"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
If your fleshly bent is towards striving, you may already be thinking, I need to try harder to do more good works. First, pause and consider an alternative.
“Two brief questions that help us monitor our spiritual health are: Who am I trusting? And why am I working? If we are trusting in anyone (including ourselves) other than Christ as the source and provider of our justification, we are lost. If we are acting for any reason other than in obedience and thanksgiving to Christ for what he has done for us, we are lost. We only truly find our salvation in Christ. Out of our trust in him will flow action .” (Life Application Bible Commentary James)
The striver in me is tempted to add more good deeds to my to-do list. But then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me I'm relying on myself instead of Him. John 15:5 “…If a man remains in me and I in him, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing .” Nothing. Not something. Not a little. Nothing.
I read an article a few years ago that contained some hard hitting truth that I would label was a major “course correction” in my thinking.
“Instead of trying to manufacture fruit, we need to spend time with Christ. Disciplines help us to be a branch with a strong connection to the vine… When we realize that Christ is the source of the fruit of the Spirit, our focus can change from p erformance to connection.” (Allan Edeker, Fresh Fruit, Life: Beautiful Magazine, Summer 2009).
I spent many years trying to improve my performance only to find it always ended in failure and frustration. Don’t get me wrong, this isn't an invitation to do nothing. There is plenty in scripture that commands us to do. Focusing on our connection to Christ doesn’t remove any God-given responsibility to act. But please, take a moment to reflect on those two questions: Who am I trusting? And why am I working? Take a moment to be honest with God. Are you regularly experiencing His mercy in your life or have you forgotten?
As our connection to Christ strengthens, so does His transforming power in our lives. The more we experience His mercy, faithfulness, and grace, the more our faith does. Why? Because Philippians 2:13 tells us, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” He’s the source. He is the one who will fill our cup to overflowing.
The natural result of a filling of His mercy, is the spilling onto those around us.
Ask Him to grow your faith and strengthen your connection to Him in such a way that you become a vessel of His mercy. Ask Him to show you who in your life needs a touch of His mercy.
Lord, on my own I can easily get caught in the trap of trying harder to do good rather than letting my actions flow out of my faith in You. Thank you that you don’t require anything but faith for my salvation but grow my faith so that it leads to action. Remind me of what you have done for me so I am overwhelmed by your goodness and cannot help but want to let it flow to others. My desire is to have a vibrant and living faith that acts in a way that will impact your kingdom.
This is an excerpt from, Journey Through James: A Roadmap for Trials. To access the FREE study materials or to learn more, CLICK HERE.