Faith Without Works
James 2:15-17 NKJV
Luke 2:25-32 NKJV
Practical faith on earth in and of itself is a belief of the unknown and unseen.
For myself, I have experienced stages of faith and different kinds of faith.
First, there is faith in the sense of believing God is real and active in our personal lives and in our world. Since God is in us, we can experience and share that with others in various ways.
According to James 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
In that sense, having faith and putting it to action to serve another is an important component. It’s so important to James that he says if we have faith but do not act on it by helping to provide for others, our faith is dead.
In the example James gave it makes perfect sense. If you tell someone God loves them but they are starving (and you have food) you need to act on your faith. In a sense you become God’s agent.
A second kind of faith points to our personal faith. We grow by developing a relationship with God daily. We spend time talking to God. We get to know God and the character of God. We learn how the Spirit of God interacts with us. We learn to utilize the gifts God has given us.
We become familiar with the idea of faith when we pray and seek God and we begin to believe something good will happen. We believe that God will teach us how to live and love other people. Along the way, God will give us opportunities to act on our faith with others. It’s important to note here that our relationship with God builds our faith. In my life, reading scripture was an important part of knowing God. We do not create faith. We are not that powerful.
We also experience God breathing faith IN us. It’s been my experience that this is the longest part of learning about us, God, and life. Daily God helps me to learn to trust Him and as I grow my faith increases. I’ve found that God is patient with us and gentle. He gives us time to grow our faith and He doesn’t force anything on us. The fruit of the Spirit of gentleness is from God. It’s part of who God IS.
The culmination of that faith growing will show up in various ways. Simeon is a great example of God building faith in him as he waited to see the Christ child.
In Luke 2:25-32 we read, “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Simeon had waiting a lifetime to see the fulfillment of the promise.
Most of the time in my life, working out what God planted in me is the hard part because it isn’t instant; we experience it with God and we grow in faith as we experience it. In Simeon’s case, God gave him the knowledge and the desire to see Jesus in his lifetime. Simeon had waited for decades and he was an old man when Mary and Joseph walked into the Temple that day holding Jesus. When he saw Jesus he knew that was the fulfillment of his life promise from God.
We can pray and believe, but we also grow in faith as we believe. Oftentimes, it’s a difficult journey. When we get discouraged, it is helpful to verbally say to God, “I believe”.
I’ve found reciting the Apostles Creed is helpful. The creed is an ancient church document that probably dates back to the 2nd Century (but historians do not know exactly when it was written). The Apostles Creed says:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church*, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
(*this refers to the whole church body of all believers)
When I get discouraged I repeat the Apostles Creed and just in speaking it my faith grows. I am reminded that God is actively working in my life.
There are also various Stages of Faith that have been written by theologians. One example is Fowler’s 6 Stages of Faith. It can help us to realize that God is continuously working in our lives so we can grow closer to Him.
Fowler’s six stages include:
4. Individuative-Reflective Faith
5. Conjunctive Faith
6. Universalizing Faith (or ”Enlightenment”)
The information to a longer explanation of the stages can be found at:
Faith, our faith is easy but it’s also complex. That’s because there are many parts and coming to an understanding of our belief in God is an ongoing lifetime endeavor.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Faith
Consider your faith journey. Write down thoughts that come to you.
In God, Deborah