James Series: Patiently Enduring Trials and Injustice (5:7-12)

July 18, 2020

 

 

Patiently Enduring Trials and Injustice

 

So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return. Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near. Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates! As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  And above all, my brothers and sisters, 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 into judgment.

James 5:7-12 (NET)

 

 

How can we be patient while enduring trials and injustice?

 

Trials are the lot of people because we live in a world infected by sin, but also specifically as believers, we receive persecution and conflict in this world for being righteous, both from people and the demonic realm. In John 15:20, Christ said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” In Ephesians 6:12, Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Since trials are the lot of believers, we must learn how to patiently endure them.

 

In light of this, James speaks to Jewish Christian workers who were being oppressed by the rich in James 5:7-12 and calls for them to patiently endure. He uses two different words for patience six times in verses 7-12. In verses 7-8, 10, the word for patience used four times means “long tempered” or “long suffering.” Many scholars believe this word refers to being long suffering with people.[1] In verse 11, James used a different word for patience twice, which is translated “endured” and “endurance” by the NET version. It means to bear up under a heavy weight. Many scholars believe this word refers to being patient in difficult circumstances.[2] In our trials, we must patiently endure both difficult people and circumstances to honor our Lord.

 

 

This has been a repeated theme throughout James’ letter. In James 1:2-4, he said:

 

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

 

The believers were called to have joy in their trials because they knew the ultimate outcome. God was testing their faith, producing endurance, and maturing them through their trials. Therefore, they should choose to be joyful.

 

With that said, he commands joy in James 1:2 and patience in 5:7 because those are not typical responses to trials. Instead of having joy and patience in our trials, it is very common to become bitter, impatient with God and people, be led into sin instead of maturity, and receive God’s discipline instead of his blessing, which happens to many people. Moses was kept out of the promised land because of his impatience and temper. Abraham’s impatience led him to marry another woman, causing great conflict in his home and between his future children—the Israelites and the Arabs. It’s possible to miss God’s best because of wrong responses to our trials.

 

Therefore, in James 5:7-12, James teaches these oppressed believers how to patiently endure suffering, so God can bless them. From this passage, we will consider principles about patiently enduring trials and injustice.

 

Big Question: What principles about patiently enduring trials and injustice can we learn from James 5:7-12?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Develop a Hope in the Lord’s Return

 

So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return… You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near… See, the judge stands before the gates!

James 5:7a, 8, 9b

 

Often there is a tendency to put our hope in having good health, a stable bank account or economy, or even a good political leader. However, all those things will eventually fail. The believer’s ultimate hope most be Christ’s return. In Titus 2:13 (ESV), Paul calls Christ’s return our “blessed hope”—our “happy hope”! James mentions the second coming three times in verses 7-9 for emphasis. In the New Testament, there are over 300 references to the second coming, which equals one out of every thirteen verses.[3]

 

As the believers James wrote to, early Christian converts in the ancient world immediately suffered persecution for their faith—both from Jews and Gentiles—and their great hope was Christ’s return. He is returning to bring justice and make all things right. The early Christians lived in a state of imminency—believing that Christ could come back at any moment. James 5:7, 8, and 9 demonstrate this, as James encouraged them with, “So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s return,” “the Lord’s return is near,” and “See, the judge stands before the gates!”

 

Interpretation Question: How could Christ’s return be near if it’s been over 2000 years and it hasn’t happened yet?

 

The nearness of the Lord’s return must be understood in the context of salvation history.[4] The Old Testament prophesied Christ coming; in the New Testament, Christ was born, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, resurrected, ascended into heaven, and the next step is his return. Therefore, from the time of Christ’s ascension to his return is called the “last days” in the New Testament (cf. James 5:3, Heb 1:2, etc.), and believers are encouraged to live as if he could come at any moment. Scripture repeatedly says he will come like a thief in the night, and we should be ready for him (1 Thess 5:1-4, Rev 16:15, Matt 24:43). In Revelation 16:15, Christ said: “Look! I will come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays alert and does not lose his clothes so that he will not have to walk around naked and his shameful condition be seen.” This is a great challenge for us. If the early church lived with a sense of imminency, how much more should we? Certainly, we are much closer to Christ’s coming than they were.

 

Interpretation Question: Why is it so important to live in a state of imminency concerning the second coming of Christ?

 

1. Living in light of Christ’s imminent return challenges us to be disciplined and holy, instead of complacent and compromised.

 

First Peter 4:7 says, “For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer.” Likewise, 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV) says:

 

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

 

Without this perspective, we will be tempted to be prayerless, undisciplined, and therefore worldly, as we stop living for the age to come and live only for this present world.

 

2. Living in light of Christ’s imminent return helps us be hopeful instead of discouraged, especially when going through trials.

 

Titus 2:11-13 says,

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Tremendous happiness and joy come from living in hopeful anticipation of Christ’s return—sin won’t last much longer, divisiveness and oppression will cease, the aging process will stop; perfect health, righteousness, and peace will soon come.

 

Application Question: How can we grow in our hope of the Lord’s imminent return?

 

1. To grow in our hope of the Lord’s return, we must constantly pray for it.

 

In the Lord’s Prayer, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done” is essentially a prayer for Christ’s return (Matt 6:10). It is when he returns that the fullness of God’s kingdom will come. Also, in the last chapter of Revelation, John twice prays for Christ’s coming. In 22:17, John says, “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” Also, in 22:20, he says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We must daily pray the same way, and as we do so, it will create a growing desire and anticipation for Christ’s coming.

 

2. To grow in our hope of the Lord’s return, we must study eschatology.

 

Eschatology is the study of the end times. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!” There is a blessing for those who study God’s teaching about the end times. No doubt, part of that blessing is an increasing desire for the Lord’s coming, a hate for sin, and desire for justice, peace, and righteousness. Unfortunately, many are reluctant (or scared) to read Revelation or study the prophecies in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Thessalonians. The only thing we should be scared of is missing the blessing God has for us, which only comes when we meditate on his plan for the end-times.

 

3. To grow in our hope of the Lord’s return, we must continually gather with other believers to encourage one another to be faithful.

 

Hebrews 10:25 says, “not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” By gathering at Sunday worship, small groups, and one on one with other believers, we strengthen our hearts to live for God, not compromise with sin, and hope in Christ (cf. Jam 5:8). If our fellowship is weak, our patient endurance will be weak as well. We’ll often get discouraged and want to quit.

 

4. To grow in our hope of the Lord’s return, we must take the Lord’s Supper often.

 

In the Lord’s Supper, we are not only remembering Christ’s death but looking forward to his coming. First Corinthians 11:26 says, “For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Certainly, the Lord’s Supper is something we should practice corporately as a church, but there is nothing in Scripture that forbids families or individuals from taking it alone. In fact, it seems that the early church initially took the supper in intimate groups from house to house and not in their large gatherings at the temple. Acts 2:46 says, “Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts.”

 

If we are going to enduring trials and injustice patiently, we must increase our hope in the Lord’s coming. Certainly, God may provide relief before then, but ultimately there will not be complete peace and righteousness until Christ comes. Lord, come! Lord, come!

 

Application Question: What are consequences of not hoping in Christ’s imminent return? At what times do you most long for Christ’s coming (cf. Lk 12:45-48)? How is God calling you to increase your hope in it?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Actively Serve the Lord and Others

 

Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains.

James 5:7b

 

James then illustrates how the believers should patiently wait by focusing on farming. A farmer plows the ground, sows the seed, and then waits for the harvest. But, with that said, waiting does not mean inactivity. James is not saying that Christians should go up on a hill and sing, “Kumbaya,” as they wait for Christ’s return. Even while waiting on the early (October/November) and late rains (March/April) which help the fruit mature, farmers are active.[5] While waiting, they take care of livestock and off-season crops, service equipment, apply fertilizer and pesticides to plants, plan for future harvests, etc. In the same way, while waiting on Christ’s return and enduring our trials, we must also be active. That activity may take many forms: it might be praying for wisdom, getting counsel, raising a godly family, serving others at church and work, and sharing the gospel, all while patiently enduring suffering.

 

Our need to be active is especially important to consider because trials can often be intentional distractions from the enemy to keep us from the work God has called us to. The enemy will bring criticism, difficult co-workers or bosses, sickness, etc., to discourage us and make us give up. We should do nothing of the sort. Even while patiently waiting on the Lord for healing or justice, we must, as much as possible, keep our hands on the plow.

 

In Luke 12:42-44, Christ said this about how believers should faithfully work, as they wait on his return:

 

… “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his household servants, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds at work when he returns.  I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.

 

Certainly, Christ will bless his workers, who have patiently served, while waiting on his return. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV), which is given in the context of the Lord’s return and our receiving glorified bodies, Paul said, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” We must stand our ground in trials and give ourselves fully to God’s work, even as we wait on our blessed Lord to return.

 

Application Question: Why is it important to be active even while patiently enduring trials? How is God calling you to actively and strategically serve him in this season?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Expect an Abundant Harvest

 

Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains.

James 5:7b

 

Furthermore, the farmer waits patiently because the fruit is “precious.” He expects an abundant harvest! Likewise, to endure suffering patiently, we must also expect God to bring an abundant harvest, even out of the most difficult situations. Again, this is something James has already emphasized earlier in the letter. In James 1:4, he said, “And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.” We should expect that God is creating precious fruits of the Spirit in our lives through trials (Gal 5:22-23). He is creating endurance, as we bear up under difficult circumstances. He is creating empathy, as we learn to relate to others who have likewise suffered. He is developing love, as he challenges us to love the unlovable. He is creating faith, as we learn to trust him in spite of circumstances. Trials are tremendous grounds for spiritual growth, which is why James called for these suffering saints to consider their trials nothing but “joy” (Jam 1:2)—not because trials are enjoyable, but because the outcome of the trials is precious. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.”

 

In our trials, not only is the precious fruit of character grown, but also, the precious fruit of God’s empowering grace often grows. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul shared God’s message to him about why the Lord would not remove his physical sufferings:

 

But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Often trials, rid us of our strength, so that we’ll rely on God more. And in that reliance and weakness, we experience more of God’s grace to stand, serve others, etc. God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). God wants to give us precious fruit through our trials. We must expect it and know its tremendous value to persevere.

 

With that said, the fruit which comes from patiently enduring suffering not only happens in this lifetime but also the next. In James 1:12, James said: “Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.” There are eternal rewards for those who faithfully suffer. In Matthew 5:11-12, Christ said this about those who were persecuted for righteousness:

 

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

 

In fact, it seems like those who will be the most honored in God’s kingdom are not those who accomplished great things but those who suffered the most for our Lord. In Matthew 20:20-23, when James and John asked Christ to sit at his right and left hand in the coming kingdom, Christ asked if they could drink the cup of suffering, he was going to drink. The implication of Christ’s reply is that suffering leads to great honor in the coming kingdom. Certainly, the fruit which comes from endurance is precious! We must expect it in order to patiently endure!

 

As we endure our trials, are we expecting an abundant harvest?

 

Application Question: How have you experienced character development and empowerment while enduring trials or difficulties?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Trust God’s Sovereign, Gracious Control of Our Circumstances and the Outcome

 

Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains.

James 5:7b

 

Another aspect of the farmer’s patience is his dependence upon God’s provision of the weather. He cannot make the rain come or the sun to shine. There are things that he can control and things that he can’t. Likewise, to patiently endure suffering, we must trust God with what we can’t control and honor him with what we can.[6] Many people struggle with patience in trials because they are anxious about things they can’t control. They are anxious about the economy, the presidential election, people who don’t like them, and other trials they can’t control. To be patient in trials, we must trust that God is in control of even our trials.

 

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” First Corinthians 10:13 says:

 

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

 

God controls the temperature gauge on all our trials—protecting us from what we can’t handle and providing a way to endure. Ephesians 1:11 says God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” He is absolutely in control of all things, including Satan, evil people, and random events. When Job lost his wealth and his children, he saw God as in control, even though there were other natural and supernatural secondary causes (like bad weather, robbers, and Satan). In Job 1:21, he said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!” When Moses requested that Israel be set free from slavery and Pharaoh said, “No!”, Moses saw this as under God’s control. In Exodus 9:12, Moses said, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” He saw God as in control of even his enemies, which enabled him to patiently endure his prolonged, difficult circumstances. To endure trials patiently, we must trust God’s sovereignty as well.

 

Consider the following verses: Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” Also, 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV) says,

 

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 

 

If we’re quarreling and fighting with people, maybe we don’t trust God as we should. We don’t change hearts—God does! This doesn’t mean we don’t correct people or appeal to their consciences. We do! However, the manner should be different from the world because we’re trusting God to produce the fruit. We plant the seed and water, but God makes it grow (1 Cor 3:6). If we’re not trusting God, we’ll be constantly frustrated in our relationships and circumstances. We have to trust God’s sovereignty to patiently endure our trials.

 

Application Question: How should trusting God’s sovereign control over our trials affect our attitude and actions while in them, including how we relate to difficult people? In what specific way (or ways) is God calling you to trust him with something you cannot ultimately control?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Be Gentle with Others, Especially Those Who Fail Us

 

Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates!

James 5:9

 

Sadly, in difficult times, victims often turn against each other, especially through their words! James has addressed the tongue throughout his letter. In James 1:19, he challenged the believers to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” In James 1:26, he said if believers don’t restrain their tongues, their religion is in vain. In James 3, he challenged them about how devastating the tongue is; it is like a small fire that destroys an entire forest (v. 5). Obviously, these persecuted Christians were grumbling against one another and tearing each other down with their words. We are prone to this as well. If we are criticized at work, we are prone to criticize back. When we’re stressed, we’re even prone to argue with those trying to help us, like our friends, siblings, or spouses.

 

Therefore, implied by James’ command to not grumble is that these believers should instead be gentle towards others, including those who hurt them. Likewise, in the context of two women arguing and dividing the church, in Philippians 4:5, Paul said, “Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near!” Instead of fighting and arguing amongst one another, they should treat people gently because the Lord was coming soon. In this context of James 5:9, the Lord’s coming referred to his judgment not only of the world but also believers. James pictures Christ at the gates, about to open them, only to find believers arguing and fighting amongst one another and, no doubt, neglecting their mission. The Lord’s coming is not only a comfort but also a sobering challenge to get right.

 

We must remember that if we harshly judge our brothers, God will harshly judge us. In Matthew 7:1-2, Christ said this, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” If we have been unforgiving and critical of others, God will be that way with us. If we have been gentle and merciful, he will treat us that way as well. For true believers, Christ’s judgment will not be over our sins, because those were paid for on the cross; however, the judgment will consider our works and there will be reward and loss of reward based on them. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

Are we being gentle with others, especially those who have hurt us?

 

Application Question: How should we demonstrate gentleness to others, especially those who have hurt us?

 

In being gentle towards others who have harmed us, we must overcome the evil they have done to us by doing good to them. Romans 12:19-21 says,

 

Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Doing good to our enemies might include serving them manually (by providing food or helping them with yard work or homework). It might include praying for them and sharing the gospel with them. It certainly will include forgiving them. Forgiving is often difficult, especially if they have not truly repented. However, after we forgive them (whether they ask for our forgiveness or not), we will often find that certain experiences trigger memories of their sin and stir up unforgiveness within us again. At those moments, we need to forgive them again by faith and ask for God’s grace to help us do so. Then, we should continue to pray blessings over them (and serve them if possible), as Christ taught about our response to our enemies (Matt 5:44-48). As we do this repeatedly, God will often overcome the evil in our hearts with good, and eventually, we will find ourselves having more positive affections towards them. He may even change them through our loving acts.

 

Application Question: How is God calling you to respond (or continue to respond) in gentleness towards someone who has wronged you? How have you experienced God creating positive affections in your heart towards someone who hurt you by your continuing to do good to them (through prayer, service, etc.)?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Continually Meditate on Scriptural Principles and Examples

 

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

James 5:10-11

 

To be patient in trials, James encouraged the suffering believers to consider the prophets in the Old Testament—how they faithfully suffered and endured. Romans 15:4 says this about the Old Testament, which certainly applies to the whole Bible: “For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.” One of the purposes of God giving us Scripture and stories in Scripture is to give us endurance and encouragement.

 

James specifically encouraged the believers to consider the stories of the prophets, so they could patiently endure. This is very similar to what the writer of Hebrews said to suffering Jewish Christians in Hebrews 12:1. He said: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us.” The “great cloud of witnesses” who would encourage those suffering saints to endure were the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. There, many heroes are mentioned like Abraham, Noah, David, Joseph, and other prophets who patiently waited on God and received his promises. Some even died while waiting. Their stories were included in Scripture to encourage us to persevere in our trials and to be faithful in our specific life races, whatever twists, turns, hills, and valleys, they may have.

 

Interpretation Question: Who are some of the prophets who waited on God, while suffering, which we can take encouragement from?

 

  • Joseph suffered as a slave and a prisoner for fifteen years before God exalted him to second in command over Egypt and then used him to save his family and other nations during a famine.

  • Moses was constantly criticized by the people he saved and led.

  • David was anointed as the future king and then persecuted by Saul for many years before becoming king.

  • Daniel was put in a lion’s den by his co-workers for simply praying.

  • Jeremiah was imprisoned and called a traitor by the people he preached to.

 

If the Old Testament were not enough, we have tremendous examples in the New as well. Christ was killed by those he came to save. Almost all the apostles were put to death for preaching God’s Word. To patiently endure, we must drink deeply from Scripture and especially the examples of suffering saints. They teach us many lessons.

 

Application Question: What types of lessons can we learn from the prophets enduring suffering and specifically Job’s story of suffering, as mentioned James 5:10-11?

 

1. The prophets remind us that it is normal to suffer for practicing righteousness, and specifically for speaking for the Lord.

 

James 5:10 says, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name.” If we faithfully speak God’s Word, we’ll often be criticized, ostracized, and maybe condemned for it.

 

2. The prophets remind us that it is not those without problems who are blessed by God, as the world often thinks, but those who suffer.

 

James 5:11 says, “Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured.” In Scripture, Job is honored because of his suffering—a whole book is written about him. Also, our Savior was rejected by people and murdered on the cross. According to Scripture, suffering for righteousness (including spiritual attacks, we may be unaware of, as with Job) is considered a blessing from God. In Matthew 5:10, Christ said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Also, when God allowed Job to be attacked by Satan, it was not because Job had been bad, but because Job had been good. God allowed it to happen to test Job, prove his faith, and to bless him. In John 15:2, Christ said this: “He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” It’s the branches which bear fruit, which God, the Gardener cuts (representing pain and trials). He cuts fruit-bearing branches so they can bear more fruit. Scripture, indeed, teaches that those who suffer are blessed by God, and thus why James said we should consider it pure joy (1:2). Certainly, we must adopt this mindset in our suffering. From God’s perspective, trials are not a curse but a blessing because of God’s purpose in them.

 

3. The prophets remind us that understanding God’s full purpose in our suffering is not necessary to patiently endure them.

 

James 5:11 says, “You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” The story of Job specifically demonstrates this. He continually declared his innocence before his friends and how he wanted a trial before God to prove that he didn’t deserve his sufferings (Job 23:1-7). However, at the end of the book, though he met with God, God never told him why he suffered. God essentially said, “Where were you when I made the world?” (Job 40-41 paraphrase). God simply declared that he was God, and Job repented (Gen 42). Likewise, for many things we experience, we will never know the full “why,” at least on this side of heaven. God’s purposes are too big and complex. In addition, the trials we experience are not just about us—they include God’s purposes for others. God’s plan is not to fill us with answers from our trials but with righteousness. The prophets, and specifically Job, remind us that understanding the why of our trials is not necessary for faithful endurance. We must remember that, in the midst of our trials, when tempted to question God and his goodness.

 

4. The prophets also remind us that God’s purposes in our sufferings are good.

 

Again, with Job, it was God’s purpose to test Job’s faith—to prove that it was genuine. It was God’s purpose to reveal himself in a deeper way to Job. At the end of the story, God revealed himself to Job and spoke to him. Finally, it was God’s will to bless Job. God blessed Job with double what he lost. We can trust God’s purposes as well, because, as James said, God is “full of compassion and mercy” (v. 11). “Full of compassion” comes from a Greek word that means “many boweled.”[7] Unlike today, where we think of the heart as the seat of emotions, the Hebrews believed emotions came from the bowels or stomach (like when we have butterflies in our stomach when nervous, excited, or infatuated with someone or something). Therefore, with this word, James visually pictured God as having an “enormous capacity for compassion.”[8] God is full of compassion and mercy towards us, even in the midst of our trials. In Psalm 56:8 (NLT), the David said this: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” God cares for us; his purposes in our trials are good and the prophets remind us of this.

 

Therefore, to patiently endure trials, we must meditate on Scripture and specifically the stories of the prophets. God included their stories in Scripture to encourage us and help us endure our specific races (Heb 12:1, Rom 15:4). To neglect Scripture while in our trials will make us prone to depression and spiritual weakness, and therefore, prone to quit, give up, and fall into various sins.  

 

Application Question: How has studying Scripture helped you have joy and endurance in your trials? Do you ever specifically consider Old Testament prophets and their stories to help you endure trials? If so, which one(s) and why? If not, why not?

 

To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Practice Honesty in All Situations

 

And above all, my brothers and sisters, 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 into judgment.

James 5:12

 

At first, condemning taking oaths in the context of patiently enduring suffering seems out of place. What do oaths have to do with suffering? It’s very simple. When going through difficult times, we commonly say things that we shouldn’t. Sometimes, we bargain with God, promising a greater commitment, if God will only do this or that. Sometimes, we outright lie (to God or others), under the guise of an oath to avoid consequences or get something we want. However, James warns us against this. He says, “above all” because honesty is very serious to God. Deuteronomy 23:21 says, “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.” Also, Ecclesiastes 5:2 and 4-6 says:

 

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few…When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?

 

Likewise, in describing those who can dwell in God’s sacred tent, enjoying his presence, in Psalm 15:4, David describes this person saying, he “keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind.” God expects believers to keep their integrity in all circumstances—whether they feel like they’re going to fail a test, get fired from their company, get in trouble with their friends or spouse, etc. “Above all,” believers should be people of integrity—their words being truthful in times of trials and in times of comfort. Their yes must mean yes, and their no must mean no. Taking an oath to prove the integrity of one’s words, implies that the person might lie otherwise, which should never be true of a Christian.

 

Interpretation Question: Was James forbidding all oath-taking, as some believe?

 

It doesn’t seem like James was forbidding all oath-taking. As demonstrated in Deuteronomy 23:21, oaths were allowed in the Old Testament, and they also happen in New. God took an oath before Abraham (Gen 22:16-18); Jesus took an oath before the Sanhedrin (Matt 26:63-64), and Paul called God as his witness before the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:23). As was true in the Old Testament, James condemned flippant oaths, which didn’t take their commitments seriously, and also outright lying, which people are more prone to in trials.

 

In fact, when James referred to swearing by heaven, earth, or any other oaths (v. 12), these were commonly used deceptive practices by ancient Israelites. To many Jews, there were binding oaths and non-binding oaths.[9] When a person invoked God’s name, it was considered binding. But if they swore upon heaven, the temple, or something else, it was considered non-binding. It was like crossing one’s fingers, when not telling the truth. Since in the ancient world written contracts were almost non-existent, oaths were important. However, they were commonly broken. Therefore, James was saying, as Christians, we should always practice honesty, no matter the situation, including trials.

 

We get a good example of a believer deceptively using an oath during a trial with Peter. While Christ was being tried by the Sanhedrin, right before going to the cross, Peter was repeatedly accused of being Christ’s disciple. To avoid potential consequences, Peter began to curse and swore an oath to prove he was not a disciple. Matthew 26:73-74 shares this episode:

 

After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed.

 

No doubt, these Jewish Christians were being tempted to lie or flippantly make promises to God during their trials. And, James calls them to, “above all,” practice honesty. Christians should be known for their integrity. Their Savior is called the “Truth” (John 14:6); therefore, truth should only be uttered by believers.

 

Are we, “above all,” practicing integrity in every aspect of our lives? According to the Psalmist, only believers who keep their oaths can continually dwell in God’s sacred tent and enjoy his blessings (Ps 15:4).

 

Application Question: Why is it so important to practice integrity, especially when in trials? How is God calling you to grow in integrity?

 

Conclusion

 

In James 5:7-12, James encouraged oppressed believers to endure their trials patiently—without compromise, discouragement, giving up, or turning away from God. Faithfully enduring trials is a repeated theme throughout the letter because it’s so important. Trials are part of life because we live in a sinful world, and as Christians, we are especially prone to them because of the world’s and Satan’s antagonism to Christ and righteousness. Therefore, the principles James gave to the suffering Jewish Christians are as relevant now, as they were 2000 years ago.

 

  1. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Develop a Hope in the Lord’s Return

  2. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Actively Serve the Lord and Others

  3. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Expect an Abundant Harvest

  4. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Trust God’s Sovereign, Gracious Control of Our Circumstances and the Outcome

  5. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Be Gentle with Others, Especially Those Who Fail Us

  6. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Continually Meditate on Scriptural Principles and Examples

  7. To Patiently Endure Trials, We Must Practice Honesty in All Situations

 

 

Prayer Prompts

 

  • Pray that our hearts, and that of the universal church, would increasingly desire and await Christ’s return. Pray that there would be an increased study of eschatology in the church, not to bring division, but to increase our hope in Christ and decrease our worldliness.

  • Pray that God would give us grace to patiently endure our trials—without impatience, discouragement, grumbling against one another, dishonesty, or falling into other sins.

  • Pray that God would produce a great harvest of righteousness in our lives, churches, and communities, as we rely on him during our trials.

  • Pray that the Lord would come soon. Lord, come! Lord, come!

 

 

 

 

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 378). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 378). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

[3] Hughes, R. K. (1991). James: faith that works (pp. 221–222). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 

[4] Moo, D. J. (2000). The letter of James (p. 224). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

 

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 255). Chicago: Moody Press.

 

[6] Christ-Centered Exposition - – Exalting Jesus In James: Christ-Centered Exposition.

 

[7] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 261). Chicago: Moody Press.

 

[8] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (p. 261). Chicago: Moody Press.

 

[9] Guzik, D. (2013). James (Jas 5:12). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

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