James has never been my favorite book in the Bible because I always feel highly convicted while reading it. The Spirit reminds me ours must be an active faith, and I’m never sure mine is active enough. Grace upon grace. Let's not run from growing in our faith because it gets scary or hard. The Holy Spirit is always friend, not foe.
Here's what I see as the heart of James’ message:
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26
I feel differently about this book now. I regularly pray asking God to show me those parts of my life I am holding back from him. A Savior who loves us so very much is worthy of all of me. That’s what James teaches us.
Here are 5 Ways James Encourages Us To Live With An Active Faith
Know what to do with trials and temptations
It’s not if, but when. I always know when I’m on the verge of doing good kingdom work, because the enemy tries to work his way in. Here’s the good part though. Read it like a promise:
You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4
Remind yourself often, any trial or temptation has a greater purpose, for us to be mature and complete. More like Jesus. It's a worthwhile goal any way you look at it. Don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean the trials aren't super hard. It's not a guarantee that we won't succumb to temptation. It's a promise that perseverance - and wisdom if we ask for it - the long walk with Jesus leads to wonderful things.
Watch your mouth
This gets me squirming. I like sarcasm and I can be passive aggressive, so over the years, my words have been misunderstood. Or maybe overly understood. Our tongues, and the words they produce, cause serious harm.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. James 1:19
Maybe that sounds like the opposite of active, but it's not. Rather than talking all the time, and throwing angry punches, we can actively pray. We can actively slow down enough to ask God what we should do with our anger. This verse is active spirit power.
Not only slow to speak, but letting the Holy Spirit tame our tongues as well. As we seek and obtain godly wisdom, he will do this in our lives. He's done this for me.
... No man can tame the tongue. James 3:8a
We can't show favorites
James has a lot to say on this topic. It's easy to get comfortable in our own circles, our own churches, our own church traditions. Oh, we miss out on the good stuff when we do this! Whether it's through offering friendship, making sure our churches include all types in our family-friendly atmospheres, or actually giving of our time and resources to looking after orphans and widows, James reminds us this is a huge part of our religious responsibilities.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
He doesn't leave us with the admonishment to love on orphans and widows either.
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5
An active faith will change your relationship lens. The widows, the orphans, the poor, they become like brothers and sisters to you. Precious friendships formed in the commonality of Kingdom living. Only God can do that in our lives!
Don't ignore that pesky word submit
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not quite sure I know what to do about the word submit. I'm reading a book right now that dedicated two whole chapters to explaining Ephesians 5 to readers. It's complicated.
Submitting to God is a requirement. We're called to do that repeatedly, but no one says it better than James. Note the progression:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil... Come near to God... Wash your hands and purify your hearts... Grieve, mourn and wail... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10
You know what? If we adhered to those four verses alone from the book of James, we would emerge fantastically Christlike.
Can’t we all just get along?
Chapter five is all about us walking in faith together. The rich, the suffering, the happy, the sick, those who wander from the truth. To name a few. Church is full of all types, and James encourages us to love one another well, but it's only after we're walking in an active faith that we can do this well. Then, and only then, can we link arms with the believers all around us, and serve one another well.
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. James 5:8
I’ve learned the Holy Spirit convicts gently but firmly. Notice the times James called his readers dear brothers. An active faith is hard, but we're in it together and it's worth it. An active faith always leads us to life more abundant.