“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:17 MEV
As a believer in the Gospel of Grace, having lived a life that means I *know* that nothing *I* can do will save me, a life that has shown me day in and day out that I need a Saviour, I have never had any trouble understanding that works without faith is of no use. But the understanding of “faith without works” is harder.
James outlines in this passage just how faith without works is dead – just praying a blessing over the hungry and the naked doesn’t feed or cloth them – however I think that whilst many of us would confidently assert that we don’t do that (we are actively involved in any social outreach program at church, give to charity etc) I still don’t think we grasp the depths of this warning.
An analogy came to me this morning during my quiet times (which on a Sunday take place at home as I don’t have the luxury of time to spend at my sea side spot – not unless I’m willing to get up very early!).
Man digs a well but he doesn’t fill it. It is filled from the top down, as it were, by the rain. Without that intervention which he can do nothing to bring about, it would just remain a hole in the ground. Dangerous instead of provisional.
Works without faith.
You build your church programs, you have all your procedures, have all your rituals, it all seems very industrious for the Kingdom. But your well is dry. Nothing about what you are doing is nurturing you, offering you abundance.
If the man doesn’t dig the well, then when the rain comes it soaks but soon dries up. He has no means to store it. No means to draw from it in times of drought.
Faith without works.
All the floodgates of heaven could open in your time with God today but if you haven’t invested, haven’t put in any work (Bible study, submitting to the discipleship process by learning from brothers and sisters in Christ, working on your heart, standing firm in the battle for your mind) then all that blessing has no where to go. It will slip through your fingers.
Moving in to a new house, with an unkempt garden, you can spend hours and hours weeding, taming, clearing, leveling, digging, sieving, planting and sowing. But if it doesn’t rain, and the sun doesn’t shine too – those processes totally outside yourself and your control – then you will be left with a bare patch of earth where sooner or later the weeds will grow again.
Works without faith.
All the Bible study in the world, listening to every podcast, following every “megachurch” on Twitter, “liking” every Facebook page for every Christian celebrity, attending every church service and activity…. without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, without relationship with Him… is just activity. Just busy-ness. Sooner or later the weeds of the devil, the cares of the world, will take over your tended plot.
If I do no work on my garden, never weed, never prune, never tend, then sooner or later it just becomes a wild patch. Filled with seeds from whatever plants, weeds or nearby trees that happen upon it. The rain and the sun will come but it won’t help the precious plants that I planted as they will get choked by the weeds, by the “thorns” that grow.
Faith without works.
It is no good singing praise in my car every day on the way to work, no good having this faith, without putting any work in to it. I need to read the Word daily. I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I need to take captive every thought. I need to be open to the examining of the Holy Spirit who only convicts of righteousness. I need to set a guard upon my lips. I need to be aware of this great cloud of witnesses before me and set on to run the race before me. I need to be conscious of the armour of God that I have and work to keep it in good order.
Otherwise the slings and arrows, the fiery darts of the enemy, will penetrate. The weeds of his lies will choke out the Truth in my heart and my mind. The cares of the world will choke out any abundance that I walk in. I will take my mind off of Jesus and instead see only the mess – the weeds – in my life.
Holy Spirit, help me to daily be aware of the necessary balance between faith and works. May I never work for my own righteousness, never focus only on the things that I do or feel I *should* be doing. May I never think carelessly of the security of Your Grace Lord but strive to work to deepen my understanding of Your Truths, stand firmer in Your strength, taking effort to share that Grace with all around me in every situation, seeking always to go deeper and further, never cheapening that Grace by casual disregard of how You call me to live.