"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17 ESV
We’ve all heard this passage and thought, isn’t this confusing. When you read the bible, it talks about how it’s not the works that counts. As the matter of fact, Ephesians 2:8-10 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So what’s the deal? Why the contradiction?
Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Verse 3 goes on to say “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Do you see it? It tells us that there is a step between faith and knowledge; that is the work. We see the things around us and know they came from somewhere. We believe that God created the world. But to believe that the invisible God that created the world and the things that we can see and touch is overwhelming. This is why there are so many unbelievers in the world. To think this way requires a verb.
Hebrews goes on to explain that by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain (v 4). By faith Noah built an ark (v 7). By faith, Abraham obeyed and waited for God’s promise (v 8). By faith Abraham was willing to offer Isaac to God. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau (v 20). By faith Joseph told the Israelites about the exodus, knowing his time was almost up (v 21). By faith the people passed through the Red Sea (v 29). And the list goes on.
So why does faith need works in order not to be dead? Because simply put, faith is a verb, it’s what you do! God is not looking for us to make our way into heaven a to do list, it does require us to start by having faith, and in doing that will cause us to take action on that faith. So if you are caught in a storm of regret, with raindrops of guilt beating on you, open up your bible to James and find comfort in the fact that it’s not that we have to earn our way to heaven, it’s all about what we believe. When our belief lines up with the word of God, we are ready to move. Our steps called faith may seem scary, but if you grab hold of the one who is waiting, He will hold your hand through it to make it over the puddles safely.