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Faith at Work

James 2:14-17
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. (NIVUK)

Many people claim to have faith, but how do we know if it is real? True faith in Jesus Christ brings salvation (Acts 16:31) from sin's domination and from hell itself. But simply claiming to have faith can be a social convenience or a self-delusion, if there is no relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot be saved by what we do (Ephesians 2:8-9) but if we are saved the grace of Christ should characterise our lives. So how do we know if we are just religiously pious or living out the salvation God has given us in Christ? The difference between the two is not easy to spot at a glance, but eventually the lifestyle reveals the heart. Of course, no Christian is perfect, and we are all learning how to trust Jesus so that our life will conform to His; but the 'Jesus-lifestyle test' will help us to check our progress.

Looking after the family should be a human instinct. Caring for the needs of others in the Christian family, particularly the disadvantaged and needy is a mark of godliness. Indeed, failing to provide that care is evil (1 Timothy 5:8). Although some people exploit their family relationships for self-gain (even demanding money or goods as if it is their right to do so), those who are looking to the Lord simply pray and wait, and trust Him to provide (Psalm 37:7). He uses His children to supply the needs of their brothers and sisters: but first they must notice the need. Seeing and sympathising should be the start of a practical partnership, not the end. Praying God's blessing is good, but if we are not willing to be part of the answer to our own prayers - what sort of a relationship do we have with the Lord?

James may well have remembered the way in which his half-brother, Jesus, always responded to people's real needs in the most appropriate way in the household at Nazareth. He continued to do that throughout His ministry (Acts 10:38). The early church did the same, sharing possessions (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32) in such a way that there was a real loving equality in the churches (2 Corinthians 8:14). Words are not enough: they are cheap and made even cheaper if they are not followed by action. Words come from the head, but action comes from the heart. We may know the right thing to say, and even believe it, but failing to do it is sin. James 4:17 says, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them."

In church we can look and sound spiritual, but it is not until we notice our fellow believers outside of the church context, that our faith is seen for what it is (Galatians 6:10). God often provides these opportunities for faith-validation in the world of work. There we may find new Christians who struggle to know how to please Jesus, and mature believers who are struggling under many burdens. They may be from a different town, church or ethnic background; but we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Although it is wise not to be gullible about those who might exploit circumstances to their own advantage, we must not be indifferent to genuine needs that we see every day, at work. So today, look out for a brother or sister in need, and help them in a practical way.

Dear Lord. Thank You for having brought me into Your family, and for the other Christians who have helped me to grow in Christ and who have helped me practically. I repent of my hardness of heart, where I have seen a need and failed to follow through with action. As I see other believers, help me to feel compassion for their needs, pray for them and to be willing to serve them practically for Your sake. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams