It is said of the book of Esther that it is the only book in the Bible where God is not mentioned, although He is inescapably present. It can be said of Malachi that God is abundantly present in reference (in 53 of the 55 verses there is a mention of God) yet conspicuously absent in the people’s lives.
--- Ravi Zacharias, Cries of the Heart
For most of my life I would be like the people addressed by the prophet Malachi. I lived in a culture of God, with special dates, prayers, ceremonies, activities, and so on. But I did not really feel God’s presence. It was (as far as I could feel) all routine, it was (as far as I could see) all show…and so, for me, it was all useless.
I grew up in an exclusive girls’ school run by nuns. Our motto was: “Ora et Labora: Pray and Work.” Though I’m sure that motto stemmed from good intentions, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was misled by it (if others even bothered to notice what the motto meant).
True, faith in the God of goodness and love will undoubtedly show in actions…
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
…BUT good works is not going to earn us salvation. We cannot pay for our entrance to heaven by good works, for our efforts will never be enough.
To be “saved”, meaning, to be rescued from the punishment for our sins, and to have true life now and in eternity in the presence of our loving God, what do we have to do?
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…
To [Jesus] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.
(Acts 2:37-38, 10:43)
Faith. Faith in God is all we need. The trust in the only One who can save us because of His sinless nature, and the One who did save us because of His overwhelming love for us.
When that simple and yet profound truth finally sank into my heart, I was moved to worship more, not less. For finally, I was not praying like the ‘hypocrites’, to be merely ‘seen by men’ (Matthew 6:5) --- now I am worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks’ (John 4:23).