Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
Have you ever thought that all is well as long as you have faith? Faith is extremely necessary, but faith alone is simply not enough. God expects us to put faith to work and demonstrate our faith through our works.
This week we will focus on some different aspects of true faith and attitudes about demonstrating that faith through our works. One aspect we should all remember and consider as we are praying in faith for God to do something is to make sure we are praying in faith according to God’s will. Be careful not to confuse the idea of praying in and having faith will result in God granting our every wish. Sometimes He has a different plan for us than what we are thinking.
Faith Without Works is Dead!
Sunday: Read James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 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.” We may have a very strong faith, and in actuality, that is a great thing to have. However, something we may not always think of is the works that are required of us to demonstrate that our faith is authentic. This passage tells us that faith without works is just like our telling someone who is without and comes to us for help, and we tell them to “go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but we do nothing to help meet their physical needs, what good is it? We have been of no value to this person’s physical needs. To be effective and demonstrate our faith in God to this person, we should be willing to give them physical help in ways that will meet their needs.
What are some of the reasons that we do not implement works along with our faith? Is it because we are too busy? Is it because we simply don’t want to get involved with those in need? Perhaps it is because we just don’t take the time to recognize the needs of others because we are too focused on our own desires. In your journal today, write an incident when you saw a need or was made aware of a need that someone was having. Write down what you did about that need. Did you act according to the way God was directing you or did you simply ignore and go on about your business?
Monday: Focus on James 2:18 “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Today we will focus on one verse and one thought: Faith verses Works. Carefully read that verse again slowly and let the words soak in. Prayerfully ponder on today’s passage and allow God to guide your thinking as you process this verse. Ask God to show you where you are in this issue with Him. Write that question in your journal before you go further in today’s devotion. As you continue in today’s devotional thoughts, write what is on your mind and heart in regards to the question.
Let’s look at the first kind of person mentioned, those who have “works.” Search your heart and ask God to show you if you fall into this category. There are those who get hung up on doing works thinking as long as they are busy working and doing things for others, the church, and even for God, then, all is well with their soul. Some people truly believe they cannot have salvation in Christ unless they are busy working and earning it. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This passage makes it very clear that the only way to salvation is through faith as we receive and accept the gift from God, which we do NOT work to obtain. It is NOT based on our works or anything we do. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to cover our sins, so we could have salvation. There is nothing we could ever do to measure up to that kind of salvation. Keep in mind that believing alone, however, is not enough. We must believe in faith and then allow God to transform us according to His plan and His will. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Salvation is wrapped up in the relationship we have in Christ as a result of our accepting Him as our Saviour and Controller of our lives. He wants to change us and transform us into His image once we have truly placed our faith in Him. If you are struggling with this issue, please reach out to me (Cheryl Toon) or someone else that you trust for spiritual guidance.
Another kind of person gets caught up in the idea of being so busy with his/her works that he/she forgets about the relationship with Christ. This kind of person is clear on the point of salvation being through faith in Christ alone, but becomes so absorbed in doing work he/she forgets the importance of spending time in prayer and Bible study seeking a direction from God before starting the work. Those people are known as the “busy bees.” Yes, they often are busy doing good things for the church, the needy, the sick, the hungry, etc., but they are so busy doing, they neglect their own spiritual growth.
The last part of today’s passage says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” This person knows he/she is to be busy about the Father’s work, but only as God is guiding him through Bible study, prayer, seeking God’s directions, and waiting upon God to show him what he should be doing. That is the kind of person we are to strive to be. God has created each of us for a plan that will accomplish His kingdom. We are to find our place in His plan before we do anything.
Go back to your journal. Which kind of person are you at this point. Do you truly know Christ as your saviour through faith and acceptance of God’s free gift? If not, stop and pray asking God to forgive you of your sins, tell Him that by faith through the blood of Christ that was shed to cover your sins, you accept Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. If you have just done this, please reach out to me, so I can pray for you and rejoice with you.
If you happen to be the kind of person who has been so busy doing that you have neglected your time with God in His Word and prayer and seeking His guidance, write a prayer in journal asking forgiveness and a commitment to get back on track with God beginning today.
If you are the last kind of person mentioned, write a reflection of the things you have seen God accomplish in your spiritual growth. Praise God for what He has done in you and through you. Ask Him to continue guiding and using you for His great work according to His plan.
Tuesday: Focus on James 2:20-23 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Today we are going to exam evidence that proves faith without works is useless as we look at the example of Abraham. He is known to us as the father of righteousness because of the ultimate sacrifice he was willing to make for God. God had given him his long awaited son. He had prayed and begged God for a son, and when he was an old man God blessed him with Isaac. Through the years, Abraham became very devoted to his son that he was losing sight of his deep relationship with God. God needed Abraham to re-shift his focus back to complete devotion to God. He directed Abraham to offer his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to prove his loyalty and devotion to God. Take a moment and think about that. Isaac was Abraham’s blessing and flesh and blood.
Abraham willingly submitted to the will of God and prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Of course, you know that God stopped him from killing his son at the very last minute and provide a ram in the thicket for the sacrifice in place of Isaac. All God wanted was for Abraham to be willing. God saw that Abraham’s love and devotion for his son had taken precedence in Abraham’s life. God wanted His relationship with Abraham to be restored. He wanted to redirect Abraham’s priorities back to where they needed to be. Once Abraham came to the place that he was willing to put God first in his life once again, God allowed him to keep his blessed son. However, from that point on Abraham kept his priorities in line, and God was placed as top priority once again from that day forward.
In your journal write down what God has revealed that is hindering your complete devotion and commitment to God. Are you ready to relinquish that person, event, habit, ect.,? If you are write out your commitment to do so in your journal. Ask God to forgive you for allowing that to take precedence over Him and over your relationship with Him. If you are not yet ready to release that priority in your life, ask God to give you the ability to do so. Write in your journal the reasons you cannot do that just yet.
Wednesday: Focus on James 2:20-25 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” Yesterday, we examined the example of Abraham demonstrating his faith in God by taking action and being willing to offer the one and most precious thing in his life as a sacrifice to God, so his relationship with God could be restored and God could once again be the top priority and most precious relationship to Abraham. That one precious thing was Abraham’s son, Isaac. We saw that in reality God was not calling for Abraham to actually and literally kill his son; He just wanted Abraham to symbolically kill his son, so that God was able to be the first and foremost priority in Abraham’s life and heart once again. Perhaps you made the commitment yesterday to symbolically sacrifice something in your life that has priority over God, and you are struggling today with following through with that actual commitment. Maybe you were not quite ready yesterday to take that step. Let’s continue our focus on that issue today. In your journal, write down where you are at this point with that commitment.
Now, let’s look at another example of a person who by faith sacrificed her own life and the safety of her family in order to be obedient to God. This person is Rahab the prostitute. There are two areas of her life that we will examine. Today we will focus on the aspect that she was not the normal saint we typically think that God expects all of us to be. She was living in known sin and was considered a wicked person because of her lifestyle and acts of prostitution. God chose to use her as part of His plan not because of her deeds, but because He saw that she would have a willing heart and be able to stand firm in her faith. She was used by God to hide the spies that He had sent into her land. The people of her land had become very wicked, and God was going to bring judgement upon that land and give that land to the Israelites. The people in her town would have killed Rahab as well as her entire family if she had been caught hiding the men of God. She knew within her heart that God would protect her and save her and her family if she had enough faith and would be willing to take the risk.
Regardless of her past sins and her life choices, Rahab was chosen by God and was used greatly by God. Because of her faithfulness, God accomplished a huge plan for the nation of Israel. Maybe you have not been living in the same known sin as Rahab, but you are feeling as though God could not possibly use you because of the sinful nature of your heart. Based on the example of Rahab, God will forgive and willingly accept anyone who is willing to place complete faith in God and accept His ways regardless of what actions are in a person’s past or even present.
Is this where you are today? Do you feel there is no way God can forgive you and use you for His plans? If that is what you are thinking, believe me when I say that God chose, forgave, and used a prostitute. He will do the same for you. However, you have to make a choice. Are you ready to make that choice and go with God? Write in your journal where you are with this decision you must make. Express the reasons why you will not go forward with God. Express your desires in wanting to go forward discuss what it is that is holding you back. Pray and ask God to give you the ability to do what He is calling you to do.
Thursday: Focus on James 2:20-25 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” Today and tomorrow, let’s focus on the actions of Abraham and Rahab. They both were able to perform extreme actions that were not easy for them to do. These are the kind of actions that cannot be done in human strength alone. They were only able to do these actions because of their faith in God. Let’s dig deeply into the reality of the actuality of their actions and what was being asked of them. Abraham was asked to sacrifice—kill his only son. Those of you who have children process that for a moment. Could you do that? I know as a mother, I get riled if I see someone else bringing harm or hurt to one of my children. I turn into a mother bear and want to stop injustice immediately to protect my children. They are all three grown now, and I still find myself thinking like that.
However, I remember a time when my daughter Brittney was in Africa serving as a medical missionary for a summer when she was only 18. She developed malaria and was very sick, and communication with her was not always available. During her illness, I had very little communication with her, and when she was at her worst, I could not reach her. I spent a couple of days trying to reach her. I was home alone as my other two children were not home and my husband was out of the country on another mission trip. God was all I had. Of course, my worry to the degree of making myself sick took control, and I feared the worst: I would never see her alive again. The stress and worry of this as a mother was becoming more than my mind and heart could bear. Finally, out of desperation, I fell on my face before God and submitted my daughter to God. I knew He had given her to me to love and nurture, and then I was to give her back to Him for His plans for her. He had created her for a specific purpose, and I had to trust Him with that even if it meant I had to trust Him with her life. I remember thinking of Abraham and what God had asked him to do with Isaac. I also remember arguing with God that I could never do that. Then, I realized that she was already in the hands of a loving Father, and I had to do just that. I gave her to God and was willing to accept His will no matter what.
Within two hours of my doing that, I received a phone call from my daughter and discovered she was feeling much better. She was still very sick, but was her body was healing and her health was being restored. I rejoiced and praised God for such a blessing. I realized that God wanted me to be willing to let Him have my daughter in service to Him. He assured me He would protect her and He could do it far better than I ever could. She is married now, and I have a beautiful grandson because of her.
Are you still holding onto something or someone in your life that God is calling you to let go and give back to Him? Reflect on that question in your journal. What is God calling you to do?
Are you willing to go to the extreme with God? Write out all of your thoughts and emotions connected to this thought in your journal. Pray asking for God’s guidance and wisdom in how He wants you to proceed with Him.
Friday: Focus on James 2:20-25 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” Yesterday we examined the extreme actions Abraham took through his faith. Today, we are going to examine the extreme actions of Rahab and discover the seriousness of her actions had she been caught. Rahab was willing to jeopardize not only her own life, but also the lives of her entire family. This had to have been very scary for her. Sometimes when we read Bible stories, we tend to leave out the reality that this was happening to a real person who had real feelings and emotions. Today let’s dig into the emotions she may have been experiencing. She had to consider each individual in her family as she contemplated the actions of faith God had called her to do. She had to be thinking of not just the fact that each one in her family would be killed but how they would be killed. She knew they would more than likely be tortured and die an excruciatingly agonizing death. Perhaps she would have to watch each one experience such horrible things. These thoughts could not have been easy for her to process. She was a real person who experienced real feelings and real emotions, yet through it all, she chose to place her faith in God and trust Him completely with the outcome as she followed through with the actions he had called her to do. She was only able to do this kind of work for God because of her faith.
Do you have that kind of faith in God? Do you even trust Him enough in faith in the small things in your life? Is God calling you to step out in faith and trust Him with the results of something He is calling you to do? Answer all of these questions in your journal; then, write out exactly how you plan to proceed with God.
Saturday: Read James 2:26 “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” This passage is pointing out that the body (church) without the spirit is dead, just like faith without deeds is dead. Think today about your church. When you arrive at church in the morning, will you experience the Spirit of God as you worship? If you do not sense the Spirit of God, your worship experience is going to be dead and worthless. In your journal reflect on your recent worship experiences you personally have had in your church on Sundays. This is a personal issue and you must examine your own heart to see if you have been experiencing the presence of God and the Holy Spirit in your worship time. If you have not been experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, begin listing possible reasons in your journal. Some of these reasons might be related to your prayer and Bible study time through the week before you get to worship time on Sunday. Other reasons might be related to your relationship to God, your unwillingness to surrender you will to God’s will, or even your attitude when you arrive at church on Sunday. You may have several reasons including something I did not mention. Pray and ask God to reveal to you what is hindering your worship time with Him on Sundays and ask Him to help you overcome those hindrances.
Perhaps you are struggling with the part of the passage that says, “… faith apart from works is dead.” Do you have faith in Christ and you know without a doubt that you have been saved by God’s grace, but you have not been doing what He is calling you to do? Write that struggle in your journal and begin praying that God will guide you and give the desire and ability to step out in faith and begin the path of action He is calling you to do. This may be very difficult, but remember that God is going to guide you every step of the way. He is not going to throw you out to the wolves. He will be beside you guiding you and protecting you as you go about His business.
Once you have worked through these issues, you will have a sense of revival in your heart and worship time in church in the morning.
As always, I am praying for each of you going through these devotions. I want God’s best blessings for your life. Please feel free to reach out to me, or to anyone on our team if you need additional prayer support or guidance in any of these areas each day and each week.
May God bless you this week,