He wanted to become a doctor.
He was highly motivated and certain that he would one day walk into social gatherings and receive the respect due those in that noble discipline. He swelled with pride as he thought about the riches and honors he would surely receive.
He trained diligently. He ate the right foods. He strengthened his legs daily and rode his bicycle everywhere he went. He ran wind-sprints regularly so that his lungs would be ready for the challenges he faced. He practiced drafting. He rode the hills until his legs screamed in pain, and then he rode until they went numb. He put everything he had into his training!
He bought the best bicycle he could afford and purchased the clothing that ensured his comfort on those long training rides. He spent his time dreaming of his future. He was sure he would succeed. How could he fail?
The day finally came, and he went to take his medical exams so that he could apply for internships. He was about to begin the walk toward warm approval. The day of his dreams finally arrived!
And he failed miserably.
You see, while he wanted to be a doctor, he trained to be a cyclist.
But let’s not be too hard on the man. We might do similar things. After all, it is possible to think we are growing as Christians when we are actually training to be something else. Think about that in relation to James 2:17.
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The Kind of Work Is Important
Before the objection is raised – I’ll grant that the man in the illustration did a lot of work. It was difficult and it required tremendous drive and confidence. Why would I compare that verse to the illustration?
James’ words imply that works are vital to faith. If you want a faith that is not dead, it must include works.
No one should suggest that James is promoting any kind of work that is done in “faith”. Would anyone say that the key to living faith includes evil works? That statement is so obviously wrong that we would not think of it under normal conditions. But what about works that are neutral? Do you suppose James is talking about those? Imagine that.
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have math problems, is dead.”
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not include mowing the lawn, is dead.”
Or making coffee.
Or checking email.
Or any kind of work that is not necessarily evil but also not necessarily building a life of faith in Christ.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them…” (Matthew 7:24).
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
I could go on, but the point is clear. If we want to develop our faith, we must be involved in doing godly things instead of following our own ideas and opinions. Just “any ol’ works” will not do. It must be the work of God.
Shedding Light On The Illustration
The Scriptures teach that for faith to be real, we must act upon God’s word and not our own ideas.
“His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord…” (Colossians 3:17).
It’s foolish to seek heaven by doing the works that have nothing to do with going there. We might follow the doctrine, practices, or even the neutral activities of men but never obey the doctrine of Christ. So let’s start thinking about what is required in order to build a life of faith. Choose the godly actions.