When Your Faith and Your Works Don’t Quite Work Out

It’s like getting a new car one day and then finding out the car won’t start the next morning.

It’s a somewhat similar feeling when we fast…we pray and we work our tails off to make sure we are pulling our own weight in the equation and still, nada…nothing …zilch.
Where you were anticipating wealth, you found debt. Where you were looking for acknowledgment you found rejection. Where you were looking for evidence that God had been with you all along, you find your faith shaken like never before.

You’re reeling and asking yourself what you missed. How did this not work? How is it that I know that God is in this and yet it looks like a cow pooped on it?
That’s how David must have felt after being anointed to be king only to have to live as a fugitive.
That’s how Joseph must have felt after dreaming all these big dreams and ending up as a servant and in jail.

The Bible says “faith without works is dead”. It asks us to put our money where our mouth it and add work to the faith we have. It implies that when we do that, our work yields good results.

So yes…I can relate when you work really hard at something and you combine that with your faith …and It still doesn’t work out the way you wanted.
How should you reconcile that in your heart? How do you protect your heart and mind in the light of “I worked, I had faith, and It still didn’t work”

Here are a few things to remember that will help you guard your heart but most importantly, will help you keep your head up and ultimately rise again from the ashes that seem to overwhelm you now.

1) Reread and understand James 2:14-18.
It says: “Faith without works is dead”. It didn’t say works without faith is dead. Let me give you a revelation that I got about this.
If you see how that sentence is arranged, you will realize that it is our faith that is affected by our works and not the other way round. Our work is not the element that is affected. It is not the primary focus of that verse… it is our faith.
In fact, the second part of vs 18 says “… I will show you my faith BY my works.”  Sure our work is ultimately affected by our faith but in a very different context.

God uses our works to work on our faith so even if the thing you are working on does not work out, know that the real profit is in the building of your faith. Perhaps God wants to teach you how to believe in great possibilities in the midst of failure so that once you learn that, you can be trusted with more (A key trait that apparently most successful people have)

Step out of your spiritual shoes for a sec and you’ll realize that the successful people we look up to all have that trait. They have all been through great failure and yet found a way to keep their faith.

2) Remember the law of Physics: Energy is never lost or destroyed. It is simply transferred:
Even though you did not/have not hit your goal despite your extra buckets of faith, understand that the effort you put into that “project” is not lost or destroyed.
I recently counseled a young lady in the Atlanta area as she was looking to land an internship at a law firm over the summer. She only had a few weeks to go before summer so I lit a fire under her and she applied her tail off. She finally got an interview and called me the day before. I asked her to stretch herself in preparing for that interview and go as far as she could beyond what was considered good preparation for the interview.

Shortly after, she called me and told me the news. She prayed, she prepared well, and the interview was great!…BUT she did NOT get the job. I was shattered for her. I knew she worked very hard preparing. Then I explained this principle to her and encouraged her.
Shortly after that, (yea…crazy) she called me and told me that they called her back and told her that even though they were not able to take her, they were so impressed that they forwarded her resume to another law firm they work with. (Long story short) She got a position at the other law firm. Amazing.

Understand this and understand it well. Just because things didn’t work out doesn’t mean you failed or that your faith was weak or that your works were a waste.

Do not give up. Your invested energy in faith and action will not be destroyed. It will yet show up in another way.

God taught Joseph how to manage a home perfectly and that ended up in what seemed like an epic fail…until he started to use those skills to manage the nation of Egypt.

3) Pivot
Change direction. You started going in one direction and it didn’t work. So take what you learn in that area and use it to work on another. You see, when God gives us gifts, he knows that those gifts can be expressed in multiple ways. Our problem sometimes is that we are stuck in one version of expression and when that doesn’t work, we think we have failed or that things just won’t work.

Maybe you love music…so you strap your faith to your voice or instrument and work your tail off to be a music star but that doesn’t work. It might just be that God wants you to TEACH music. Maybe he wants you to preach using what you have learned in Music.

4)Protect your faith and evaluate your work
You need your faith in order to keep going…in order to rebuild. You can lose your work but you can’t afford to lose your faith. So spiritually and mentally protect your faith. Evaluate your work…modify your work… but protect your faith. How do you do that?

A) Assign a meaning to your failure that actually serves you not paralyzes you. So say things like “Even though it did not work out like I would have wanted, I am proud of what I created and the effort I put into it. Now it’s just a matter of tweaking it based on what I have learned” VERSUS “I am a total failure and I’m never going to make this thing work”.

They both feel like the truth. Difference is, once serves you and protects your faith so you can reset and rebuild (without sugarcoating the situation); and the other paralyzes your faith.

B) Surround yourself with fellow travelers. What do I mean by that? I mean people who are also on a journey somewhere. Working on something SPECIFIC …trying to become something SPECIFIC. (It’s important you get this). When you are around such people, you will not only see yourself in them (because you will see that they are also having ups and downs) but it will also help you maintain your motivation because you’ll see that despite their struggles, they keep going.

I am part of a mastermind group and I was bummed out that something I spent almost $1000 on didn’t work quite as well as I wanted. Someone else then shared that they had spent $20,000 on something and it didn’t quite work out but that they learned what adjustments to make and will try again soon. It shut down my self-defeat instantly.

5) Take a break.
That’s it. get away from the work. from the project. Recharge. reset. Jesus did it. Elijah did it. You should do it too. When you feel overwhelmed …when you start feeling exhausted to the point that your creativity and output are affected, Step back. Take a moment. Connect to your bigger purpose. Get some rest. That may mean a good night’s sleep or a week of stepping away. Listen to your body and your spirit and take a break.

6) Remember that if God is truly in it, it was never yours in the first place.
This is probably the hardest pill to swallow. You prayed about this project or venture. You tell God you will partner with him or that you will give him all the glory for it. You pray to him to take control of it and lead the way. And then things don’t work out. I know that the knee-jerk reaction is to wonder if he left you hanging. In actuality though, he may have just answered your prayers.

You gave it to him and he changed the direction, meaning of success and the time line of the project to fit HIS ETERNAL PLAN. To me, means that when you work towards something and do it in faith with God leading the way, whether it’s for profit or not, whether it’s secular or not, whether it’s at work or at church, God is using it in HIS ETERNAL PLAN whether or not things work out the way you intended or not.

So don’t stay in despair. Don’t be overcome by frustration. Don’t give up. Your work is not a waste and your passions are not a mistake. Your life is designed to yield a profit and it will. In due season….even if you are not around to see it, your life will end up with a win.

Don’t give up now. As long as air if flowing through those lungs and you are waking up every day, you can keep trying. You can keep going.

The only thing you have to do is to keep your faith up and do your absolute best work.

Good luck, keep the faith and see you at the top.