JENNIFER SPEER NOTES: WEEK SIX

Real Patience/ James 5:1-12

James is following his same pattern. He presents a problem, addresses it with truth, illustrates it, and then gives a warning. This week’s lesson is no different. The outline looks similar to last week.

I.              The Problem (James 5:1-6)

James seems to be addressing a group of people who are in the church but who are not believers. He never refers to them as “brethren”. Instead, he give s sturdy rebuke, warning them about the abuse of wealth and power. It is not a rebuke about having money. It is a stern warning about accountability in the face of abuse of power and wealth. The culture of that day had no avenue of recourse for the poor person or the outsider in the community as the Jewish believers would have been categorized. Verse 6 lets us know the righteous man does not deserve the treatment he is getting from others nor does he have any ability to change it or fight it.

The righteous person is suffering. His suffering however is from outside sources. He is not suffering because of personal sin or because of the consequences of his own personal choices. This suffering is coming from either difficult people or difficult circumstances.

James tells us from the very beginning of the book; we will have trials (James 1:2-4). Jesus also told his followers they would experience tribulation. John 16:33b,”In this world you WILL have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

The word tribulation means to break, to crush, to squeeze, or to press. It is something that comes at us from an outside source, pressing down on us, crushing us.  But Jesus says to take courage or be comforted. Why? Because He has overcome the world. The word overcome comes from the Greek word NIKE. (nee-kay) it means to subdue, prevail, win the victory. (No wonder an athletic wear company chose the word). When we are experiencing tribulation, we must remember, Jesus is the overcomer. He overcame sin, death, hell, and the grave when he died and arose from the grave. He is the winner. One day he will come back and make all things right. We, however, live in the in between time-the time between the victory of the resurrection and the second coming. It is hard for us to realize the victory sometimes. Satan is a defeated foe but he is still causing havoc until he is permanently sealed away in hell.

 For Jesus to say He has overcome the world does not erase our problems or our tribulation. It does however give us hope in the midst of them.

So what is the solution?

II.             The Solution (James 5:7&8, 10&11).

A. James introduces two important words in these verses we would do well to define.

Patience=long suffering, exercising understanding toward people, to endure without becoming despondent, to stay put and stand fast when you would rather run away.

Patience is primarily referring our dealings with people

Endurance (endure) = to remain under.

Endurance is primarily referring to difficult circumstances (not difficult people)

James uses this word in chapter 1, reminding us that the Lord is building the godly characteristic of endurance in us through the difficulties of life. On my! We don’t want that! We want God to quickly change our difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. Warren Wiersbe says, “If nothing is endured, you cannot learn endurance.”

Rick Warren writes, “God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness. He more concerned about your character than your comfort.”

B.   Practical Application

James 5:8 encourages us to look at the example of the farmer (we will come back to that).  We are to strengthen our hearts, knowing that Christ will return

To strengthen our hearts means to establish our hearts. Establish=to turn resolutely in a certain direction. In difficult times and with difficult people,we are resolutely turn ourselves toward the Lord and obedience to Him.

A seeming problem arises when you do a study of the word establish. In Paul’s writings he says, “God establishes our hearts,” Yet James is saying “ establish your own heart.” How can it be both? Does God do it or do we do it?

Remember Philippians 2:13? “It is God at work in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.” The Holy Spirit dwells in us if we are believers in Christ. He is always working in us, stirring us, drawing us. When He is stirring in us to be obedient to truth and we respond to His working with a submissive and willing heart, THEN He gives us the ability, He empowers us to act on it-to do it! But you and I have the ability to say NO to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We have the choice to resist and rebel. Indeed the Holy Spirit establishes our hearts, turns us in His direction and empowers us to live obediently. But we get to choose if we let him. That is why James approaches the same subject from a different angle, saying YOU establish your own heart. It is your choice to be strengthened and established ---or not.

So what does a strengthened and established heart look like in a day to day practical way? How do I get a “strengthened heart” as James commands? Psalm 37:3-4 will help us.

The psalmist is encountering difficult people and difficult circumstances. The answer is a simple phrase in verse 3, “trust in the Lord.” We could stop right there. Trust means to lean in, knowing the rug will not be pulled out from under you. When we know God through His word, and through Christ, we trust his love his wisdom, His complete and perfect character. We understand He will not trick us or deceive us. We trust him. But how do I know I amtrusting Him? Is it just mental belief? No! There is evidence of trusting and the psalmist gives us three phrases to help direct us.

1.    Do good (Psalm 37:3a) Do good means be obedient. Difficult times do not give a free pass to behave any way we choose. It does not allow us a pity party to do nothing until God changes the circumstances. We are called to be obedient and do the right thing even when we are going through difficulties or dealing with difficult people. James tells us in James 1:2-4 that the Lord is PRODUCING endurance in us. To produce means to do a work on the inside and put it on display on the outside for everyone to see. Keep this in mind when you are facing difficulties. Peope are watching to see how you handle it. Your mess is a witness to those around you. Your children and grandchildren will handle adversity as they see you handle it. Let the Lord do the work of endurance while you trust and while you live obediently in the middle of the junk.

2.    Dwell in the land (Psalm 37:3b)

The Israelites inherited a geographical land from the Lord. The land was always a picture of their relationship with Him. If the land failed to yield a crop or drought took over, the people were to remain in the land. The land problems were an indication of heart problems with the people. There was something God needed to adjust in their lives. So He told them to stay put and let Him do the work that needed to be done in them.

You and I as Christians do not inherit a land. We inherit a life in Christ. Likewise, our lives are indications of our walk with Christ. If there is trouble or difficulties, stay put and let the Lord do whatever work needs to be done in us. Dwell means settle down and live there. Live in the circumstances that God has allowed—even if you did not cause them-He has allowed them. Cultivation is an agricultural term. He cultivates faithfulness in us while we stay put. Cultivation takes time-it is not an overnight event.

If God is not changing your circumstances, He is changing you in your circumstances.

3.    Delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

Delight has nothing to do with happiness. It means to be conformed. We cannot separate the first phrase of the verse from the second phrase, though we like the second phrase better! When are desires are conformed to God’s desires-when our wants look like His wants, we know the heart and mind of God and our prayers are shaped like His desires—God is them free to give us what desire.It sound simple but it is not. We want relief, and comfort, and ease. God wants endurance, and strength, and our complete trust in Him. When we want what God wants, He is free to give us our wants.

C. Examples to follow (James 5:7, 10, 11).

James illustrates the truth of patience and endurance with three examples.

1.    The farmer (vs 7). The farmer waits (expects) the crop to come. He has done the right things; he is counting on God to bring the rain. But he is also active while he waits expectantly. He pulls the weeds, he keeps animals away, and he nurtures the new seedlings. He is not inactive in the waiting. He is still working. We too must wait for the Lord to deal with difficult people and circumstances, but in the meantime, we must remain obedient, dwelling where God has allowed us to be, conformed to His desire for us.

2.    The prophets (Verse 10 &11a). The Old Testament prophets would be very familiar to the Jewish Christians reading James’ letter. They were men called by God and yet they suffered greatly. We struggle with that. If a person is in the center of God’s will and God’s plan, shouldn’t there be some sort of protection clause? 2 Timothy 3:12, “And indeed all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Why does it seem that the ones who suffer most are doing exactly what God has asked them to do?

When the Lord calls us into His family, we are not escaping suffering. We are simply never walking through it alone. And those whom He has called to ministry seem to have the lion’s share of suffering. Dear one, He entrusts us with adversity! Through adversity, our lives back up our message. Our lives, like the lives of the prophets become a powerful witness to others. Take heart in the example of the prophets.

3.    Job (James 5:11). Job was a righteous man, blameless in all his ways yet he suffered greatly. His suffering was not from any sin he committed. His suffering came from an outside source. Read Chapters one and two of Job. It is a riveting discussion between God and Satan. God allowed Satan to mess with Job. But God set the boundaries and Satan obeys. Kay Arthur often says, “Nothing comes into the life of a believer except it first comes through the loving hands of God.” Does that mean we always understand or even like what God is doing and what He has allowed? Certainly not! We will never fully understand the ways of God. But we can trust him.

As I read the closing verses of Job I see two outcomes. One, Job knew God in ways he had never known God before, simply because he had walked through suffering. I can attest to that. Suffering has allowed me to know God in ways I would have never known Him. Cancer did more for my walk with the Lord than any other thing. I would not change that for the world—even though I suffered. But the second thing God accomplished through Job is an example for you and me. Through his life, we see the faithfulness of God.

Still I read the closing verses of Job and ponder. God gave Job more sons and daughters. God restored Jobs wealth. Job live 140 year and died ‘full of day.” BUT does a new family replace the pain of losing the first family? Does restored health erase the scars of once broken health? Doe the giving back negate the pain of losing it all the first time. No, it does not. BUT God is not in the business of fixing the past, he does not erase it  or cause us to forget it. God REDEEMS the past. He buys it back and makes it into something new that is good for us and glorifies Him. (Read Isiah 43:18-19)

III.           The Warning (James 5:9 & 12)

Difficult times will always present us with an opportunity to sin.

WE choose how we will respond to difficult people and difficult circumstances. Therefore James gives us two warnings.

1.    Do not complain. Complain means to murmur, groan, hold a grudge. He is not saying don’t talk through your problems with people. He IS saying don’t drag around your junk- complaining and griping against people, and about people to other people. Use some wisdom when you are speaking about your difficult circumstances. No one is drawn to a complainer and we are to draw people to Christ by our speech –even when we suffer.

(We cannot live this way without the Holy Spirit working in us)

2.    Don’t succumb to rash speech. James says do not swear or make an oath.  When we are going through a tough time it is easy to unleash our anger at others. Innocent people often become the target of our angst even though they are not the cause of it. Stop it! Your mouth is constrained to obedience even when you are being pressed in tribulation.

Also make no oath. An oath is a bargain. When we are pressed, sometimes we make an oath or bargain with God. “If you will fix this God, then I will….” We become impatient with the working of the Lord and we try to manipulate Him to speed things up or change things. If He does not work according to our plan, many times we get angry with God. Heed the warning. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Say what is right, seasoned with grace, patient with the working of the Lord and the shortcomings of other people The Judge-the Lord-is standing at the door. He is coming soon to make things right. He is also privy to your every word and thought. 

In closing, James is giving us rather dangerous and difficult information in his little five chapter book. Yet we cannot view it in pieces. WE must see the message as a whole. James is urging us to a life of complete and total surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot live the truth of James without a relationship with Christ. You cannot live the truth of James without the Holy Spirit living in you to empower you. And you cannot live the truth of James without knowledge of the Word and a willingness to obey it. BUT if you have listened to and read the teaching of James, you are accountable for what you have heard.

Surrender is a complete act of abandoning our will to the will of the Master. I urge you to live in the beauty and joy of total and complete surrender. It is the heart of James and the heart of his message to us.