Our first President, George Washington, had a motto for his life that he endeavored to live by: “Deeds, not words.” Reading this, I thought about how simplistic and yet how important it is that our lives as Christians be characterized by that motto. James 1:22–24 says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
Hospitals are important and wonderful places—when you’re sick. I am grateful for people in the medical professions who have dedicated themselves to helping people in difficult physical conditions. In many ways, it is much like ministry in that it is people work, and those people have crucial and time-sensitive needs. I marvel at the dedicated professionals in this field who can walk into work, forget about their own problems, and focus on the needs of others for sometimes ten to twelve hours at a time.
Two days before Thanksgiving (several years ago), my wife, Diane, complained of some pain in her abdomen. She normally has a high tolerance of pain, and rarely takes so much as an aspirin! I could see from the grimace on her face that she was seriously hurting so at 5:00 am we made our way to the emergency room at the hospital. The main door was closed due to carpet cleaning so we had to pry open a side door to get in. Once inside, we were ushered to a bed in the hallway. After a few hours and some preliminary examinations, it was determined that she needed to have a cat scan to determine the problem. She drank the dye at 10:15 am and was promised the exam by 11:00 am.
At 3:30 pm, after sitting in the hallway for ten and a half hours, one of the doctors came by and asked my wife if she was comfortable. By this time, I’ll admit that most of my spirituality from my devotions that morning had worn off! For ten and a half hours people had smiled, acted busy, and acknowledged our presence (they couldn’t avoid us in the hallway), but nothing had been done! I stood up and said to the doctor: “No! She is not comfortable! For ten hours we have listened to you talk; it’s time for someone to do something!”
By 6:30 that evening her appendix had been successfully removed, and we were grateful that something was done before it ruptured. I learned some powerful truths during our four-day stay in the hospital. A lot of people talk a good game—but perform rather poorly. On Friday morning after my wife had not received a bath for forty-eight hours, her vitals had not been taken for twenty-four hours, and her intravenous medicine had been inadvertently unplugged for twelve hours, I challenged the nurse on duty to start doing something instead of walking back and forth to the break room!
When the doctor released Diane, it took two and a half hours to get the paperwork done and thirty minutes to fetch a wheelchair that was in a hallway fifty feet from our room! Later I told Diane if I ever get sick she should take me straight to the morgue—that way when they figure out what’s wrong, I’ll be ahead of schedule.
Seriously though, I wonder how many times we have responded with words rather than deeds? How many times have we promised in word to pray for someone yet fell short in deed? We have given good testimonies, prayed good prayers, sung good solos, preached good sermons, but then failed to live it. I am reminded of the Lord’s words in Isaiah 29:13, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.”
“Deeds, not words”—a good motto for our first president to be sure, but let’s make it more than a motto. Otherwise, it is just “words, not deeds.”