“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his 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 what I do.’ You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor 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 justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” James 2:14-24
We read above that faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead. In Hebrews 11:1, faith is defined as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When we put the two of these together, we must conclude that faith is not meant to be intellectual or academic but, instead, practical and experiential.
Faith is based on being so sure and certain of God’s existence and character that our conduct, choices and commitments are always influenced by the knowledge that the unseen, spiritual realm is more real than the visible, temporal one. When this is our disposition, we will be people who make temporal decisions in light of eternity, instead of those who make eternal choices in light of right now. Living today in light of forever will necessarily elevate our actions; conversely, living forever in light of the moment will always cheapen them.
The actions that are commended by God throughout Hebrews 11 are obviously born out of this certainty. These actions pleased God and influenced the course of human history. We often reflect on and glorify them, but today we can simplify them to their common denominator. Why did Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and all the others who performed these amazing acts of faith, do what they did? Because they were, each one of them, certain that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. They were not trying to change history or be someone special; they simply believed God. They were sure that history belongs to Him and that He is very special, completely good and worthy of their obedience. They had faith. We can too.