How Do We Know if We have True Faith?

Photo taken by Ian Tan

Day 15 | Today’s passage: James 2:18-26 | Historical context of James

18 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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

“I can’t believe they did that to you, especially because they’re Christians. They should know better!”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people relay stories of how Christians have hurt them, let them down or said unkind words. You’ve probably heard a story too. Maybe you’ve even experienced it yourself.

While the world may not believe in God, there is the unspoken expectation that Christians should be held to a higher standard. They expect us to live out our faith. And that is not an unreasonable demand, because, as James tells us, our actions should demonstrate to the world that we have a transformational faith.

As we profess that Jesus is Lord, we must demonstrate it through our acts of obedience to God, or in other words “good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-21). In James 2:18-26, the passage talks about how faith unaccompanied by deeds is “dead” or “useless”. What the author is inferring here is that it’s entirely possible to claim we have a saving faith when, in reality, we don’t have faith at all. Merely reciting God’s Word without practical, visible actions of obedience to God is pointless. Even the demons believe in God, James tells us.

So how do we know if we have true faith?
Real faith is more than a mental assent to the truth—it involves living action.

James goes on to talk about how faith and deeds are inseparable, as Abraham and Rahab demonstrated in their lives. Their works showed that their faith was in good working order.

In summary, faith produces good fruit. It’s exactly what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7. “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18).

Friend, the more I follow Jesus, the more I realize just how wonderful He is. Just how life-giving and freedom-bringing He is. If I want my friends to follow Jesus too, then I need to “show” them Jesus through my actions. How I live my life will speak louder than any Christian cliché I can mutter. We are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, let our lives be an expression of freedom and love that can only be found in real relationship with Him.

—Rachel Moreland, USA

Questions for reflection

1. What can you do this week that would demonstrate your faith and the love of Jesus?

2. What steps can you take to strengthen your own faith, for instance, spend more time reading the Bible, pray more regularly, share the gospel with people who don’t believe in God?

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu

Rachel is an American expat living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a writer, digital media buff and aspiring author. You can read more of her work about faith and mental health over on her blog, With love from Rachel. When Rachel isn’t writing, you can find her most days searching for that perfect cup of coffee in a cosy café, planning her next travel adventure and enjoying life with her husband, James.

Read 30-day James Devotional

Is Our Faith Dead?

Day 14 | Today’s passage: James 2:14-17 | Historical context of James

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

A couple years back, I read a story on social media about a new pastor who dressed himself as a homeless man on his first Sunday visit to the church as its leader. According to the story, only three of his congregation of around 10,000 people greeted him. No one answered his requests for money for food. And when he attempted to sit in the front row as the service began, he was quickly moved to the back by ushers.

When the time came for the elders to introduce the new pastor, the congregation clapped and looked around in anticipation and excitement. The “homeless man” then walked to the front and revealed himself. Taking the microphone, he then read from Matthew 25:34-45, in which Jesus concludes the parable of the sheep and the goats by saying, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

The story has since been debunked as fiction, but its takeaway is still valid: real faith requires compassion and visible action.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this story was partially inspired by today’s passage, in which James, after addressing the issue of favoritism in the church, poses the question, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (v. 14)

Here, we see James drawing an unbreakable link between faith and deeds. He paints an almost ridiculous scenario, of someone telling a starving, naked person to “go in peace, be warm and well fed”—but not actually doing anything about it. The comparison crystallizes his key point: faith, without any visible action, is dead (v. 17). Dead—totally lifeless, ineffective, and useless.

In this age of social media, we can see James’ key point in action in these ways. For example, we may type #prayforSyria in a post but ignore a struggling refugee family who has just moved into our neighborhood. Or we could include #blessed in a selfie or food picture; while at the same time fail to pass on that blessing to those in need. Or we might share an inspirational video telling the story of a persecuted church, but fall short of helping our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with financial or practical aid.

What I believe James is challenging us to do as true disciples of Christ is to ensure that the faith we have in the gospel message overflows into good deeds. We do this not in order to gain God’s favor, but simply because we are so grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice and so in awe of His unconditional love for us, that we can’t help but work out our faith in positive actions in our society.

—Caleb Young, Australia

Questions for reflection

1. How do we make sense of today’s passage in the light of other Bible passages, like Ephesians 2:8-9, which say that justification is obtained by faith alone?

2. How does today’s passage help us better understand true faith in Jesus?

3. Do you see a tension between belief and action in your life?

Caleb is a fan of film, food, fun, family as well as other things that don’t begin with the letter f, like travel and the theater. He considers himself a citizen of the world: born in New Zealand, raised in the Fiji Islands, now living in Australia, and the holder of three passports. He is also a storyteller, whether that be in filming a testimony of God’s work in a person’s life or writing an article or creating a concept for a good narrative story. In it all, he is a young adult navigating through life, striving to become more Christ-like, and is grateful to a gracious Savior who loves him despite his flaws.

Read 30-day James Devotional