Jesus was very practical when it came to faith. He also was very concerned with the condition of our heart.

We all know what is happening in our heart shows up in our words, actions and attitudes.

That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, so strongly. Faith to them was not a matter of the heart. It should have led them to a relationship with God and compassion toward other people. But instead, they were only acting religious in that they were more concerned with telling others what to do, and looking good in the eyes of others.

“Everything they do is for show,” Jesus said in Matthew 25. “On their arms they wear extra-wide prayer boxes with scripture verses inside, and they wear extra-long tassels on their robes. And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the most prominent seats in the synagogue. They enjoy the attention they get on the streets, and they enjoy being called ‘Rabbi.’”  

Please do not misunderstand me. The ideas the Pharisees were teaching about God were correct, they were just not following those instructions themselves.

Matthew 23:3 reads: “So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.”

In effect, the Pharisees were saying to the people, “do what I say, not what I do.”

And so they drew the most severe criticism from Jesus than anyone. Jesus said they were actually empty and dead on the inside. All their teachings, their special religious garb, and their public prayers and ceremonies were just like a trophy on a shelf – it did not really make a difference in anyone’s life.

Where are you in your relationship with God? Do you have faith, or trust, in God? Are you waiting to take your first steps toward him? Or, are you nurturing your growing faith as a parent nurtures and takes care of a child? Is it leading you to make a difference in someone else’s life? Is your faith giving you wings to soar with God in spite of the troubles and struggles of life, or are you dragging your faith around with you like a ball and chain?

If you take Jesus’ teachings as a whole, faith is designed to be a living and growing relationship with our creator. It is like a healthy plant bearing good fruit in the proper seasons. Our faith should lead us to trust God in everything, care about people and display it in our actions.

If your faith is not there yet, start with what Jesus teaches in Matthew 23:12, “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Be humble and tell God what you are feeling. Reset your heart in line with God’s heart by confessing your wrongdoings. Receive the forgiveness Jesus paid for when he went to the cross on our behalf. Read and study the Bible, his message to you to begin nourishing the faith you have.

Over time you will see your faith in God will give you greater strength to overcome and thrive than you had before.

Most importantly, what you are on the outside will be consistent with who you are on the inside. No matter where you are or what you do, leading or following, overseas or in the United States, on an exercise, temporary duty, or just hauling children around in the SUV, God is there and stands ready to respond to you.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” Isaiah 40:31.

God’s best to you and your Family.