Faith produces behaviors. There’s no two ways around it. What you believe to be true, is what you act on. So true is this statement that James enshrined it in scripture, famously arguing that a person who has faith will have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, he says, and I’ll show you my faith by my works (James 2:18). If a person says that they believe in Jesus, but there’s no evidence of a struggle to become more like him, or to submit their lives to his will, or to behave in ways which demonstrate that they are walking with him, then they do not believe that Jesus is Lord, or that his sacrifice is worthy of an effort to pursue change. They may believe that Jesus was a person, but they don’t believe that he is Lord, or that his sacrifice was substantial.
Because faith produces behaviors, it pleases God. In fact, it is impossible to please God without faith. A person who believes God exists, and that he rewards those who seek him, will then seek God, and behave in ways that pursue that reward (Hebrews 11:6). A person who has real faith will build an Ark when told to do it. A person with real faith will choose a life of mistreatment over the temporary pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25).
A person who believes that God is real, and that he rewards those who seek him, will grapple with God and not let go until God has provided what he has promised. That person will be rewarded with change in the process. Such is the story of Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32). Jacob was a man of deceit and manipulation. He finds himself facing a brother who once hated him. He trembles in fear. God, in the form of a man, visits with Jacob in the night, as he camps next to the Jabbok river. The two wrestle all night long, until God decides to injure Jacobs hip, and orders him to let go of the struggle. Jacob refuses to let go. “I will not let go,” he says, “until you bless me.” This apparently pleases God, who blesses him with a new name, a new life, and a commitment to a new pursuit. Jacob recognized God (Genesis 32:30) and behaved in a way consistent with his belief about him. God renamed Jacob, a name that means deceiver, or heel grabber, to Israel, which means “one who has wrestled with God and prevails.” Jacob, who had always referred to God as “the God of my fathers,” now recognizes that God is his God. He sets up an altar and names it El-Elohe-Israel, which translates to, “God, the God of Israel (Genesis 33:20).”
In what ways have you wrestled with God? Do you believe he exists? In what ways has he rewarded your pursuit of him?