Nathan Severs’ Thought for the Day is a reflection on Real Faith from James 2.
James says that ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’
So what is faith? The writer to the Hebrews tells us that ‘faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’. But faith isn’t a written definition we can recite to ourselves or even a set of beliefs we can say that we believe.
James helpfully tells us how we can be assured that our faith is real, perhaps to supplement Paul’s instruction to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith.
James spells out that real faith will result in a certain way of behaving and that these deeds are the evidence of real faith. He does not say that the things we do are what save us. But he wants to make it clear that just saying we have faith does not bring us salvation either.
So, at any point in life, if we have real faith, our lives will show it. But we’re not at any point life; we’re in unprecedented times. And for many Christians it may feel like their faith is being tested. Right at the start of James’ letter he reminds his readers that they ‘…know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’ As Christians our faith will be tested but can be assured that if our faith is real the testing will help us to persevere with our Christian walk.
If you feel like your faith is being tested by your current situation, think about how you’re going to respond – what is your behaviour going to be like? What will your deeds be? If you’re relying on yourself, trusting that your own actions are going to get you through, this isn’t the strongest evidence for real faith. If you feel you have to just focus on your own needs at the expense of others, again the evidence isn’t in your favour. Even if you are going to spend all your time telling yourself that you have faith; faith that Christ’s death paid the penalty for your sins and that confession of these brings you eternal life. Doing only this, James says, does not guarantee that you have real faith.
In these days of lockdown and isolation from each other, days that might seem like a test of our faith, we can be assured that our faith is real by the way we react. Am I making extra effort to be part of the online Sunday services? Am I joining my community group for discussion and prayer? Am I going out of my way to text or ring those I know are struggling to encourage them? Am I looking through the members list trying to identify those who might be struggling? Am I offering practical support where possible? Has my prayer life improved? Am I simply finding myself reading the bible more, finding out more about who God is, what He’s like and what He’s done for us? Any and all of this is evidence of real faith. As God helps us to act in ways like this, He gives us that assurance that eternal life is ours.
Is our response to our current situation an accurate portrayal of James 2 verse 18 – ‘I will show you my faith by my deeds’. I pray that it is.
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