I meant to call and encourage. I meant to send flowers after their loss. I meant to sign up to bring a meal. I meant to donate to that amazing cause. I meant to pray for them. But I forgot. 

I wanted to pay for their groceries. I wanted to offer her my earrings that she said she loved so much. I wanted to reach out to an old friend. I wanted to ask if I could pray for my friend that was struggling. I wanted to share the words that were in my heart. But I was afraid. 

I meant to. I wanted to. But I didn’t. 

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

 I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. James 2:14-18 MSG

“Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (v17)

We have the best of intentions, don’t we? We mean to do good. We mean to care for others. We mean to love our neighbor. We mean to pray for that person. We mean to. But oftentimes we just don’t. 

We are too busy. We are overwhelmed with the tasks of the day and adding one more thing just feels like too much. We are worried about what others will think of us. We don’t have the time. We are afraid. It’s too hard. Or we simply forget. And all too soon, our mind has moved on to something else and our good intentions have become nothing more than a fleeting thought lost in the thousands of thoughts that consume our minds every second. 

John 14:15 reminds us: “ If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” 

Actions with faith speak louder than words. Or in this case, faith and actions speak louder than good intentions. When our good intentions get stuck, whether it’s out of fear or forgetfulness, are we practicing obedience?

Recently our small group was talking about the good intentions we often have compared to the obedience of following through with those good intentions. Someone brought up the phrase immediate obedience, and that phrase has been rolling around in my mind constantly. 

What does it look like to practice immediate obedience? 

James 1:22 tells us to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Practicing immediate obedience will look different for everyone. But the common factor will be listening to His voice, that tug you feel; and for me, it’s that knot I get in my stomach that I have come to recognize when God lays someone on my heart or when I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to take action. And here’s where the tricky and sometimes downright uncomfortable part comes in; We have to act.

For me, immediate obedience means I stop what I’m doing and pray for someone at the moment when I say I’m praying for them or they ask for prayer. For me, it means calling/texting a friend when they are on my heart. It means I use tools like lists and timers (thank you Siri) to help my overfull brain remember the things God is calling me to be part of. For me, it means that I don’t ignore the knot-in-my-stomach feeling when the Holy Spirit wants me to act. No excuses, no forgetting. No “I’ll take care of that later”. 

Immediate obedience means saying yes to the opportunities that God is calling you to be part of. 

Just as I thought I had finished writing, I had the opportunity to hear a beautiful story of immediate obedience that will hopefully encourage your heart. My friend shared that he had been asked to write a short message to share with the youth during communion. He had prepared what he felt God had laid on his heart and spent the evening before practicing and preparing to share his message. Shortly before he was to share, he felt the Holy Spirit leading him to go in a completely different direction and share about trust. He had two options here–use the devotion he had already written and prepared himself for (that I’m sure was beautifully written and an excellent message) OR listen and obey when he heard, “Do you trust me?”.  Now as if preparing a message from your own heart to share in front of your peers isn’t scary enough, doing that with no notes, no preparations, nothing but the words God placed in your heart just shortly before sharing can be downright terrifying!

But he said yes. In that moment, he chose immediate obedience to share what had been laid on his heart. I have no doubt that God used that obedience to make a huge impact on the hearts that heard his message about trust. I know his act of obedience sure was a blessing to my heart! 

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”(Luke 11:28) 

God is so good at using us, if we are willing to take the hard steps of obedience. Let’s challenge ourselves for all of our good intentions to turn into obedient actions.

Written by Christina Swecker