Day 4

Faith Made Complete

from the James reading plan

James 2:14-26, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Romans 3:23-26, Ephesians 2:8-10

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: James 2:14-26, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Romans 3:23-26, Ephesians 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I love that Christian freedom is based on this principle: free, radical grace exists for the undeserving through Jesus. There’s nothing we can do to receive it; there’s nothing we can do to reverse it. Incredible, wonderful, scandalous grace.

That’s why reading James’ words can feel confusing. Is he contradicting grace, saying we’re justified by our works—that without those good works, our faith is as good as dead?

I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with these passages, asking God to open my eyes to what He was saying through these two disciples. On the surface, it seems like they are contradicting one another. Then He reminded me of a breakfast I shared with a friend recently.

I’ve known this friend since I was ten years old. She’s gorgeous, extremely athletic, and was always popular in school. Over the twenty years we’ve known each other, we’ve stayed loosely in touch. Over coffee and eggs, she shared the circumstances of her life—mostly that it hadn’t turned out like she’d planned.

As we talked, I felt God pressing me to speak. It felt strange, so I hesitated, afraid of sounding cheesy or trite. I knew things between us could get awkward. But then I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. So I said it:

“I don’t know why, but I really feel like God wants me to tell you that He loves you.”

I cringed after saying it, wondering if I’d gone too far. But in that moment, something softened. Tears fell down her cheeks. Rather than turning awkward, the entire moment felt sacred.

Hebrews chapter 11 recounts the spiritual giants whose faith in God was counted as righteousness. But that faith wasn’t void of action. A quick perusal of the list and you’ll see it over and over again: verbs.

By faith Abel offered.
By faith Noah built.
By faith Abraham obeyed.

Our God is a God of action. So if you have faith in Him, get ready to move.

This is the beauty of Christianity: our faith in Jesus saves us, and it also frees us from striving to be enough, trying to earn approval, stature, or recognition through what we do. I can do good works without having to worry about measuring the outcome. Faith in Jesus’ final, finished work gives me the security to do good without worrying that I’m doing enough.

This is where it gets crazy. My friend called me a few weeks later to tell me something had radically changed in her heart. From that moment we shared at the breakfast table, she’d felt God in hot pursuit of her. Since then, she’s been spending every morning in His Word, falling in love with Him again.

Is it possible God can use us like that? Is it possible that I’d just experienced a good work He’d prepared for me in advance, one He’d planned for me to do all along? After all, the work isn’t really mine. I’m just His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). I’m an instrument in His hands, playing an essential part in His eternal symphony.

What a gift.

To be saved by grace.
To be invited into God’s work.
To see that, in the end, it’s all His.


Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

Post Comments (113)

113 thoughts on "Faith Made Complete"

  1. Recently my husband and I have experienced some really big, amazing opportunities come our way, but they have also brought some really big, hard decisions to make. It’s in these moments that I just want to sit down like a child in the middle of the grocery store aisle and refuse to get up and move. I like my comfortable life, cushioned by good jobs, great friends/family and an abundance of things we don’t deserve. Yet I also know how much greater and beautiful life could be if I took chances and followed blind faith. The thing is, I like to know what’s going to happen. I like to feel like I have control over what will happen with our future, but truth is, I never have and never will have control over my life. The hard part for me is trusting that God has greater things in store than my dreams that are as wide as the horizon. I love to imagine that my deepest, wildest dreams will come true someday and I’ll live happily ever after, but let’s face it, I know God has some crazy, wild dreams in store for me that I could never think up on my own and will far surpass my expectations! It may not all be sunshine and rainbows, because life never is, but knowing that He holds my heart lends a peace that can’t be touched or measured. His infinite arms of love will carry me through this season and the next and the next.

    1. Kandria Johnson says:

      This is so true. This just touched my heart. God is the author of our life. He does things we could never imagine. I am always amazed at how he works in my life.

    2. She Reads Truth says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this. Praying for you and your husband in this.

      – Stormye

  2. Penny says:

    Christina, thank you for this personal insight. Recognizing “your piece ” is a simple step forward in faith to do what you can to increase His kingdom.

  3. Jen says:

    One of the best and most simple ways I’ve heard this concept explained is by Tim Keller: “Religion says “I obey therefore I am accepted by God.” The Gospel says “I am accepted by God through Christ therefore I obey.”‘ The latter is out of joy and gratitude, not duty.

    1. Lana says:


    2. Becky says:

      This is a powerful wise explanation…thank you for sharing it. I am facing some hard conversations this weekend with family I love who have walked away from “religion”. This gave me an idea of something I might say.

    3. She Reads Truth says:

      Wow. This was good, Jen. Thank you so much for sharing these wise words!

      – Stormye

  4. Christina says:

    Beautiful! And as I am so tempted to do, “works based in faith” does not mean having to fulfill a sense of guilt for the plight of others and having to go out and find those people to fix them or their situation. The Lord seems to guide us straight to the works He has prepared for us, does He not? Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough, so I must not be demonstrating my faith enough. But in those moments, I have to recall His calling, remember that I respond in obedience (most of the time) to those works to which He guides me, and that I’m not responsible for saving the world. That’s His job. At times, I have bought into the pressure from outside sources that if I’m not changing the world, I’m not living out my faith. I’m thankful I’m not responsible for the entirety of refugees in the world, for every homeless person, for every abused or trafficked young person. I’m also thankful that when I recognize those people within my piece of the world, I have faith to hopefully obediently put my elbow grease into the efforts God has laid on the hearts of His children to make a difference in their lives. Thank you, again, for this, Claire!

    1. Christy says:

      I liked your response!

    2. Emily B. says:

      I like how you explained things–I can relate to what you wrote. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Joanna says:

    Yes! Amen. This is spot on. Beautifully written. We are saved by this free gift not by works, and then continue in faith, expressing it with works of HIS love – growing our faith with each act of love.

  6. Jodie says:

    amen ! I agree Cortsa.
    Sometimes I do worry if I am doing enough , growing enough or are circumstance, distractions making me blind to what God wants me to do . I pray for spiritual growth !

  7. Brenda DiCicco says:

    I loved this. The passage in James has always made me a little uncomfortable but putting it with the other scriptures and the devotional brought a new clarity. Thanks SRT for an awesome study!!

  8. Cortsa says:

    Thanks for bringing even more clarity on this topic which at first glance seems contradicting. I also think it is beautiful that our good works all look different, because God has prepared different good works for each of us to do. Amen that we are HIS workmanship. It is not about us, but HIM. Amen, amen, amen.

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