God wants us to believe Him and act on that faith. If we simply had to believe without doing anything to show that we believe, what good is that? Without the works that demonstrate our faith, we will not grow in godly character. James the half-brother of Jesus asked, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). The answer is no; faith alone cannot save.
Neither is salvation by works alone, and it never can be. However, you cannot grow in the character of God if you are not doing the works that demonstrate your faith. When you put your trust in God and act on your faith, you will see God’s intervention. This will inspire you to seek and trust Him even more.
When we act on our faith, we learn how to think more like God. He wants to see that we believe what He says and that we are willing to show our love by obeying Him. For “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), but “Abraham our father [was] justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (James 2:21). “Faith was working together with his works,” and by works his faith “was made perfect” (James 2:22).
God told Abraham to take his only son and offer him “as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). Abraham did not hesitate. He “rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey” and he went with his son and the wood for the offering (Genesis 22:3). He did not question or argue with God, he simply obeyed.
Even when the place for the sacrifice of his son came into view, Abraham showed his faith. He told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back” (Genesis 22:5 New Living Translation). He spoke as though he knew that his son would not die. God had promised Abraham that “in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12). If God was going to make good on that promise, then Isaac could not die.
And when Isaac asked his father, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7), Abraham’s response again demonstrates his faith. He replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). Then, as Abraham was about to slay his son, God stopped him. He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him” (Genesis 22:12). When God saw Abraham’s faith He said, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12).
Abraham demonstrated absolute faith in God, even at this startling command to sacrifice his son. He believed God’s promise that his descendants would come through Isaac, and He knew God was trustworthy. Abraham’s actions revealed what was in his heart. He showed that obedience to God was the most important thing to him. This is what God wants to see in us.
Sometimes we must deal with very difficult situations which we may not understand. Like God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, the trials we face may not make any sense. Nevertheless, even when he did not see how God would save his son, Abraham believed God and he acted on that faith. This is a lesson for all of us, for “the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38).
When we act on our faith like Abraham did, God sees what is in our hearts and justifies us like He justified Abraham. We will grow in godly character by putting our faith into action. We will live our lives like Abraham, who “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).