It had been a few years since our high school football team had any luck on the field, but this year was definitely different. With an undefeated 8-0 season, their chants of “I believe that we will win!” showed great determination and conviction in their efforts. You could tell with the amount of power and emphasis behind each of those words, that they really, truly, and deeply believed that idea. Their winning streak was a sign that this belief went deeper than it had in the past, and with each win, that belief became stronger. That belief led to a school who rallied behind them, decking themselves out with green, white, and a ferocity at the games that showed true certainty. With each successful game, their playing became impressively sharper and more focused, as their belief lead them to a deeper commitment, resulting in a greater effort. That they believed was one thing, but that the belief accompanied effort and hard work was something different. When Christians often discuss their faith and beliefs, they emphasize the fact that we are saved through faith, and that works towards salvation is an empty pursuit. That point is mostly true, as it is the heart that God looks at, but like the football team, our works should follow naturally as a result of our faith. Phillip Melanchthon, a collaborator with Martin Luther, is often credited with the quote, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” If one truly believes and has faith, that faith will be accompanied by our works. Faith, all by itself, is not true faith, as true faith has works that naturally follow it. Take small children at Christmastime, for example. They are told that Santa will be visiting all of the children’s houses in the world, leaving presents for all the good boys and girls. As a result of that belief, these children do not merely sit around and wait for that day: they are making lists, visiting Santa and telling him what they want, and being properly behaved. All of these actions come as a result of their beliefs. Their faith is not alone, as their works follow naturally behind their belief. In James’ letter to the scattered, persecuted Christians in the land, he discusses their faith and how some were not acting on their faith. He brings up the residents of Hell and how they react as a result of their belief: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (2.19). His condemning suggestion here is that yes, the demons believe in God just like us, but unlike us, at least they have a reaction: fear. Those he is addressing claim to have their faith, but they have nothing that goes along with that faith. If their faith was real and devoted, then there would be belief-based actions afterwards. Just like when people marry, if they really love each other, they don’t just feel it: they take actions to show it. Similarly, if we have a true belief in God, then our actions will naturally reflect that belief. So what if, when looking at your actions, they don’t seem to reflect that of a true believer? Then, a close examination of your belief in Christ is in order. Seek a deeper devotion, one beyond the mere acknowledgement that He is Lord of your life. Tear yourself down at His feet so that He might build you back up. Allow yourself to be molded in His hands. And don’t seek to work harder at your actions. That quest will end up not based in beliefs but instead in yourself, as you are only lifting up your own actions and not His. Seek devotion, and the actions will follow, naturally. Amen.