Putting feet to faith: O.S. Hawkins' 'James Code'

DALLAS (BP) -- When you get down to it, there are really only three relationships in life, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins says: an upward relationship between man and God; an inward relationship with oneself; and an outward relationship between man and the world around him.

Those three relationships exist regardless of time or place -- a lesson Hawkins learned throughout 25 years as a pastor, from wheat-farming country in Oklahoma to cosmopolitan and business centers in Fort Lauderdale and Dallas. They spurred the creation of a now-complete trilogy of books, culminating with the release of "The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action."

Excelling in the outward relationship is the message behind The James Code. Hawkins uses the illustration of the stagnant Dead Sea, with no water outlet, and the vibrant Sea of Galilee, with both a water inlet and outlet, to describe the works that flow from faithful believers.

"Vibrant believers not only take in, but they also give out," Hawkins writes. "They put the Word they receive (input) into action (output). In this way, they become 'doers of the word, and not hearers only.'"

The book of James is as relevant today as it was when the half-brother of Christ penned the words, Hawkins said. "If you are struggling to put your faith into action, the message of James is for you."

The struggle, he noted, is not in knowing what Christ calls His followers to do; it's in actually doing it.

"The challenge is practicing with our lives what we know in our minds and proclaim with our lips," Hawkins said. "Throughout the book of James, we are reminded that when we walk in the Holy Spirit, we should be wearing out the soles of our shoes.

"It's not about faith or works, or faith and works, but about a faith that works," Hawkins said about the faith James describes as well as the apostle Paul. "That's the kind of faith that the early church had, and it's the kind of faith the modern church needs too."

The James Code is divided into 52 chapters, allowing individuals, churches or small groups to study the book week by week over the course of a year. The 52 chapters are divided into 12 subsections, making for a 12-week series as well.

The James Code follows "The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know" and "The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer" in helping Christians live out their faith, Hawkins explained.

"The Joshua Code deals with the upward relationship, our relationship with the Creator of the universe. It's what separates us from all the other created order," Hawkins said. "Bottom line: We're never properly related to each other or ourselves unless we're properly related to God through Jesus Christ. The Joshua Code helps convey that through the study over those 52 chapters.

"The Jesus Code has to do with our inward relationship. The Bible says we are to give an account for the hope that is within us. Once we are properly related with God, then ourselves, The James Code comes along to speak to the outward expression of our faith."

One of James' most famous admonitions is that pure and undefiled religion in the eyes of God is to care for widows and orphans in their distress. This isn't lost on Hawkins, who donates all author proceeds to Mission:Dignity, the GuideStone Financial Resources ministry that assists retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows in serious financial need.

"We're on a mission to bring dignity to these retired pastors, and now, 60 percent of the recipients are widows, with an average age of 85," Hawkins said. "One widow wrote and told us, 'I get to eat tonight now and it's not just a piece of toast.' That's a blessing as we put feet to our faith and care for these pastor widows in their declining years."

The James Code, released by Thomas Nelson in November, is available at most bookstores and through popular online retailers. Visit O.S.Hawkins' website, [http://www.oshawkins.com], for more information.

Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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