Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 7)
“They think he has leukemia,” my heart stopped as a lump formed in my throat. The news seemed, well, unbelievable, “How can that be?! He’s only thirty years old,” I responded to my sister. But deep down something in me just knew. My brother-in-law was going to die. And in fact, less than a year later he passed away. His death was an awful thing to witness. It challenged my faith and even some of my moral convictions. I left the hospital only hours before his last breath, but that final day was dreadful. I’m not even sure what was worse: watching his chest rise and fall awkwardly, or hearing the wails and cries of his mother and sisters who wept as those with no hope. As much as I loved him and would miss him, I prayed for God to take him quickly during those final, torturous hours. The only comfort came in knowing he was leaving his pain and entering the eternal rest of Jesus’ arms.
But it almost didn’t work out that way.
In the minutes after receiving that first phone call, my world began to change as I wrestled with the way I had lived my life and how my choices could have directly affected the eternity of my brother-in-law. He knew I claimed to be a Christian, he knew I was raised in church, he knew what I said I believed, but he also knew that my actions were the exact opposite of everything I had been taught. In fact, it was only a few months after my “prodigal return” to Jesus that I found out he was sick.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, I fell to my knees in prayer for his salvation. He was not saved, he did not know Jesus, and frankly, I couldn’t blame him with the type of Christian examples he had in his life! Unfortunately, this scenario plays out all too often in many families. We find out a loved one is sick, we worry over their soul; we pray for their salvation, we cry out to God in desperation for their physical healing. But where were we and our prayers before we found out about their illness? Tragically, many of us were Christians whose faith was dead.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (James 2:17, NIV). The Greek rendering for “dead” in the passage is literally, “like a corpse”. It’s like a body without a soul—it’s an empty shell, completely ineffective.**
When I started to witness to my brother in law, he was skeptical to say the least. Sure I had “repented” and been going back to church for a few months, but the whole of my life (as far as what he knew) was nothing but a giant hypocrisy. What was so great about the God I was reflecting in my life? Why should he want that? And now here I was pleading with him to accept Christ before it was too late. Maybe I should have thought about that, oh, say ten years earlier when I was chasing the lusts of the flesh.
In the end, after much prayer and witnessing (and yes, much confession and asking of forgiveness) my brother-in-law did accept Jesus as his Savior before he lost the ability to communicate. I’ll never forget one of the last things he said to me as his face radiated peace during those final days, “I’m going to be with Jesus! I’m going to Heaven!” I had no doubt about his eternal security, but man, that was close! Too close! And for many, sadly, the story does not have a happy ending.
Spiritual deadness is merely the result of spiritual dullness left unchecked. Living as a complacent, lukewarm believer eventually leads to an ineffective faith. What the world needs to see is Christians practicing what they preach (love, grace, mercy, forgiveness), and exuding the peace that passes all understanding in their daily lives. When we choose sin over obedience, self over surrender, and bondage over freedom, our behavior will absolutely reflect those choices—and our choices will affect other people. It may even affect their eternity.
“To suffer deadness is to forget Revelation 3:1,
‘To the angel of the church of Sardis write: “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”’”¹
Our lives are ravaged with trial, suffering, and pain, but that doesn’t mean we should lose hope, abandon our faith, and walk away from God when circumstances don’t turn out the way we’d like. A lot of times our spiritual estrangement is a result of an “entitlement” mentality. We believe God “owes” us a certain way of life, and when He fails to meet our expectations we get angry with Him and rebel. I plead with you to take caution with such an attitude. Satan will tempt us to think our influence doesn’t really matter, or that our choices aren’t hurting anyone else, but that is a lie from the pit. Our spiritual freedom matters, our faith matters, and it matters not only for you and me, but for our families and friends, and anyone we come in contact with in our daily lives. The bank tellers, the grocery store clerks, the other drivers on the road (ever see a crazy driver with a Jesus fish or church sticker on their car?)—our decision to choose to pursue truth and live by it matters to the world.
If you’ve struggled with a dead (ineffective) faith, please pray this prayer out loud, “Jesus, my attitude, actions, and choices do not always align with your truth. In the name of Jesus I now choose to believe what your word says about me, and how you see me, and I reject the lie that my choices and behavior do not matter and won’t hurt anyone else. Give me a heart that is willing to walk by faith while boldly rejecting what is false. When I trusted you as my Savior, you made me alive in righteousness and dead to sin, now create an experience in my life that reflects that position of freedom. Help me live every day as one dead to sin and alive unto righteousness. Thank you for your forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. I choose to reject the voices of condemnation and embrace your word of truth that says simply, ‘Go, and sin no more.’² In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
- Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.
- See John 8:1-11
- **Before you send me angry emails or attempt to post argumentative comments, I know this verse is often used to prove that one needs works in order to be “truly” saved. But without getting into a theological debate, I will merely state this: in relation to the whole of God’s word and contextual interpretation, I do not believe this verse says faith without works is not a “saving faith”. In fact, if it did, it would contradict many other passages and examples of “carnal” Christians in the Bible. (And that’s as much as I care to comment on this subject. This post is NOT intended to be a doctrinal debate on soteriology!)
(To review the previous Deadly Ds of the devil, simply click on the “D” of your choice: