What is Your Faith Producing?
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? (verse14)
So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (verse 17-18)
Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (verse 20)
So, you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. (verse 24)
Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works. (verse 26)
This letter from James is one of the earliest letters written to the church. James makes an appeal to the body of Christ that we should do more to reflect our responsibility with and to Christ by our actions.
In Acts 10:38, Luke writes, “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”.
Scripture encourages us to do good to all people when we have the opportunity, but especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
James confronts the believers in this. He tells them that our saying we believe in Christ, but our actions not supporting what we say means nothing. What we say and what we do should be connected. You see faith, like love, is an action word. Our faith acts out in works of love. No matter the inconvenience or the challenge, we must still demonstrate our faith by doing good works. Otherwise, we have a dead faith – a nonworking unproductive faith.
This kind of faith does nothing at all to help anyone. Our righteousness, or right standing with God, not only comes from believing, it also comes from producing good works. We must understand that our salvation is not for us alone, but it is to show the love of God to others.
So, let us be mindful of this exhortation, and remember that faith without good works is dead, and we are shown to be right with God, by what we do, and not by faith alone. We must ask ourselves the question, “What is my faith producing?”
The Right Way
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12, NIV).
Recently, I was driving home from a business trip and decided to find my way home without any assistance. I knew that I had to head east to get to my town. After traveling for about half an hour I began to wonder why I had not seen any familiar landmarks. It was then that I decided to use a navigation system for help. I was correct in that I should be traveling east, but I had been going southeast instead of northeast. The navigation system put me in the right direction and allowed me to correct my mistake.
How true this is when it comes to our spiritual walk. Proverbs 3:5 instructs us to “trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding.” Certainly there are times when we may feel we have the situation under control, we know what direction to take, or our past experiences give us an advantage in solving our problems. However Proverbs 14:12 informs and teaches us differently. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Why should we not rely on our own understanding? Because sometimes (often) the way we choose looks like the right and best way to go, but after the decision has been made we find that the decision has resulted in destruction and failure.
There is only one “right way.” That way is given by God through the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us to righteousness, success, and avenues that are pleasing to Him. Other “ways” may look promising and rewarding but they will yield a completely different result. The “right way” may be the road less traveled but that does not mean the most popular decisions are the best decisions.
As I was reminded by the Holy Spirit as a result of my recent trip, we should always ask and seek God for understanding and direction. After all, He is the Omniscient (all knowing) One. He knows everything - there is nothing, absolutely nothing He does not know. I’m reminded and challenged to always choose the “right way.” I’m reminding and challenging you to do the same. it.
1 Kings 17:1-16
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe[a] in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
I want to share with you some insights about God’s commanded provision. I don’t want to just tell you that God will provide, but I want you to know and be absolutely sure that God cannot and will not provide for you unless He commands it. I want to inform you that God cannot and will not provide for and sustain you in difficult times unless He allows (permits) difficult times to come. God cannot and will not bring you through without testing your faith.
I also want you to know that God uses others to bless you and make things happen for you. I really want you to know that what you make happen for others (and particularly the man or woman of God) He, (God) makes happen for you.
So, we see in these verses that God orchestrated a drought, a difficult time of little, and then no rain. This meant no water to drink or food to eat. This drought lasted for three and a half years (see Luke 4:25). Verse four tells us God commanded the ravens to feed Elijah by the brook. Verse six tells us the ravens brought Elijah provision day and night - literally giving him enough food to sustain him day by day. When the brook dried up, God spoke to Elijah (verses 8-9) and told him to go to Zarephath because He had commanded a widow woman to sustain him. It was impossible for the widow woman to ignore or reject Elijah’s request. She had no choice in the matter because God had commanded it. God used her as part of the process to provide for Elijah and sustain him.
Let’s pay particular attention to the fact that on both occasions - at the brook and in Zarephath, Elijah had to go where God had provided food. God can and will lead you to a place of spiritual (and physical) provision and He will use people you would never think He would use to get the job done.
Notice in verse 15 that the bible says the widow woman did according to what the man of God said and as a result she and her house did eat for many days. The oil flowed and the meal multiplied in the midst and time of lack. Not only did God provide for Elijah. He also provided for the widow woman and her son. Not only did He do it for them but He has provided and will continue to provide for me. He has provided and will continue to provide for you.
It may look dark and grim right now. Maybe what was once your stockpile is now your “next to nothing.” Maybe your brook has dried up. Maybe you have only a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. It only takes a second for God to command provision and sustenance on your behalf. You don’t know what raven God will use. You don’t know what ram in the bush God has for you. You don’t know what widow woman God will command in your favor. Keep your eyes and ears open. Go where God says to go. Do what God says to do. Say what God tells you to say. When He commands something, the wheels of reason roll off the scene and the wheels of miracles come into the picture. Your sack of lack becomes your box of good and plenty. When El Shaddai, the God of more than enough is in control, no good thing is withheld from you. Get up, live, breathe and walk in God’s commanded provision.
ENDURANCE FOR THE CROWN
Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 2-3)
One of the biggest misconceptions about our spiritual journey with Christ is that once we accept Him as Lord we will be problem-free. After all, Christ will give us victory in every situation, right? He will protect us from all evil and harm, right?
Something that I’ve learned over the years is that God is a God of balance. We are not incorrect in believing that God gives us victory. We are not incorrect in believing that He will protect us from all evil and harm. He does protect us and give us victory throughout this journey. But it is also true that God proves Himself to us through the struggles we face.
We must and will experience difficult times. We will have struggles of varying kinds. We will cry out to our Father when we feel that we are sinking. But those are the times when He proves Himself to us. But not only that, we must prove ourselves to God by the challenges we face.
James, says just that. He wrote his letter to the Jewish believers who had been scattered to different places probably because of the persecution in Jerusalem. James acknowledged the difficulties that they were facing and encouraged them to be strong and to keep their eyes on Christ.
He tells them that they should look at their struggles as an opportunity for great joy. Why? Because when our faith is tested we have an opportunity to grow endurance. If we aren’t tested and challenged by our circumstances, we won’t obtain the endurance that is needed for spiritual growth and maturity. He’s telling believers that they are on their way to a destination, and there’s something we must achieve in the process. We are looking ahead for something greater than what we see and experience now.
You see, endurance builds character. When we develop endurance, we are not swerved from our deliberate purpose and loyalty to our faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings. We persist in the face of all opposition. He makes this point in the following verses.
Dear brothers and sisters,[c] be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8).
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. (James 5:10-11)
James is telling us in these verses that while we wait for the Lord’s return, we must endure some struggles. We will have some pain. But these verses are not passive. We don’t just sit back and do nothing until the Lord returns. We are building, growing, looking ahead. He first uses the farmer as an example. The farmer plants at certain times, looking for the rains to come so they will have the harvest they desire. They are working the land, doing what’s necessary to prepare for the harvest. The rains come in the fall and spring which is needed for the harvest. But the harvest is the focus.
Then he reminds us of the suffering of the prophets. He says we admire them by giving them great honor because they did not give up when they faced their struggles. He even talked about Job never giving up. He said the Lord was kind to him in the end for He is full of tenderness and mercy.
So, my brothers and sisters, let’s endure whatever comes our way. Let’s purpose in our minds that we will never give up, or give in, or give out. Why? Because there is a crown waiting for us ahead.
It Starts With the Mind
Have you ever wondered what the mind has to do with our relationship with our Father? What is the mind? How does the mind control our behavior and thoughts? Scripture teaches us the impact that our minds have on our ability and willingness to do or not do the will of God. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that if our minds are blind, we cannot believe the gospel. “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Our minds are not just our brain, conscious thoughts, or our intellect. It is a thought process that starts with our spirit and is followed by our actions.
The New Testament uses 11 different words that are translated as “mind”, but each means something a little different. For example, Matthew 22:37 reads “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind”. The word mind in this verse is “dianoia” which means willpower or volition, yet it was simply translated “mind”. The Old Testament gives us more clarity. Mind was translated from three Hebrew words, reins, kidneys, and spirit.
Reins control, lead, and direct action. A rider uses reins to guide a horse to make it do certain things. Our minds can guide us in a way to do the actions God wants us to do – obedience. Or just like some horses that are stubborn and willful, and pull and fight against the reigns to go another way, our minds can take us in the opposite direction away from God.
The second Hebrew word for mind is “kidneys”. Our kidneys serve two major functions: to filter out and eliminate all the debris, waste and filth from our blood; and control and regulate the amount of blood flow into our bodies. So, it is with our minds. We use our minds to get rid of our negative thoughts – unforgiveness, resentments, etc., and we decide who will control or regulate our lives- the Holy Spirit or Satan.
The third Hebrew word for mind is “spirit”. Our spirit is the core of our being and is separate from our brain. It has a continuing existence, unlike the brain. Our mind creates the thoughts of our hearts, and what leads to certain actions in our lives. However, there is an unregenerate spirit and a regenerate spirit. If we are born again, our spirit connects with the Spirit of God. We can now know God, and do His desired will. The unregenerate spirit has no power to connect with and thus goes against all that God desires. And as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, they do not have the ability nor willingness to do the will of God.
The choice is ours. Do we choose to let God lead our lives through the blood of His Son Jesus, or follow another spirit that offers us no hope and fulfillment for our lives? Do we choose to have the mind of Christ, or follow the god of this world? Do we choose to be led by the Spirit of God or by our natural inclinations? Do we choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can do the acceptable and complete will of God; or do we choose to be conformed to the world? (Romans 12:2) Do we choose to put off the old man and its corruption; or do we renew the spirit of our mind and put on the new nature of Christ? (Ephesians 4:22-24)
My brothers and sisters, I encourage us to be more “mindful” of our relationship with Christ. Christ didn’t die for us to live mediocre lives as we go about calling ourselves “Believers”. He wants us to live a completely transformed life being connected with and led by His Spirit.
“For God so (greatly) loved and dearly prized the world, that He (even) gave His (one and) only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him (as Savior) shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world (that is, to initiate the final judgement of the world), but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17, Amplified Bible).
Often, we see, hear, or read John 3:16. But verse 17 does not get as much attention. The verse specifically tells the reason (purpose) the Son came to earth in human form. It tells why He did not come and also why He did come. The thought to be understood is that God did not send Christ to “condemn” the world. The word “condemn” means to express complete disapproval of, typically in public; to censure or to sentence someone to a particular punishment, especially death (Oxford Languages Dictionary).
Once we understand why God sent His Son, then we can believe the “why” and accept the “work” that was completed by the Son’s coming to the earth. When this process of understanding and acceptance is completed, the following applies: “Therefore there is now no condemnation (no guilty verdict, no punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus (who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior)” (Romans8:1, Amplified Bible).
After accepting God’s gift of salvation through His Only Begotten Son, the verdict or stain of condemnation no longer exists. There is no guilty verdict or punishment for those who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. So, the purpose for Christ’s coming was not to express disapproval or punish mankind. The latter part of verse 17 tells us the reason God did send His Son to the earth. That is, that the world might be saved through Him. God wanted the world saved because He (God) so loved the world (His creation). Verse 16 tells us that He “so loved” the world that he did not want the world to be without a “Savior.”
Born again believers are in the class of blood-washed members of the family of God. We should not live in fear by thinking “am I good enough to be a member of the royal priesthood? Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. God’s purpose for sending His Son was fulfilled once Christ resurrected with all power. That finished work put the next move on mankind. If you have accepted that finished work through faith by confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart (Romans 10:9-10) you have been filed in the permanent category of “no condemnation.”
Why have I shared this thought/teaching? It’s because once we fully understand why Christ came and accept the reason for His coming, we can live a more productive spiritual life – a life without worry of whether we are good enough or will we “make it to heaven.” We can live a life that’s pleasing to God and serves as witness that all can be saved without fear of condemnation.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called’’ (Ephesians 4:1)
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)
“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory”
(1 Thessalonians 2:12)
Due to current challenges and issues facing the world, I am revisiting a topic I shared several months ago. These challenges and issues have become more aggressive during the past few months.
Every time I hear the phrase “walk worthy” I’m reminded to represent. To walk worthy of the Lord means to live a life that presents and represents Christ. It’s a challenge of a few words but enormous responsibility.
In the books of Ephesians and Colossians, the apostle Paul writes from a Roman jail to the church at Ephesus, the Colossian Christians, and other churches of Asia Minor. In Thessalonians, he is writing from and during his long stay at Corinth. His message to all is emphatic and to the point: Continue to live and walk in a fashion that represents Christ. He had received reports that believers were “backsliding” to beliefs and practices they entertained before becoming Christians. As a result, their lifestyles (including worship) were looking more like walks of non-believers rather than walks of believers.
Paul’s rebuke and challenge to the early Christian churches apply to current-day believers. We are encouraged to live our daily lives in ways that are pleasing to God and to be fruitful (effective) in all we do. When others see us and/or talk to us, they should see Christ. We have been called to live in ways that reflect God’s goodness, compassion, and love. Our “worthy walk” is a daily vocation that requires dedication and commitment. We must be focused and prepared at all times to present Jesus to those who don’t know Him as Lord and Savior.
Certainly, there are many distractions that can hinder us from allowing our light to shine so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (“Matthew 5:16”). Hence, all the more reason to be reminded to stay focused and “on point” in our walk and lifestyle so that we will be victorious in winning souls to the kingdom. Remember, walking worthy is a vocation from God. He has called and equipped us (through the Holy Spirit) to live in ways that reflect holiness. No, it is not always easy. Yes, it can be done. We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Walk worthy.
The Power of Intercessory Prayer
Oftentimes we don’t realize the impact of our prayers when we pray on behalf of someone else or “intercede” for them. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he wrote “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
In both the Old and New Testaments prayers of intercession are prominent - even those that impact nature. Elijah prayed for it not to rain, and for three years there was no rain. James reminds us of this even as he encourages us to pray for one another. “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops” (James 5:17-18).
Moses was one who constantly interceded with God on behalf of the people. He interceded for his sister Miriam when she, along with Aaron spoke against him and she was struck with leprosy. (Numbers 12:13). He prayed on behalf of the people after they complained against God so much, He sent snakes into their camp that bit and killed many. (Numbers 21:6). Moses again interceded to God to preserve the life of the Israelites when the twelve spies returned from scouting out the land and ten scouts convinced the people there was no chance they could possess the land. Instead, they wanted to choose a leader and return to Egypt. They complained against God all night and so intensely that He was ready to destroy them. (Numbers 14:1-25).
It doesn’t matter if we intercede on behalf of one or many, we must intercede. The early believers prayed for the release of Peter from jail. Scripture says that while he was in jail, the church prayed earnestly to God for his release. God released him and led him out of the prison by an angel. (Acts 12:5-11).
Abraham interceded for the city of Sodom for his nephew Lot. God was ready to destroy the city because of its constant wickedness and sin. Abraham did not want his nephew to be destroyed with the wicked. So, he interceded and asked to preserve the city if there were ten righteous people. God assured him that he would not destroy it if he could find ten righteous people. We know the end. God destroyed the city, but he did preserve the life of Lot and his family by leading them out of the city by the hand of two angels. Scripture tells us “But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain” (Genesis 19:29).
What is my point in all this? Brothers and sisters, let’s use the power that God gave us to change our circumstances and the lives of others. God hears the prayers of the righteous. “The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power” (James 5:16).
Cast Your Care
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
How often have we heard or used the phrases “I don’t care, who cares, or no one cares?” Probably more often than we think. Merriam - Webster Dictionary defines “care” as a suffering of mind or a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibility. When this level of concern and worry occurs our minds and emotions are not at ease.
In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter addressed his readers to be subject (responsible to and supporting of) one another. He challenged them to humble themselves under God’s hand and to cast all their cares on Him because He cares for them. In mentioning “their cares” he is referring to their suffering of the mind or disquieted state of mixed uncertainty defined in the Merriam – Webster Dictionary. In mentioning “God’s care” he is referring to God’s love, attention, and provision.
There are two particular points I want to emphasize here. The first is that the readers are encouraged to “humble” themselves in order that they may be exalted (verse 6). The second point is that the readers are encouraged to “cast, throw, get rid of” their heavyweight. What’s so important about this? We must humble ourselves to the point of admitting that we are not strong enough to carry the stress and worries of this world. We must humble ourselves to the point of believing and accepting the fact that God is so concerned about our well-being that He does not want us to carry any unnecessary weight. He wants us to be free of every burden.
Surely we must trust God to the point of knowing that no problem is too difficult for Him to handle. As the saying goes, “from the top to the bottom, God can handle our problems.” However, we must allow God to take control of the stressful situations in our lives by releasing them to Him. He can’t (and won’t) handle what we are not willing to let go. Hence, “let go and let God.” Peter instructs his readers to “cast or throw off” their burdens and distractions. That implies to get rid of them with intense determination and force rather than just hoping God will work them out. Yes, be emphatic and deliberate about it.
Are you in a time of uncertainty, stress, discomfort or worry? I remind you of what the apostle Peter instructed his readers to do – simply cast your care!