"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22
Believing in God is not a passive activity. It is active and must lead to obedience. Throughout Scripture every act of God in a person’s life is precipitated by an act of obedience on their part. As James warns us, it is possible to be thoroughly familiar with the Word of God, but not to experience the promises and truth of Scripture.
What James means when he says, "Do not merely listen to the word," is not to fool ourselves by only hearing it. He makes a very interesting analogy in the next two verses. "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like" (James 1:23-24).
Why do most of us look in the mirror? There are a few perhaps who admire themselves, but the majority of us look in a mirror to make improvements. We will comb our hair, men will shave or trim their beards and women apply their makeup. What we are doing is acting in response to what we see. By the same token, if we merely flip through the Bible, without applying its teaching, we have not improved upon anything. It will be empty and nothing will change. To sit in church with our minds constantly drifting in other directions, we may hear the Word of God, but we are not listening. That too is empty and we will forget what we have heard within minutes.
To merely hear the Word of God can also lead to deception. We may catch a partial truth, most likely the part we want to hear, and think, "Oh man, that’s good to know,” but we end up taking it out of context, and miss the all-important buts and therefores. We are kidding ourselves if we believe that by sitting in church week after week we are pleasing God, when all we are really doing is fulfilling a Christian obligation. James says, "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:25).
We can believe a prescribed medicine will cure our illness, but unless we digest it, it will not cure anything. In the Christian life, the evidence of believing is seen in our doing. It is knowing the Word of God and applying its teaching to our daily living. Then what we do will be blessed!