“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” (James 2:18-25)
James is using the story of Abraham’s faith as an example of faith in deeds. (Read Genesis 22:1-18). God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character. Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances. When we are tested we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our character. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) Obeying our Lord God is often a struggle because it may mean giving up something we truly want. We should not expect our obedience to God to be easy or to come naturally.
Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, who was the seed of the great nation promised to Abraham? (Genesis 12:1-3) God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart, so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son. The purpose of the testing is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and His perfect timing. Abraham was faithful and trusted God and His plan, and his faith was counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The Lord God wants us to set aside our will for His. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39)
It is difficult to let go of what we deeply love. Yet when we give to God what He asks, He returns to us far more than we could dream. The spiritual benefits of His blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. The Lord God wants us to give over every aspect of our lives to Him, and trust Him to provide (Genesis 22:8). THAT is living our faith!
- My notes from Bible Study “Faith: A Bible Study on James for Women“
- Life Application Study Bible (NIV)