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JAMES 5:7-12
Series:  Real Faith in Real Life - Part Eleven

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 25, 2013

Would you join me at James 5 - starting at verse 7.


Looking at the top part of your message notes there’s a brief outline of where we’ve been as we’ve been studying our way through James.  This morning we’re coming to the last section of James - real faith in real time produces real patience. 


Last Sunday James gave us a view from the top - lifestyles of the rich and famous.  James warning those at the top that wealth is about God not us.  When we start thinking that wealth - what we have or desire to have - when we start thinking that wealth is about us that can really mess up our relationship with God and others.  To the point where - viewing life top down - we can actually be working against God and really hurting other people.


This morning James is going to give us the view from the bottom up.  Which is probably where - way too often - most of us feel like we’re at.


What’s it like to be on the receiving end of a whole lot of hurt?  Going through the drama of life being mistreated - having an intolerable work situation - family drama - parent drama - children drama - so called “friend” drama - drama drama - whatever.  Feeling uncared for - misunderstood - alone.  Being the trample-e not the trample-er.

Life happens.  It doesn’t give us time to practice.  We just have to adjust.  What is way too easy for us, is to respond to all that with anger and depression and retaliation - to push back - way too often in ways that only make things worse.  Been there?


Where James is going here in chapter 5 is hugely encouraging for us.  Because when we’ve got Jesus we’re not alone in this.


Without Jesus - we’ve got to somehow gut all that out by our own effort in what is a purposeless - hopeless - frustrating and fruitless - a gut wrenching depressing endeavor.


With Jesus - we’ve got the Holy Spirit at work within us.  Mild or extreme - whatever the drama - in the worst of what life throws at us - we’ve got God supernaturally at work within us.


Where James is going - here in verses 7 to 12 - is answering the “how” question.  In the midst of looking up from the bottom how can we - as followers of Jesus - how can we can do the right thing even when wronged.  So that rather than self-destructing we can move through all that with God.


Answering that “how” question - coming to James 5:1 - James gives us four commands.  To are positive:  Do this.  Two are negative:  Don’t do this.   We’re together?  Embrace this.  Avoid that.


Command number one:  Patiently Wait.


Let’s read verse 7 and 8 together:  Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient.


Patience is the Greek word “mackrothumeo.”  Its made up of two words stuck together.  First word “macro” meaning long and second word “thumos” meaning hot passionate anger.  Think about a thermonuclear bomb going off.


Patience means having a long fuse.  The ability to keep our cool.  Restraining ourselves in the face of injustice. 


James writes:  You also - be patient until the coming of the Lord like a farmer patiently waits for fruit.


In Palestine - like here - there’s an annual cycle of dry and rainy seasons.  The dry season runs from about June to September - summer.  The rainy season comes in two six week periods.  The early rains come in about October to November.  Rains that germinate seeds.  The late rains come in about April and May.  Rains that produce growth that produces fruit.


During the dry season farmers patiently wait - looking to the sky for rain - rain that produces crops.  Rain that will come.  But in August that rain seems a long way off.  Don’t panic.  Patiently wait for what will come.

What does that mean for us, to patiently wait?


David writes in Psalm 27:14:  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” 


David says, “Wait for the Lord.”  The Hebrew word for “wait” is “qäwâ” - which means to wait in eager expectation with our whole being.


When we’re going through drama what do we expect from God?


David writes, “Be strong.  The Hebrew word is “häzaq.  It has the idea of a conscious - dogged decision to stand firm - to dig our heals in.  No circumstances - no interval of time is going to move us from what we believe.


In the midst of drama how strong is our faith in God?


David writes, “Let your heart take courage.  The Hebrew is “amets” - literally, “strengthen yourself.


Imagine soldiers on the battlefield during a cease-fire - scattered - wounded - ammunition spent.  Theres an urgency to regroup.  To take stock of what remains.  To distribute supplies.  To bandage wounds.  To use the time wisely to prepare.  To gather strength for what comes next.  The cease-fire will end.  The enemy will come.


In the midst of drama God gives us time to prepare - to take stock of the resources Hes given us.  To equip ourselves - to regain our focus.


Farmers plow furrows.  They prepare soil.  They plant seeds.  Weed.  Cultivate.  Repair equipment.  Prepare for the harvest.  Rain will come.


Waiting on God - as Scripture describes waiting on God - waiting on God is not sitting around watching dirt dry.  Waiting is about wisely using the time God gives us.  Waiting is about God.  What God wills for us as we wait for Him.


Patiently wait for what will come.


“A watched pot never…  boils.”  It’ll boil when its good and ready to.  It depends on altitude and temperature and how much water is in the pot.   At the proper time it’ll boil.


God - in His time - in His way - at the right time - God will move.  Jesus is coming back.  There’s an end point to all this.  There’s a harvest coming.  A farmer waits for the precious fruit of  the earth.  Precious fruit is going to get harvested. 


Patiently waiting means understanding that there’s a whole lot more going on here than the drama we see coming down around us and on us.  Patiently waiting means setting aside my short fuse - as justified as I may think it is - and focusing on the fruit God wants to produce in me and through me in His field - this world. 

There are a ton of people around us who are caught up in the same drama we are.  The difference is they’re trying to gut it out on their own.  They need Jesus.  They need hope.  They need His healing.  They need His salvation.  His forgiveness.  They need life with Jesus now and forever.


Jesus said the fields are ready for the harvest.  Pray for harvesters.  Are we out working in the harvest or hiding in the barn?  Are we panicking or plowing?  (Luke 10:2; John 4:35-38; 15:1ff) 


“Do this” command number two:  Establish your hearts.


Read with me the rest of verse 8:  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.


Literally, the Greek word for “establish” has the idea of strengthening  -like propping up our heart.


We had a fence in the back yard that the wind did a number on.  Blew it almost sideways.  Ever have that happen?  We had a choice.  Prop it up or let it get blown over.  So I went out with boards - strengthened it - propped it upright. 


What James is writing about here is the choice making process - when we get nailed with drama - a choice that goes on deep inside each one of us to prop up our hearts by turning towards God.


“Be strong in the inner man.  At the core of who you are - choose to be unmoved by choosing to turn towards God.”


Why?  Because “the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  When?  At hand.  Meaning near - soon.  A lot sooner than when James wrote James.


The Bible teaches the doctrine of the immanency of Jesus.  Which is a theologian’s way of saying that the return of Jesus could happen any time.  Now - 5 minutes from now - 5 years from now.


We don’t know when.  A lot of people have failed epically by saying they knew when.  Only God knows when.  We don’t.


What we do know is that Jesus could return at any time.  Put theologically.  His return is immanent.  At hand.  Soon.


James reminds us of Jesus’ at hand return to strengthen us - in those times when life seems overwhelming - and it is - when we’re getting hammered - and we are - when we feel like tossing in the towel.  James is encouraging us to choose - at the core of who we are - to keep on trusting God.  To establish our hearts.


Grab onto this.  God is not off someplace taking care of stuff in some backwater remote corner of His universe oblivious to what we’re going through.  God is in control.  He sees what’s going on.  He knows our circumstances.  And at the right time - what works best for the harvest - us - Jesus is coming back and all that’s wrong will be made right.

Psalm 55:22 says
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”


There are times when we may want to grab hold of someone by the throat.  Or, get the car moving up to ramming speed.  Spew a few well deserved words of instruction at someone.  Make a few comments about someone’s lineage.  Patiently waiting means we choose not to.


Establishing our hearts means choosing instead to trust that Jesus - the ultimate judge and justifier is coming - and God has a way of working out His will and purposes and setting things right.  A deliberate choice of faith - trusting God to handle the drama of our life.


Do you see what James is getting at here with these first two “do this” commands?  Patiently wait.  Establish your hearts.  James is writing about where we choose to put our focus.


We need to get our focus on God.


Endurance comes - God supplying what we need - when we choose to take our focus off of our drama and get our hearts and lives focused on God and the way bigger picture of who He is what He is doing.


That’s real faith in real time - trusting that God really does get it.  That God really is at work - even in the midst of all the worst of what goes on in life.


James goes on.  Command number three:  Do Not Grumble.


Lets read verses 9:  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door.


There’s a story about two apples hanging out on a tree.  The one apple complains to the other apple, “Look at all those humans who can’t get along with each other.  Why did God put people in charge of this place?  If it were up to me apples would rule the world.”


The other apple asked, “Which one’s.  Green or red?”


The Greek word here for grumbling describes those deep down attitudes and thoughts - the little conversations we have with ourselves - about what goes on - and mostly about people.  Ever have those?


Its hard to soar like an eagle when you’re living with... turkeys.  People are somewhat less than ideal.


James specifically mentions “brothers” - our siblings in Jesus.


“Ministry would be easy if it wasn’t for people.”  “If he was more of a pastor he’d preach longer - or shorter.”  “We’re sacrificing so much why aren’t they?”  “At least our casserole has meat in it.”  The list is endless. 

That’s groaning focused on ourselves.


When our Adversary attacks us - when things get tough - if our focus is on ourselves then we’re going to get bent out of shape because our little desires are getting trampled on.  Its so easy for us - rather than turning to God - because of course we don’t need God because we’ve got me, myself and I - rather than turning to God we turn against each other.


We start comparing apples.  We blame each other.  We complain about each other.  All those little resentments start leaking out in the things we do and say - caustic under the breath gossipy words that our Adversary loves for us to lob at each other.


Been happening for almost 2,000 years now.  Congregations coming apart at the seams because we’re focused on ourselves and not God.


James writes that the Judge - Jesus - is standing at the door.  His hand is on the door knob.  He’s ready to step through the door at any time.  When He comes there’s going to be judgment.  Meaning God holds us accountable for all that grumbling.


Why?  One huge reason is that God has something massively better for us.


Let’s read verse 10 and 11 together:  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.   Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

James is writing to Jews spread out across the Roman Empire.  The accounts of the prophets we’re well known to them.  It’s a powerful illustration - coming right out of their own history.  The prophets were God’s men who spoke in God’s name and yet they suffered - terribly. 


James is saying, “Grab some perspective of what God can do if you knock off all the grumbling and trust Him.” 


Elijah was called upon by God to stand against the political and religious power of His day - to call God’s people back to faith in Him.  It was Elijah who called down fire from heaven - challenged the people, “If the Lord is God, follow Him;  But if Baal is god, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21 NASB)


Remember that?  God’s man.  But Elijah suffered with his people through drought and famine.  He was often in fear for his life.  He spent long days in the loneliness of the wilderness.  Elijah suffered.  But he was patient.


Elisha became the first of a long line of prophets that encouraged and cared for a remnant of God’s people through very difficult times.  God’s man.  But for Elisha to follow God meant giving up wealth.  It meant giving up being part of loving family.  To give up everything in order to suffer and identify with the poor - the outcasts - the downtrodden.  Elisha suffered.  But he was patient.


Hosea was called on to marry a prostitute as a testimony against the spiritual adultery of Israel.  He endured ridicule, humiliation, disgrace, the infidelity of his wife.  Hosea suffered.  But he was patient.


Isaiah stood for God at a time of great political turmoil.  He suffered.  But he was patient.  Amos was kicked out of Bethel by King Jerobaoam II on trumped up charges - slandered.  He suffered.  But, he was patient.  Jeremiah was put in stocks - thrown in prison - lowered into a miry pit.  Jeremiah suffered.  But, he was patient.


The writer of Hebrews tells of those who have gone before us in the faith, those who “experienced mockings and scourgings… 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… wandering in the deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:36-38 NASB)  They suffered.  But, they were - what? patient.


James writes:  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. 


What did God do to those who remained steadfast?  He blessed them.


Endurance is not just learning to put up with stuff.  “We’re gonna’ die.  I’m just hangin’ on.”  Endurance is persevering with expectation.


Do you remember the child’s toy - the big vinyl doll with the heavy weight of sand at the bottom?  No matter how many times we’d punch it - it’d bounce back up again.  That’s what we’re talking about here.


Its what James wrote about way back in chapter one, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials…”  Why?  Because behind it all God is on the move.  He’s up to something.  Growth is possible.  There are victories to be had.  Blessing is around the corner.  We need to choose to trust Him and keep going. 


Remember Job?  One day a messenger comes and tells Job, “The Sabeans attacked and stole your oxen and donkeys and killed all your servants with them.”


As that messenger is finishing up another one shows up.  “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up all your sheep and all the servants with them.”


Then another messenger comes up.  “The Chaldeans stole all your camels and killed all the servants with them.”


Then another servant comes, “Your sons and daughters were having a party and this wind came and blew the house down and they’re all dead.”  (Job 1:13 ff.)


Talk about having a bad day.  With no time to absorb each blow - within one day - everything is taken from Job.  The devastation is complete.

How does Job respond to all that?  He gets up - tears his robe and shaves his head.  Gestures of the deepest grief.  Then he grumbles against everyone he can think of - grumbles against God.


No.  Job falls to the ground and worships God.  Remember these words?  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20 ff. NASB) 


That’s Job - in the midst of unimaginable suffering - Job turns to God.  Worships God.  Declares the sovereignty and justice of God.


Then God blesses Job.  Right?  No.  Actually not.  After Job worships God he gets boils.  From the top of his head to the bottom of his feet he’s suffering.  The only relief he has is to use pieces of broken pottery to scrap the sores.


Someone has said that God never created anything useless.  But, mosquitoes come close.  Sometimes just itching a mosquito bite feels good.  Even tearing at the skin.  It makes it itch more.  But it feels so good to itch that it seems worth the pain.  Amen?


There’s Job.  Condemned to suffer.  Sitting in ashes - a sign of mourning - and in the dust of the street - itching.  His body bloated and discolored by the sores.  He’s ugly - repulsive.  People probably to one look at Job and turned away in disgust.  YEECH!


And then God blesses him.  Right?  No.  Actually not.  Then his wife turns against him and gives him instructions on how to commit suicide.  Finally - finally - his friends turn against him.  And he has to go through this chapters long dialogue of spiritual platitudes that seemingly goes on forever. 


Few people have out suffered and out endured Job.  But, Job endured - with expectation.  Through all that he kept looking to God.  Through all that Job knew what James writes here, that God is “compassionate and merciful.”


Compassion is the Greek word “polusplagchnos.”  It’s a word that James created to use here in verse 11 - just to describe God’s compassion.  James putting together two words to create one word. 


“Polus” which means great or much.  Meaning God’s compassion is immeasurable.  And, “splagchnon” which was the word the Greeks used to describe our inward parts - our heart and liver and lungs - our guts - the core of our emotions and feelings.


Isn’t that a great sounding word?  “Splachnon”  He’s got “splachnon.” He spilled his “splachnon.”  Try that with me, “splachnon.”


Hold on to that.  When we patiently endure God patiently endures right along side us.  At the very depths of the core of who God is God feels what we feel in the very depths of the core of who we are.  That’s co-passion.  Feeling exactly what the other person feels.  But, as deeply as we feel it God feels it more.


James writes that God is merciful.  Merciful is another unique Greek word:  “oiktirmon.”  The only other place in the New Testament where its used is Luke 6 - where Jesus is teaching about how to respond to people who mistreat us - who hate us - who abuse us.  (Luke 6:36)


Jesus reminds us that God is “merciful - oiktirmon - towards His enemies.  God - instead of pouring down His wrath on sinners - offers them salvation through the crucified body and spilled blood of His only Son.


Point being that if God is merciful to His enemies certainly He will be merciful to those who are patiently enduring trusting Him.


Do your remember how all this ends up?  The account of Job?  In the end God totally blesses Job’s socks off.  He lives 140 more years with blessings that went way beyond what was taken away.  Job 40:17 says that, “Job died, an old man and full of days.”


God blesses those who trust Him.  God is compassionate and merciful - enduring right along with us.  God gets it  God comes through.  So, what are we grumbling about?


Command number four:  Do Not Swear.


Let’s read verse 12:  But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.


The idea of swearing has the idea of putting a fence around something.  Good fences make good... neighbors.


Someone would make a promise to do something.  Like, “I promise to have those 50 anchovies and shrimp pizzas delivered by 6:00 tonight.”  Or, “I promise to never do that again.”  And then they’d put a fence around that promise by swearing.  Protecting the promise within by taking an oath.  “So help me God.”


People today understand this - in kind of a twisted way - the authority - the reputation - of God’s name.  Giving emphasis to what they’re saying, God this and God that.”  “I swear to God.”  “OMG”


In James’ day they had enough respect for God that if someone made a promise using God’s name they realized that they needed to keep that promise.  So they twisted things a bit.  Use God’s name and one was legally bound.  Without the name of God the promise was non-binding.


That’s why James writes here in verse 12, “don’t swear by heaven or by earth.”  People would swear by all kinds of stuff related to God - God’s heaven - God’s earth - God’s throne - Jerusalem, God’s city - which all sounded like that fence was being put up.  But the bottom line was all that was a sham.


Think fine print legalese in a contract that any good lawyer could shred.  Buyer beware.  Today, someone keeping their word is only as important as the benefit to them personally.


James writes, “Your yes is to be yes, and your no, no.”  Say what you mean and mean what you… say.


Let’s be clear on James’ point.  Consciously or subconsciously we use God’s name - or swear by God’s stuff - to invoke God’s authority - His reputation and character.  Or, in a similar way people swear in general using all kinds of colorful metaphors - four letter words.  We hide behind gossip and innuendos about each other - knowing looks and side-bar conversations - that boost our egos and cover our own inadequacies - to make what we’re saying seem more credible - to make us seem more deserving of respect - or at least more than the other guy.


God has something massively better for us than what we lower ourselves into with all our grumbling and swearing.  With all our focus on trying by our own whit, wisdom, and words to cover and compensate for our inadequacies and our efforts at trying to crawl out of the crud we find ourselves wading through.

What James is getting at here with his two - do not do this - commands - don’t grumble - don’t swear - is that
we need to follow God - the compassionate and merciful God who desires to bless us.  To follow Him  into the way bigger picture of who He is what He is doing - even how He desires to use us for His glory.


Endurance comes - God blessing us with His compassionate and merciful presence - when we choose to follow God’s will for our lives and simply trust Him for the results.


This is Robert Thomas.


In the mid 1800’s Robert Thomas was the first Protestant missionary to what is today North Korea.


In 1865, Robert arrived on the coast of Korea for the first time to learn all he could about the people and their language.  Lacking Korean language material, Robert handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese.


In 1866, Robert Thomas, armed with 500 Chinese Bibles, returned  traveling to Pyongyang, the current capital of North Korea.  He was on an American Navy gunship, called the General Sherman.  That August, the ship sailed up the Taedong River.  Robert tossed gospel tracts onto the river bank as the ship proceeded.


When the ship ran aground on a sandbar, Korean soldiers on the shore, believed the foreigners had hostile intentions, and set the trapped ship on fire.  They slaughtered all those who came ashore.  Sensing death was near, Robert Thomas held out on of his red Bibles and said in Korean, “Jesus, Jesus!”  Then the attackers cut off his head and threw it into the river.


Robert Thomas died without ever leading one single Korean to salvation in Jesus.  All that adversity - the hardship - and death.  Many felt that his life was a waste.


But God worked in the heart of the man who killed Robert.  Convinced by Robert's beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, read it, and later gave his life to Jesus.  Wanting to preserve the Bible’s writing he wallpapered his house with it.  People came from all over to read the wallpaper.  People came to Jesus.  A church grew.  Today there are maybe 100 plus families in the area who secretly worship Jesus.


Our drama isn’t the point.  God will take us through the drama.  God can even bless us along the way.  What is the point is God working in us and through us to His glory.  Will we choose to focus on God?  Will we choose to follow Him?





General series reference:  Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.