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The Power to See it Through (James 5)– Part 3

by Robin Gough

     How do we deal with stressful situations? We’ve been in a study of James chapter 5 called “The Power to See it Through,” where James is offering his hearers encouragement to continue to run the race with endurance. 

     We will pick up in James 5:10, 11: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.

      We’ve talked about the need to be patient, be positive,  and now James is going to tell us to be persevering. James mentions Job and holds him up as an example of one who persevered. The lesson is that suffering is inevitable; misery is optional. 

     Philip Yancey is a Christian author who has written about a wide range of topics. Many of these books have been both encouraging and helped followers of Jesus in their walk as Christians. But one book, in particular, Disappointment with God, included a chapter that resonated with me. It was entitled “A Fresh Reading of Job.” In this short work, Yancey explains how he always used to look at Job as “the Bible’s most complete treatment of the problem of suffering.” By the end of his writing, Yancey presents a compelling argument that Job isn’t just about suffering, not just about pain. Instead, he says the purpose of the book is a story of faith. How we respond to the suffering and pain is essential. 

      We’re not guaranteed a life of peace and ease, just the opposite. Jesus said in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

 But we choose how we respond. 

     James tells them in chapter 1 to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” That’s the qualifier—don’t quit!

     Isaiah said, “…those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not faint.” 

     Hebrews 12:2,3 reminds us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” In other words, the discipline will pay off if you don’t get discouraged, and if you don’t give up. Keep the faith.

      James also tells us to be honest.

 James 5:12: “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.”

     When the Christian opens his or her mouth the only thing that comes out IS the truth. If you are honest and forthcoming with others and yourself, then it will help you to run and finish the race. When that marathon is wearing you down further, James says, here’s how you push on. In vs. 13 he says:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” If you are in trouble—pray. It’s a command to “keep on” praying. The concept is if you are suffering or enduring hardship, if you have emotional baggage, then turn to prayer.

     What if we took things to prayer and never told anyone? What if, instead of ranting on facebook, we prayed instead? How would our lives be better?

     He also says, “If you are happy—sing songs of praise.” This happiness is speaking of an inner attitude of joy. And notice that he doesn’t say, “Go to church and sing.” It says, “Let him [singular] sing songs of praise.”

     Now look at James 5:14,15, 16: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”   Twice in this verse, James uses the phrase “each other.” We may think of this race as an individual effort, but James reminds us that it’s a team sport.

 

     As the family of God, we are God’s heirs and co-heirs with Christ. Grumbling or complaining about the church brings damage to the body. And when we complain to those outside the church, it damages the mission. If we are to function as a body, we have to behave as “complementors” and not competitors. Because what we are called has behavioral implications.

     James calls us to live out our potential in Christ. To live lives that reflect that we belong to Him. And when we do, people will know “they’ve been with Jesus.”

     So don’t give up. Be patient. Be positive. Persevere. Be honest. It won’t be much longer. Keep focusing on Jesus, and don’t give up.

 

                            Robin Gough is Worship leader at Fairfax CofC, Fairfax VA

 




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4