Read James 2:14-26

Today there is so much imbalance in our church life.

  • We have thought that religion is only for Sunday. We can do what we like the rest of the week.
  • The minister is the one who is paid to do the work, so we do not need to do anything.
  • Prayer is only for the really spiritual ones, not for ordinary people.
  • The best people to look after the money are any bankers in the church.
  • Wealthy people should have the best seats.
  • Good works are for the religious "do-gooders".

And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. So don't fool yourselves”. (James 1:22)

See-saw religion

Every time there is a new revelation within the body of Christ, we all either latch onto it and go completely overboard or we flatly reject it, saying confidently that it is from the devil and we will not be part of it. If we accept the new revelation, we make a major doctrine out of it and box it for ourselves. We forget all we have learned previously. We think that we are "superior" Christians, because God has shared something close to His heart with us. All the time, the Holy Spirit is saying: "I was simply revealing more of God's truth to you but all you want to do is box me in."

The disciples did the same when Jesus was trying to explain to them that it would be good for them if He went away and sent the Holy Spirit instead. (John 14:16, John 14:28) When we are born again, we are so excited and want everyone to know about it; but we think that this is all there is. Then we are baptised - in water and the Holy Spirit - and we think that we have it made; there's no turning back! As with all growing things, we may go through a dry time whilst a lot of work is going on - out of sight - in our hearts. Then we learn some more about God's word, or about Jesus, and we move forward again in leaps and bounds. This may be followed by another plateau, then more revelation and so on. Whole denominations have been built on a single revelation of some aspect of God's truth. When their followers get another fresh revelation of God, they want to move on, but find themselves so boxed in with the previous revelation that they feel bound by it and unable to appreciate the new truth that the Holy Spirit is showing them.

Balanced Christianity

James could see the same problem in the church of his day and was convinced that it was vitally important to find balance in the Christian life. Here he is challenging all the people who have realised how important faith is, but do not put that faith into practical every-day action. Today we can read all about faith, watch videos all about faith, be taught all about faith and watch Christian television programmes all about faith, but this scripture reminds us that faith only becomes real when we act on it and practise it on a daily basis.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing, he will do even greater things than these.” (John 14:12)

Some biblical examples

Noah listened when God told him: “There is going to be a flood.” What did he do? Well, he didn't say: “OK, I've got faith. I believe that God will look after me. I'll just sit here and wait to see what a flood looks like.” No, Noah believed that God wanted him to use his faith in a specific way to save his family and an extensive selection of animal life from the coming disaster. He responded by starting to build an ark, following the pattern and design that he believed God had given him. The very fact that he was sawing and hammering on the construction of the ark said everything. He showed his faith through his work. Throughout the period it took him to build the ark, he was a constant witness to his neighbours that God was going to do something and Noah believed it was going to happen. Furthermore, it didn't happen overnight. It took approximately one hundred and twenty years of Noah daily putting his faith into action before the flood actually arrived.

Abraham heard from God that he had to make a sacrifice. It sounded as though God wanted him to be prepared to give up the son that He had miraculously provided for him in his old age. It cannot have made much sense to Abraham, but he responded in faith. He he was clear about what God had said and prepared to obey, despite the apparent pain and suffering that it would cause. (James 2:21-23)

Moses met with God at Mount Horeb when God appeared to him in a bush that burned but was not consumed. He told Moses that He had chosen him to lead His people out of their captivity in Egypt. Moses was afraid of God and afraid of what God had called him to do, but he had faith that God would keep His word to him; that God would protect him and accomplish what He planned to do. (Exodus 4:19-20)

All of these men heard God's word and believed it to be true. They then acted upon their belief, taking radical and courageous steps to see it come to fruition. Chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament contains a long list of examples of men and women who put their faith in God and acted upon it, with amazing results. (Many commentators call this chapter the "Hall of Faith". Hebrews 11:1-40) But believing that God exists is only the beginning. James says that, "even the demons believe that much... and tremble." (James 2:19) God will not settle for mere acknowledgement of His existence. He wants a personal, dynamic relationship with us that will transform our lives. Those who seek God will find that they are rewarded with His intimate presence, just like the "heroes of faith" listed in Hebrews, chapter eleven.

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Keep our eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honour by the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Friendship with God

God isn't simply looking for human beings to believe in Him. Faith is the first step towards something infinitely more precious: friendship with God. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) This is more than just a formula that we need to follow. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness - and he was called 'God’s friend'.” (James 2:23; Romans 4:2) Imagine being God’s friend by acting on our faith!

What is faith?

Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don't see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Faith sees that the battle has been won, even if - just now - it often seems to have been lost. This is often how it is in human warfare. A campaign may drag on for months and years, with individual battles won and lost, but faith looks to the eventual outcome and believes that God (who sees and knows the beginning from the end) has told us the truth about the final result. Faith is just plain believing!

Now that we know what faith is and know that we have received a measure of faith from God (Romans 12:3); now that we know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); now we can get ourselves in step with the word of God and start doing the good works that He has laid down for us to do. (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 2:10)

Why Have Faith?

  • Faith assures success. (2 Chronicles 20:20)
  • Faith is our basic duty. (John 6:28-29)
  • Faith is a defensive weapon. (Ephesians 6:16)
  • Faith pleases God. (Matthew 5:16; Hebrews 11:6)
  • Faith is essential in prayer. (John 1:5-6; Matthew 21:22; 1 John 5:14)
  • Faith is powerful with love. (1 John 3:23; John 14:12)
  • Faith gives peace with God. (Romans 5:1. Philippians 3:9)

Let's not worry about whether or not we have faith or look around trying to find it. There is no point in trying to make faith complicated. It is not a strange or mysterious thing. If we think of it as some mechanical process, we shall miss it entirely. Like love, we cannot analyse faith.

How to have Faith

  • God plants a measure of faith in our hearts when we put our trust in Jesus to save us. (Ephesians 2:8)
  • Faith comes from hearing the message of the good news about Jesus. (Romans 10:17)
  • We need to surround ourselves with faith-filled believers. (1 Timothy 4:6)
  • We need to hear God’s word to us, believe it and act upon it. (Mark 11:22-24)
  • We need to surround ourselves with the word of God because Jesus is the author and developer of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
  • We need to concentrate, not on our problems, but on God's promises to us in His word. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Like everything in the Christian life, we are not given faith entirely for our own benefit. Faith is the motivation and encouragement for us to live our lives in service to others every day. That is always God’s way. (Matthew 6:19-21) Faith and deeds cannot exist independently. (James 2:18) ”Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) The "world" (those who do not yet know Christ for themselves) should be able to see the body of Christ every day through the faith that is obvious to all those round us because of our actions. When they see faith in action, people will know and believe for themselves that God truly exists and that He is with His people.

Jesus is the light of the world and we are His reflection.

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