Devotional Day 11
But prove yourselves doers of the word, not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.James 1:22-25
Starting a Short Day
After a poor night’s sleep for both of us, Dean and I didn’t get up until 7:45 am. Of course everyone else was long gone except for two other guys. We weren’t in a hurry, as it was a very short walk, only 10 km. This was less than our expected day’s walk to Valença, about 15 km. En route was a highly recommended albergue (and the only one we’d booked a day or two ahead of time), which was actually 5 km short of the city. Our expectations were inaccurate after seeing Valença listed on the flier we’d been shown.
After the first kilometer we stopped for breakfast. With extra energy we were prepare for the incline on our path, but it was less than the day before. As we walked with no feeling of rush, I considered what James wrote about being “doers.”
“doers of the word, not just hearers”
While the importance of listening has been established, that is not the end point. If we don’t apply what we hear, we become the “Sunday morning Christian,” who goes to church, knows the songs, is familiar with the doctrine, but on Monday acts just like the rest of the world. It’s been interesting to see this trend in Nigeria, as we’ve been told by numerous pastors there. On Monday, the “Christian” politician still acts corruptly, the student in a seminary still cheats, and the family with a sick child still goes to the local “healer” (commonly called a witch doctor in some countries). Truth is not applied in daily life.
Perhaps it’s similar when walking a pilgrimage or some other spiritual high point. It’s one thing to feel spiritually refreshed and close to God during this window of time separated from life’s typical patterns. But what happens afterward, when back in the “real world”? Is Christ still central to all we say and do? Days of self-reflection or hearing the word on Sunday may even feel convicting, like looking in the mirror and seeing blemishes. But for the non-doer, no effort is made to change, leaving the blemishes forgotten.
Following the Law of Freedom
It’s interesting that James here calls for “looking intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom.” In Paul’s epistles, the “law” is often related to condemnation and slavery. Here James makes it clear that he’s not referring to the kind of legalism that traps many people. The law still serves as a measuring stick, a point of reference by which to assess our own lives. But it is not about following rules to earn salvation.
We see the law of freedom in the greatest commandment: love God with your whole self. If each action is taken, each decision made, out of love for God, our lives will indeed be transformed. If what we think, say, and do stems from what we hear from God, and therefore in line with His will, it will be blessed!
Walking with Jesus
As I walked along through a section of forest thinking about these verses, I let Jesus know my desire to hear and act, inviting Him to walk beside me, to speak as I listened. I got the picture of Him walking with a staff in His hand. He reminded me of who He was as a Shepherd. When His sheep hear His voice, they recognize and follow Him.
That is His lasting invitation and challenge: “Follow Me.” The path on which Jesus walks is not smooth and easy. It can be rocky, mountainous, long, and tiring. It can include suffering and sorrow. But what remains consistent is His Presence. When walking with Him, we can always turn to Him for strength in the midst of weakness, comfort in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of fear. Sheep trust their shepherd, usually better than we trust our Shepherd. He provides for and guides the sheep. Likewise, we are invited to depend on Him as we follow Him. Living that way makes us doers, not just hearers.
We arrived at noon, three hours before registration was supposed to open. The confirmation email said early arrivals could enjoy the patio, and that they would do their best to make the room ready. There seemed to be two patio levels, and when no one answered the bell by the door, I thought about going to the upper level, which seemed to have more shade and comfortable chairs.
There was a “No Trespassing” sign on the gate, which I thought meant only pilgrims were allowed past that point. (The two parts of the building were both part of the picture on the flier, so I assumed it was all part of the albergue.) But when looking around the porch, the window opened and in an elevated voice the hostess asked what I was doing on the family’s property. Soon the husband emerged and complained that no one respected their privacy. I apologized profusely and retreated downstairs.
A while later they came out, willing to register us early, but saying no one ever arrived that early. For them, 12-3 pm was usually their break. I expressed more apologies, and felt some internal regret we had come such a short way just because of a strong recommendation. We settled in, then went to get a pilgrim’s lunch.
Back at the albergue, other pilgrims arrived. The rest of the afternoon was the usual pattern, but laundry was skipped with no outside sink available for washing clothes. They always offer dinner (based on donations) and we decided to join the group, mostly for the sake of interaction. The downside was that it was mostly carbs, all vegetarian, which doesn’t fit with the ketogenic diet. I had soup and wine, but couldn’t eat the main dish of pasta with tomato sauce.
Nevertheless, the diverse community of pilgrims made for good conversations. We had another early night, this time with only two others in our room and no loud snoring. Unfortunately, I still woke up and was harassed by a mosquito, so it was not the most restful of nights. It was interesting to think about how booking ahead and paying more for a private albergue was no guarantee of a better experience.
Thank You, Lord, for Your invitation to follow You. I want to not only hear Your voice, but follow Your call, trusting You as a caring, loving Shepherd. Help me to be faithful in living out Your Word, demonstrating My love for You and sharing Your love with others.
- Reflect on your lifestyle. Are there habits or behaviors that don’t match with the call to love God and love others?
- What might prevent you from applying what you hear and know to be right?
- Spend time with Jesus, perhaps picturing Him as being your shepherd. Ask Him what He wants you to hear and do today. Leave space for listening, and respond to Him with gratitude.