In part #1 of this blog series (click to read part I), we began to examine James 5:1-11. In the first 6 verses we discovered a church falling into extreme carnality; they were walking in partiality with respect to how much money and power a person had—they were deep into division and character assassination—they we are seeking their own pleasure and protection—they were withholding compassion from the poor.
In verse 7 the word of God gives them a seemingly strange command, rather than simply proclaiming “Stop”, they are commanded “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”. God was calling them to live in faith of the blessed hope, in simplicity of faith, rather than seeking to avoid the troubles to come (seeking pleasure and more provision). In this command they are told to “Establish their hearts” in the reality of Christ’s soon coming. This was a warning that their behavior was placing their standing in Christ at risk.
As we discovered, the commands and admonitions are just as relevant for us, as we are tempted to consider the troubles around the next corner, rather than keep our eyes of Christ Jesus. Today we begin with a second command, which amplifies the serious nature of the first one.
In verse 9-11, we begin to see that their desire for more, by ingratiating themselves to the rich, arose from a fear of suffering for their faith. There in verse 10 and 11, the Holy Spirit calls them to consider the prophets and Job; as those who patiently endured suffering for the sake of their faith in Christ. This is the reason the second command begins with “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold the Judge is standing at the door”.
Anxiety over what we assume is around the corner, often leads us to seek solutions through short cut temptations, rather than endure (be patient) in God’s promises. In our efforts to quell our anxiety or seek our wants, we can begin to see even our closest brethren, as obstacles and hindrances. Not only do we begin to destroy with our tongues, we continue to cripple our spiritual life, as we haphazardly walk through the minefield of our unresolved and worn-out emotions. Once their only chaos reigns.
James 3:13-16 (NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
We must heed the admonition given, for those Christians who fall into this destructive path and having taken their eyes of Christ’s return (as their only hope) are warned… vs. 9b “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door”.
PERSECUTION AMPLIES A SINFUL FEAR OF LACK OF MATERIAL NEED
When we reach verses 10 and 11, we begin to see why such a wrong focus on material need arises and why we look to the “haves” to make sure we are not “haven nots”: They (we can be) were fearful of being without and block from having what was needed, as persecution grew.
Because they lost their foundation and hope in Christ, they were looking to worldly people wealth and supposed influence to shield them, from the suffering associated with persecution for our faith in Christ.
To Christians in America, this ought to sound awfully familiar. This past election season, in fact the pastor four years, revealed how much like James readers, the church has become in the United States.
Many voted for a man who lacks self-control, candor, and compassion, because a few “Christian Celebrity” pastors and entertainment, supported him. I admit, form a political side, I agreed with much of the former president’s agenda, but when he lost the election, Christians lost their mind. Why? Afraid of suffering under those antithetical to our faith.
Is this a real possibility? Yes!
Is it something that should be driving us into cynical attacks and compounded fears? NO!
Jesus told us we would be persecuted, repeatedly. He let us know the times would come when even the pagan world would believe they are doing God a favor by killing us. The Lord Jesus never guaranteed we would have safety, security, full bellies, multiple changes of clothing or even a personal roof over our head. He promised we would have what we need.
Into these growing realities the Holy Spirit inserts the suffering experienced by the prophets and Job.
James 5:10-11 (NKJV) My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
We think of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and those like them, who suffered assassination attempts, wicked queens hunting them, fierce character assassination, lion’s dens and so much more…
Hebrews 11:35-40 (NKJV) Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking’s and scourging’s, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
In James 5:10 we understand the Holy Spirit calling us to understand faith in Christ, in this life, is not about maintaining or accumulating enough supply to feel like God loves us. We are called to understand that deprivations and sufferings prove our faithfulness to Christ, which in turn prove His presence with us and faithfulness towards us, as we endure, that which is contrary to us.
Our main concern need not be how we are going to survive the times of coming persecution, but how we will remain faithful to Him, in joy and cheerfulness, when we suffer for His name.
Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV) Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When we lose this perspective, we begin to look for ways and means of protection. We then take ourselves outside of His covering (Psalm 91) and His provision (Psalm 23). In this mode of thinking we then take offense at anyone who appears as a threat. Perhaps, it is for this reason James brings up Job; a man who lost everything and therefore had little to fight over. It is to Job we look to for our next admonition. Until then Stay close to Jesus.