James 2:17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

 
It's like the difference between Cement and Concrete.
Cement is the powder used for many applications in building, repairs, etc.
Concrete is the finished product that includes cement as an ingredient.
 
Cement, in its pure state is worthless. Not until it is mixed with sand, or sand and gravel does cement become of value.
 
The same principle applies to faith. Faith by itself, in its pure state, is worthless.
The Bible calls it dead.
But mixed with an act, faith becomes alive, useful, aggressive, productive.
 
Study the above verse in its context:
 
James 2:14  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
22  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
24  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
26  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
 
The passage of course is saying that if we profess faith in Jesus as Savior, but do not act as a redeemed person is expected to act, then we can conclude that the faith was a dead faith, worthless. James illustrates some of the behavioral actions that show whether faith is alive or dead.
 
We can apply the same principle to living the life of faith to receive from God what we need for ourselves, and for others.
 
Faith is worthless if not mixed with action.
Thrice James repeats "faith without works is dead".
He wants us to know this without the shadow of a doubt that faith needs doing to bring it to life.
 
Romans 12:3  ...  God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
 
Your faith wasn't meant to be like an ornament to your apparel.
God gave you faith, to use.
He intends for you to put it into action, to accomplish the dreams and plans that He and you have for your life.
 
In the midst of the genealogies of 1 Chronicles, God interrupts the listing to make a comment about one man, Jabez, whose name means affliction.
 
1 Chronicles 4:9  And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
10  And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
 
God calls Jabez more honorable than his brothers.
In what way was he honorable? What great acts did he do to deserve commendation?
Well, God says Jabez made a list of his three biggest desires in life. He wanted the borders of his country enlarged; he wanted God's hand to be with him; and he wanted to be kept from harm.
Jabez made this list and asked God to do them.
 
How did God react? Did he yell at him for being selfish? Did he tear up the list and inform Jabez that he had no intention of being used as a cosmic bellboy?
 
The Scripture says simply: "And God granted that which he requested."
 
God said yes to Jabez because what Jabez did was an action that makes faith alive and productive. He took stock of his current needs and desires, and asked God to fulfill them. 
 
The action that he took? He made a list.
 
Write out a list of what you'd like to be doing or to have accomplished in the next three months if resources were no problem. Resources include money, time, change in people's attitudes, whatever.
 
Do you want to be out of debt, or have a new better paying job, or have a gadget that fascinates you?
 
Making a list of your needs or desires requires that you make some decision.
 
Making a list helps you focus on God rather than your needs.
 
Making a list opens your eyes to see God at work.
 
Make sure your list isn't edited. (Editing is God's work, not yours. See items 2 and 5 below.)
 
Open your list to God.
 
  1. If you pray and get an answer, stop praying and thank God.
     
  2. If you pray and then some idea on your list seems silly or you get a continued uneasiness in your heart about it, stop praying and scratch it off the list. God is saying No or beginning to lead you to an alternative.
     
  3. If you pray and your heart continues to be burdened about the matter, keep on praying: God is leading.
     
  4. If you pray and get peace, stop praying, the answer will come in God's timing.
     
  5. If you've prayed for some time and you still get no answer, stop and evaluate. Maybe God wants your prayer to be more specific. Maybe God isn't answering because you haven't specified just what you want Him to do ... or maybe you need to ask for a particular timing, to tell God when you'd like it done.
     
God is a Giver with unlimited resources which He longs to share with you. The faith you need to start receiving those resources will come alive as you give your faith a focus. Sit down and make a list of your needs and desires. Make it specific and make it complete. Then open it to God and let Him edit it and fulfill it so you can start seeing your faith come alive.

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