Theodore Roosevelt once said:
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
James invites us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Much of what hinders our progress in maturing and evangelizing is bound up in our admiration of theory accompanied by the failure to put it into practice. Testing theory always involves failure, a negative experience at best and sometimes considered catastrophic. It is amazing the lengths to which some will go to avoid failure… like doing nothing.
Part of trust and faith in and submission to God is being willing to put into action what He reveals as right. His directives are not “theory” but proven maxims, guaranteed to succeed. However, right actions often receive negative feedback (Acts 13:46). Right actions are frequently unpopular (Matthew 15:12). In fact, right actions might bring serious physical push-back (Acts 7:54). All these less-than-loving responses to standing for the right seem to pale by comparison to criticism. For some reason, the tender-skinned, the timid and the terrified cringe at criticism and are often frozen in spiritual stasis by the prospect of a negative review. Criticism can be debilitating.
We cannot control or predict the responses of those to whom we reach out. Sure, we would all love an ecstatic, gracious response to the truth we share but what are the odds? What we can do is reach out and, in faith, allow God’s revelation through us to have its effect. For the better or for the worse, we gain our own soul by fulfilling our purpose as God’s servant (Ezekiel 3:14-21).
The distinction between theorists and activists is in the doing. Christians will be known for their willingness to persevere, sacrifice and, if necessary, die for the faith. This commitment is not theory, but very real. Let us be about the work of the Lord – in actuality.