After I graduated from high school, I was hired as a firefighter on the Soo Line Railroad. I had the opportunity to relieve the engineer and run the engine as we pulled up to 100 boxcars, tankers, containers, and gondolas down the track. The immense power of that locomotive was very impressive. Imagine the tonnage of that train and that powerful engine (sometimes two engines) pulling for all its worth, as we met 20 miles of hills in one stretch of rail. Impressive power, until the fall season came around each year. Little leaves would fall onto the rail and leave a grease spot that in many cases would stall a train right in the middle of that hill. A brakeman would have to walk back and separate the train in half and bring that half to a siding, then return for the other half of the train. This maneuver is called “doubling.”
Just think, a little leaf can cause all that trouble, stopping that powerful engine in its tracks.
Leaves on My Track
We come to Christ and are baptized into His remnant church, and we think life cannot get any better than this. But all of a sudden the time of season changes in our lives, and leaves that we never thought we’d lose begin to fall.
Much is made of grace in the salvation process today. Christ’s righteousness is wrapped around us through faith and not through any part of my doing. That is beautiful, precious grace bestowed upon us sinners. But leaves are still falling on my track. I feel the wheels of life starting to slip.
On the locomotive there is a small hose with a blower attached. When the engine begins to slip because of leaves, you can turn on the sander that is blown onto the rail just in front of the wheels. This provides better traction and many times can get you over the hill.
When we begin to slip on our character rails, we have to turn on our sanders as well. Those sanders are more than Bible study and prayer, important as those are. I believe the sanders represent our “works.” We don’t hear much regarding behavior, overcoming, and growing mature in our faith today. I’m all about God’s grace to humankind and would never reduce that gift in any way. But how many leaves have stopped our train of faith? How have those troublesome leaves of our character hindered God’s cause with our families and friends?
Many scholars will tell us that our actions don’t matter. I wholeheartedly disagree! I believe the book of James is as inspired as the book of Romans. James 2:14; “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” In verse 18 he says: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Our behavior after professing Christ as our Savior and Lord matters immensely. In Romans 2:17-24 Paul is blistering believers, trying to get them to see that behavior as professed Christians matters. That passage ends with: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Just when we thought those little leaves of our character could stay hidden, God’s locomotive (Word) comes along and reveals how they not only hinder ourselves but those around us too.
With so many hills to climb today, with so many issues confronting a believer today, I want to encourage us to remember that how we live and treat ourselves and others is important. Romans 1:17 says; “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.” That kind of faith Paul is talking about is powerful. It's the engine with the sanders that can make it up any hill, because it’s faith that produces behavior that reveals character undeniably like that of Jesus.
David Livermore recently retired from serving as president of the Gulf States Conference.