“Actions speak louder than words.” This is a common saying we may have heard growing up, to encourage listeners to back up their words with actions. I believe we can use this same phrase to evaluate our own walks with God.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17)
James presents a similar argument to that catchphrase, which is: if our faith isn’t backed up by actions, then our faith is dead. Webster’s dictionary provides a few definitions for the word dead, one that helps us have a better understanding of its meaning in this context is this: being out of action or out of use. Now let’s put that definition into perspective. Our world today relies heavily on wireless devices. A major component of those devices are batteries. These batteries come in all shapes and sizes, however their purpose remains the same: to supply power to the device. Now if that battery were dead it would then be deemed as useless. James is using a similar thought pattern that if our faith does not empower us to act, then our faith is dead.
One of the most profound characters known for his faith was Abraham. The Bible records multiple incidents of Abraham putting his faith into action. Whether it was leaving his home for a place that was promised to him, or welcoming the three visitors into his home, or the willingness to sacrifice Isaac per instruction from God, Abraham’s actions were a full display of his faith. In Abraham “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. (James 2:22)”
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)”
James uses a vivid illustration on what faith without action looks like: A person who knows there is a problem and sees the problem, but only offers words to aide them. I worry this is how it is for us today; we say we believe in God but our actions don’t exactly illustrate that. We often act like how the disciples acted. The disciples lived their lives as if they would never deny Jesus but it wasn’t backed up by actions. For example they didn’t care for the thousands who were hungry instead wanted to send them on their own way to find food (Matthew 14:15), or their harsh reactions when the little children were brought to Jesus (Mark 10:13-16). Fortunately, the disciples’ failure to back their faith with action wasn’t the end of their story. In the Book of Acts we see the disciples by the power of the infilling of the Holy Spirit much more firmly rooted in their faith, and this faith was then illustrated by action. Peter, for example, shared the gospel in front of thousands on the Day of Pentecost; he fervently followed Jesus even when he was questioned in front of the Sanhedrin. This was a new Peter - one whose faith and actions worked hand in hand.
This is also the struggle that we often face, knowing the love of God but still pursuing the things of the flesh; not doing “the good [we] want to do but the evil [we] do not want to do. (Romans 7:19)” From our birth, we have been prone to wander into the habits of the flesh: by lying, being proud, gossiping, living without self-control and for our selfish ambitions, the list can go on. These habits of the flesh keep our minds set on what the flesh desires and not what the Spirit desires. If we are living our lives according to what our flesh desires we will be unable to truly put our faith into action. Paul ends with a solution to his struggle with sin. His response is to live and seek the things of the Spirit and not of the flesh. Romans 8:5-7 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” In submitting to the Spirit, he gives us the power to step into action. In the same way that the disciples’ lives were transformed by the power of the Spirit of God, our lives can also be transformed in order to walk in righteousness and to seek the things of the Spirit.
Recently our church has been experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit in new ways. In the same way that the disciples’ lives were transformed; our lives must be transformed with faith and actions as a result of the Spirit’s move . By the power of the Holy Spirit we should be bearing the fruits of that spirit which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We should become bold to share our faith to fulfill the great commission that Jesus gave us to do. Matthew 28:19-20 commands us: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
As Christians it is important that our faith is accompanied by action. It is through our actions that we can be the light to the world around us. It is through our actions that our faith grows stronger. It is through our actions that we fulfill the great commission that Jesus gave us to do. With the help of the Holy Spirit, let our lives will be filled with faith backed up by actions.