The faith without works is dead argument is used so often to try and deny someone's salvation.
I've said before, there's different ways you can look at the book of James, and there may be practical things you can learn from it, but if someone is going to use it to try to deny the gospel, that's wrong.
In context, James was one of the first books written in the New Testament. It was written before Paul's revelation and ministry. Paul directly refutes the argument, later. I think one of the things that can be learned from James, is that this is something they struggled with before Paul's revelation. And it's something some still struggle with today. But they needn't struggle.
Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Here is a practical thing you can learn from James, regarding faith.
James 1 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
When we ask something of God, with faith unwavering... then what? We start working hard? No. We receive from God. It's God that does the work. We have faith, and we receive from God.
But, if a person is wavering in faith, for example, placing their faith in themselves instead of God, or doubting God will do it, being double minded, they shouldn't expect they'll receive anything from God.
A person is saved by Faith alone, by placing their faith in Jesus. And Jesus already did the work, it's finished.
If a person comes to God, at that moment thinking there's a bunch of things they have to do to be saved, apart from faith, should they expect to receive anything from God?
In a general sense, when we ask God for something in faith, we continue to have faith, unwavering, until we receive the thing we've asked for from God. God is the one to work, and give it to us.
Placing faith in Jesus to be saved, is such a simple faith. God's not trying to make it difficult. In the case of salvation, He's done the work ahead of time, and presented it to you. Anyone can receive it, if they'll believe that Jesus did what the bible says He did. That He died for their sins, was buried, and resurrected from the dead. He's the prophesied Messiah that made a way of salvation for all who would believe on Him. God desires people to believe and be saved.
Luke 18 17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
It's a simple faith, as a child hears and believes. They're given a gift, and they choose to take it, and receive it.
When a person puts their faith in Jesus, God doesn't have to do some work to prepare their salvation to give to them. They don't have to wait to receive it. He prepared it in advance, and it's just waiting for them to believe. The moment they believe, they receive it. And once received in faith, God won't take it back. It's there's.
You can't return or give up your salvation, either. Put another way, we become Jesus' purchased posession. He paid a great price for us, and He will not give us back. Jesus is keeping us.
John 1 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
2 Corinthians 11 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
It's important to understand that good works don't save us. And that it's God that works a good work in us. So if you desire good works, have faith in God, that He will do His good work in you. He is faithful. And God working in us isn't a metaphor for self-struggle. Even unbelievers do that. But we have something greater.
For those that struggle, thinking there's something apart from faith they have to do to be saved. I'd urge them to realize, the work necessary for salvation has already been completed by Jesus. There's no other work for salvation that God will ever accept. So please believe.