Faith Put Into Action
It is really quite easy to express a belief in something or a love for somebody but as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’. I recall once having a patient who described her husband as saying that he cared about and loved her, but she was upset and depressed because the care and love was never shown by actions. As she once said, it’s easy to say ‘I love you, but his actions show that he really doesn’t care about me.’
Our behaviour and deeds will show our true attitudes and feelings. We can often deceive ourselves and for a while we can deceive others, but God knows the heart, we cannot deceive Him! Try to honestly answer these questions:
I am sure most of us would answer ‘yes’ to the above questions. Words may very well express that Yahweh’s Word is the most valuable thing in our lives, that we long for His Kingdom, that we love the Lord our God above all else. But what do your actions say?
Now James writes these well-known words, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James 2:14
The implied answer is no, it cannot save him. You see, faith must be something living and active in our lives. It is not something expressed merely by words, but our true inner feelings and the truth of our words will be demonstrated by actions or deeds. But one may argue ‘I do believe’, ‘I do have faith’; indeed Paul writes that one is saved by faith (Eph 2:8), ‘How then can it be suggested that my faith will not save me?’ Well, James writes that faith without works is dead! Thus the reality and depth of faith is proved by its works as James continues:
“..faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17-18
Faith is indeed an essential ingredient of salvation, but faith in itself is a somewhat abstract concept, in that it is not tangible. Faith cannot be measured and although a person can demonstrate a knowledge about a subject and express a belief in that knowledge, its value to a person cannot be measured by a mere expression of belief. For example one may know the law of the land which sets a certain speed limit on roads and may believe that the law states if a driver is caught breaking the speed limit they will pay a fine, or in the worst case a persistent offender will lose their licence. Does this stop everybody speeding, in short no! Why? Well simply because that particular law is not considered to have any great value and people generally are more concerned about getting from A to B as fast as possible.
In a similar manner the scriptures may be learned and believed, but if it does not have a value higher than all else in ones life, then our deeds will surely reflect the little value we place upon God’s Word. On the other hand if the Word is our greatest treasure, then we will believe and then act upon that belief. Thus faith will influence and modify our way of life; however producing the works of faith takes a lifetime of sustained effort.
A time is soon coming when all will bow the knee before the Lord Jesus and render an account of their lives. The deeds of faith will be scrutinised and the record of life reviewed. By our works we will stand or fall! We read:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Rev 20:12
However, if we truly value God’s Word and if we have a genuine sincere faith, then the thought of judgement and giving an account of our lives will be tempered by the knowledge that Yahweh is very merciful towards those who love Him. With this in mind, the trials faced in life that He sends to refine and purify faith will not be overly burdensome, for our eye will look to the future, not focus the present. Indeed, even though we may face death, we have the reassurance that those works of faith will not be forgotten, for John records:
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Rev 14:13
So, James sums it up by saying: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James 2:24 You see, our works or fruits as scripture also terms them, will arise from what is in the heart. Just consider these words of Jesus:
"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”...”Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matt 7:16-20
As Jesus also said, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, nor will a good tree bear bad fruit”. Any gardener will know that a well watered, well nourished tree will produce an abundance of fruit and careful pruning will help increase and maintain the yield. So, if an individuals life is nourished and watered by the Word of life and if they respond to the pruning action of life’s trails, then they will yield the good fruit of faith. If you were asked the question, ‘what works of faith are you displaying in your daily life? What would you say? Would it be the attendance at meetings, the preaching of the Word, the knowledge of the Word and the study efforts made to give exhortations or Bible class subjects that would be cited. Are these the works of faith by which a person may be justified? Well, Jesus said:
"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. "Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matt 7:21-23
So Jesus is clearly saying that it is not merely acknowledging him as Lord and saviour that justifies a man. It is not performing great acts of service in the sense of preaching in his name; these more public works are but an outward show. Thus in the context of our day and age, one may say ‘did I not give exhortations?’ or ‘Did I not study and learn much in the Bible?’ or ‘Did I not travel extensively preaching the Truth?’ These things are in some ways the works of faith, but it is the attitude of heart and the motives behind the works that are really crucial. What has driven us to do these things, for it is possible to preach and speak for selfish motives rather than the one desire of honouring God. Thus Paul notes: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will” Phil 1:15 and warns “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit”. Phil 2:3
Only living our lives in accordance with the Word of Truth will provide a solid underpinning for the works of faith. There is no place for self-seeking and pride, for the work of faith will be borne out of deep desire to know Yahweh and follow the example of Jesus who said “I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” John 5:30
Trying to amalgamate the shifting sands of human wisdom with the principles of scripture will only make a shipwreck of faith. The only way that faith can be developed is by wholeheartedly learning and then applying the Word to all aspects of our daily lives. The only way that faith will grow is by walking according to the Light of the Word, trusting Yahweh and shunning any who turn away from the Word of Truth. The only way that faith will be refined is by learning from the trials of life and humbly submitting to the overruling hand of Yahweh.
The works of faith will only come from striving to obey the commandments of Christ and striving to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2Tim 2:15 Now Jesus spoke a parable to illustrate this principle:
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." Matt 7:24-27
So then in summary, faith and works go together, they are utterly inseparable. Works cannot save for we cannot earn favour, faith must come first. Non-the-less the value of faith is then in turn proved by its works.