Mar 18, 2013
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?
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.
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.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- How Faith in Christ Changes Us
- How to Fight the Fight of Faith
- Jesus Gives Us Reasons To Obey
- How To Obey God — Self-Pushing Or Spirit-Empowering?
(Picture is from Microsoft Publisher Clipart.)