Prayer: Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
Reading: James 5:1-12
The Covid-19 pandemic raises big questions. How long is this going to last? Who knows? How will we be able to cope if it goes on for months? years?? How should we live?
“Be patient” says James. He writes his letter to first-century Christian believers, to encourage them in difficult times. They had big questions. They faced injustice and oppression because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were tempted to give up. “How long is this going to last?”
Throughout the centuries and today, many Christians face opposition and persecution. In fact, that is the “normal” situation for faithful disciples. Jesus said “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also….In this world you will have trouble” (John 15:20 & 16:33).
James 5:1-12 addresses two different groups of people:
vv1-6 is a warning to wealthy land-owners who were oppressing poor Christians.
vv7-12 is encouragement for Christians who were suffering for their faith, whether because of the land-owners or for some other reason. We’ll focus on this section, particularly on the three exhortations which James gives.
1. Be Patient! (v7)
Four times in vv7-10 James refers to being patient. Christian patience is not just sitting back and waiting for something to happen (like waiting at a bus stop). It is active, joyful, faithful endurance in the face of trials and testing, as James wrote earlier in his letter (ch. 1:2-4, 12). So if we ask God to make us more patient, we should expect more testing!
This patience is a result of God’s gracious work in our lives: it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Be patient! How long? Until Jesus comes again!
2. Stand Firm! (v8)
Literally, “Strengthen your hearts”. Your faith is not based on outward circumstances, whether good or bad. It is not based on your feelings. It is not based on people’s opinions, or the fads and fashions of society. It is not based on your health or wealth.
Your faith is founded on the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4): on the promises of God and their fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. So stand firm in faith, because His coming is near.
Stand firm! How long? Until Jesus comes again!
3. Don’t Grumble Against Each Other! (v9)
Don’t complain against others. We live in a “blame culture”: it is easy to “point the finger” at others, but when we do that, three fingers point back at us! Jesus told his disciples, “Do not judge”, and James echoes his words here. There is only one rightful Judge, to whom all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from whom no secrets are hidden. He is at the door!
James ends this section of his letter in verse 11 with the fundamental reason for us to be patient, stand firm in faith, and refuse to grumble: “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy”. He knows. He understands. He loves. That is the ground of our confidence and security, whatever happens.
Prayer: Merciful God, teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty, that trusting in your word, and obeying your will, we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Thank you to John who has written this message for us.