Leia that they care to admit.
The book of James pointedly warns against this inclination in chapter 1. Verse 22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Verse 25 continues saying “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
The counsel James gives to us isn’t hard to understand or too complicate to execute. All he is saying is that ‘follow through’ is just as important as knowledge. In fact, it’s not just important, it’s crucial! Because the truth is that it’s not enough to simply sit in a classroom or church and absorb facts; it’s not enough to read your Bible every day and take notes; and it’s not even enough to commit verses to memory. None of that makes any difference if we don’t take the final step and simply “do” what God says.
Often the reason we don’t is because what we really want are instant blessings and immediate fixes to our problems, and it just doesn’t work that way. James makes a point to say that ‘continuing in’, ‘not forgetting’ and ‘doing’ are the prerequisites to the blessings that come from the truths of scripture. We are required to commit to living out what we know for a season of time before we see the ultimate benefits. Just as with most things of worth in life, seeing the active Hand of God requires work on our part, and work is frequently difficult! All of us know that forgiving someone who hurts us, denying our flesh and choosing a life of morality, or refusing temptation is challenging, but without out it, we won’t see the ‘freedom’ that verse 25 describes.
Just as it is with driving in many different and demanding conditions (day and night, sunny and stormy) over many years that we eventually become competent and reliable drivers, so it’s only as we practice the disciplines of the Christian walk over a period of time (often years) and through many trials that we can learn to avoid the dangerous collisions that threaten to wreck our lives keeping us from reaching our intended destination. But the journey begins when we decide to get ‘behind the wheel’ and start the long and glorious process of learning -and doing- the will of God.