Living With Patience in Times of Trouble
James concludes his letter with a series of examples and guidance for believers as they face times of trial.
The year 2020 has been full of trials, even if they haven’t been quite as difficult as those faced by the early church in a time of Roman rule and persecution.
As we LOOK at the bullet list James gives us in chapter five, I can LEARN from cross references, seeing in the whole of God’s Word and then LIVE the way my Savior instructs me to through the hardships of life.
Acknowledge the exploitation of the rich (v. 1-6)
James begins the chapter with an indirect address to the rich who have taken advantage of believers. Many in the church could identify with having been treated poorly by these people:
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”
It’s a good reminder that while money, in and of itself, is not evil, but the desire to become rich brings destruction. (1 Tim. 6:6-10)
Be patient for the coming of the Lord, like farmers wait for harvest (v. 7-8)
In context, this example seems to indicate that we should take vengeance into our own hands, but to patiently wait for the Lord to come and take care of those who have cheated us.
Galatians 6:9 encourages us to hang in there, like the farmer does. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
Don’t complain against one another (v.9)
With communication channels at every fingertip, it’s easy to turn to each other and complain about SOMETHING. There’s lots to choose from. Sometimes we call it “sharing,” but James warns against that.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul uses a similar word to “complain” when he exhorts believers to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Phil 2:14
Suffer like the prophets (v.10)
Sometimes I wonder about our present-day trials and suffering, wondering if we will see the justice of God.
Hebrews 11:32-40 reminds us that the prophets suffered and never saw justice this side of heaven. We might not either, but we must continue to “speak in the name of the Lord!”
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
Endure like Job who saw the outcome of God’s compassion and mercy (v.11)
Though we may not see God’s holy justice, we must endure. Just like Job did!
Cross references from the book of Job give us insight into a man who would not give up on God, even when questioning Him. He ultimately came through the furnace of trials, as will we.
“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” Job 13:15
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” Job 19: 25-27
“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6
Keep from swearing oaths (v.12)
This verse begins with “But above all…” James makes this reminder of crucial importance. I must be careful about my promises and remember what he said in the previous chapter about speaking my plans without consulting the Lord and His will.
Here James quotes Jesus when He said this in Matthew, chapter 5: 33-37: “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
As James closes this letter, he gives four more practices to the church:
- Pray for the sick, anointing them with oil (v.14-15)
- Confess your sins to one another (v.16)
- Pray for deliverance like Elijah prayed for rain (v. 17-18)
- Turn back those who have strayed from the truth (v. 19-20)
For Christians to do these things well during hard times, we must be reading and studying His word, striving to live by it daily.
The letter from James is packed with teaching, garnered from his half-brother and Savior, Jesus. James wanted to encourage and exhort Christians living in hard times with this teaching.
I can’t help but cement these words into my life as well.