September 24, 2016
“The Book of James – part 8”
A Community That Cares
We are moving up to part 8 and the final in the series on the Book of James. I hope that you have enjoyed the series and how simple and straight forward James’ message is. He certainly doesn’t beat around the ol’ bush does he? James is dealing with the ethics of Christianity. That is why I stated from the beginning that James is a power packed book on how to “live and do the Christian faith.” James is not only relevant to his day, but also today!
Let’s turn to our last scripture and remember that God speaks His Word through His servant and Prophet as He did through Isaiah 55:11: “My Word always accomplishes what I desire, and they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. My Word will never return to Me unfinished.” Therefore I believe we can expect that He will accomplish everything within us that He wants at this time in our lives.
James is going to finish his letter with a list of resources to help us weather the storms together as a family. Though uncomfortable and unsettling, trials can produce something deeper in us than we ever imagined.
James 1: 2-4: 2 Dear brothers and sisters when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not lacking in any way.
James 5: 7-12: 7 So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return for His second coming. Think of how the farmer patiently waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, as he eagerly waits through the fall and spring rains before his harvest time arrives. 8 Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong because the Lord’s coming is near.
9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters or you will be judged. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Lord, the Judge of this world is standing at the door ready to return!
10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. 11 Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured suffering. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose for allowing Job to suffer so greatly. Then you saw what the Lord finally brought about at the end because He is full of compassion and mercy.
12 And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” or by heaven or earth or any other oath. Just say a simple “Yes” or “No” or whatever is true, otherwise you sin and will be condemned.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble and suffering? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the leaders of your church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the Name of the Lord. 15 Such prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven and healed inside and out. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain one drop on the land for three and a half years. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops and a harvest.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you knows people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back. 20 Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” GBB version
Consider that trial pure joy??? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think like that! To me that’s like winning and wrecking. They just don’t go together.
Let’s look at three things that James gets into in his last words of advice to the church… that’s you and me. And if it was accepted by everyone in this crazy world then it wouldn’t be in the mess it is today!
- God at work in the patience of our faith
First and foremost here, don’t let anyone fool you. EVERYONE lives by faith, PERIOD. It’s NOT a Christian or religious thing, (despite that it is for us). The person that says I don’t believe in God or any of that stuff isn’t telling their whole story. Just ask them then what do they believe in? They believe in something. We ALL believe in something or we wouldn’t get up in the morning because for one thing what do they think will happen and why in the next minutes, hours, days or whatever? EVERYONE has a belief about the future and a belief about themselves. Someone that says they’re an atheist simply has faith in that there is no God, Creator, or higher authority we are responsible to. But for the Believer, that faith is anchored in the object of our faith; God the Father and Jesus Christ. Both theirs and our faith are anchored in the midst of circumstances and trials and all kinds of things that bring change in our lives.
Look at James 5: 7-8 above. James said that 2000 some years ago and he had a sense that the Lord Jesus’ return was near. Well, most of us think we understand time and this helps make us understand scripture even more when we realize that God’s timing is not our timing or His ways our ways. Then note the farming analogy and patience prescription. Today, we for the most part have no concept of what that means because we just go to the store in America and buy what we want either local or shipped in from around the world. Noteworthy though is the hard work that goes into the farmer making the land produce. Yes, he does everything he can but still in the end has to depend upon God’s timing and oversight to actual completion and harvest. Note also that the farmer is waiting for heaven to open up and rain just like we need to wait upon God to open up the heavens and send Jesus back. Still today once the crop LOOKS like it is ready to harvest they still need another week’s time before it is really ready. But, don’t we hate waiting? It doesn’t matter the subject of that wait either, …we just hate waiting don’t we?
Well in our culture today we think we need to MAKE things happen. But when we do how many times they didn’t happen well? Usually that decision comes with regret. Look at Isaiah 40: 30-31: 30 “Even youths will become weak, tired, and young men will stumble and fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord and wait upon His timing will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
If you study or even lightly look through Scripture in the Bible you will see where even great men and women of God didn’t choose to wait upon God but “help God make things happen” and they did happen, but never without pain and sorrow with the outcome. I’ve done it also and it never turned out good and often hurt others. Here is what the great Preachers of the 1800’s; Charles Spurgeon said about this: “Impatience sours the temper, chills the blood, sickens the heart, prostrates the vigor of one’s spirit, and spoils the enterprise of life before it is ripe for history.”
You cannot MAKE things ripen. The period of waiting is where the warfare takes place. That’s where the fight is because that’s where the enemy says to you “so where’s your God now? How come this thing you prayed for hasn’t been answered? We all turn normally to grumbling against God don’t we? This is the time when the character of the believer is most challenged as well as your belief in the character of God. Once we start that grumbling we automatically turn to that place of confession that “God is not good, …to me.” That often comes in the form of grumbling to God about our mate that God gave us, our friend, or co-workers etc. …or maybe even ourself because we must be a loser since everyone else gets what they want but not me. Then the wait becomes embittered and even worse than the beginning.
Grumbling today is like a national pastime for us in America, but it also attacks the name and character of God and He is jealous of His Name and will judge messing with it. His righteousness HAS to judge it. So, don’t fall to grumbling not only because of His judgment but also because for one thing that during it all; the reality is that it what we are waiting for IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW but we don’t know it.
Look back at James 5: 9-11 above. James concludes what most people miss in Job’s story: God’s compassion and mercy. Most people choose not to read about the horrors of Job. And so they miss the truth of how much God trusted Job and bragged upon him and threw Job in the face of His enemy satan and still today often does that with His trusted servants. And as I say that, I also remind you that in Hebrews 11 which many call the faith chapter, we read about those who never saw the promise and reward come to pass before death. However, note that they CHOSE to go after God’s greater reward of resurrection in eternity. That’s all really scary that God trusts us so much, but also consider then how much He loves us and the amazing honor it is to be trusted so greatly by the Creator God!!!
This is a good place to stop a moment and consider those that walk through trial and lack of answers from God but stay faithful and true. They’re remarkable and I see it all the time around me. But then I also see the same issues happening in people around me that simply never give God the time or space to work. Instead they jump from church to church, pastor to pastor, friend to friend and so on. They never allow God to shape them through those trials. They constantly keep moving. If you keep moving like that then you run a high risk at missing something incredible that God wants to do in your life. That’s that kind of thing at the other end of the tunnel stuff. But it’s tragic sometimes when these people never give into the wait and stay faithful in their confession, words, and actions.
2. God at work in the community of faith.
We come to verse 13 next. James says “Is anyone in trouble and suffering? Most likely we all can raise our hand and say “me” at some point. Then he gives us three options:
1. Let them pray. James is saying “then you turn should toward God.” Because if you don’t pray that is a statement of self sufficiency. You may say things about trusting Jesus but without at least checking in (that is praying) a few minutes truthfully and heart-seriously as you make plans, then I’ll just say its all talk and bull. God wants you to trust that He wants the very best for you.
2. Pray for each other. Well now here’s where a lot of humility enters the picture. To open up our needs to friends or family takes guts and faith. You have to choose wisely who you confide in, and they better be strong in Christ for sure! Do you attend a “small group” from the church you attend? However, there is usually a better choice and that is “Calling for the Elders.” I am speaking about the leaders you have at church. If you attend a solid, Bible teaching church then usually the leaders are experienced and well respected in crisis situations. (And by the way, if you do not have a good church around home or it isn’t a strong teaching church then talk to Kathy or me. Wherever you live chances are we have a recommendation of a good one we trust.)
We all experience pain and hard times in our lives. In fact, that is usually God’s best teaching and maturing time He has for us. For another thing, once we walk through a difficult and traumatic situation, then God can use us to walk through it with experience and wisdom alongside someone else. (Look at 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 concerning this opportunity) The question is: Without God, where else can you go for pain that has the complete answer for it? Where is this pain coming from? Without God the whole issue of pain becomes useless, meaningless and random circumstances because of bad luck, bad karma, bad people, because we look to assign blame. But remember that sometimes God isn’t going to tell us where the pain is coming from. He just tells us that He’s gonna get you through this. That’s when we reject Him so we are on our own and being on our own makes it all worse. One last thing here is just like any sport or battle type: “You can only succeed and deal with the level of the sport or warfare that you have trained for otherwise you are knocked to the ground & defeated.”
3. God is at work in the prayer of faith. We are in verse 15 & 16 with this. We just passed another remembrance of 9-11. That time in history drove people to church in dynamic numbers we hadn’t seen for years before, and now since. The general consensus was that “we have to get a hold of God for an answer for this ridiculous pain.” Do we here in 2016 today hold in our hearts a faith that knows that God has an answer? Is that faith rock solid even if He doesn’t answer as we think He should and prove Himself? Once again we are faced with turning to each other for prayer and confession of sin. As humans most often sin un-dealt with brings physical sickness to our bodies in many ways and is only relieved upon confession. However, it is interesting that in sickness that has nothing to do with us is so often dealt with by someone praying for us. I see this over and over in ministry and can only stand back silent and smiling inside watching God do His thing!
Dietrich Bonheoffer whom the Nazis imprisoned and tortured said: “He who is alone with their sin is utterly alone.” For anyone, but especially those without God being alone without companionship or physical ability to talk and confide with another person like solitary confinement is torture. Dietrich’s point was that with God, there is no place no matter what is done to you that He is not there to get you through it if you are a person of faith and the Word of God is dwelling in you.
James highlights one gigantic man of faith in verses 17-18 above in Elijah’s adventure against an evil woman beyond comprehension in Jezebel, so much so that her name rings of evil throughout world history. Have you ever heard of anyone naming a kid that name? Not hardly! Elijah stood fast and faced down the evilest people of his day a number of times. His warfare simply was listening, hearing, praying for direction and then walking out God’s directions no matter how crazy and unpopular to stunning end results and God’s glory. I can’t help think Elijah was smiling as those crazy people tried to win.
Elijah stands on the other end of Jezebel’s fame and even I have a grandson named for him and his faith today. However, the bottom line is that while Elijah and others are superstars of the faith they were still just human beings just like us today! Read their stories and you will see that God bears the whole truth in His Word to us in the Bible hoping we get the picture of who we CAN be with His help.
Then, James concludes this letter to the church believers of his day by stating in verse 19-20 above, the issue of helping people stuck and/or lost in sin. In one way it is a conclusion that ALL things are possible with God. Another is that God honors people of faith’s prayers plus plays out His desire that nobody be lost from living eternally with Him. He bears out His mercy and compassion but calls upon both us who understand the truth; AND to those who are lost in sin hoping they have enough humility to open the darkest and hidden areas of their hearts to others and ask for help before it’s too late. We can be their superstars and help save their lives if we let God use us as He directs and leads.
We simply need to have an accurate view of ourself. That’s humility. All through this Book of James is woven this tapestry of faith and trial, of guarding your passions and guarding your mouth, watching your life. James has been rough with us sometimes. He has been a convicting mentor for each of us. James is calling us to step over the line to be participants instead of spectators of the faith. He wants us to move from consumers to contributors. We need to move from being self sufficient to God-sufficient by crossing that clear line. Jesus calls on us to join the race and run to WIN!
Hebrews 12: 1-2 says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who blazed the way and are cheering us on today; let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily trips you up and entangles us. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one who started and finished this race of faith He pioneered and perfected. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, and not only disregarding, but scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The entire message can be seen and heard at:
This message text fits alongside the Church On The Hill in Salem, Oregon message by:
Sr. Pastor Bruce Stefanik and Executive Pastor Jason Treadwell.
Bible version: GBB (Gospel by Bob)