Some of the Christians James was addressing in his letter must have thought that belief in Jesus Christ was enough and they could stop and rest in that place. James explains that true faith is proven by the outward demonstration of good works. Genuine faith in Christ produces action. We can say that we have faith in Jesus but it is not proven until it produces a change. Change in living follows a change of heart.
James gave this practical illustration:
Suppose you meet someone who is in need. They donít have warm clothes to wear or enough food to eat. You promise to pray for them and you wish them well and then you go on your way. As you walk away, they are still cold and hungry. You, wishing them well, havenít done them any good.
It is easy to say that you believe in God. Many people, and even demons do. However, it is trusting God wholeheartedly that leads to salvation. If belief is not true trust, there will be no change; there will be no resulting good works - no evidence.
As further illustration, James brings up two Old Testament people who showed that their faith was sincere trust. Abraham trusted God with his only son. He was willing to give him up as God had instructed, trusting that God knew what He was doing. Rahab risked her life by helping the Israelite spies in the city of Jericho. Abrahamís and Rahabís actions involved great risk and proved that their belief - their trust - was authentic.
Our good deeds seldom involve risk. Giving to the poor rarely puts our own finances at risk or even takes us out of our comfort zone. There is little sacrifice in putting change into the Salvation Army bucket or taking a few cans of food to the community food pantry.
James was concerned with believers growing a mature faith. You may remember the day that you first accepted Jesus as your Savior. New birth produces many blessings - a calm spirit, freedom from guilt, love, joy, etc. In a growing Christian, faith naturally matures and blossoms into outward signs of Christís love shared with others. The maturing believerís focus moves from treasuring the inner blessings to sharing Christís grace and blessings.
Not every believer is called to put their life at risk in a missions trip but every believer is called somewhere. It may be in their own home, in their church, their neighborhood or city. Trust in God requires stepping out of our comfort zone and putting our faith to the test. Tested faith becomes mature faith.
See all articles from the Book of James.
Read more about Rahab here.
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