Life, Hope & Truth

What Is Living Faith?

Living faith is the kind of faith God wants us to have. What is living faith? How do we receive faith, and how do we demonstrate and grow in living faith? How do we avoid having a dead faith?

In the midst of trials many people wonder if they have enough faith or feel their faith is failing. Our world seems designed to undermine faith and to promote doubt. Can your faith withstand this onslaught?

It can if it is a living faith. The Bible describes both a dead faith and a living faith. The living faith can grow and be active in good times and bad times.

Do you have enough faith? Do you have the right type of faith? How can you know what faith is, and how do you show it and increase it?

What faith is

The book of Hebrews gives us vital background about faith.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Biblical faith is based on the sure, unchanging promises of the faithful God. He always fulfills His promises. He is completely trustworthy.

Faith means recognizing God’s faithfulness and believing Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is [that the Creator God exists], and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (verse 6).

We grow in faith by studying the Bible and seeing what God has done in the past and what He promises for the future. It also requires that we “diligently seek Him” and strive to be like Him.

But can we just work up faith or will ourselves to have faith? Where does faith first come from according to the Bible? How does it save us?

Saving faith is a living faith

The apostle Paul wrote about the awesome gifts God has given to those who follow in Jesus’ steps:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, King James Version).

Though some translations render it “faith in the Son of God,” understanding it as “the faith of the Son of God” helps us recognize the source of saving faith.

Even the seed of faith is God’s gift. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

The next verse, though, has caused some confusion: “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (verse 9).

Certainly no amount of works can earn us forgiveness or any of the gifts of God. They come from His grace and mercy. But does that mean good works are not an important part of the Christian life?

Not at all. Consider verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

God works through Christians, producing a life full of good works. Jesus stressed the importance of remaining connected to Him and thus bearing good fruit and obeying His commandments:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. …

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:5, 10).

James also emphasized this point, clarifying the close, symbiotic relationship between a living faith and works.

Dead faith vs. living faith

The book of James includes an extended section comparing what James calls a dead faith with living faith. He wanted to clear up any misunderstanding of the subject.

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

“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.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

A living faith is an active faith. We show our belief in God and His way of life by striving to live like our loving God and follow the laws and wise principles He gives us in the Bible.“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

“Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

“And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the 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” (James 2:14-26).

A living faith is an active faith. We show our belief in God and His way of life by striving to live like our loving God and follow the laws and wise principles He gives us in the Bible.

How do you show faith?

As we saw in James 2, we should show faith by caring for the needy (verses 15-16). James also addressed the importance of caring for orphans and widows in the previous chapter:

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

James also gave the examples of Abraham, who demonstrated his faith by obeying God (2:21), and Rahab, who showed faith by protecting the Israelite spies she knew were on a mission from God (2:25). Doing what God commands and supporting God’s work are essential ways of showing living faith.

James also gives instructions about the attitude with which we should do these good works. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (3:13). Study more about meekness and wisdom in our articles “Blessed Are the Meek” and “The Importance of Wisdom and How to Become Wiser.”

How do you live by faith?

To live by faith, first we must avoid pride.

“Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Pride is a root of many sins, and in Habakkuk 2 God associates pride with greed, violence, substance abuse and much more. All of these self-centered actions are in opposition to the humble obedience and steadfastness of the faithful.

This passage is quoted three times in the New Testament, adding to our understanding of God’s part and our part in living by faith. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul explains the good news that people of all backgrounds can take part in the “righteousness of God.” God is the source and gives us the definition of righteousness—His commandments (Psalm 119:172).

Paul again quotes “the just shall live by faith” in Galatians 3:11 to make the point that future obedience can never pay for past sins. Only Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can justify us—wipe the slate clean of our sins and give us a new start.

But then what does God want us to do with that clean slate? He definitely does not want us to return to sin (Romans 6:1-2).

Living by faith also means continually and faithfully enduring to the end.Faith allows us to see the faithfulness of God. He is love and always acts according to His laws that help define love (Romans 13:9-10). And so faith motivates us to also become faithful and obedient. Living faith means to strive to live as Jesus lived. This means to diligently do what the apostle John wrote:

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. …

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 2:6; 5:3).

Living by faith also means continually and faithfully enduring to the end.

“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38).

That’s a scary thought when we are tempted to draw back or give up. But the author of Hebrews didn’t leave it there. In the last verse of chapter 10 he encouraged his readers, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (verse 39). This leads into Hebrews 11, the Faith Chapter.

In summary, living faith leads us to:

  • Live like Jesus Christ.
  • Obey God’s laws.
  • Care for our families, Church members and others in need.
  • Trust in God in good times and in fiery trials.
  • Resist Satan.
  • Endure to the end and receive the gift of eternal life.

There is much more to the vital subject of living faith in the Bible. We encourage you to study more about how to increase in living faith in our article “How to Grow in Faith.”

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter. He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who answer questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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