Today we are going to start a series of devotions on the Book of James. James is a very practical book. The theme of James is Living by Faith.
Since the concept of Faith is central to the Book of James, let’s start by looking at a Snapshot of Faith Through Scripture, thereby understanding and defining faith from a Biblical perspective; then next time, we will get into the first few verses of the first chapter of James.
What is faith? If you pick up a good dictionary or concordance, you will find the definition of faith as “a moral conviction of truth,” and that there is a connection and a great deal of overlap between the words “faith” and “faithful.” What does this mean in practical, Biblical terms?
The world around us simply does not understand faith. In life, you are bound to hear the word faith misused and abused, from faith-healers to motivational speakers. From time to time quotes pop up here and there that misapply the word faith. Here are a few that I’ve seen recently:
Someone said “Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” Whereas that might seem nice and fluffy, there is no basis for faith in such a statement, and if you apply that in life in general, you will believe in the Easter Bunny, UFOs, and playing the lottery as your retirement plan.
Someone else said, “The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are… Have faith in yourself and the direction you have chosen.” Self-confidence is not the same thing as faith. If you simply have “faith in yourself” or any other person, you don’t understand the concept of faith, and are setting yourself up for destruction.
And then there is this statement that someone made, “The reasons birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” No, the reason birds can fly and we can’t is because the Creator designed them to fly, and He did not design us to fly, and it is a misapplication and abuse of faith to say that if you believe anything you want hard enough that you can make it happen “by faith.”
So if those things are not faith, what does the Bible say about faith?
Number 1, let’s look at The Purpose of Faith. If you don’t know the purpose of something, it’s hard to use or apply it properly.
The purpose of faith is reconciliation. First The Reconciliation of Sinful Man to God at Salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
And secondly, The Reconciliation of the Ways of the Believer to the Ways of God. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38
When we first see the word “faith” in the Bible, it is in Deuteronomy 32. Here, Moses wrote a song that recounted some of the history of the Children of Israel and the goodness of God to them. He talked about how they turned to strange gods, worshipped devils, and disobeyed and forgot God, and in verse 20, it says, “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.”
So we can see from this first mention of faith is the Bible, that there is a connection between faith and obedience to God. Disobedience to God equals a lack of faith. Faith equals obedience to God. The only other time we see the word “faith” in the Old Testament is in Habakkuk Chapter 2, where a contrast is made between the proud transgressor and the just man. It says, in verse 4, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”
Faith is a lifestyle for the just man. The man who has received salvation by faith, is to live a life of faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Number 2, let’s look at The Premise of Faith. A moment ago, I said that the word “faith” was only found twice in the Old Testament; the concept, however is seen throughout the Old and New Testament, and the great “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews Chapter 11 describes the people who lived by faith like:
What was it that all of these people, and others who lived by faith throughout history had in common? What is the premise, or foundation of faith? What is the basis and common denominator for faith throughout the ages?
We find it Romans 10:16-17: "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Faith comes by hearing and obeying the Word of God. All of those listed in the great “Hall of Faith” acted in faith because they were acting in obedience to God.
Faith is a simple process. You hear from God – through the conviction of His Holy Spirit in studying His Word and hearing it preached. You believe Him. You yield to Him in Obedience.
At Salvation, you hear from God, and become convicted by the Holy Spirit of your sin. You become convinced that you cannot save yourself, so you believe on Christ, and yield to Him to forgive your sin and save you.
Then as a believer, you continue the same pattern of believing God, and yielding to Him in obedience. That is living by faith.
You cannot claim to have faith if you do not first hear from God. You cannot claim to have faith if you do not live in obedience to God. You cannot claim to have faith if you do not diligently seek Him.
Finally, let’s look at The Power of Faith. The Bible tells us that faith is a powerful thing. Let’s dive in and see what the Scriptures say about that.
Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 that “…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Then in Luke chapter 17, a similar statement is recorded, this time about uprooting a tree and planting it in the sea. How can it be that “nothing shall be impossible” with faith?
I would like to suggest to you that the power of faith rests in the person of Jesus Christ. We have already seen that the purpose of faith is reconciliation to Christ, and that the premise of faith is hearing and obeying the Word of God, which is Christ, so let’s understand now that it’s power rests in Christ alone as well.
Paul helps us see this in Galatians 2:20, where he says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
Notice the possessive phrase after faith – “of the Son of God” – the faith that Paul claimed to live by was Christ’s faith. We have the wonderful gift of the Indwelling Christ – as Paul put it, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” And as we yield in obedience to Christ – that is faith acted out in our life, we have the power of Christ to accomplish anything that is according to the will of the Father – truly nothing is impossible.
This is how faith moves mountains. This is how Elijah, by faith, prayed that rain would stop; and it did for 3 ½ years; and then it came back as he prayed. It was by the power of God on his life – not his own power.
When we get things in the right order – starting with hearing from the Lord, and seeking to please Him, we can be used by Him to move mountains by faith; because faith is all about Christ, and not about us. It’s not about becoming self-confident, successful, or manipulating others. It’s not about doing magical things like healing or walking on water.
Its Purpose is Reconciliation to Christ. Its Premise is Hearing and Obeying Christ. And its Power is found in the Person of Christ.