What we do says a lot about what we say we believe. It’s like the premise that “actions speak louder than words.” It’s pretty easy to say we have faith in our hearts, but if that faith isn’t prompted to move, act, or produce fruit, is that genuine faith?
What we believe in our hearts should be evident in the way we live our lives. While we might believe God in our hearts and want to do what pleases Him, it’s the evidence and fruit that comes from how we live, speak, and what we do that shows the genuineness our faith.
I believe that’s why James makes the point in James 2:14-26 that it doesn’t amount to much if we claim to have faith and be believers in God, if we don’t also put feet and action to our faith and do what God has prompted us to do according to His Word.
As James says in James 2:17 (Amplified), “So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).”
God is teaching us that our faith becomes activated and grows in power by the Spirit in our lives as we live it out. It actually looks a lot like cultivating an obedient heart, loving and looking out for the needs of others, doing the right thing even when it’s not easy or convenient, and reflecting the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus to people in our world.
As we go through life, we will encounter many situations or needs that will give us an opportunity to put our faith into action. And in those moments, God wants us to grow and mature so our faith isn’t just checking a box to secure our eternal destiny, but gives us an opportunity to be a living, breathing, beautiful, fruitful display of God’s faithfulness, grace, love, and power for others to see.
When we step out in obedience to minister love, grace, and help to someone in need, when we do the right thing, we’re putting into practice what God has told us to do. And each time we do, it fans the flame of faith in us as we see how God works through our simple acts of obedience. That’s when it grows past being just a theory or good idea for others, and it begins to produces fruit in our lives and strengthens and builds our faith.
We don’t have to worry about proving ourselves to Jesus – He sees our hearts, and He is faithful to walk alongside us as we grow and learn. He is not asking us to start striving or performing through a bunch of good deeds or works in order to measure up, earn salvation, or stay on His good side. The kind of good works we’re called to engage in are ones that bear witness on the outside to the faith and belief we hold on the inside.
Most of the time, God has made it rather simple for us, but even so, it does require action. It may be that God prompts us to notice and help someone in our world who has a need, instead of side-stepping or giving only a passing glance when we have it in our ability and power to help. (For a great picture of this, read the example of the Samaritan man in Luke 10:25-37.)
If we can learn to see the opportunities that come into our lives as not merely an opportunity to do a good deed, but a key way our faith is strengthened and outworked, we may begin to see some extraordinary, miraculous things in our time we never could have imagined God could do in and through us. Our faith will grow stronger and richer, not because our actions are what makes the difference, but because God shows up in power through our faith and does a mighty work through us, for our good, for the benefit of others, and for His glory.
I love the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11 because we see how so many legends in the Bible who lived by faith and did what God told them to do, and as a result, saw miraculous wonders take place.
As we grow and learn to do the same, we’ll be like those who “through acts of faith, toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves…” (Heb 11:33).
I believe we all want to experience that kind of faith, and we can grow by the power of His Spirit at work in and through us, in Jesus name.
Andrea Howey is a hand lettering artist from Dallas, Texas. She uses hand lettering to share her heart and the message of hope, truth, and faith found in the Word of God. Her aim is for people to be encouraged in heart, strengthened in faith, and above all, point people to know Jesus personally and intimately.
You can find Andrea and her beautiful handwritten words of encouragement on Instagram at: @andrearhowey.
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I agree with everything you said: “actions speak louder than words” “do what God has prompted us to do according to His Word” “an obedient heart” “step out in obedience . . . what God has told us to do” “acts of obedience” “He is not asking us to start striving or performing through a bunch of good deeds or works in order to measure up, earn salvation, or stay on His good side. The kind of good works we’re called to engage in are ones that bear witness on the outside to the faith and belief we hold on the inside.” “legends in the Bible who lived by faith and did what God told them to do”. Have you ever noticed that the church tells us that we are not saved by works, but by faith? (I agree) And that they tell us faith without works is dead? (Again, I agree) Then they say things like what your quotes I’ve listed above. Yet the church’s definition of obedience is not the same as God’s definition. In James 2:17, the word for works is “applied to the conduct of men, measured by the standard of religion and righteousness — whether bad or good.” Scripture tells us to be separate from the world (Rom. 12:2). Eph. 5:1 tells us to be followers of God. (Yes, we are to walk in love toward our fellow man.) Since “works” has to do with out conduct, which is measured by the standard of religion and righteousness, could it be that the standard of religion is talking about God’s standards and not man’s standard? Not our pastor’s standard? What was at the heart of Jesus’ message? What did he continually tell people? He told them to step out of the teachings (standards) of their religious leaders and get back to the teachings/standards of His and our Father – God. The religious leaders of the day had changed the things that God had taught. They had invented their own rules that the people had to follow. They had convinced the people that it was more important to follow these new rules instead of God’s, placing theirs above God’s. Didn’t Jesus say that He could only speak what He had heard His Father speak? John 12:49-50 Jesus didn’t invent anything new. So, what are God’s teachings & standards? Where do we find them? They’re known today as God’s ‘law’ – but the word has been misinterpreted, it actually means “teaching or instruction”. Also, did you know that ‘righteousness’ actually means “lawful, obedient to God’s instructions (commandments). Obedience does not mean we are under the law – it means that we are saved by faith, but because of our thankfulness and our love for Him, we choose to be obedient to our Father’s instructions, and this is what sets us apart from the world. Think of it this way: if you truly loved your dad, knowing all the sacrifices he made for you to provide you with a home and to give you a good life, would you demonstrate your love in return by willfully disobeying him? Would you tell him that his rules for living in his home as his child don’t mean anything? Or would you show your understanding of his sacrifices and appreciation for his efforts and your love by obeying his rules? By the way, when the church says that nobody is capable of ‘keeping the law’, they’re wrong. The Bible is filled with people who kept the law – including the New Testament! Read Luke 1:5-6, Zacharias & Elisabeth both kept the commandments. So far, I’ve only studied a few chapters, the list includes Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Simeon, Anna, and Jesus, of course. Saying that nobody is capable of keeping God’s commandments is an excuse not to even try. A loving Father does not set us up for failure. (But please, if you think about these things, and think it might be right, please don’t start thinking that you are a victim who you pastor/youth leader/has lied to. Please remember that people can only teach what they have been taught – they can’t teach what they don’t know.) So yes, I completely agree that we should watch for ways to be Jesus’ hands and feet in this world, to reach out to those who are hurting or in need. I just felt that there are some things that need more – deeper – thought; and that we tend to forget what Jesus really taught. He didn’t do away with God’s commandments. He said it Himself. What He did was to give us an explanation, an understanding of what they meant and how to obey them.