August 7, 1988
We are relational creatures by nature and by need. We have multiple relationships at home, work, play, and church. We bring to those relationships diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Most of us do not have to look far into our pasts to discover a broken relationship. If we scratch the surface of our feelings, we will discover some unfinished business left over from that broken relationship.
We can use the unfinished business of a broken relationship as a place of growth and learning for other relationships we have. Paul’s words to the Christians in Ephesus highlight principles that are necessary to make and maintain relationships.
The first principle of any human relationship is trust. It is both the foundation and the cornerstone on which an encounter between two or more people is established.
The well-being of infants depends on their ability to trust those who have primary responsibility for their care and nurture. What is true at the outset of human life is true throughout a person’s development. Trust establishes dependability.
Trust is a vital ingredient in the life of the church. Persecution and attack may come from without and the church will stand, but lying within the fellowship rips apart the church. Thus, Paul wrote, “No more lying” (Eph. 4:25). If trust is to be established, we must be truthful with ourselves and others. We model trust by being trustworthy.
II. Surrender Our Vices
As trust is established and nurtured, we develop courage to get rid of bitterness, passion, and insults, When there is trust in a relationship, people can get angry but refuse to permit their anger to lead to sin.
There is nothing wrong with anger; what we do with our anger is right or wrong. If we allow our anger to smolder inside and cause an ulcer or heart attack, we have sinned against our bodies. If our anger motivates us to say harmful, hurtful words to others, we have sinned against them.
We decide whether to react bitterly and shout insults at others or respond in a different way. Bitterness is anger that has soured and turned to resentment. Frederich Nietzsche wrote that nothing on earth consumes a person like resentment. Can you identify times when you permitted resentment to consume you?
We need to surrender our hateful feelings. To surrender means to give up our vices — bitterness, passion, and hateful feelings — of our own volition.
III. Accentuate the Virtues
Once we have surrendered these vices that will destroy our relationships and us, then we can develop the virtues of kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. One of the best ways to develop kindness is to think of the kindest people we know and emulate their attitudes and approaches to situations in life.
Kindness leads to tenderheartedness which suggests flexibility and pliability. Tenderhearted people are helpful encouragers, enabling others to be open and comfortable in their presence. This leads to forgiveness.
One of the most powerful emotional experiences is to be forgiven by a person who has every right to make us pay dearly for what we have done. Nothing will nurture and feed our relationships like forgiveness and nothing is more difficult than forgiving those who are closest and most involved in our lives.
Several years ago a young boy was walking down the street in New York City with a violin case tucked under his arm. He stopped a man on the street and asked him, “Sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The man responded immediately, “Practice, my boy, practice.”
Practice is what we need in our relationships. We need to practice telling the truth and developing trust. We need to practice getting rid of bitterness and hateful feelings. We need to practice kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. How do the relationship principles outlined in Ephesians 4:25-5:2 become integrated into our lives? Practice, practice, practice! (HWR)
August 14, 1988
Advice for living bombards us from all directions: “You only go around once.” “Grab all the gusto you can get.” “You better stop playing around and get serious about life.” “Why don’t you take life easy?” “Be careful.”
This last word of advice, “Be careful,” often is used to mean be cautious, be conservative, don’t take chances, be safe. Many people live their lives always under the yellow light of caution.
I. Living Carefully
The writer of Ephesians advises us to be careful how we live. In the context of the Ephesian letter, the writer is not calling for cautious, hesitant action on the part of followers of Christ. Rather, we are being called to careful living. Careful living is living that is filled with care: care for God, care for others, and care for ourselves. Only when we are full of care can we be careful how we live.
II. Making Use of Opportunity
The classic opportunists are looking for ways to get ahead of the rest of us. Surely that is not what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Make good use of every opportunity you have” (p. 16). Within the context of his encouragement to Ephesian Christians, Paul was urging them to make use of their opportunities to do what God wanted them to do.
We can make good use of every opportunity only when our lives are filled with care. Augustine concluded that we are to love God, love our fellow human beings, and do what we want.
Making good use of every opportunity calls for urgency. With urgency there is priority. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. Doing something calls for decision.
Actions have urgency. Soon this moment will be history. When it is we will be able to recall it, enjoy it, regret it, but we cannot relive it. The past has been. The future is not yet. The present is all that we have.
If a moment is to have positive meaning, we must grasp it for this purpose now. Already the moment is yesterday. There is no certainty about tomorrow.
Good time management is essential if we are to make good use of every opportunity. A person who lives to the age of 70 spends, on average, 20 years sleeping, 20 years working, 6 years eating, 7 years playing, 5 years dressing, 1 year on the telephone, and 2 1/2 years for other things. To manage our time with meaning is an exercise of our wills. Our decisions need to be made in relation to knowledge about the will of God.
What would a time study reveal about your present activities? What are your priorities? Are you living your life filled with care or are you grabbing all the gusto you can get? Are you caring for others or only looking out for number one?
Do you know what time it is in your life? Do you care? Rather than waiting around to see what time it is, we need to decide what it is time for in our lives. Then we can make good use of every opportunity.
III. Give Thanks For Everything
Living lives filled with care enables us to make good use of every opportunity. Then we realize that life and time are gifts from God. Our natural response will be to give thanks for everything to God the Father. Then we can join our voices with that of Dag Hammerskjold: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.” (HWR)
August 21, 1988
Marriage is in, but many people do not know what they are in for when they marry. Marriage is a joyful, exciting, invigorating, aggravating, frustrating, challenging relationship.
Three components are essential for marriage to be a growing, enriching, and enlivening relationship. The man and woman must leave their parents, cleave to each other, make a life-long commitment. Undergirding all of these components is the vital principle of mutual submission.
I. Loving Submission
We bristle at the word submit. We interpret submit to mean giving in, cowtowing, abiding by the will and desires of another person which are in conflict with mine.
When Paul writes, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands,” we hear nothing new or insightful. When the Bible was written, women were seen as subservient to their husbands. Many have continued the chain of command view that women are to be in chains and men are to be in command. This can be supported only by ripping verse 22 out of its context and paying no attention to what precedes and follows it.
The surprise is in verse 25 when husbands are instructed to love their wives. Until then, love had not been considered an ingredient in marriage. Occasionally some husbands may have developed love for their wives, but no one previously had considered love to be necessary or important.
Paul must have thought that men needed more instruction in marriage than women because he has a lot more to say about husbands loving their wives than about wives submitting themselves to their husbands. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. They are to give themselves in complete, sacrificial, selfless love to their wives. Paul said nothing about wives loving their husbands. Does this mean they were not to love them?
Notice that all of this follows the statement, “Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ” (v. 21). Mutual submission is the guiding principle.
This is not submission of a lowly woman lorded over by powerful man. Too many have used this scripture to justify husbands’ exploitation of their wives. That is offensive and sinful. The emphasis here is mutual submission.
Husbands and wives are to be submissive to each other and to love each other and give themselves to and for one another as Christ gave Himself for the church.
II. Ingredients of Marriage
Living the principle of mutual, loving submission is a process of growth in relationship. The process has three ingredients: the couple must leave their parents, join themselves to each other to become one, and commit themselves to a lifelong journey together. Failure to mix any one of these ingredients into the marriage results in failure of the relationship to develop mutual loving submission.
The verse about leaving parents that Paul quotes does not say that a woman must leave her father and mother. Perhaps the reason is because it was understood that she would leave her parents. In the biblical culture, marriages were arranged usually by fathers, and wives left their parents’ homes and joined their husbands’ clans.
The instruction to husbands to leave their mothers and fathers was a word of healthy advice and a suggestion that husbands do what the wives were doing: leave their parents.
The two, husband and wife, are to become one. This cannot occur without accomplishing the first. Cleaving follows leaving. The “two becoming one” is an involved process of sharing, giving, receiving, caring, and loving. Husband and wife complement each other and become one as they mutually submit themselves to each other.
To leave and to cleave calls for life-long commitment. Couples remain with each other for better or for worse because they are committed to their relationship. Their marriage is enriched and enlivened when they respect each other.
A man had been married to the same woman for over forty years. They had many differences in their personalities and strong differences in their religious and political philosophies, but their marriage obviously was a good one. He was asked what was their secret. He replied, “Alma and I have always had a healthy respect for each other.” Mutual submission leads to mutual respect and vice versa.
We often have emphasized the marriage ingredient “till death do us part” but neglected leaving and cleaving. The principle of mutual submission in marriage calls for a healthy emphasis on all three ingredients. A marriage is in trouble when one ingredient is omitted; if the couple does not include all three ingredients, the marriage will die or may never truly be born. Mutual submission in marriage calls for leaving, cleaving, and committing. (HWR)
August 28, 1988
Prepared to Persevere
Paul sat handcuffed to a Roman soldier. In full view every day was the soldier’s armor. As Paul looked at the armor day after day, the armor served as an icon. He meditated on the protective presence of God in his life and the life of every believer.
Each piece of the soldier’s armor became an outward, visible sign of the inward, invisible presence of God in the life of a believer. Paul knew that in order for his readers to remain faithful to God they needed to be prepared to persevere.
God is our deliverer. Often we cry out to God wanting to be rescued, but God’s work with us as our savior and deliverer is much different than a rescue operation. God does not swoop into our lives and snatch us out of burning buildings. Rather God’s promise is to be with us and journey with us through all that we must face in life.
God’s deliverance is much like the work of an obstetrician who journeys with a mother through the birth process. The obstetrician cannot remove the mother from the pain of childbirth. Medication can be given to deaden the pain, but the mother cannot be removed from the pain. She must travel through it and her doctor is there to accompany and assist on the journey.
Although Paul uses outward, visible analogies of the armor of God we are to put on, the armor is internal. Righteousness, truth, salvation, the word of God, and prayer are to become so well integrated into our lives that we have an abundance of resources from which to draw in facing any circumstance in life. We must be prepared.
The purpose of preparation is to persevere. To experience the attacks of evil is terrible. To be persecuted would be horrible. To be attacked by accusations is awful. But to be unfaithful to God is worse.
High school basketball practice was a grueling experience. Practice was not play. It was hard work. My coach’s philosophy was to prepare us so well that the games would be a breeze compared to our practices. The only acceptable reason for being defeated was that the other team was more skilled. We were not to be defeated because we were unprepared or in worse physical condition than the opponent. The coach wanted us to be prepared to persevere.
Paul looked at the Roman soldier to whom he was chained. He saw that the soldier’s armor was designed to protect him from whatever weapon the enemy might use. Paul saw in the soldier’s armor an analogy for the disciples of Christ. They needed to internalize the gifts of God: righteousness, faith, salvation, and prayer. When these gifts are integrated into our lives, we are prepared to persevere. (HWR)
September 7, 1988
Doers of the Word
W. D. Robertson was scolded by a lady concerning the use of ritual in the church. “I hear you are introducing dreadful innovations in your church services,” she said. When he inquired as to what those might be, she went on: “I hear you are reading the Ten Commandments aloud during the services.”
“Why, is that all you heard?” he asked. “We’ve introduced an even greater innovation. We are trying to keep the commandments, too!”
How often we talk about the Word of God but fail to do the Word. Why do so many professing Christians lead such unChristian lives? As James discusses here, we have substituted hearing the Word for doing the Word. James has a message for us.
I. We Must Receive the Word
In verse 10 we see James is referring to his “beloved brethren” — to fellow Christians. By “saving souls” here James is referring to a maturing Christian life, not conversion. The Christian life is a process of becoming more and more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions.
What must happen if we are to receive the Word?
1. We must be receptive (v. 19). We must hear God’s voice, not simply our own. It can be dangerous to talk so much we can never hear anyone else.
2. We must lay aside wickedness (v. 21). Like cleaning a garden of weeds, God wishes to cleanse our lives of the impurity of sin.
3. We must let the Word take root (v. lib). James draws a word picture of a seed planted in the heart, taking root and growing. The Word must become real in our lives if we are to grow into greater Christian maturity and strength.
II. We Must Do the Word
There is a great illusion among many Christians that all God expects of us is to hear the gospel — to go to church regularly. James says God not only expects us to hear the Word; He wants us to put it into practice. If we think “going to preaching” is enough, we deceive ourselves.
When we hear the Word and fail to do it, it is like looking in the mirror then failing to act on what you see. Most of us, upon getting up in the morning, would do the world a great disservice by going out looking exactly as we did climbing out of bed. We look in a mirror, then we take appropriate action.
God’s Word is a mirror that allows us to examine our lives in relation to God’s will. It’s not enough simply to see where we stand; we must take action, too.
When we become doers of the Word, James says, we come under the “perfect law of liberty” (v. 25). Does “law of liberty” sound like a contradiction? James points out the only true liberty is in allegiance to a higher law. So long as we are slaves to sin, we are in bondage; as we accept God’s will in our lives, we are set free to live in true happiness and peace.
The law of God is not a limitation on living — it is the beginning of living. Christ has come to set us free-free from sin, free from natural limitations, free to know God and His love for us. Free to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (JMD)
September 14, 1988
What Makes God Say: “Get Out of My Sight!”
Have you ever made some harmless remark only to have your head nearly bitten off in response? If so, you probably understand how Peter must have felt on this occasion.
Apparently, whatever he had said to Jesus was intended only for His own good. No doubt, he was simply trying to dissuade Jesus from following a self-destructive course of action. However, in quite untypical fashion, Jesus said to Peter: “Out of my way, Satan! You are not on God’s side….” (v. 33).
What in the world was going on between these two old friends? In the paragraph preceding the text (vs. 27-30), Mark records the pinnacle moment in the earthly pilgrimage of the disciples. They were alone with Jesus in the region of Caesarea-Philippi. That was Gentile country and the masses of Jewish peasants who had followed Him everywhere else would not follow Him there.
In that remarkably isolated setting, life’s deepest meaning could be pondered without distraction. Jesus seized the opportunity and posed a penetrating question to his disciples: “Who are the people saying that I am?” (v. 27).
The disciples instantly understood the significance of the question. Consequently, they did not even acknowledge the names given Him by those whose sole purpose was to discredit Him. They had called Him “winebibber, friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). They had said He was a blasphemer (Mark 2:7). In slandering Him, however, they had revealed more about themselves than about Him.
Among those who followed Him out of sincere motive and interest, James was reckoned to be John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Others thought He might be Elijah, come to prepare the way of the Messiah, in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (3:1). Some had concluded that He was Jeremiah, while others thought He could be any one of a number of other prophets, returned from the dead to signal the advent of the Messiah (v. 28).
It was in that significant moment of reflection that Jesus asked life’s ultimate question: “And you, who do you say that I am?” (v. 29).
Only Peter answered. He did not perceive Jesus as being any one of the Messianic forerunners. He was the Messiah Himself. “Thou art the Christ,” he said confidently. Peter knew it was true. The literal sense of his words acknowledged it: “You and no other are the Messiah of God!”
The disciples had learned their lesson. What more was there to learn? After all, they had confessed Him as the Messiah. Yet, there were more lessons.
Mark suggests the content of the next level of their instruction when he wrote: “And Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (v. 31).
Apparently, the advanced study took an unexpected direction, one which came as a complete surprise to the disciples. Any connection of the Messiah with rejection, suffering, and death was both incredible and incomprehensible to them. All their lives they had thought of the Messiah in terms of irresistible acceptance and undeniable conquest. Now they were faced with an idea which absolutely staggered them.
Peter protested! Mark records that he “took” Jesus. In the Greek language “took” is a compound word which can have either of two meanings. It may mean to take hold of someone as to be face to face with them. The sense then would be that Peter led Jesus aside, away from the other disciples, and spoke to Him privately.
It could also mean Peter suddenly grabbed Jesus by His clothing and stood facing Him (eyeball to eyeball, as we might say) as he openly rebuked Him for what he had just said.
It is impossible to determine from the passage itself precisely what Peter did or said to Jesus. Clearly, it was a strong reaction, though. Mark used the same word — “rebuke” — to describe Peter’s reaction as he used to describe Jesus’ tone when He referred to Peter as “Satan.” There is no denying this was a heated exchange!
Why was Peter so vehement in his protest? What could explain his action? Back of Peter’s reaction was a long history of Jewish frustration and expectation. The Jews never forgot they were, in a special sense, God’s chosen people. Out of that awareness developed the hope they would occupy a very special place in the world.
More than once, their dreams collapsed in dismay and defeat. They were conquered time and again. Ten tribes were carried off to Assyria and forever lost. Many were carried away as captives into Babylon. Then came the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It became increasingly clear that the only way they would ever achieve greatness would be by the direct intervention of God.
They began to look to Him to do what they were helpless to do for themselves.
Their deliverance would be brought by the Messiah. Messiah is the Hebrew term and Christ the Greek term meaning “Anointed One.” A king became king by anointing; the Messiah was God’s anointed king.
Jerusalem would be restored to her full glory. The Jews dispersed all over the world would be gathered into the new Jerusalem. Israel would become the center of the world and the rest of the world would be subject to her. Then the new age of peace and righteousness would emerge and last forever.
It was against that background of hope that Peter heard Jesus talk about rejection, suffering, and death. It contradicted everything he had ever been taught! The whole thing, as Jesus was describing it, was simply impossible!
We do not like to have our traditional beliefs challenged. When they are, we resist tenaciously. We do not change easily, yield painlessly, surrender without protest!
Probably, Peter was shocked when Jesus responded in kind. Mark suggests that suddenly, vigorously, and indignantly, Jesus turned away from Peter and toward the others.
So recently had Peter spoken under God’s inspiration! Matthew said that when Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus responded: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (16-17). Now, however, that same person had become the mouthpiece of Satan.
Why did Jesus rebuke Peter so harshly? After all, Jesus used the same tone with him that had been used during His healing ministry when he rebuked the demons (Mark 1:24, 34; 3:11; 5:7).
This was Simon, the one who had been with Him from the beginning. He was the first one to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Why was Jesus calling him Satan?
First, his use of the word “Satan” revealed Jesus’ conviction that there is a personal power of evil in the world. Throughout scripture, he is portrayed as the adversary or accuser, implying that he deliberately has chosen to oppose God and all that God is trying to accomplish in history.
Emil Brunner suggests a vivid image of Satan. He imagines that God’s creation is somewhat like a book which has been set in type. Everything is in the right place and makes good sense. But then, while the typesetter is away, some saboteur confuses the type. Everything is “de-ranged.” Whole sentences are inverted and scrambled. Paragraphs are rearranged.
Jesus put the thought in parabolic form. After wheat was sown in the field, the farmer’s enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. The field was almost destroyed (Matthew 13:24-30). So it is with the world.
Jesus believed Peter’s rebuke was based upon confused thinking. He knew Jesus was the Messiah and he had just affirmed that. Yet he also had some preconceptions that hindered him. He was prejudiced by what he wanted Jesus to be and to do. He found it extremely difficult to change. Frankly, it was his firm convictions about Messiahship that put him on the side of Satan.
It is easier than we like to admit for our thinking to go amiss. However, confused thinking will get us into all kinds of destructive causes. The crusades, wars, prejudice, justified hatred, divisions among Christians all come from wrong thinking used by Satan’s power.
Nothing else could account for the prayers of a “Christian” group in California that a state Supreme Court Justice in that state die and thereby be removed from office. That is the power of Satan at work!
We all want our way. We determine the plan of our lives and decide what we will and will not do. We want our way and nothing or no one will stand in our way. When we take the kingdom of God in our hands and press for our own way we subtly but surely move to Satan’s side. That was why Jesus saw Satan at work in Peter’s protest.
Second, Satan often speaks to us in the voice of a well-meaning friend. Often we excuse the unfortunate or tragic consequences of some friend’s action by explaining: “He means well.” Jesus, however, did not believe Simon reacted as he did simply because of misguided love, magnanimous concern, or even distorted ambition. Instead, Jesus believed that, at that moment, he was at odds with God.
Behind a great deal of turmoil, conflict, suffering and pain in our world is the personal power of evil, not merely good intention. Perhaps we should not be so quick and ready to defend or explain away our friends’ unwise words, unChristlike behavior, or unloving attitude. They, too, could in those very moments be under the influence of the power of Satan.
Satan can make no more forceful assault on us than through those we count as our friends, those who love us and seek only our good. That is what happened to Jesus and it frequently happens to us.
We may have decided on some course which is the right course for us but which may also bring trouble, loss, unpopularity, and sacrifice. Then some well-meaning friend tries, with the best intention, to stop us.
“Remember,” says the friend, “you have a wife, a family, a career. You can’t afford to do this or that!”
Or, some teenage peer will say: “What’s it going to hurt to take a drink, to smoke some dope, to give the guy what he wants? After all, you really like him, don’t you?” Listen! Not even the pleading voice of love must be allowed to silence the voice of God.
Remember this: a friend ceases to be a friend in the moment they move from a position of support — from behind or alongside of — to stand between you and God’s will for your life. Peter became the personification of Satan when he moved from the posture of following Jesus to the place where he attempted to hinder Jesus from following the will of God.
Perhaps, you and I should ask ourselves now: in what ways, actions, unchanged convictions, unliberated attitudes, debilitating habits, and negative feelings are we on Satan’s side? In what ways have we allowed our friends to hinder that which our Father has willed to do in and through us? (GCR)
September 18, 1988
Reflections of our Faith
Mirrors are important. They help us prepare to face the world. Suppose you could obtain a mirror that allowed you to look into your own soul, into your own spiritual life. What kind of reflection would you see?
In this text, James identifies three characteristics we ought to see.
I. We Should See a Tongue Under Control
The cliche says “words are cheap,” but that is a lie. Words often carry a great cost.
The tongue is a powerful instrument. James compares it to: the bit in a horse’s mouth, that can be used to direct this powerful animal; the helm of a ship, which gives direction to the mighty craft; and a tiny spark which can set an entire forest ablaze. It can have great power for good or evil.
James cites the destructive power of words. They can pollute and defile. They can poison and destroy. How many lives have been devastated by malicious or thoughtless words? How many churches have been divided and rendered powerless by words?
If we are to see the reflection of a controlled tongue, we must seek God’s help. We must place our words, along with the rest of our lives, under the control of His Spirit.
II. We Should See a Spirit of Love
Jesus cited love as the primary evidence by which His followers could be identified. No wonder the world questions, then, when the news is filled with stories of televangelists condemning and accusing one another.
James says strife is earthly, not heavenly. It is the result of confusion and greed. We must go beyond personal, selfish interests if we are to allow God to draw us together in unity and love.
The first-century pagans said of Christians, “Behold how they love one another.” As we allow Christ to indwell and direct our lives, that testimony can once again be heard.
III. We Should See a Wisdom from Above
James says true wisdom is reflected in actions. We may talk wisely and act foolishly. True wisdom is seen in deeds, not words.
Wisdom’s characteristics are identified in verse 17, then James concludes (v. 18) with the assertion that authentic wisdom builds unity; it puts persons into a right relationship with each other and with God.
As you look into your spiritual mirror, what reflection do you see? (JMD)
September 25, 1988
Enduring with Patience
This is the season for the summer Olympics from Seoul, Korea. As you watch the many events and observe the skill and grace displayed by so many of these young athletes, do you suppose they decided to give these sports a whirl a year or two ago? Of course not!
Most have been faithfully, patiently practicing and developing their craft for many years — probably since childhood. When we see a particularly striking move, we can be assured many hours of preparation went into those few seconds.
It is much the same in the Christian life. To walk with Christ is the commitment of a lifetime — a commitment that requires patient endurance in the face of life’s pressures and opposition.
The congregation to which James ministered in first-century Jerusalem understood opposition. They were facing it each day of their lives, as a persecuted minority. In the midst of unjust treatment, James calls for patience. He calls Christians to endurance that does not complain or blame, but trusts faithfully in Christ through it all.
How can we be patient in the face of suffering?
I. Because of the Example of Others
We do not walk alone. Others have gone before us who have suffered for the sake of serving God.
The Old Testament prophets knew opposition because they proclaimed God’s Word. The world does not wish to hear a word from the Lord; the world prefers to go its own way without being reminded of God’s will and judgment. If you plan to walk with God and faithfully represent His Word and His will, be prepared to face opposition.
Job is another example. The word used of Job is “perseverance.” That’s not the same as the word patience, which James has been using. Clearly Job was not patient; he grumbled and questioned his situation, yet he remained faithful to God through it all. He persevered.
James says be patient, trusting the Lord, and He will show His compassion and mercy in your life as He did in Job’s.
II. Because Judgment is Certain
It is tempting to take out our frustrations on those closest to us. James must have seen such incidents within his own church. One Christian is arrested and imprisoned for his faith, while another remains free. How tempting for the one in jail to harbor resentment against the one who is free.
Have you ever felt resentment or anger toward a friend, a family member, a fellow church member, because you felt they had not been as faithful as you yet prospered more?
James says there is no room for such accusations within God’s family. When we accuse, we point toward judgment, but God alone is judge. When we try to accuse others, we bring ourselves under God’s judgment.
As we endure life’s pressures without turning on one another, God is merciful, just, compassionate with us.
III. Because Christ is Coming Again (v. 7-8)
In the first century, the word parousia was used to identify the arrival of a king to his territory or a governor to his province. Early Christians used the word parousia to identify the time when Christ would return to earth in glory and power to establish His reign in human history.
James points to Christ’s triumphant return as reason to be patient in the face of suffering. The suffering of this present age is temporary and limited; Christ’s return is certain. We live our lives in the expectancy of His return.
Yet 2,000 years later we are still waiting. Why has Christ’s return been delayed?
Though he expected Christ’s imminent return, James answers the question with an illustration drawn from Palestine’s farming life. The farmer know two regular periods of rain: the early rain (in October-November), which helped with germination of the seed just sown; and the later rain (in April-May), which stimulated growth for the maturing of the crop. A farmer always waited until after the later rain so that the harvest might be fully prepared.
God also waits for the harvest to be complete. He reaches out in love and mercy to a lost and dying world, and calls us to be workers in the harvest. We are called to be patient, faithful workers — ignoring the suffering and opposition that may come as we labor for the Master in the fields.
We live and work each day as if it could be the last before the Lord’s return. We are called to serve in the shadow of His coming.
Be patient, enduring all things for the hope that we have in Him — a hope that will be made complete at His coming. (JMD)
Sermons in this issue of Preaching are provided by. Howard M. Roberts, Pastor of Broadview Baptist Church, Temple Hills, MD: Gary C. Redding, Pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Lakeland, FL; and Michael Duduit, Editor of Preaching.
August 7, 1988