James 5: Warnings and Exhortations
In the last section of his letter, James warns the rich; exhorts believers to be patient in suffering and speaks of the mystery of the prayer of faith.
The Bible does not condemn riches or material possessions. One cannot help but notice the language of James in this section is very similar to the language of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6 where Jesus speaks of storing up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy. Jesus tells us in the same section, the principle of treasures. Where your treasure is – there will your heart be also. Also in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us ‘not to worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body what you will wear.” He tells us: “For the pagans run after these things and your Father knows you have need of them.” Our Heavenly Father understands we have need of these things, but He warns about these ‘things’ becoming our idols, our treasures.
Paul writes to Timothy and tells us: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (I Timothy 6:9-10)
Later on in this same chapter, Paul writes: “ Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (I Timothy 6:17) Did you notice what Paul just said about riches? He said they are –uncertain.
Now is this section addressed to rich non-believers or to rich believers? I believe there is instruction for both. First of all realize wealth in the time of the New Testament was measured in three areas: grain; gold/silver; and the clothes one possessed. So James refers to what can happen to these three areas of wealth when they are hoarded selfishly rather than used for good. Grain stored and not used can rot. Clothing not worn is the target of moths which eat them. And gold and silver were often buried in the ground and corroded. Do you understand James is talking about unused wealth? This applies to both believers and unbelievers- use it or lose it. God never wastes anything.
James does not condemn riches or possession, he condemns the ungodly way people obtained them, or the selfish way in which they used them. James is addressing Hoarders and Oppressors. Those who oppress take advantage of the workers and keep back their wages, under pay them so as to enrich themselves. He says you have lived in luxury and fattened yourselves, but you have fattened yourself for the slaughter, the judgment of God. Any person who builds his life upon the physical things of this world will come to know this type of despair. Consider the rich man in Luke 16.
As believers we are to take the position of stewards. It all belongs to God; we are only stewards of His possessions. We are to use them and share them in the way He would have us use them. The understanding of the principle of stewardship is one of the most difficult for many of us. Yet the understanding of how to handle what God has given us- is one of the ways God builds character into our lives. George Muller, who received millions of dollars to fund orphanages, never asked another person for money. He only asked God. His faithfulness was rewarded because George Muller understood the principle of stewardship, believe God owned it all. And since God owned it all, God would provide what was needed.
We are to worship God, love people and use things. Yet when we look around today we see how this has been perverted. We worship things, love self and use people. God is left out completely!
What happens when we do not use what God has given to us? Here is a principle that can apply to our physical talents, our gifts, our abilities and possessions, our time, and everything that we are. When we do not use or allow God to use what He has given us- it will stand as evidence against us. God never intended anything He has given us to be wasted, misused or hoarded. Everything He gave us, He gave us to be used. Jesus said, “For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again.” (Matthew 16:25) Here is a mysterious truth- we only really have what we give away and share with other people, and give to the kingdom of God. This we receive back. This we store for ourselves in heaven. This is true wealth.
PATIENCE IN SUFFERING
In the NIV the word patient or patience is used four times in as many verses in James 5: 7-11. We also notice the word perseverance is used twice and the reference to Job who has become the ‘poster boy’ for patience while suffering. We have become increasingly impatient in the world of technology that has given us the micro-wave, the lap top, smartphone and instant everything. We all live for the most part with more possessions than we grew up with. And most of us through investments such as 401K, and Social Security have more wealth than our parents did. We also are a debtor nation as the concept of credit, buying on time has made possessions more affordable with the concept of easy monthly payments. So we do not have to save, and wait and delay gratification- we can have it now. As a result many are under the harsh yoke of debt.
I remember when I came home and told my wife, I had seen what I wanted to do in this industry. I wanted to be a speaker. I wanted to do that and I wanted to do it right then. It would take me another 8 years before that was a reality. I would be 45 years old. I was in training during that time, I just did not realize it. In 1989, I started teaching a weekly Sunday School class. This was the final part of my training. Now I can look back and see- you cannot rush training. More importantly, you cannot rush God. We all want to get into the Promised Land, God has for us. God says, wait a minute; you need to possess the spiritual muscle to defend the Promised Land. Adversity is to our faith what exercise is to our muscles. God knows when you start serving the Lord and having an impact, however small it may seem, the enemy will ramp up the attack. To the Karate Kid, it seemed like his teacher was not teaching him what he needed to become a skilled fighter, but his teacher knew exactly what he was doing. So does God who is preparing each of us and equipping each of us to do what He has called us to do.
His reference to Job makes me nervous. We are always afraid God is going to test us or allow us to be tested to the length and depth Job was tested and tried. God is the one who called Satan’s attention to the outstanding character and attributes of Job. God called Job, blameless, upright, a man who shunned evil and feared God. In other words, Job was a righteous, wealthy man. What follows is a real story of a real man that God bragged on. What follows can best be described as a wager- a bet that Job will not curse God even when his faith is tested like none of us can imagine. If we will be honest- it seems unfair to Job and his family. You know what Paul would say to us who think that? “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it: why did you make me like this? Does not the Potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble cause and some for common use?
What you are forgetting is Our Heavenly Father is Almighty, Sovereign God. He has all knowledge. Knows the end from the beginning. He would not allow Job to be tested about that which he could bear. Do you like it when someone boasts of your abilities? Does it make you want to do that even better, try harder and prove their boasts was not wrong. Endurance, perseverance is the proof.
Here is the truth: we will all endure cycles of suffering and restoration, and sometimes we do not know why this is happening. Being a child of God means we accept the fact God can do whatever God wants to do. And He always does what is right. Our job is to ‘stand firm.’ What do we stand on? – The promises, principles and character of God, Our Savior.
Remember this one truth: God knew what Job could endure. God would prove to be true and the devil a liar. A hosts of angels and demons observed this battle. And millions since then have read the story. God knows how everything will turn out. And for any of us who are His children, it will always turn out well. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
James says be patient, like the farmer awaiting for the land to yield its valuable crop. The Lord is coming and He is coming with His reward for those who are His. Do not grow weary or throw away your confidence for He is coming. “The Judge is standing at the door.” The trees are beginning to bud as we look at the signs that reveal we are growing nearer each day to the coming of the Lord.
THE PRAYER OF FAITH
Of the many mysteries in the Bible, I admit, is the one I want most to understand is the prayer of faith. I know God would not encourage us to call on Him and promise us He would show us great and mighty things if it were a false, empty promise. God is not cruel and it would be the height of cruelty to encourage us to enter into prayer if it was a hoax; had no power to change us or our circumstances. * I find we usually want God to change our circumstances, while it seems God is more interested in changing us!*
Now I know personally and from experience what it is like to pray for years, for God to intercede on behalf of a loved one and seems as if nothing is happening. It can at times cause me to be discouraged. But rather than give up- we need to ask God to reveal our loved one’s true need so you can intercede in faith for them. We must also be willing to be the one God will use to meet their needs.
This brings to mind what Jesus told us in Matthew 6: 8: “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Then why, Father, do you not go ahead and give us what we need? Maybe He is and you do not recognize it for it is not what you ask for but it is what we need. Remember my God shall supply all your NEEDS. Is the purpose of prayer to get what we ask from God? Or is the purpose of prayer to get to know God? I think it is both, if we what pray for is God’s will in a situation. Is prayer to get Gods’ will to align with mine or vice versa? We know the answer to that- don’t we?
Paul shares his goal with us in Philippians 3, when he writes: “Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.” Paul is referring to what he has just previously written which stated the goal he wants to obtain: ‘to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like Him in death; and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.’\
What Paul is praying is he wants to take hold of the reason Christ Jesus has taken hold of him. Why did the Lord Jesus take hold of me and of you? For one simple reason – the Lord lay hold of me and you to make us one with Him. The Lord wants to share His life with us and have us share our life with Him. It is one of mutual love. He wants to give Himself to us and in turn wants us to give ourselves to Him. God created me and I exist and you exist because God wants to give Himself to us. The Lord wants us to know Him. “This is eternal life to know the true and living God and the One Whom He has sent.” (John 17)
When Jesus Christ was on the earth in his physical body, He asked disciples to follow Him. As he neared His time of crucifixion and resurrection – He spoke of abiding in Him. Could it be we are following Him, but missing out on the ‘abiding life’? In John 15, we see the illustration of the abiding life. We will also find the key to effective praying, the prayer of faith, and here in these verses. I do not count myself to have mastered this- yet even this week studying this scripture has encouraged me.
“Abide in me.” This is a command. WE know this truth- if God gives us a command. He will also give us the desire and the will to do His commands, His good pleasure. There is nothing more important to understanding effective praying than understanding the Abiding Life. This is a step by step process and we shall see how this promise and this command is meant for us and how surely his grace is provided to enable us to obey this command. This is the root of the Christian life. Understanding this will take time. Understanding this will take a daily feeding on the Word of God through reading, studying, meditating and prayer to live the abundant life Jesus came to provide for us.
I cannot possibly cover it in a short time. So we will work our way through these all important truths contained in John 15. I do believe this is true for it comes from the lips of our Lord Jesus.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” DOES THIS NOT SOUND UNBELIEVABLY WONDERFUL TO YOU? DO YOU NOT WANT THIS IN YOUR LIFE AND TO BE ABLE TO TEACH THIS TO YOUR LOVED ONES AND THOSE JESUS SENDS YOUR WAY WHO ARE ATTRACTED TO YOU BECAUSE OF JESUS IN YOU?
I want this. I want you to want this. But more than that- Jesus wants you to want this more than anything.
I do not have any idea how long we will spend here in this section. I do believe this is something that we must all work on our entire lives. We are prone to wander. We were born as restless wanderers. Looking for something that would please us- Jesus stands at the narrow way, the strait gate and beckons- ‘come unto me.’ But you understand He wants you to come unto Him and stay with Him.
We live divided lives. *OUR OLD NATURE SEEMS TO CONTINUALLY BATTLE AGAINST OUR NEW. Realize this truth- self is not dead. You are dead to self because you are alive in Christ. One is only dead to self when abiding in Christ. If your old nature is constantly causing you problems- then realize you are not abiding in Christ.* The abundant life is a whole life. Let us pray the Lord will use this study of the Abiding life to reveal to us what He so wants us to have. In doing so- I believe we will have a greater understanding of prayer and the prayer of faith.
Let me just lay out the basics as you read the passage known as the Abiding Life in John 15: 1-17. We see the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus explains the parable by identifying each part of the illustration: Jesus is the True Vine; the Father is the vinedresser or gardener; and we (believers) are the branch. It is understanding our position as the branch we will discover the prayer of faith. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish (will, KJV) and it will be given to you.”
It takes time grow into Jesus the Vine and bear fruit. We came at his invitation to ‘come unto to Him, and He would give us rest.’ But his invitation includes staying with him under his yoke. We will discover this is the abiding life where we learn to yield completely. The rest he gives at salvation with forgiveness of sins provides instant rest. However, sooner or later, we are prone to wander, and having trusted Him for our eternal salvation, we then begin to live life- doing the best we can in our own strength. Our prayers are based on our desires, our needs, and grace to help in time of need. We no longer have the ‘rest’ we first experienced. And we grow weary and heavy laden again and again. Here is a truth we will discover in this study- we find rest only in abiding in Him.
The story of Israel in the wilderness after God had delivered them from the slavery of Egypt is a lesson for all of us, because all of us spend times of our Christian lives wandering in the wilderness. For 40 years-(which would be the major part of a lifetime for us), the nation of Israel wandered in the desert. Always on the move, on the way, never very far from the Promised Land and yet always coming short of the promised rest. Does this describe your life at times? Maybe even now?
You realize the vine holds nothing back from the branch. Everything the vine has drawn up from the soil, the rain, and all the nutrients needed for an abundant production of fruit, the vine provides. The vine gives all it has to the branch. The sap is the picture of the Holy Spirit providing the life changing flow into our lives that produces fruit. This parable teaches us the completeness of the union. So close is the union between the vine and the branch- without the vine, the branch can do nothing.
As a born again believer you are not under the law with its demanding DO; we are under grace with its blessed BELIEVE. When asked what they must do to work the works of God, Jesus replied this is the work of God to believe in the One He has sent. (John 6: 29)
The Lord’s work is to keep you and me abiding in Him. My work is to abide in Him. I do this work by believing in Him.
- You can’t take it with you- but you can send it ahead.
- God owns everything. I am His money manager.
- My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
- Heaven, not earth is my home.
- I should live for the eternity, not the here and now.
- Giving is the only antidote for materialism.
- God prospers me not to raise my standard of living- but my standard of giving.
Scrooge actually became giddy with giving in the Christmas Carol.