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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

If Faith Without Works Is Dead, What Should I Do?

CPR from Microsoft Publisher Clipart

A Common Problem

We often lack works.

Maybe we’re not praying, or not forgiving someone, or not sharing the Gospel.

We know this is a problem, because of what James says —

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

But we can read this verse and miss James’ point.  We can think that since faith without works is dead, then if I lack works, I should start working.  But that’s not what James is saying.

He’s saying that since faith without works is dead, then if there are no works, the problem is dead faith.  And that to correct the problem my faith must be revived.

A Heart Without A Pulse

To see James’ point, imagine he had said —

So also a heart by itself, if it does not have a pulse, is dead.

So if I have no pulse, what’s the problem?  A dead heart.  And what should I do to get a pulse?  Revive my heart.

If I try to make a pulse without reviving my dead heart, I might be able to create what looks like a pulse.  But it won’t be a real pulse, because it won’t come from a living heart.

In the same way, if I try to do works without reviving my dead faith, I might be able to create what looks like works.  But they won’t be genuine works, because they won’t come from a living faith.

Abiding And Bearing

Jesus taught the same truth in John 15.  He said every branch that abides in him will bear fruit (John 15:5).

So if I don’t bear fruit, the problem is that I’m not abiding.  Which means the solution isn’t to try to bear fruit, the solution is to start abiding.

Fruit comes from abiding, and works come from living faith.

So if I have no works, how can I revive my faith?

Let’s say you don’t share the Gospel because you fear people might think of you.  Since this is a lack of works, James would say the cause is dead faith.  So how can dead faith be revived?

Crucial Steps

Faith is ultimately a supernatural work of God.  So start by coming to Jesus Christ as you are, trusting him to change your heart.

Confess your lack of works.  Receive fresh assurance that you are fully and freely forgiven through his death on the Cross.

Confess that your lack of works shows there’s deadness in your faith.  Ask him to revive, strengthen, and help your faith.

Find Promises

Then, to strengthen your faith, find which promises in God’s Word you are not trusting.  Lack of obedience is caused by not trusting God’s promises.  So think about what commands you are not obeying, and what promises in God’s Word motivate that obedience.

Here is a promise I have used to battle my fear of sharing the Gospel –

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.  (Luke 6:22-23)

Jesus promises that if I am insulted for his sake, I will be rewarded in heaven with even more joy in him.

So if fear of being insulted keeps me from telling people about Christ, it’s because I’m not trusting this promise.  I’m not trusting that if I’m insulted God will reward me with more joy in Christ.  Or, I’m not trusting that joy in Christ will infinitely make up for the pain of being insulted.  Or both.

That lack of trust is what James means by dead faith.  So how can dead faith be revived?

Pray Over The Promises

Faith comes as we hear God’s Word (Romans 10:17), and as we pray for God to help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

So, ask God to help you unbelief, and pray over promises that motivate whatever works you are lacking.

So, for example, if you are struggling with evangelism, pray over the promise of Luke 6:22-23.  Think deeply about it.  Maybe pray over other passages that reinforce that promise, like Matthew 28:18-20, and 1 Peter 4:14.

Keep doing this until God strengthens your faith so you believe that if you are insulted God will reward you with more joy in Christ, and that joy in Christ will far surpass the pain of any insults.

Feel the difference?  Your faith is no longer dead.  It’s been revived.  And your revived faith will make you want to share the Gospel with others.  Because you know that any insults you receive will bring more joy in Christ forever.

We wouldn’t try to create a pulse without reviving the heart.

So don’t try to create works without reviving your faith.

Comments?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Motivation for Obedience

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16 Responses

  1. Pamela Nees says:

    Wonderful insight, Steve.

  2. Cheryl Iler Kennedy says:

    AMEN!!! He wants our heart, not some trumped up, self-powered “works” (filthy rags) that don’t have eternal value. Great message, Steve.

  3. Orion Kubow says:

    I really like the analogy of the artificial pulse when your heart is stopped. You can manually stimulate blood flow for a time, but the real goal is to get the heart going again, and to do that, we need divine help!

    Steve, do you think the Spirit ever meets us when we step out in faith and obedience? For example, let’s say I don’t feel like sharing the gospel with someone for some reason, but then I do it anyway. Do you think the Spirit can fill me and reward me in response to my obedience?

    Do you think it’s okay to not feel like being obedient, do it anyway and then have God meet you in the process?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      What a great question, Orion.

      And I definitely believe the Spirit can meet us and change our hearts as we step out in faith and obedience. I see that promised in passages like John 14:21,23.

      But your last question is tougher. I often don’t feel like being obedient. But I’m not sure we should ever say that’s okay, because when I don’t feel like obeying, it shows that I’m not fully trusting God’s promises.

      So what I do is confess to God that I don’t feel like obeying; I pray earnestly and ask Him to change my heart; and I set my heart on whatever promises will change my heart about the obedience.

      God promises that when we do that — He will always change our hearts.

      But what if I need to obey before my heart is fully changed. That’s often the case. So then I step out and obey, not pretending I’m feeling anything I’m not, but trusting that God will change me.

      There’s my thoughts — I’d love to hear what you think.

      Onward, brother!

      Steve

  4. Paul says:

    “Whenever we don’t obey, it’s always because we are not trusting some promise.”

    Amen. This makes so much sense and is very helpful. Thank you, brother.

  5. Robert says:

    That’s the best explanation of “Faith without works” I’ve ever heard. Thank you. 🙂

  6. Peter says:

    So I found this post because I know my faith is dead. For me it’s worse than dead because I don’t even want to go through the renewal process anymore. I just want to save my skin. Christian living has been a total disaster for me, and I’m cold and uncaring. How do i get the will to go to someone I’m feeling dead and even angry toward in the first place? Thanks.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I’m grateful for your honesty, Peter, but am also sad for the difficulties you have had.

      So how can you get the will to turn to the One towards whom you are feeling dead and even angry?

      Jesus is everything you need. Really. He will forgive all your sins (Mark 2:5); strengthen your faith (Mark 9:24); and completely change your heart towards Him (Luke 18:27).

      Turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you, and turn to Him alone. Don’t worry about what you are feeling — just look to Him by faith. Ask Him for help. Confess whatever sins you need to confess. Trust His forgiveness.

      Then pray over His promises until you feel Him strengthening your faith, giving you sorrow over your sin, and stirring desire for Him.

      That might happen quickly. Or not. But it will happen. He promises (John 4:12-13; 6:35; 7:37-39).

      I’ll pray for you right now, Peter. And what would be even better is if you could find some humble, godly men in a nearby church who could pray with and for you.

      Let me know what God does.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  7. Harumi says:

    That’s amazing! Can I translate this to portuguese, please? =)

    • Steve Fuller says:

      That would be fine, Harumi. I would only ask that none of the content be changed, that you mention that it’s a translation from the original, and that you direct people to the original post on my website.

      • Harumi says:

        Thank you Mr. Fuller! I will not change the content and I will provide all the information…^_^
        I just wanted to ask one more thing, when James writes about the “double-minded person” (James 1:8, 4:8) he is talking about an unconverted person who needs to be born again or he is talking about a very very weak (true) christian? Because when I read these verses (James 2:17 too) I have the impression he is talking about lost church members, and it makes me think if I am not one of them…

  8. Tristan Hodgden says:

    PLEASE HELP!! I struggle with trust in God daily and I think that I might have dead faith. I do not see evidence that God is changing me even though I acknowledge the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and I know that Jesus is God and I understand that in order to be saved you have to believe that he died for your sins and that he is your Savior. I do, I’ve also said Jesus is Lord countless times but Romans 10: 9-10 believe in your heart and I don’t know what the difference between believing in your heart and believing in your mind is. I also know that Matthew 7:22-23 says that some believers will go to hell! I’m so confused as what I should do and if I have dead faith then what do I do
    to become one of God’s true children. I’m also concerned for my family. Please help and please pray
    for me.

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