Calloused Hearts- 2 Kings 5:10-11, 13-14

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

COMMENTARY

But Naaman was wroth, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper
I mentioned yesterday that when I pray for a fire in my heart, God usually responds with a prompting of something good I should do. As it turns out I have a specific and recent example of this.
I shared recently about my desire to gain a healthier relationship with food and my body.
But when I tried to force that healthier lifestyle on myself things backfired. I became more unhealthy and I felt this calloused heart grow within me. I lost my burning to be my best self. I kept praying for God to wake up my heart, to change me so that I could just do the right things again, to win this fight for me. But I still wasn’t getting anywhere, and that was the whole reason I began this very study.
When I read these verses from 2 Kings I realized that Naaman is a perfect example for my feelings. I had faith, I asked for what I was supposed to ask for, I thought God would come out and give me the cure! So now I felt bitter instead.

My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
I can also relate to Naaman that if there was not an immediate, miraculous healing, then at least I would expect some great sacrifice or test to unlock the blessings I sought. I asked God what He needed from me and then listened for something large and related to my physical health…but He didn’t ask for that.
Then, while listening to a sermon in Church this Sunday, I finally understood. Praying and asking for a vibrant heart was only half the recipe. I needed to meet it with a deliberate, good action. Not some epic sacrifice, though, just one of those small, little things that seem of no consequence, but which we feel in our hearts are just right to do. Ask for help, show my faith by my works, and God could work with that.
I’m only three days into this new approach but it already feels more pure and more effective. I went through all the things that I’ve felt I ought to be doing but could take care of later, and started implementing them now. Things like getting to bed on time, removing distractions from work, and getting the house clean. These have very little to do with changing my relationship to food, but everything to do with repairing my relationship to God. And already the desire to do all other good things is growing within me. I would say that I have dipped in the river Jordan once, but like Naaman this is going to take multiple washings.

Calloused Hearts- James 2:17-18, 26

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

COMMENTARY

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also
Yesterday I shared how we can only be made alive through Christ, and that means we need to be a part of Christ, and that means we are actively striving to live a Christ-like life every day. There are other factors, of course, such as the all-important role of grace, but our personal striving is a very real piece of the puzzle.
Which James further emphasizes in today’s verses: faith without works is dead.
We can and should pray to God for a fire to be lit in our hearts. We should show our faith by inviting Him to plant an active desire to do good within us. We should trust that He can remake us so that choosing the right becomes an easy and pleasant experience.
But in my life it seems that He often does not often pour that spiritual fire into my heart right away. He usually takes that prayer of faith and responds by giving me a small choice. Perhaps a twinge of conscience for something simple and good to do right then and there. And I’m sorry to say that sometimes I haven’t taken the invitation. The simple good action I am being offered seems disconnected from the greater good I was asking for the strength to do, and so I overlook it. And then my faith is separated from my works and my heart is left feeling dead.

Faith vs Fear- James 2:17-18, 22; Ether 12:18

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.

COMMENTARY

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Faith may require believing in something unseen, but is not meant to remain unseen. We believe in God and that compels us to do something. Then we see the miracle that comes of it. Faith will always push us to action, and in the performance of that action the invisible faith is conjured up into the observable world. Faith without works would mean that the perfection of faith, the manifestation of the miracle, never occurs. Hence why faith without works is dead.

And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith
The existence of God’s miracles in our lives depends on our being willing to exercise faith. To doubt the existence of miracles is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for then faith will not be exercised and no miracle will be seen. By our own choice we either live in a world of faith and miracles, or else in a world of fear and mortal limitations.

Sow and Then Reap- James 2:17-18, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Nephi 25:23

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

COMMENTARY

Faith, if it hath not works, is dead
By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God
There is a famous debate in the Christian world, whether our works are necessary for us to be saved or not. Surely none of us believe that we “earn” our way into heaven, but doesn’t God expect something from us? James tells us that “faith without works is dead,” which suggests that works are necessary for the cultivation of faith, if nothing else. Meanwhile Paul told the Ephesians that they were saved by grace through faith (which remember James says exists by our works), though he stressed that that only came as a “gift from God.”

It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do
But rather than debate about which of these scriptures is wrong, why not accept that both of them can be true? Going back to our farmer analogy, the sower needs to do his part to plow the soil, plant the seed, and fend off the weeds, but still he depends on God to bring the rain, prevent the early frost, and divert the insects and diseases. More than anything he depends on God to even put the miracle of growth into the seed to begin with.
We do need to do our part. We need that sense of having put in our all. We need to try and fail and try again and feel ourselves becoming better. We need to overcome, surmount, and triumph.
And then, after all that, we need to be in awe of the fact that none of it is enough without grace. Our obedience is simply how we open the door to allow for God’s grace to bring us to heaven. And who appreciates the grace of God more than those who run out all their strength, falls short, and then feel God carry them the rest of the way? That is faith and grace.