Believing and Doing
WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – You don’t need to believe harder – you just need to believe the truth and to act on that belief.
James was writing to some who claimed more faith than they had. Their lives showed that they didn’t really believe what they said they believed. You see, we act on what we really believe – everything else is just talk. “Faith” is only a concept until it is acted out; only then is it real faith.
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…
“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:14-20 NLT).
Understanding spiritual concepts isn’t enough. Agreeing with them isn’t enough. The demons do that. They’ve witnessed the miraculous works of God for eons. There’s no doubt in their minds that He is the creator and ruler of all things. But they don’t worship Him as creator, and they prefer to keep their allegiance for themselves. Their “faith” is useless.
James gives Abraham as an example of real faith: God had promised him thousands of descendants through his son Isaac. Then, before Isaac had any children, God ordered Abraham to kill him on a sacrificial altar. Abraham had to decide whether he trusted God or not. He went through with it because “He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead” (Heb. 11:19).
“Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete” (James 2:21-22 NLT).
The second person James holds up as a model of true faith is surprising: “Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away” (James 2:25 NLT).
Abraham had decades of God’s miraculous work in his life to go on when his faith was tested. Rahab had only recent rumors that God had chosen and protected the Israelites. She decided to believe those rumors, and she risked her life acting on them by helping the Israelite spies. That was the kind of faith God was looking for.
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – You and I can exercise the faith of Abraham and Rahab. What God calls us to do doesn’t have to make sense – it didn’t to Abraham. He decided that he would do what God commanded not because it made sense but because God said it. That’s what makes it faith.
We don’t have to have done everything right or to have followed God for a long time – Rahab hadn’t. She knew very little about God, but she decided to believe what she did know, and she acted on it. You and I can do the same today.
Merry, merry Christmas! As we read the nativity story from Luke 2 with our families in the morning, may the Lord draw each of us in fresh wonder around the Son of God come to earth.