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James: Faith That Works

The beauty of the water flowing under the bridge and over the rocks reflects the beauty of faith that works.
Photo Credit: Mark Shutt Images

January 24, 2024

Praying Friends,

Does your faith work? 

What I mean is, when life is difficult, whom do you turn to? If you look heavenward and seek God’s face, that’s faith at work. When you see a beautiful sunset, what is your response? 

If you praise the greatness and wonder of God, that’s faith at work. When someone has wronged you, how do you handle it? If you choose to forgive, that’s faith at work.

A faith that works is alive and real. Faith that is dead or unreal is of no value. James tells a short story, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17).

Faith with works is a faith that works! Or to put it another way, faith that results in righteousness is a faith that reveals reality. 

In the book of James there are many ways in which true faith is manifested. As a brief overview, we will consider one from each chapter:

In Chapter 1, faith that works will impact your responses. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

The divine design of the human body should be enough to teach us that we should listen more than we talk, but more often than not we get it reversed. James is helping believers get through the trials of life. It would be easy for us to default to anger.

The context here is that we should be quick to hear the word of truth (James 1:18). When we listen more to God, and speak less of our own opinions, the result will be less anger. There will be less anger towards God and less anger towards those around us. True faith will impact your responses.

In Chapter 2, faith that works will treat others as equals. “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

The sad situation that James mentioned earlier in the chapter is the sin of partiality in a local church, where a poor brother is demoted and a rich brother is elevated. So serious is this sin that James quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures to say that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

Loving others and treating them with dignity, whether brothers or sisters in Christ, or unconverted, is an outworking of our faith. True faith will not be partial.

In Chapter 3, faith that works will affect how you speak. “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8).

Jesus taught that the tongue muscle was directly connected to the heart (metaphorically, that is) (Matthew 12:34). He is saying that what is on the inside comes out through our words. They give evidence of what's happening internally. 

So unruly are our tongues, our hearts, that it is impossible for us to tame them.

It is only a life surrendered to God and a body under the control of the Holy Spirit that can truly be trained and used for the glory of God. True faith will enable you to speak words of blessing and encouragement rather than damaging, hurtful words.

In Chapter 4, faith that works will increase your desire to do God’s will. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

While there is nothing wrong with going into the city, or making money for that matter, what is wrong is when these are done for selfish reasons. James is challenging us on who we are living for. Are we living short-term, selfish lives that only lead to our prosperity and wealth? Or, are we living for the One who created us in His image and for His purposes? Whatever city we enter and whatever activity we do, we should be able to say, “this is the will of God.” True faith will give us the desire to please our Lord and Savior.

In Chapter 5, faith that works will give you patience in trial. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8).

The Christian life will include many trials (James 1:2). While we can enjoy the abundant life that God intends for us, it is also marked by suffering. How you live through those trials will greatly impact your character development and your relationship with God.

James says, “Be patient.” No one likes to be in a trial, but God allows them for our personal benefit, for the blessing of others, and for His own glory. Like the farmer mentioned above, seeing the fruit of labor takes time, but if we are patient, it will come. True faith will both develop and equip you with patience.

Thank you for praying for our prodigals and for revival.

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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