Although the book of James is a familiar book, the past few months of in-depth studying has given me many new insights and a deeper appreciation of the truths it holds. Two of the lessons that stood out to me came from James 2, when our class discussed the concepts of a profitable faith and an exemplary faith.
In James 2:14-17, the challenge was given to let faith go beyond words and translate into actions.
“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Here, James shows that it is not enough to express faith in words alone. Real faith takes things a step further and express itself in concrete actions. This was a timely reminder to me that sympathising with fellow brethren by lending a listening ear and offering words of encouragement alone was not enough in practicing my faith. Too often we say, “I am praying for you,” without truly remembering to do so after. I was stirred to not only be more aware of needs that I had promised to pray for, but also to look out for physical ways that I can show my love and concern to those in need.
Teacher YJ further explained that such faith is a profitable faith which benefits the church. Profitable faith in our lives would translate into labours of love – service to God that would stand the test of time. I had always thought of faith as something individual and concerning only my own personal walk with God, so I was moved to see how God designed genuine faith not just for our individual benefit, but more so to benefit the Body of Christ.
There were times when I questioned the need to actively participate in a church. On the surface, it seemed fine to attend church for the sole purpose of listening to God’s Word without getting involved in the social aspect. Getting socially involved with other fallible human beings would mean having to deal with the downsides of any interpersonal relationship, such as disappointment, hurt, or trust issues. Although a part of me was initially reluctant to risk having to face all of that, it was not possible to ignore the fact that the Church, the Body of Christ was God’s institution and each one of us is required to find our place and play our part – to exercise a profitable faith.
As I got involved in the cleaning ministry and choir over the past few months, I saw how applying the concept of a pofitable faith gave me a new perspective and attitude with regards to church attendance and participation. My focus slowly shifted away from self-centred concerns and as I sought to be a blessing through service, I became less critical and judgmental of others. I realised that removing self from the picture allowed me to view others in the light of God’s love, and appreciate that I am just as unworthy and undeserving of His grace. Therefore, service should come as a natural response as the least I can do to show my gratitude.
Moving further into the chapter, our class studied another aspect of faith in James 2:23-26: “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
The passage highlights two individuals who were raised as examples for their faith that was manifested in great works. Teacher YJ went on to expound on the concept of having an exemplary faith – a faith worthy of being followed by others. He explained that working towards an exemplary faith is the most instinctive thing for a Christian to do because firstly, a Christian will desire to deepen and grow his faith. Secondly, a faith that is genuine would manifest itself in ways that would honour God, pointing others to Him. Therefore, an exemplary faith is the most effective means of reaching out to our loved ones because our actions always speak louder than our words. Again, there was an emphasis on being consistent and faithful in our service even in seemingly small things because sometimes, it is the little things that makes a difference.
As I am still beginning to find my place in Bethany, I was challenged anew to continue growing in knowledge and establish greater, deeper faith. The past few months have been a time of much learning, but I am increasingly aware that this is just the start for me, and what is more important is that I keep on growing and serving faithfully. I desire to work towards an exemplary faith, not just for my own spiritual benefit, but also with the hope that these small acts of service and commitment would allow me to share my faith more effectively with my family and loved ones so that they too will come to know God personally.
The danger of not having a firm foundation is indeed real, and we often hear of those who fall by the wayside on the journey of faith despite good beginnings. It is my prayer and desire that these lessons will ground my faith firmly in the Word of God, and that this desire for a profitable and exemplary faith will never cease to drive me forward even in times of struggle and difficulty. I am deeply conscious that ultimately it is not how well one begins, but more importantly how well one finishes.
Thank you Teacher YJ, for faithfully preparing the lessons every week for us! It has been a joy to learn from you and I very much appreciate your practical advice on how to apply God’s Word to our daily lives. Apart from the lessons learned, the fellowship has also been precious and has played a big part in helping me get adjusted here. I thank God for His leading and hand of guidance in my life, and I am so grateful to be a part of this Sunday School class.