Hello Summit family!
In verses seven through nine, James encouraged his readers to be patient and stand firm in their faith knowing that the Lord’s coming was near. In verses 10-12, He shares with his brothers and sisters the blessing that comes from being patient. He also shares how important it is to be people of integrity. Today, we’ll take a look at the blessing of being steadfast as it relates to demonstrating integrity.
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”
James has just shared with his readers that the coming of the Lord will also include judgment. Everyone will be judged. It seems as though the recognition that judgment will occur would be motivation enough to translate into patient endurance. In order to reinforce his point, James reminds his readers of the circumstances the Old Testament prophets experienced as a result of being obedient to God. His reference to the Old Testament prophets is the first of three points James is brings out.
The first point is that we should expect our lives to experience some sort of suffering. Remember, he began his letter telling his reader they would face a variety of trials and tribulations. Since EVERYONE will experience suffering in their lives, it is important to realize those periods in our lives require patience. And as a side note, the issue at hand can clearly be the difference between how those who have a complete faith in God handle suffering as opposed to those who do not have faith in God.
He provides the example of the Old Testament prophets. They were privileged in that they were called to be God’s spoken word to the nation of Israel. However, their special calling did not exempt them from suffering. In fact, their obedience to the Lord actually served to create suffering in their lives. Their privilege of being God’s spokespersons went hand in hand with many of their trials!
Jeremiah was attacked because they wanted to keep him from speaking in the name of the Lord. “Therefore, this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hands…’” (Jeremiah 11:21)
Ezekiel suffered the loss of his wife as a part of his obedience to God. “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners. So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.” (Ezekiel 24: 13-18)
Daniel was deported along with Jehoiakim, king of Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jerusalem. Had Daniel not been deported, we may have never had an opportunity to benefit from his ministry because he would have never entered into king Nebuchadnezzar’s service.
Hosea was instructed by God wo marry a “promiscuous” woman. “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress.’” (3:1) Imagine the suffering Hosea experienced as he fulfilled the plan God had for his life and ministry. The point is that our obedience to God will result in suffering because we live in an ungodly world. The world will never understand or accept the mind of Christ.
The second point James is making in this passage is that we call “those blessed who have persevered.” (v 10) In other words, we look at them and recognize that God’s blessing rested on them. We have the same perspectives regarding those in our generations who have endured suffering with great patience. We observe them usually hoping that we would have the same resolve if we were to experience similar circumstances.
What is observed in those individuals is the “strength” to remain consistent in the face of suffering. Isn’t that directly related to the main theme of James’ letter? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (1:2)
James than segues into his third point, presented in the example of Job. It is a given that followers of Christ will suffer trials which require patience and steadfastness. Job’s story is not only one of faithful steadfastness though. It is a story of divine purpose. We have shared this example throughout the study of this letter. Job experienced his suffering SPECIFICALLY because of his faithfulness to God. I believe the divine purpose exists in that it proves as an example for everyone thereafter to be encouraged as they patiently endure their sufferings.
Scripture records that Job enjoyed tremendous worldly prosperity as a result of his faithfulness to God. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their bothers.” (Job 42: 12-15) Those blessings highlight the mercy and compassion the Lord gave Job because of his faithful endurance.
However, the greatest blessing Job received was recorded in his own words: “My ears have heard you but now my eyes have seen you.” That brings to light the personal encounter Job was able to enjoy with God, which agrees with the proposition Jesus Christ shared: “Now this is eternal life: that they know You (God), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
James then embarks on one of the dangers that can sabotage our ability to remain steadfast…..yes, he once again draws his reader’s attention to the challenge of the tongue.
We’ll look at that warning tomorrow