I love the book of James because he’s a guy who doesn’t pull any punches. He says exactly what he means and he means what he says. Take for example this passage.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 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?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
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?
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
In this passage, James makes it completely clear that there’s no use in claiming to have “faith” unless that “faith” is making a significant impact on the behaviors and actions in your everyday life. Anything else isn’t genuine faith. It’s like a child who plays pretend and walks around claiming to be Superman, even though we all know if he tries to jump off of anything he’s going to fall flat on his face rather than fly.
When it comes to the world of spiritual warfare, claiming to have “faith” that is unaccompanied by works is like this same costume-clad child deciding that he’s going to challenge the bigger stronger school bully to a fight thinking that the costume will scare him away. Of course, we all know that this isn’t going to happen.
Unless there is an adult around to protect the child, our little superhero is soon going to learn that there’s a big difference between waging war with your words and having the power to back up your words with actions. If you’re going to wage spiritual war, you’d better make sure that your suit of armor is the genuine article and not just a costume. Otherwise, you’ll be walking into battle naked rather than dressed for victory.
This is especially true when it comes to the Shield of Faith that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:13-16:
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
If you joined us last month, you’ll remember that we talked about the fact that the shield Paul was describing was a large Roman shield that is covered in leather or some kind of animal skin so that it could be dipped in water in case a fiery arrow was thrown at the soldier. In that case, the fiery arrow would hit the sopping wet shield and be instantly snuffed out.
In our lives, faith is the dripping wet shield that instantly extinguishes the flaming arrows of the enemy. When attacks come at us from all directions, raising the shield of faith will stop the attacks dead in their tracks before they can ever penetrate our hearts and minds bringing destructions.
Wow! Understanding this visual imagery helps us understand the powerful role that Faith plays in the life of a Christian. It challenges us to make sure that we understand what faith is and inspect our own hearts to make sure that our faith is alive and active. After all, you don’t want to find yourself up against a war of fiery darts with a toy shield---you want the real deal!
So, how can we make sure that our faith is the real deal---a strong powerful sword that will stand against the enemy?
Well, the first step is getting a clear understanding of what it means to “have faith”. If you remember last month, we talked about the fact that there are lots of false definitions of faith in our society today. However, the writer of Hebrews gives us a pretty accurate description of what it means to have true genuine faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
This verse explains the two important components in faith:
1. Belief---We must believe that God exists and that He Is Who He claims to be in the Bible.
2. Actions---We must believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Last month we talked about the first ingredient (if you missed it, you can check out this article at by clicking the dressing for victory tag). This month, we’re going to move onto the next ingredient that naturally follows believing that God exists as He is described in the Bible---acting on what you believe.
You see, it isn’t enough just to believe that God exists. As James 2:18 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder!”
The truth is that faith isn’t really true and genuine until it is evidenced by your actions.
If we read on, we see that James goes on to give us 2 examples of people who did more than just believe: Abraham and Rahab. In both cases, their faith influenced their actions.
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. (James 2:21-23)
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 2:25)
If you read through all of Hebrews 11, you’ll see example after example of people who displayed their belief that God exists and He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In each scenario, you’ll see that it wasn’t their system of beliefs that made these men and women heroes of the faith, rather it was their willingness to act in accordance with their belief system. As you read through these verses, you can’t help but think that each life proved that faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)
So let’s get practical? How can we follow their example and make sure that our faith is alive, thriving, and powerful enough to act as a shield against the enemy’s attacks?
1. We must seek God.
How do we diligently seek God? By diligently reading and studying the Bible.
There is no other way to get to know Who God is, how He thinks, and what He expects from you and I. There’s no mystical path to special revelation and no alternative detour down an easier road.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God telling us everything we could ever want to know about God’s heart, His mind, His plan, His purpose, His will, His Laws, and His desires. It tells us the story of God’s plan for man from the beginning of time all the way through the end of the earth as we know it. It reveals to us God’s plan for salvation through Jesus Christ, and tells us how we can have a personal relationship with Him. The Bible also gives us practical teaching regarding what God expects from human beings and spells out in specific detail what it means to put your faith into action by obeying the commands found in the Bible. If you want to seek God, or draw near to Him, then you need to become a student of His Word.
2. We must apply what we read in the Bible to our daily lives.
You see, it’s one thing to simply read the Bible.
It’s another thing to say you believe the Bible is true.
However, faith begins when you are so convinced that the Bible is God’s Word and ultimate truth that you apply it to your life and actually do what it tells you to do.
Think about it---if you really believe that the Bible is God’s standard for life and you really believe that God rewards those who obey the commands of the Bible and punishes those who don’t, doesn’t it make sense that you would diligently try to follow the teachings of the Bible? Doesn’t anything less than consistent, diligent attempts at obedience suggest that you don’t really believe the Bible is true?
You may need to stop and think about those last statements for awhile. Really, they are good thoughts to ponder. Because here’s the thing: If you’re actions are not aligned with the beliefs that you say you have, there’s a good chance that you don’t really believe what you say you do.
If your beliefs and your actions are not symbiotic, then there are some major gaps in your Shield of Faith that are leaving you open and exposed to the enemy’s destructive attacks in your life.
One of the facts that we’ve discussed before in this series is that the #1 way a Christian invites demonic activity into their lives is by tolerating sin in their lives. It’s like an invitation to the enemy saying, “Come and devour me.” The only way to really dress for victory and stand against the enemy’s attacks in your life is to raise the shield of faith by applying what the Bible says in each and every area of your life.
3. We must be diligent.
To be “diligent” means to be “marked by persevering, painstaking effort; to be careful and persevering in carrying out tasks or duties; to be constant and earnest in effort and application; attentive and persistent in doing something.”
This is the word that the author of Hebrews uses to describe how we are to seek God if we are to be people of genuine faith.
It’s the complete opposite of the “pick-and-choose-I’ll-take-what-I-like-from-the-Bible-and-ignore-the-rest” attitude that is far too pervasive within the church today. Instead, if we are going to be dressed for victory, fully armed and protected against the attacks of the enemy we are going to have to be diligent in our efforts to apply the teachings of the Bible. We need to accept that the Bible is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we are lives must reflect that attitude. We need to be both constant and earnest in our effort and application of the Word if we want to keep our shield of faith strong and void of gaps.
4. We Must Live as if God is a Rewarder of Those Who Diligently Seek Him.
If you read through Hebrews 11, you’ll find one common thread running through the lives of each man or woman in the Faith Hall of Fame. Each one viewed their lives through the lens of eternity.
They didn’t base their decisions or choices on what would be best for them in the here and now; instead, they chose to obey God because they believed that their choices would hold eternal rewards. That’s what sustained their faith and helped them hold to their beliefs and continue living out their faith on a daily basis even when times were hard. They understood the big picture---life is about more than the 70, 80, or 90 years we spend on this earth---life is just a prelude to eternity.
Because of this understanding, they were people who lived victorious lives. I believe it was because they possessed and used the shield of faith that they were able to overcome fear, doubt, and temptation and be game-changers in the kingdom of God. They attempted things that would have stopped other people dead in their tracks and overcame things that would have waylaid other people in life. Yet, they arose victorious because the understood that whatever happens on this earth is only temporary. They truly believed that God existed and that He was Who He said He was and He would do what He said He would do. They understood that God is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and even if they didn’t reap those rewards on earth, they’d be rewarded in Heaven. Because of their deeply held beliefs and their desire to please God, they diligently sought Him. Their faith wasn’t just in words, but they lived it with their actions. They dressed for victory and they were victorious. Now their example stands as a challenge for each of us today.
Will we follow their example?
Will we determine to cultivate a faith based on knowledge of Who God really is?
Will we believe what we learn of God enough to let it influence every part of our lives until we are radical followers of Jesus Christ?
Will we go beyond words and put our faith into action making it real and alive?
Will we be people of faith who can use our shield to stand against the enemies evil schemes or will be children who pretend to have faith but are really wearing a costume?
I don’t know about you, but I want my faith to be the real deal---strong, powerful, and able to overcome each and every attack of the enemy. That’s why I’m committed to doing my part and being a person not only believes that God is, but who allows that belief to influence by behavior. It’s the only way to be dressed for victory. It’s the only way to be victorious.