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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.

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Tasting God’s Grace Through Unexpected Challenges

The year 2017 has been a rollercoaster for me. There have been plenty of ups but also plenty of downs and unexpected twists and turns along the way. So when I think back over these last 12 months, I can’t help but smile and also breathe in sweet relief at the same time.

I made it through!

Despite all that life has thrown my way, God has been so good. So kind. So faithful. Most importantly, God saw me through. Here are some key lessons I’ve learned this 2017:

 

1. God Defines My Worth

In this last year, I had to part ways with a company I was working for. It was a painful process and it left me uncertain about my future. It was a wake-up call, and I soon realized how much I had placed my identity, my value, and my self-worth in my job title.

I was functioning like a product of our egotistical, consumerist, and individualistic society. “What do you do?” became the most dreaded question I was asked at flat parties and I found myself taking a big sip of wine before answering with a half-hearted sarcastic remark. Anything to cover up my shame.

However, this eye-opening experience gave me a renewed sense of worth. I realized that my value was not dependent on what I do, but on Whom I belong to. Embracing our identity as children of God is the most freeing “epiphany” we will ever have. To be honest with you, I am still exploring what it means to find my identity in God today, but I am pleased to say that I no longer feel the need to read out my resume to a complete stranger at a dinner party.

 

2. God is in Control Even When I Don’t Feel like it

During the latter half of 2017, my anxiety disorder resurfaced and reared its ugly head. Basic daily tasks like going to the grocery store became increasingly difficult, and panic attacks became a far-too-common occurrence.

As someone who has suffered anxiety throughout her adult years, I have often asked God to remove my overwhelming feelings of worry and panic. But I also know that healing very rarely takes place in an instant, like a thunderbolt zapping you from heaven.

My road to wholeness has been a long, drawn out process, a journey of learning how to relinquish control and trust the One who is bigger than the problems I face. Had God given me a magic bullet to take away my anxiety, I would never have had the opportunity to experience the all-consuming love, grace and kindness of the Father.

To quote a sermon on anxiety by Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer, “If God doesn’t remove a problem from your life, then He will give you the strength, patience and abilities to get through it. And if He doesn’t deliver you from it, then there must be a lesson that you need to learn through it.”

Living with chronic anxiety is teaching me how to really trust God when things look pear-shaped, and how to give up the need to have all the answers. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that even if I do not “feel” like God is in control, I can rest in knowing this truth—that God is in control of all things, and that this truth is not dependent upon my feelings.

 

How kind is God, that He repeatedly and without hesitation extends His grace to us! He could, in an instant, teach us all there is to know about this journey called life, but instead He is patient with His children and leads us by the hand like a gentle father does with his children.

As we see 2017 coming to a close, I hope your hearts will be filled with peace, but most of all, I hope you will be filled with grace—grace for one another and also for yourself. We can often be our hardest critics. Embrace the love of God and know that no matter where you find yourself along this journey, know that you are wholly and fully loved by a gentle Father.

When God Doesn’t Take Away Your Anxiety

A question I’m often asked is, “How did you stop having anxiety?”

I haven’t.

Then comes the inevitable follow up: “You mean, you still feel anxious?”

Every now and then, yes.

“You mean, God hasn’t healed you from it?”

These questions are not uncommon to me and I imagine they’re not uncommon to others in the church.

The giant chasm which exists between faith and mental health would suggest that this will always be a difficult topic to discuss. Many Christians, including myself, do not understand how these two things, God and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), could possibly co-exist.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people who ask me about my faith and its role in regards to how I cope with anxiety. Where does God fit in?

They might expect me to give them cookie-cutter” answers like “Because I’m a Christian, I don’t struggle with my anxiety.” Or “trusting in God removes all anxiety.”

But as someone who has suffered from anxiety and is still affected by it at times, I can only tell you that there are no simple answers.

Instead, let me offer you five things to keep in mind if you’re a Christian struggling with anxiety.

 

1. God can heal us from anything, even anxiety.

As a Christian, I believe that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him (Luke 1:37). Does this include healing people from illnesses, including mental illness? Yes.

I know people who have personally experienced God’s healing from different neurological or psychological disorders.

Yet for me, and perhaps to others, the question remains: is there room for God amidst an anxiety disorder when He hasn’t taken it away? Where is God when the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet?

The answer is not so black and white.

 

2. Having anxiety is not a reflection of your lack of faith.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well-meaning churchgoers tell me, “You just need to pray about it more; you really need to go before the Lord.”

Let me tell you about my going before the Lord.

As someone who dealt with panic attacks and anxiety disorder throughout college, I can say that I wasn’t only just going before the Lord, but I was face-down-lying-on-the-bathroom-floor going before Him.

If you have been there before, you will know what I mean. Our body meets the end of ourselves. All dignity is pushed aside, and we beg and plead, often on our knees. Or in my case, on my hands and my knees.

Take this from me, God. I cannot do this anymore. It’s just too much.

 

3. Healing comes in many forms.

The night that I lay face down on the bathroom floor of my apartment, God did not take away my anxiety disorder. He did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety in one instant act of extraordinary intervention. I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a work meeting to avoid a potential breakdown.

My experience wasn’t one of immediate relief. It wasn’t a miraculous healing that some encounter in church pews. Instead, managing my anxiety was a long and drawn-out process.

It was the result of many months of intense counselling sessions and emotional energy. But in that process, I found relief. And I experienced some healing.

It all started by going to speak to a complete stranger about my fears. She taught me tools to help stop the onset of a panic attack. I slowly learned how to manage overpowering feelings of anxiety.

As I accepted the fact that I struggled with a disorder, I also began the frightening process of opening up to my family and friends. I took a step back and observed the bad habits I needed to break, and I even had to say goodbye to some unhealthy relationships. The process was anything but easy or formulaic, but it allowed me to slowly regain that peace of mind that Philippians talks about.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

So did God heal me? Did I achieve breakthrough?

Not in the way you would think. Not in one heavenly instant.

I have no shame in admitting to you that my prayers didn’t result in the end of my disorder. Healing takes place in many different ways. Sometimes, it’s the immediate relief from anxiety during a worship service, and sometimes it’s ongoing treatment from a doctor.

What I can attest to is that God gave me the peace and determination to manage those days where anxiety was too close for comfort. And through that, I found grace, and ultimately, freedom.

 

 4. We are not alone in our anxiety.

It’s important to recognize that God does not promise we will never experience hardship.

I would still feel a sense of nervousness from time to time, even after attending a counselling session. I still had the occasional random panic attack in the supermarket (bless the dear woman who consoled me in the freezer aisle). We will never live a life free of adversity.

But God does promise that He will be right there with us when we go through those difficult times.

How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in those moments of darkness! I have the companionship of one who has already overcome anxiety. He’s been there, done that.

In Matthew, it says that Jesus overcame the world. He knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed. To feel anxious. He knew pain and suffering. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief to know I am not isolated in this fight.

 

 5. The road to recovery can be slow and messy.

I’ll be honest with you: today, I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. I still have those moments of uncertainty. My faith does not remove the voice of negative self-talk.

But I do have confidence in one thing: God meets me where I am. He has been with me every step of the way, from diagnosis to recovery. And looking back, I can certainly attest that I am not the same person I was several years ago as I sat in the doctor’s office discussing different side effects of anti-depressants. I can confidently say that the worst is behind me.

When I hear that there is no room for God in the whole “mental health” debate, I want to remind those people of one of the key issues at the centre of this whole conversation: God loves people in their humanity and we are to do the same of one another. Despite our perceived “weakness” and our human tendency to fear and to feel insecure—God still uses us to inspire, to lead and to love others. He uses anxious people.

I am the most peaceful I probably have ever been on my journey, but every now and then, I still feel a little off. But it’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to be perfect.

I don’t have to feel perfectly. I can just be. And that’s perfectly okay.

My Antidote to Panic Attacks: Worship

I’ll never forget the first time I had a panic attack. It was in my second year of university and I was doing what any normal 19-year-old American girl would do on a Thursday evening—buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the local supermarket.

It hit me as I was scanning the freezers. As a surge of adrenaline rushed throughout my body, I had to stop and catch my breath. My fingertips began to tingle. My palms and feet started to go numb. The room started to turn. “What’s happening to me?”

My heart started to beat a thousand times a minute. My legs began to feel weak, and I felt as though I would collapse at any moment. Gasping for air, I leant against a freezer door. “Deep breaths, Rachel. Breathe in and out. In and out. Just breathe.”

Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor of aisle 9 with my back against the freezer doors, framed by tubs of Haagen Daz ice-cream and berry-red popsicles. Hysterical, curled into a ball, and with tears streaming down my face, I must have looked a pitiful sight.

“What’s happening to me?” I cried. My knees were pushed into my chest, my head was bowed, and my shoulders rose and fell with every sob. “What is going on?”

With every second that ticked by, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, shooting up and down my arms like an electric shock. Like waves on a seashore, the first wave swept through, then drew back for a moment—giving a sheer second of relief—only to be swallowed up by another pounding wave of dread.

At that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Are you okay, dear?” The voice of an older woman broke into my whirlwind of chaos. With bloodshot eyes and mascara running down my cheeks, I looked back at a woman in her mid-50s. Holding a box of Cheerios in one hand and a bottle of Windex cleaner in the other, she was looking at me with a concerned expression on her face.  “Are you okay, dear? Can I help you?” she asked again. “No, I’m not okay.” I replied with a muffled voice, “I don’t think I’m okay.”

What I said next was one of the most important declarations I had ever made. It was the turning point. “But I haven’t told anyone that yet. I need to tell someone. I think something’s wrong. Really wrong.”

Since the age of 19, I have suffered from anxiety. I’m one of the millions of people who struggle with this mental health disorder. In college, while other 20-somethings were busy worrying about what to wear out on a Friday night, I would retreat to my dorm room googling my latest symptoms and thinking that I had some form of cancer (stage III, most likely). Otherwise, I would be frantically checking my phone every two seconds to see if my friend had replied to my message. “Of course she won’t. She’s seen the real me. And she’s decided I’m not worth it.”

Now, at 26 years old, I want so badly to declare that I have conquered all this stuff, that I have overcome all the complexities of this disorder. I wish I could say that my anxiety is a thing of the past, that it is no longer knocking on my door to wake me up in the morning or leaning over my bed to watch as I toss and turn at night. But I haven’t conquered it, and it’s not a thing of the past.

Perhaps the most discouraging thing about anxiety is dealing with it as a Christian. In many parts of evangelical America, admitting you have anxiety is kind of like admitting you have a problem with alcohol. Or drugs. Or one-night stands. Or eating a Big Mac in your dorm room at 2.a.m. It’s a sinful “habit” and it will sweep you to the margins, out of sight and out of mind of middle-class American churchgoers.

Or at least, this is how some churches have often made me feel. A deep and all-consuming guilt was all packaged, gift wrapped and hand-delivered to me each and every morning I stepped inside a church building. And while I don’t believe for a second that the church will ever be perfect, I had expected a more loving and accepting response than the ones that I had received.

Since that humiliating incident in the supermarket, I have been navigating my identity as a Christian with anxiety. I have had to embark on the painfully slow process of finding that “thing” that brings me rest and respite from the isolation and exhaustion that comes from anxiety.

Worship, I have discovered, is that special space where I open up to the Father and receive His peace—the kind of supernatural peace that Paul talks about in Philippians 4. Here’s why worship has become my antidote to moments of anxiety.

1. Worship is a peaceful state of mind

Worship is a state of mind, not just a supernatural high on Sunday mornings. Initially, I saw Sunday worship sessions as the only time I could receive God’s peace. However, I realized that worship isn’t just meant for large gatherings or small group settings. Worshipping the Father is a constant state of mind, an ever-present mindfulness of His goodness and grace in my life. Practicing a heart of worship—whether praying during my work commute or listening to a Bethel music playlist as I clean my apartment—has been an integral part of my healing journey from anxiety.

 

2. Worship is a safe space

Getting a handle on my anxiety has meant that I’ve needed to get real with God. And that means getting up close and personal, divulging all of my doubts and secrets to Him like you would to your bestie over a cup of coffee. Creating a safe space where I can speak to the Father has been an instrumental part of my road to recovery—particularly picking up my guitar and singing Scriptures over myself and my family. I believe that there is power in declaring words of life to change the mess in our lives. Worship is a powerful weapon against worry.

 

3. Worship paves a direct path to God

I love the quote by American author John Paul Jackson: “Peace is the potting soil of revelation.” I find that it is often in those moments of fear, that the channel of communication between me and God is most fuzzy. But I also know that it’s in those moments when I feel at my weakest, that worship ought to be the next bullet-point on my to-do list. Setting aside space for God to speak to us in the midst of fear is a powerful step to leaving our anxiety at the door. It is in those “thin places” where we hear from and speak to God, that faith takes authority over fear.

 

I want to be careful here, as I don’t want for a second to portray to you that I have this all figured out. Navigating anxiety can at times feel nearly impossible. More often than not, it feels like treading water in the deep end of the pool—when you have never taken a single swimming lesson in your life. And there is no one around to throw you a life jacket the minute you start to go under.

God has so much more in store for us than a daily battle with fear. I pray that as we cultivate a lifestyle of worship, we may find ourselves free from the chains of anxiety that have kept us from stepping into the thing that God has called us to do.