Through Lent we have together explored how only the prayer of faith will sustain you. The prayer of faith sustains you in the midst of quarreling, contention and strife; in the midst of the needless pain inflicted by the tongue; in the midst of the filthiness and rampant wickedness of this world; in the midst of pain and suffering and temptation and trial. Through all of it, the prayer of faith will sustain you. But did you know that the power of your faith goes even further. Your faith saves you from the power of sin and death? Yes. Your faith sustains you so you might stand in this fallen sinful world? Yes. But even more than this, the faith given you by the grace of the Father is so powerful that it works not just on you, but on your neighbor. You see, your faith is more than some thing you might possess, your faith is alive!
Science tells us that for something to be alive, it must meet four criteria:
- It must sustain
- It must work change
- It must grow
- It must reproduce
As we have explored faith together through Lent, we have seen the sustaining power of faith; we have seen the changing power of faith; and we have seen the growing power of faith. But what of the fourth criteria? Does faith reproduce? In other words, do we have a living faith?
In our text for this evening, we hear James tell us that faith given by the grace of the Father is not dead, but alive. And how do we know this? Because it actively, through us, seeks to reproduce itself. James likens that faith to the very life giving Spirit of God that – according to Genesis – God breathed into us and is therefore essentials for us to live. James writes, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” And that faith now alive as part of us, seeks by its very nature to reproduce itself in others. That alive faith does this by sharing itself with others. It shares itself through good works. James writes, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” You see, a faith that is alive will by its very nature seek to share itself through works, with others, so that it might also become alive in them. These are not the works of the individual; these are not works that bring justification, these are the works of faith, for a true saving faith is alive. It is because we are dead without faith, that Jesus hung on the cross and died for us. But more than this, for the same Jesus Christ that hung on the cross and died for our sins and on the third day rose from the dead raising us up with Him to everlasting life, this same Jesus walked this earth with us; rebuked us in our temptation; comforted us in our trials; fed us in our hunger; and healed us in our sickness. The same Jesus who died for you also lived for you. And this same faith in Jesus Christ that saves you from death also brings life.
Faith is not just some passive force that you intersect with at the moment of your death, it is active, powerful, and efficacious here and now. James writes, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The faith given to us by the grace of the Father is a living faith given through the living Word by the everliving God. Have you been saved by grace, through faith, apart from works? Then you have been raised up to a new life in this living faith and like all things alive, this new life in this living faith will seek to seed itself in others through the living Word of God and the living works of faith. For the faith that saves you; the same faith that keeps you safe; is the same faith that works life in the lives of your neighbors. The prayer of faith is alive! Amen.