This is what James wrote:
Don't you remember our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did--by his actions. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous." He was even called "the friend of God." So you see, we are made right with God by what we do, no by faith alone (James 2:21-24; NLT).I think people have always struggled with equating faith with simply believing the right things. Certainly belief is part of faith, but it is not the only part of faith. Faith is also about trusting God. Trusting God so much we are willing to do whatever He asks us to do.
The examples of faith, as found in Hebrews 11, are all about people trusting God rather than people simply believing in God. Belief if it is not accompanied by action is worthless. What matters is our beliefs being lived out in our lives. What we really believe is seen in how we live our lives.
That is why it is no contradiction for our salvation be tied to how we live. The Bible is clear that we are saved by God's grace through our faith and not our good works. The way we live our lives is determined by what we believe, and so if we truly believe in God then it is reflected by our actions. How we live our lives is an essential part of faith.
This is one of the reasons why C. S. Lewis a hero of mine. When he put his faith in Jesus, C. S. Lewis changed the way he lived. The people who spent time with him knew that Lewis was different and that he treated everyone with love and respect. Lewis proclaimed God not only in his writings but also in the way he lived.
When it come to how I live do I show the same type of life? Would the people who I interact with on a regular basis know that I am a Christian if I didn't tell them I was? These are questions worth considering because the way we live shows the world what we think is the most important. Being "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" is about how we live in front of an unbelieving world.
In college I had a roommate for one semester who was Chinese. He was in his mid-thirties and wanted an "American Education," but had a hard time getting accepted to college. For some reason he ended up at Nebraska Christian College, he had no Christian background at all, and planned to transfer to another school (I guess it is easier to get accepted once you are in the States). One night towards the end of the semester he asked me if I was a Christian since all he saw me do was goof off, watch movies, and play video games and did not see me pray or read my Bible. In fairness I did do that when he wasn't around, but it has been a question that still haunts me eleven years later.
Faith is more than what we believe, it is also about how we live. Trusting God more than we trust ourselves. When we step into the unknown trusting God to lead the way, like Abraham, that is faith. When we do the right thing even the we are faced with dreadful temptations, like Joseph, that is faith. When we boldly proclaim the Gospel regardless of the circumstances, like Paul, is faith. When we help other people, like the early Christians, that is faith. Faith is about living out what we believe. Do you have faith or are you just "believing"?