We believe in God because we see the world and the universe He has created. But by itself, that belief does an individual very little good. James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!” It is understood that the demons are not saved. In the same way, if you simply believe in God, you are no better than the demons. Instead, you need faith. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The words belief and faith are sometimes used interchangeably. Belief is accepting something to be true. But James teaches us that faith that is alive goes beyond simple belief to include works or actions that demonstrate one’s faith.
James 2:14-26 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also 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. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
In this passage, James uses several examples to demonstrate that faith needs accompanying actions. His first example is of a brother or sister needing clothes and food and you tell them to be warmed and filled but you don’t take the action to give them what they need; without action by you, they have no clothing or food. His next example is of Abraham who was tested by God and told to offer his son as a sacrifice (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham demonstrated his faith by obeying and offering his son as a sacrifice – until the angel stopped him. James’ third example is of Rahab the harlot in the city of Jericho who received the Israelite spies, hid them, and helped them escape because she had faith that God was going to deliver the city of Jericho into the hands of the Israelites; her actions demonstrated her faith (Joshua 2:1-21).
What do you believe? You believe in God the Father. You believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. You believe that God has made many precious promises. You believe in eternal life. There are probably many things that you believe. But simply accepting these to be true in belief does you very little good. Your belief must become living faith in that your actions and the way you live your life demonstrates your faith. When you have living faith, everything changes; it changes the way you conduct your life. Here is the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. Colossians 1:9-13 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” Because of our faith, through God we seek to know His will; we seek to walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him; we become fruitful in every good work; we are strengthened by His power and depend upon Him; we are patient and longsuffering with joy; we give many thanks to the Father who has qualified us to receive our inheritance.
Our actions demonstrate our faith. Our faith and our actions should be consistent with each other. If you believe that God hears and answers prayer, then you will be praying in faith that God hears and will answer your prayer (1 John 5:14-15). If you believe that sins such as sexual immorality, lying, and selfish ambition are contrary to God’s will, then in faith you will purify your life (1 John 3:2-3). If you believe that all things work together for good to those who love God, then you will in faith accept that what comes into your life God will work it for your good (Romans 8:28). If you believe that God truly loves and cares for you, in faith you will discard worry (Matthew 6:34). If you believe there is an eternal home prepared for you, then rather than live for this life, in faith you will live for the life to come. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” You will walk by faith.
If our faith and our actions are not consistent with each other, then there is reason to question our faith. My encouragement to you is to evaluate your works or actions and make your actions consistent with your faith.