James 4:13-17 – Whose life is it anyway?

Whose life is it anyway?

James 4:13-17.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUS.: Shirley Bassey sings a song entitled ‘This is my life!’

And there is that popular TV show hosted by Michael Aspell called “This is YOUR life!” where he surprises celebrities with a show in their honour looking back over their life.

 

In answer to the statement ‘This is MY / YOUR Life!” — James poses the question – ‘ …. is it?’ Is it your life? –

 

The question we must all ask is, “Whose life is it anyway?”

Listening to the New Year’s resolution people make – The assumption most make is “I decide what to do with my life.”

 

  1. FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS.

 

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

There are four assumptions that are being made by those who were expressing themselves in this manner.

 

  1. a) Assumption about time.

.. “Today or tomorrow … spend a year there…

 

One of the amazing things about the human species is that we think we have time on our side – that it is at our disposal – we can make plans for today / tomorrow or next year in the confidence that time is ours to control.

 

As James is writing it seems safe to conclude that he has businessmen in mind – although the principles include more than just businessmen – these people assume that tomorrow will be there and they will be there tomorrow. There is an arrogant or is it, ignorant assumption that things will always be as they now are.

 

What plans do you have for your life? What are your plans for this week/year? Do you have plans for your retirement – what you will do? Where you will live? Have you mapped out a course that says ‘This is what I will do next year!’

 

  1. b) Assumption about Choice.

James 4:13         .. “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

The right to choose – it is part of our humanness to be able to choose – what is more we have the individual right to choose according to our society. This is one of the selling points of modern politics – Political Parties have this in their manifesto – The people have the right to Choose which school their children go to; whether to own or rent a house; which hospital you will be treated in; ……

 

ILLUS.: When you go to the supermarket or the furniture store or the clothing shop the choose is overwhelming – in many ways it was much easier in the days when there was only one kind of milk – now it is skimmed or semi-skimmed or full-cream – do you want decaffeinated or ordinary coffee – filter or instant – Brazilian or French or Arabic – cappuccino or expresso – …….

 

Choice is carried over into the spiritual sphere – there is a smorgasbord of religion to choose from and it really doesn’t matter what you choose because it is after all YOUR choice and YOUR life and any god you choose to worship should be grateful for your homage.

 

Such an attitude presupposes that we are the masters of our own lives and we only have to decide and, lo and behold, it happens just as we wish.

 

  1. c) Assumption about ability.

 

James 4:13 …… carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

These businessmen about whom James is writing are assuming that they will have money to use, products to sell – that there will be people willing and able to buy their goods. There is no doubt in their minds! ‘…we will….’ — You can imagine them sitting around a boardroom table planning the details of this business venture.

 

They seemed to have every confidence that they would succeed.

Similar philosophies abound today.

‘You can do whatever you set your mind to!’

‘You can succeed if you want to!’

‘You can do it!’

 

ILLUS.: The advertisement from an insurance Company – ‘Your destiny is in your hands, your path is yours to choose!’

 

  1. d) Assumption about outcome.

James 4:13 …, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

They are not only confident in their ability but are also in no doubt as to the outcome of their venture.

And it is clear that the purpose of this whole exercise is to make money. Profit margins are the motivation and the goal.

The word that James uses here is not simply a neutral word for making money but carries with it the element of loving to make money.

 

What is it that motivates so many people – the desire to be rich to have money – very often those who say ‘Money is not important to me!’ – are usually those who have money!!

 

However we must also remember that simply because a person is not well off or even is poor that they are therefore exempt from the attitude of these businessmen. It is possible for poor and rich alike to have money as the goal.

 

Putting these 4 things together the point that James is making is that we cannot “speak to ourselves as if life were our right, as if our choice were the only deciding factor, as if we had in ourselves all that was needed to make a success of things, as if getting on, making money, doing well were life’s sole objective.” [Motyer]

 

James condemns this attitude in 4v16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (NIV)

 

The use of ‘brag’ is slightly a weak translation – originally it was used to refer to a charlatan and therefore carries with it the sense of making a false claim.

 

The kind of men James is addressing are those who make the false assumption that even without God they can make a success of life. Such boasting is evil, says James. But what makes it hard is that very often such men – those who have no regard for God – seem to do well and prosper so we can understand the cry of Job 21:7 7 Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? (NIV)

 

The group James is writing to seem to have been successful and it is often the case that when we are successful and things are going well that we tend to forget God.

 

ILLUS.: Before the Israelites entered the land of Palestine God warned them through Moses not to forget Him …. Deuteronomy 8:10-18

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, ……… 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…… (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: Remember that well known comment about the Titanic ‘Even God can’t sink this ship’ — we all known what happened on her maiden voyage!

 

  1. FLAWED KNOWLEDGE.

 

James 4:14 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. …. (NIV)

Can you feel the irony about what James is saying – these men are laying plans for next year – they are speaking about what they are going to accomplish and it is almost as if James taps them on the shoulder with a smile on his face saying –’Next year! — you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow!!

 

The fundamental flaw in their thinking was not so much their greed for gain – although that motivation is condemned — As John Blanchard puts it ‘Their greatest sin was not that gain had too big a place in their lives, but that God had no place at all.’

 

They were saying ‘.. we will ..’ BUT God says ‘..you don’t even know ..’ they should have read the book of Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. (NIV)

 

It is God who creates!

It is God who gives time!

It is God who ultimately determines what will and will not happen!

 

ILLUS.: You see, Boris Yeltsin may be in power in Moscow {At least he was until two days ago – he resigned on 31/12 1999}; Bill Clinton may be in power in Washington and Tony Blair may be in power in London — BUT God is in control!!

 

They can plan and predict and do demographic studies but they do not know what will happen tomorrow – let alone next year and it is arrogant to an extreme to predict!!

 

Why?? The next point is so obvious!!

 

  1. FRAGILE LIFE.

James 4:14 …… What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (NIV)

 

Our lives are like a puff of smoke!

Most of us seldom think about dying – we will think about it when we are old – we all know we are going to have to die one day – it is not until we are face to face with death that the full impact of our frailty hits us.

 

ILLUS.: Most of you know that I was diagnose with cancer in October 1995 – “BUT Lord I have plans for when I retire – I have plans for the things I want to do, places I want to go ….” — BUT I have been brought face to face with death, I don’t like it, BUT I am learning to live with the fact that I will die — I may live to be 85 — only God knows — but one thing is certain; I will die!

 

And so will you! – Are you ready to die? Do you know where you are going? Are you at peace with God? You can have all the philosophies in the world lined up; But there is only one sure way to face death and that is in Jesus Christ – no one else has beaten death except him and he is the only one who can help you to beat it! He can give eternal life!!

 

This physical life is just a mist in a moment of time!

1 Chronicles 29:15 .. Our days on earth are like a shadow, … (NIV)

 

Job 7:7 Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;.. (NIV)

 

Ecclesiastes 8:7-8 7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? 8 No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no-one has power over the day of his death. (NIV)

 

Psalm 102:11 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

 

1 Peter 1:24 24 For,        “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, (NIV)

 

People may strut about the world boasting about their achievements and their plans BUT when all is said and done life on this earth is a mist.

 

Jesus told the story of a businessman who should have heeded this

Luke 12:16-2016 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 

As always James gives us hope!

 

  1. FAITH-BASED PLANNING.

 

James 4:15 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)

 

Two things James is not saying that I want to emphasise:-

  1. a) He is not saying ‘Don’t plan!’

He is not saying that it is wrong to make a profit, after all no-one goes into business to make a loss.

It is not wrong to set goals, develop strategies, to carefully plan next week or next year.

But James is appealing to these businessmen – bare in mind they are Christians – he is reminding them that their faith in God extends beyond Church and into family life, the business and work-a-day world!

God is as much concerned about your work-life and your family-life as he is about your church life SO when you go to the office, school, workshop, club… tomorrow don’t leave God at home!

 

  1. b) James is not saying that D.V. [if God wills] is a superstitious formula NOR is it simply an appendix that we add to our already formulated plans.

I get irritated when people add D.V. [Deo volente – God willing] to every sentence BUT then some of us should say it more often to remind ourselves that we only continue to live at God’s will.

 

It is easy to fall into the trap of planning our own lives and then asking God to rubber stamp them. We should prayerfully plan and seek God’s will in our planning.

 

As Christians we need to be aware that we are accountable to God as to what we do with the time God has given us on earth. God has a plan for this world and it includes you and me – Hebrews speaks of ‘the race marked out for us’ and Ephesians about the ‘good works God has prepared for us to do’.

Knowing God’s will is not easy – BUT I don’t believe God wants us to sit about stargazing waiting for a blue print of our lives to drop out of the sky.

 

God has given us enough principles in his Word so that we can get on with putting them into practice now – God knows where you are – your family and work situation – he has also given you a brain and he expects you to use it guided by his Word and by his Spirit.

 

God wants our lives to be purposeful – after all, he came to give us abundant life – so where you are now he wants you to be the best you can be – the best businessman or woman, the best teacher you can be, the best mechanic, the best secretary, policeman etc… “Lord, this is where you have put me – if I am in the wrong place move me but until you move me and change my circumstances I will be the best I can be for you in what I am doing now!”

 

God has given us this life – this one life – It is not YOUR life to do with as you please it is God’s gift to you. Our time on earth is a mist BUT Jesus offers eternal life – a full, meaningful, useful life now – and a life that will continue after death in an even fuller way.

 

In every aspect of life, including its planning, we need to acknowledge our utter dependence on God not only for own individual lives but for the very existence of tomorrow.

 

 

Whose life is it anyway?

 

James 4:13 – 17.

 

  1. FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS. [v.13 & 16]

 

     … about Time

      … about Choice

      … about Ability

      … about Outcome

 

  1. FLAWED KNOWLEDGE. [v.14a]

 

       tomorrow is unknown

 

  1. FRAGILE LIFE. [v.14b]

 

       ‘life … a mist … for a little while …

            … then gone’

 

  1. FAITH-BASED PLANNING. [v.15]

 

      ² plan in dependence on God

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James 5:19-20 – Care in the community…of the Church

CARE IN THE COMMUNITY…

                                         …of the Church!

 

James 5:19-20.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

A long time since we looked at James [8 weeks] – in a moment will look back an remind ourselves of some of the main themes of James’s letter.

 

Looking at these last two verses it may seem an unusual and rather abrupt way of ending a letter. We will hopefully see that it is in fact a the writer’s deep love and pastoral concern for his readers. It is also in keeping with the whole tenor of his letter.

 

Why did James write this letter in the first place?

It is a letter written to the church in general – it is not addressed to just one congregation although it seems clear that he has specific situations in mind as he writes. He has addressed many issues in this letter:-

  • difficult situations – trials – hard times in general as part of normal Christian living.
  • quarrels and fights within the church
  • the rich use their wealth and power to exploit
  • snobbery in the church – favouritism
  • the use . or rather misuse of the tongue – criticism and grumbling
  • lack of :- wisdom – patience – submission to God
  • inconsistency between belief and action [ a major theme ‘… faith and deeds …’]

 

James’s concerns throughout the letter are that his readers will grow to become mature believers in the Lord Jesus – He wants them to live a GOOD LIFE —

James 3:13

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (NIV)

 

This good life is not simply a socially respectable life – the good life is to be controlled by wisdom and this wisdom James has told us comes from above – it is godly wisdom.

 

The first requirement for this good life is spiritual birth – without spiritual life there will never be godly life no matter how socially respectable we may be! But then there must be growth and development of spiritual character which manifests itself in practical action.

 

Clearly some of James’s readers were not living up to this expectation – some had ‘..wandered from the truth..’ – given the catalogue of issues James has addressed in this letter coupled with this concern for these wanderers we probably have the main reason why James writes this letter.

 

His pastoral concern is very evident – not only here for these wanderers but throughout the whole letter by the use of the endearing term “brothers” [ generic term – brothers and sisters]

 

  1. REASONS FOR THE WANDERING.

 

This wandering from the truth is not a reference to momentary slips – he is referring to something that has become a pattern of life.

 

The greatest danger is that it is so subtle – ‘wander’ is a good translation – it is not a sudden rejection of Christian belief, nor an impetuous rebellion, – it is a gradual and imperceptible drifting.

 

ILLUS. It is not roaring away from the quayside in a high-powered motor launch but it is the slow loosening of the moorings and just drifting on the tide.

 

When the Bible speaks of Truth it is never an abstract concept detached from life.

The verses before us James 5:19-20

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (NIV)

 

Moving away from the truth affects the way he lives – What we believe will ultimately determine how we behave. Christian Truth is not simply credal statements in our heads – when we sincerely believe something it will change our lives.

 

That is what the Bible teaches – but we only have to look to our society to see the evidence of this.

Over the past 30-40 years have seen some prominent Church leaders distance themselves from the authority of scripture — pussy-foot when it come to moral issues that the Bible is quite clear about. At the same time there has been a withdrawal of people from the Church – It wasn’t that they were all there one week and gone the next; it was a gradual drifting and churches began to die a slow death.

Sunday school attendance has plummeted over the same period with a corresponding rise in juvenile delinquency.

 

What we believe and how we live belong together – it is absolute foolishness to think that we can have Christian standards without Christian convictions.

 

But what about you??

Are you one of these wanderers? There was a time when you were enthusiastic about being a Christian – when you were involved in prayer and study – you had a concern for your fellow-Christians and for your unbelieving friends and family BUT NOW …??? Things have gone cold, you are too busy with work or your family or your house or maybe you just can’t be bothered – you still come to church but for how much longer???

 

Maybe you show no outward signs of wandering from the truth – after all you still believe everything in the Statement of faith; you are still involved in Church life BUT it is just the kind of dead religion that James has spoken about in this letter.

 

It is so easy to drift away – it seldom begins with some outrageous, scandalous sin BUT rather slowly, insidiously, quietly. None of us can ever be complacent about this thinking it won’t happen to ‘me’.

Paul gives us a stern warning in

1 Corinthians 10:12 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (NIV)

 

How do we know if we have wander from the truth – or if someone else has??

There isn’t one way!!

Blanchard p.396. [a variety of ways to wander..]

  • doctrinally – failure to apply oneself to scripture
  • morally – letting standards slip
  • church life – not contributing properly to the work and worship of the Church family
  • Christian service – what Paul calls ‘weary in doing good’ [Gal.6:9]
  • home life – failing as a parent /or child
  • in your inner soul – when your love for God dwindles away

 

Remember that we are not talking about momentary slips and one-off errors but something that has become a pattern of life. Our pattern of life is profoundly affect by what we believe – when our belief in the truth of God’s Word slips our lives start on a downward slide

 

John Bird puts is very well “They [wanderers] believed in the authority and inspiration of the Word of God, but at some point departed from that faith and soon lowered the standard of living and their lives cave in. When we tun aside from the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, we are soon left with no anchor and very little assurance. We begin to question the purpose of things and lose the true perspectives of life. If we turn aside from the Lordship of Christ it will not be long before we compromise our position as Christians and begin to live worldly lives. When the doctrine of sin is lost sight of, we begin to excuse ourselves for some of the things we do, and our ethical and moral standards are lowered. When the reality of the doctrine of hell is passed over and the doctrine of universalism is substituted, we miss the true meaning of Christ’s death and lose any compassion we may have had for the dying souls of men [and women]. When we neglect the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, then we begin to work in the energy of the flesh and our power in service is lost. When we fail to recognise the meaning of the doctrine and function of the Church, we become sectarian and begin to treat it as a religious club. ……..So I may go on. We cannot gather grapes of thorns. nor figs of thistles, and we cannot expect our to be right if our doctrine is wrong.” [Faith that works p.122-123].

 

We cannot possibly maintain a Christian lifestyle / Christian standards without Christian Truth. Not our own limited understanding of the Truth but the Word of God to which we must come again and again with the desire before God that His Word will constantly challenge and change our lives so that we don’t become slaves to our human traditions.

There are many who have wandered from God by binding themselves to the drifting traditions and rules of religion rather than to the immovable Truth of God.

 

  1. RESTORING THE WANDERERS.

 

The exact spiritual status of a ‘wanderer’ is difficult to establish from our human perspective. The term often used is ‘backslider’ – this issue has sparked a huge debate in Christianity for centuries –

Is it possible for someone who is a Christian – who has experience this new spiritual birth that James has written about to now cease to be a Christian?

 

NO! Those who belong to Christ are safe! Jesus taught that once a person belongs to Him he/she cannot cease to belong to Him.

John 10:27-30 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (NIV)

 

It seems that James has in mind Christian who slip away for a time but who are ultimately brought back.

 

But there are always those within every fellowship whose profession of faith is not real and who haven’t yet experience the gift of spiritual life in Jesus. In time this often becomes evident.

 

The difficulty from our human perspective it that we can only see the outward life and very often the backslider and the pseudo-Christian are seen to be wandering.

The fact is that the only evidence that we have of each other is what we profess with our lips and live in our lives. We cannot see in the hearts of another nor do we know what God knows. We are therefore bound to reach out to all who wander.

 

Two phrases James uses about restoring the wanderer –

 

‘.. save his soul from death ..’

‘ .. cover over a multitude of sins ..’

 

‘.. save his soul from death ..’ [ref., to spiritual death] – We have already seen that once you have received salvation you can’t loose it – so what does this mean? It is a notoriously difficult verse to explain.

 

The explanation that seems to make most sense to me is this:-

Alec Motyer these verses “are not written from the point of view of what God knows about us, nor from the point of view of what we know about ourselves but from the point of view of our fellow Christians observing our lives and hearing our talk. To them the evidence of backsliding in our lives must call into question whether we are truly Christ’s or not.”

 

 

 

The only way I can tell whether or not you are a Christian is by what you say and do. If the evidence points to a slipping away then we can only question whether such a one is a Christian all and therefore needs salvation – if such a person is brought back it is because of the Holy Spirit’s work in their life — whether of salvation or restoration but only God will know the difference. Form our limited perspective the person has been saved from death.

 

‘ .. cover over a multitude of sins ..’

covering is the basic Biblical idea for dealing with sin – not sweeping under the carpet – atonement i.e. dealing with the sin by sufficient sacrifice.

 

ILLUS.: think in terms of ‘cover’ in a financial deal – money put aside for something in the future – we say “That will cover it” – so when the bill comes it is paid and forgotten.

 

to cover means a totally sufficient payment.

Two main aspects to salvation

  • – the once-for-all, unrepeatable experience of justification – our standing before God of all sins past, present and future – at salvation
  • the need to seek daily forgiveness – this is what James has in mind here.

 

When a wanderer is brought back the number of sins doesn’t matter – Jesus death covers them all even if they are a multitude.

 

If you sitting here today thinking – “Will he accept me – how can I recover from all I’ve done??!” there is cover for all – Christ’s death deals with ALL sin – ALL!!

 

If you have wandered come with a prayer like David’s

Psalm 51:12

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 

When God forgives – it is complete – he doesn’t dig them up again and remind you of past failings as we are prone to do to each other “I remember ….” God is not like that!!

 

So with David we can say ….

Psalm 32:1

Blessed is he

whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered. (NIV)

 

If you are a wanderer – there is a way back – Christ’s death deals with ALL sin!

If you are one who has never know this spiritual life in Christ – there is and open invitation to come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness!

 

  1. RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WANDERERS.

 

James uses the vaguest words in these verses – ‘ .. one of you .. someone … whoever…’

 

None of us is beyond wandering – live guardedly!!

Who is to go after these wanderers?? No mention of a special ecclesiastical recovery squad! – there is no special group of priests – not exclusively the job of the elders or deacons!!

 

Caring for each other – watching out for each other’s spiritual well-being is the responsibility of each and every one of us!

Not constant interference and being a ‘nosey-parker’ – but a genuine concern – where there is accountability to each other – where we can challenge each other saying “Hey! I think you are going down the wrong road here!”

 

That happens best is a close relationship – when you know someone is really concerned for you it is much easier to take correction from them.

 

ILLUS.: I can take criticism from Janet far better than I can from anyone else – because however hard the criticism I know she loves me.

 

The idea in James’s mind is not to cut the wander down – to show them up – to parade their weaknesses in public – that is the character of the tabloid press.

 

Our purpose is to lovingly restore – maybe a secondary meaning of ‘covering a multitude of sins’ is to keep to ourselves those weaknesses and faults we know about others. Don’t parade them – don’t ‘share’ them with others!!

 

When we see someone wandering from the truth our task is to pursue them, to care for them, to rescue them — with no publicity or fanfares!!

 

1 Peter 4:8 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (NIV)

 

Is it not God alone who can restore a wanderer?

 

I can’t bring some back – cover sins – save them from death – Surely only God can do all that!!   How can I do these things??

 

Of course we cannot!! BUT we should act as if we could!!

 

This should be an indication for our concern and effort for those in spiritual need.

  • We cannot convert anyone BUT we should do everything in our power to bring them to Jesus!
  • We cannot save anyone from death BUT we should work for there spiritual welfare as if their eternal destiny rested upon us!!
  • We cannot cover sins BUT we need to follow the example of Jesus who did not selfishly preserve himself but sacrificed for others.

 

We are so polite in British society – so superficially friendly – consequently when we see someone wandering off we feel it inappropriate to interfere.

 

We are responsible for each other before God! We live in a society that says ‘You are free to do what you want — it is your choice!”

 

We are not free to do as we please – we are responsible to God — we are responsible to each other – we are responsible for each other!

 

If we can’t show care in the community of the Church we will not be very attractive to the community in which we live.

 

  • James calls us to hold unswervingly to the TRUTH and to live so that our words and actions reflect the truth we believe.

 

 


CARE IN THE COMMUNITY …

                                                   … OF THE CHURCH

 

JAMES 5:19 – 20

 

 

  1. REASONS FOR WANDERING

 

       not a sudden rejection of Truth

           but a gradual, subtle drifting from Truth

      

       Biblical Truth is never abstract

          – never detached from living

 

 

  1. RESTORING THE WANDERERS

 

       Wanderer – a backslider or an unbeliever?

 

       –Restoring – “… save his souls from death …”

                           – “… cover a multitude of sins …”

 

 

  1. RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WANDERERS

 

       “someone” can wander

        “anyone” can bring back a wanderer

        ultimately only God can restore a wanderer

James 5:13-18 – Prayer and healing

PRAYER & HEALING!

 

James 5:13-18.

 

Introduction.

 

Dealing w. healing is a difficult issue. Extreme views – the days of miraculous healing are over OR it is not God’s will for anyone [Christian] to be ill and therefore if you are ill it is because of sin in your life!!

 

Also difficult because this text is not easy to interpret.

Finally, difficult for me personally because I am ill [lymphoma].

 

QUESTIONS!

– does God heal?

– if so, does he heal everybody who asks?

– must one even have to ask?

– are there special conditions under which God will heal?

– is lack of healing evidence of inadequate faith?

 

A huge subject therefore confine our selves to this text in James.

 

It is clear from James’ letter that trouble and difficulty – including illness – are part of life and have positive benefits – indeed we should be glad in the face of trials because they are useful in bring us to maturity spiritually.

 

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

 

In the immediate context the subject is prayer – v.13 has set the scene

James 5:13

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (NIV)

 

Still under the subject of prayer he goes on to say what should happen if you are sick,

 

 

 

  1. WHAT YOU ARE TO DO WHEN SICK.

 

You are to call the elders.

At what point – every time you get a cold – – only on your death bed –

— under what circumstances are the elders to be called?

Clearly not ever time some gets the sniffs – we’d do little else!

 

  • the sick one calls – the elders go to him – alert enough to know what is happening
  • sick – lit. weary/worn out one
  • these indicate that the sickness is prolonged and serious.

 

Helpful hint – James is not thinking about ‘Public Healing Services’ – this is private ministry of the elders in the home of the sick person.

 

What it does not mean –

  • not a public announcement that you have sinned and need the elders – deal with this in a moment!!
  • does not mean that only the elders can pray for you in such circumstances.
  • does not mean you don’t see the doctor – it is not a choice between the elders and the doctor.

 

I have struggled with this since I discovered that I had cancer – as yet I have not called the other elders to pray over me – I think it is a timely word from God to me and I should have done – I need to do this!

 

  1. WHAT THE ELDERS ARE TO DO WHEN SUMMONED.

 

  • the elders are to pray for the sick person       }
  • the elders are to anoint the sick person w. oil } in the name of the Lord.

 

Oil – use oil as a medicine was a common practice in the NT – e.g. the parable of the Good Samaritan.

It had a symbolic as well as a medicinal use – I don’t think that James has a medicinal use in mind here –

 

Mark 6:13 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (NIV)

 

Clearly the apostles used oil in their acts of healing at times. BUT there are also times when they did not {Acts 3:1-6}

Oil is also used as symbolic for the Holy Spirit – Luke 4:18

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed, (NIV) [cf. Isa.41:1]

 

In Ps. 23 “ … he anoints my head with oil …”

 

The purpose of anointing with oil it would seem is to aid the patient to think beyond the material to the person whose activity is being symbolised – viz. God the Holy Spirit.

 

There is no magical or mystical power inherent in the oil itself – it was just plain olive oil.

 

When we as elders do this – and we do – we use ordinary olive oil – be aware of this provision for the elders to pray for you and call us if you need this kind of prayer!!

 

So the elders come and they pray and they anoint the sick one with oil.

NOTE. this is not directly linked with specific gifts of healing that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians – of course it does not mean that an elder may not have this particular gift.

 

…in the name of the lord – not a magical formula but doing something in His name means it should be something that he desires and approves!!

 

  1. THE PRAYER OF FAITH.

 

James 5:15 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.. (NIV)

 

How are we to understand this verse?

 

The word for prayer in this verse is NOT the usual word used in the NT. In its ordinary sense means ‘vow’ – only here does it have the meaning of prayer. This seems strange in a passage where he has used the ordinary word for prayer many times. Whenever we have an unusual use of a word we need to be careful not to be dogmatic about something that is uncertain.

 

We MUST look at the context – both immediate and further a field.

 

  • NOT a blanket promise that all physical ailments will be healed.

This is clear in the NT.

Even Jesus did not heal everyone.

Luke 5:17

17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. (NIV)

 

power of the Lord was present for him to heal – why does Luke make such a statement – this phrase presupposes that the power to heal was not always available in Jesus earthly life! [This is difficult! – we need to give it much thought]

 

John 5:3-10 3 Here [at the Pool of Bethsaida] a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralysed. 4 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (NIV)

 

Why, when there were many people there who needed healing did Jesus heal only one?

We could spend much time on this but I simply want to make the point that this is not a blanket promise for healing!!!

 

  • healing is not dependent on the amount of faith – this has often been said – “ You haven’t been healed because you haven’t got enough faith!”

 

The classic answer is, of course, the Apostle Paul’s, thorn in the flesh.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7 …, there was given me a thorn in my flesh… 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, .. (NIV)

 

Whatever Paul’s problem, he was not healed [possibly his eyesight – Colossians Letter where he sign with his own hand in large writing]

Did Paul not have enough faith!!??

 

If a sick person is not healed when prayed over does that mean that the elders’ faith was lacking.

 

That kind of accusation – ‘you did not have enough faith’ – has cause untold hurt and harm to many people.

 

When healing comes it is not faith that heals – it is God – the power to heal is not in the faith.

 

ILLUS.: go to electrical power supply on the railway line – touch it with a knitting needle and you will probably be killed – touch it with a crowbar and the result will be the same. It is not the size of the conductor that will kill you – it is the power of the electricity.

 

In a similar way faith is the conductor – BUT God is the power supply!

 

What is the ‘prayer of faith’ – it is clear that the sick person has a responsibility to prayer for himself. [v.13]

Other besides the elders are also told to prayer [v.16] ‘pray for each other ..’

 

Prayer of Faith – ref. to Elijah gives the clue.

 

Remember that Elijah the prophet prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t and then he prayed that it would rain and it did.

1 Kings 18:1

1 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” (NIV)

 

Before Elijah offered his prayer to God it was given to him by God. The will of God was made known to him so this made him bold and confident that the pray he prayed would be answered – he knew it was the will of God. It is this kind of God given praying that produces the recovery of the sick.

This prayer of Faith is a prayer that originates in heaven!

 

Difficult to grasp and to explain – is seems that there are times when the mind of God is so clear that we just know he is going to answer.

 

 

ILLUS.: Pastor Duma – would pray, and fast and pray – even before he prayed for a sick person to know the mind of God – BUT time when he would not pray for healing unless he was sure it was God’s will. A godly man who spend many hours in prayer – every year 3 weeks alone in the mountains!

 

It seems that James is speaking about faith here, NOT as a commitment to the will of God BUT as a conviction that it is the will of God to perform a healing.

 

We must bear in mind that this issue of ‘a prayer of faith’ is a small part of a much bigger section about prayer – and the central truth about prayer is the peaceful acceptance of the will of God.

God can do anything he wishes to do and we can trust him absolutely, no matter how big the problem may seem.

 

In a sense all our prayers must be in faith BUT, as Motyer puts it, most of our prayers are prayers of rest. Very often we do not know what to ask for “whether through lack of wisdom [to know what is right] or lack of knowledge [to know what is needed and we are glad to fall back on the plea ‘Lord bless …’

The word bless is shorthand for ‘Lord, I don’t know what to ask but you know what is needed.’ [Motyer p.198]

 

ILLUS.: BUT, Gray, you have cancer, don’t you know what to ask for? I know what I want – I know what my family and friends want for me — BUT what is right, what does God want?

 

What we must do is pray, resting our faith in a God who knows best and death is not the worst thing that could happen to us as Christians!!

Healing may be God’s will – but it may not!

Also remember that ALL healing is from God – the natural defences of our immune system – the intervention of medical science – or any other treatments – are all simply instruments in God’s healing hands.

 

Ultimately prayer is a commitment to the will of God – all true prayer is shown by patiently waiting to see what God has determined to do!

 

This statement ….

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; … (NIV)

must be seen in the context of all teaching on prayer, the essence of which is

Luke 22:42 “Father….. not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)

 

 

 

  1. IS ILLNESS A RESULT OF SIN?

 

James 5:15 15 ….. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (NIV)

 

Is James saying that if you are sick it is a result of sin? In a general sense this is true in that all disease and death is a consequence of sin.

BUT an individuals illness is not necessarily a direct result of a particular sin in that persons life although it can be.

 

Sometimes illness is a direct result of sin – (a) because it is the natural consequence of a particular sin e.g. – HIV /aids can be a result of an immoral, promiscuous life style BUT NOT always – (b) it is possible that illness is a punishment from God for sin but again not necessarily.

 

ILLUS.:

John 5:13-14

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (NIV)

 

John 9:1-3

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (NIV)

 

James mentions personal sinfulness as a possibility and not as a definite cause and we should guard against jumping to false conclusion about others illnesses.

Job’s comforters did that and how wrong they were about Job’s suffering – he suffered, not because he was sinful but because he was righteous.

 

Being ill often gives opportunity for reflection and evaluation of life which you may not otherwise have had – often at these times we realizes weaknesses and shortcomings that we need to put right.

 

James is simply making sure that the sick person is aware that forgiveness is always available. The prayer of faith offers healing apart from a particular sin or healing and forgiveness for illness in consequence of a particular sin.

So it is quite proper for the elders to give a sick person opportunity to confess and ask forgiveness for sin when they come to pray and anoint – BUT not an opportunity to press the sick person about intimate matters between them and God .

 

We need to remember that God often allows suffering for our good and for his glory

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)

 

1 Peter 1:6-7 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

 

  • for now
  • for a little while
  • only if necessary
  • for the improvement of our character – refining like gold

 

Conclusion.

 

In Jesus earthly ministry he both granted healing and witheld it – the reasons are unexplained.

The Lord is powerful and compassionate and he is sovereign – in his sovereign mercy he may grant healing and in his sovereign wisdom he may also allow sickness.

 

It is no good us arguing that if we loved someone we would never allow them to suffer – We only see things with the blurred vision of those who are still affected by indwelling sin and with the shortsightedness of time –

God sees things from the perfection of his holiness and from the standpoint of eternity – he will permit things like illness because he is working in a much wider context than ours.

 

There are two prayers in the NT which sum up all true prayer

 

In the Lord’s prayer “.. may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven ..”

And Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane “ .. Not my will, but yours be done.”

 

When all is said and done God is sovereign and he will always do what is for our good and for his glory.

 

Psalm 115:1-3

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us

but to your name be the glory,

because of your love and faithfulness.

2 Why do the peoples say,

“Where is their God?”

3 Our God is in heaven;

he does whatever pleases him. (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

PRAYER AND HEALING

 

James 5:13-18

 

  1. What you are to do when sick

       call the elders …

                            … but how sick must you be?     

 

  1. What the elders are to do when summoned

      pray for the sick person …

       anoint the sick person with oil …

                                  … in the name of the Lord

 

  1. The ‘Prayer of Faith’

      not a blanket prayer for healing

       healing is not dependent on the amount of faith

       faith doesn’t heal – God heals

       true prayer is a commitment to God’s will

 

  1. Is illness a result of sin?

       generally all illness is because of sin

       illness is not necessarily a result of a specific sin

       God sometimes allows suffering for our good

James 5:7-12 – Patience under Pressure

Patience under Pressure.

 

James 5:7-12.

 

Introduction.

 

The people to whom James is writing were living in a time and a place and under condition the we, at the end of the 20th C find difficult to enter into. Our society is very different – it is democratic, the right of the individual is protected, we have religious freedom even if we are a minority. We might not like the huge salaries of the Fat-cat bosses but we are not slaves to the rich and powerful – many of James’ readers would have been, as we saw in verses 1-6. There was no Dept. of Social Services – no National Health Service – no special rights for Christians – if fact Christians were a target for persecution and exploitation.

 

For many Christians in the 1st C life was difficult – as it is for many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world today – e.g. “If a Saudi becomes a Christian he likely to have his head cut off.”

 

It is easy to see how James’ readers – 1st C Christians in general were far more conscious of Christ’s second coming than we are. They knew their suffering was only temporary – they were living for something beyond this earthly life!

 

James urges them to be patience and to persevere in the midst of their trials and difficulties – the pressures of life can sometimes seem overwhelming.

– There are times when we feel like giving up and walking away in despair –

– There are times when we want to turn away from God and just do our own thing.

– There are times when children are a heart-ache to the parents and we wonder          where God is in all this.

– When your budget is stretch beyond the limits, does God really care

– When your health fails and life itself is threatened

– When you are depressed and lonely

– When you are hurt by family and friends

 

What is it that James is saying when these crowd into our lives and make us want to give up!!

 

We saw last week that we need to look up and live in the light of Christ’s coming!

 

Today we are going to look at the three examples that James gives of those who persevered in the face of difficulty and trouble and waited patiently for God to work –

– the Farmer

– the prophets

– Job

 

He gives these examples not so that we can admire and compliment them but so that we can copy their patience and emulate their perseverance

 

  1. Farmer – working while waiting. [v.7-9]

James 5:7-9

7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (NIV)

 

The imagery of a farmer is often used in scripture to convey a spiritual truth.

 

Two things James is highlighting

1) in the light of Christ’s coming we need to wait

 

2) In the light of Christ’s coming we need to work.

 

Many of you are gardeners – many have allotments where you grow your vegetables – you prepare the beds, plant the seeds and then wait – there is watering and weeding to do – BUT you can’t make the plants grows. If you are going to be a good gardener then you have to be patient.

 

The Middle Easter farmer was very dependent on the rains – lit. ‘..early and latter ..’ and not autumn and spring – but the point is clear he had to wait.

In our instant, on-demand society, we are not good at waiting – Foreigners are baffled by the fuss made about the possibility of water being cut off in Yorkshire during the long, hot summer of last year- to have water piped into your home in unending supply is a luxury most of the world hasn’t even dreamed of.

 

Most of the world is depended on the seasonal rains – this was certainly the case in NT days. The farmer had to be very patient as they waited for the rain. He has done his work and now he patiently waited for God to fulfil his promise of rain.

 

Waiting did not mean the farmer was passive.

 

Anyone who has ever had anything to do with farming knows that a farmer is never idle – not if he is a good farmer.

He doesn’t plant and then put his feet up and wait for the harvest – he works until the harvest is gathered in.

 

The trouble with many Christians is that having received the Word of God they have put their spiritual feet up. Become spiritually idle.

 

The farmer works and waits because there is the promise of a harvest at the end – and all the effort and patience is towards that end.

James warns that when we loose sight of the goal – the harvest – we are in danger of becoming impatient — of giving up — of turning on each other — when the focus of the harvest is lost and the vision for evangelism is gone — when there is nothing to aim for, no goal, then the grumbling and whinging starts.

 

Jesus is looking for hearts that are fixed on the harvest – looking for his coming – hearts that are steadfast and consistent as they work and wait for his coming.

 

James uses two words to describe this quality:

1) patience [NIV] – ‘to be long tempered’ – it is a strong word – it carries with it the quality of restraining anger and resentment regardless of the provocation. When we are injured or insulted are our lives marked by calm restraint. It is easy to be patient and long-tempered when there is no problem – when life is easy –     BUT when you have been hurt and are under pressure that is when it is difficult not to grumble and snap at each other. It is then that true patience is put to the test

 

2) steadfastness [NIV- stand firm] – same word used in   Luke 9:51

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (NIV)

 

Jesus knew what lay ahead – he knew what pressure were mounting – he knew the antagonism against him – he knew there would be betrayal, trial, blood, sweat, tears, torture and death BUT he knew something else – he knew there was resurrection, ascension and eternal glory with His Father. He resolutely set out …

 

It is having patience and perseverance in spite of circumstances – having a long-term view   – being patient and not giving up, knowing that the early and latter rains will come.

Galatians 6:9. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)

 

  1. Prophets – steadfast in the face of opposition. [v.10]

 

James 5:10

10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (NIV)

 

Who were these prophets James is referring to?

We could go through the OT and list them and the sufferings that they endured.

Hebrews 11:35-37 35 ….. Others [prophets] were tortured and refused to be released…. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated — (NIV)

 

James goes on in v.11 to say that ‘..we consider these blessed..’ because in spite of persecution and opposition they remained steadfast. They are an example to us of those who in spite of the opposition they faced, followed God – being in God’s will does not guarantee an easy life – comfort is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing.

 

Many of the prophets had to endure great trials and opposition not only at the hands of believers but at the hands of professed believers also.

 

We are so carnal in the way we think – we judge the success of a preacher but the number of people who come to hear him.

 

ILLUS.: Back in SA in Feb. ‘96 – Question 1 “How is your Church going?” — Question 2 “How big is it?”

 

Are we to judge the success or the spirituality of the church by numbers?

If we have a good program –If the giving goes up — if everyone is happy and there are no problems – then God is blessing us!!   Is He?

 

When I read my Bible I see a different picture

 

Matthew 5:11-12

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)

 

2 Timothy 3:12 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (NIV)

 

John 16:33

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.” (NIV)

 

If you are a Christian then difficulties and opposition are to be expected — BUT let me add that not all difficulty and opposition is therefore a mark of spirituality – very often our difficulties are because of our own stupidity.

 

Are we in this difficulty because God is testing us or because we are standing for the truth OR is it because of our own stubborn self-will.

 

ILLUS.: If you have gone out and blown £1000 on something that is non-essential and as a consequence are now in financial difficulty don’t blame God or put it down to persecution – that was a dumb move!!

 

  1. Job – perseverance in the midst of suffering [v.11]

 

James 5:11 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have 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. (NIV)

 

I don’t know any Christians who don’t want a life of blessing from God – but I know many who are not willing to travel the road to get there!

 

We want victorious Christian lives!

We want mountain top experiences!

Listen! there are no victories without battles!

– there are no mountain tops without valleys!

 

God balances privileges with responsibilities – blessings with his discipline – we are like children and if we have no discipline we will become spoilt pampered brats!

 

Job is a long and involved book to read

– chs. 1-3 Job is in distress – he looses his family, his wealth and his health.

– chs. 4-31 we read of Job’s defence as he debates with his friends

– chs. 38 – 42 Job’s deliverance – first God humbles Job and then he honours him with more than he ever had before!

 

We know that behind the scene God was allowing Satan to test Job – but Job did not know that at the time – he was accused of many things by his friends even though he protested his innocence.

There is no greater example of suffering than Job

– circumstances were against him [ lost everything

– his wife was against him {“Curse God and die!” she said – 2v9}

– his friends were against him – accused him of being a hypocrite and deserving God’s judgement.

– IT SEEMED like God was also against him – when Job cried out there was no reply from heaven.

 

David knew this

Psalm 13:1-6

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

 

Job, like David questioned God, but he never forsook God Job 13:15

15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;

I will surely defend my ways to his face. (NIV)

 

Job was so sure that God was true that he persisted in arguing with him even when he did not understand – that’s endurance!!

 

When Jesus said it was difficult for a rich man to enter heaven his disciples were shocked “ Who then can be saved?” – they equated riches with God’s blessing!!

 

The book of Job throws that idea out the window – Job was a righteous man yet he suffered – a picture of Jesus the perfect man who suffered for the sin of the world!!

 

What was the outcome of Job’s endurance through suffering – we know that God restored his wealth and his health and made him richer than before BUT there was a greater blessing.

Job 42:5

5 My ears had heard of you

but now my eyes have seen you. (NIV)

It is so easy to get impatient with God – to say ‘Well if that is the way God treats me then why should I trust him and follow him. If he is not going to sort out my money problems – or my marriage problems – or my health problems – or my relationships with family — then I am not going to obey him!”

 

When we are impatient and run off and do our own thing we only ever end up in trouble!

 

ILLUS.: Abraham’s impatience led to the birth of Ishmael – [ he became the father of Israel’s enemies – the consequences of which are with us to this day]

Peter’s impatience almost made him into a murderer.

 

What is the answer? Like Paul who suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” what ever that was – the answer from God to us is the same     2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (NIV)

 

Like Paul or Job or 1000’s of other Christians – God tests us – he puts us through the fire – that will mean different things for each of us – and those suffering may not be relieved in this life BUT what Job came to know and what James tells his readers is that God . The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

Remember that when you go through the fire God graciously keeps his hand on the thermostat – he will not allow you to go through anything that you cannot bear.

 

Sometimes you are in the pot and the heat is turned up – you think “This has got to be it I can’t take anymore!” And then God turn the heat up -WHY?

Job 23:10

10 But he knows the way that I take;

when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. (NIV)

 

It is not easy when the heat is turned up — but remember you are not a victim of Fate but a child of a loving and compassionate Father who has a wonderful plan for your life and a glorious future waiting for you!

 

I do not know what particular thing you are struggling with at the moment – maybe it is something that you can share with others OR maybe it is a deep hurt that only God knows about.

 

Don’t become impatient and bitter towards God – don’t allow your circumstances to make you into a grumpy, miserable and bitter person – Like the farmer and the prophets and Job learn to be steadfast and patient under pressure.

Allow the pressure of life to draw you closer to God and not to drive you away – he has a loving purpose for you and he wants to be like gold.

 

One day you will be able to look back and see how God has led you!

 

A poem –

A M Overton while going through a particularly difficult period of life wrote these words:

My Father’s way may twist and turn

My heart may throb and ache

But in my soul I’m glad I know

He maketh no mistake.

 

My cherished plans may go astray

My hopes may fade away

But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead

For he doth know the way

 

Though night be dark and it may seem

That day will never break

I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him

He maketh no mistake

 

There’s so much now I cannot see

My eyesight’s far too dim

But come what may I’ll simply trust

And leave it all to Him

 

For by and by the mist will lift

And plain it all he’ll make

Through all the way though dark to me

He made not one mistake

 

 

PATIENCE UNDER PRESSURE!

 

James 5:7-11

 

Three examples –

     not to compliment but to copy!

 

 

  1. The Farmer [v.7-9]

     working while waiting

 

  1. The Prophets [v.10]

     steadfast in the face of opposition

 

  1. Job [v.11]

     persevering in the midst of suffering

James 5:7-9 – Coming, ready or not!

COMING – READY OR NOT!

 

James 5:7-9 “.. the Lord’s coming .. the Lord’s coming is near .. the judge is standing at the door.”

Matthew 24:1-14 & 36-44.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

In v1-6 James was addressing the rich oppressors – those who took advantage of the poor and lived in luxury and self-indulgence. He now turns from the oppressors to the oppressed and instructs them as to how they should behave while living under pressure and encourages them to look forward to the Day of deliverence which will one day be theirs.

He urges them to be patient and to endure under difficult circumstances in the knowledge that it will not be forever – with assurance that the lord jesus whom they worship will one day return.

 

The second Coming of Christ is not something that we focus on too much these days!!

Maybe there was a time not so long ago when there was too much debate about the second advent – usually about the timetable rather than the event – possibly the pendulum has swung too far the other way. BUT also we live in a society who tend to focus on and live for the NOW with little thought of the future – certainly the eternal future.

 

The Bible has a lot to say about the end of time and the coming of Christ

– over 300 references in the NT alone – 1 for every 13vv.

 

For the NT believer it was not just a doctrinal fact but a very practical teaching because it gave hope in the midst of trouble – it help them to endure the present while looking to the future – and they lived in expectation.

 

Next week deal w. endurance and patience in suffering!!

 

For this message focus on The Lord’s coming!!

 

The 3 phrases – “.. the Lord’s coming .. the Lord’s coming is near .. the judge is standing at the door.”

 

 

 

  1. The Lord’s coming.. [v7]

 

NT uses 3 different words when referring to the 2c [2nd coming]

 

1) Epiphaneia – appearing or manifestation

 

ILLUS. Church calendar – January 6th is Epiphany – manifestaion of Christ to the Magi.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:8 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. (NIV)

 

Titus 2:13 13 while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, (NIV)

 

The idea carries with it the Idea of drawing back the veil to so that what is there may be seen for what it is

 

ILLUS: a poor illus. is when a sculpture is unveiled – you can have a vague idea about size and shape but only when it it unveiled do you really see it.

 

1 Corinthians 13:12 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (NIV)

 

When Jesus returns the vail will be lifted and everything will be seen for what it is.

This emphasis is seen in the use of another word to refer to Christ’s coming

 

2) Apokalypsis – revelation [Apocalypse – usually meaning a violent future period – bt in NT – reveal]

 

2 Thessalonians 1:7 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (NIV)

 

1 Corinthians 1:7 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (NIV)

 

1 Peter 1:7 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

 

There are all kinds of ideas about who Jesus is and what he is like – but when he comes there will be no doubt – we will see him as he is – speculation willl cease –

No only see him for what he is but the world will be seen for what it is – everything will be exposed.

 

3) Parousia – coming / arrival / presence – [This is the word that James uses here –

At the time James wrote this word was used for the arrival of and emperor or other important person.

The people would prepare the town for his coming and then go out to meet him whne he approached and escourt him back into the town

 

Matthew 24:3

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (NIV)

 

1 Thessalonians 2:19 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? (NIV)

 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-8

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him,…… 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. (NIV)

 

The Bible talks about christian who are alive when Jesus return being caught up in the air to meet him – it also talks of us returning with him to the earth – with out going into the time scale of these event which are the source of much debate – these images fit with the use of the word parousia – going out to meet the King and escourting him back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. “ ..the Lord’s coming is near.” [v8]

 

A full and detailed desciption of Christ 2c is impossible – it will be the climax of history – It is something that has never been experienced before in time and space so any attempt to timetable it or give all details is doomed to failure from the outset.

 

1) it is imminent

 

What does James mean by ‘near’? almost 2000 years have gone by since James wrote these words.

In theological jargon we speak of the immenent return of Christ – he can come at any moment –

Maybe the only way to understand this nearness is to illus.

 

ILLUS. Narnia – Childen go through the wardrobe into Narnia [ The Lion the witch and the wardrobe] – they are there for many years yet when they return to earth’s time – no time at all has elapsed.

 

ILLUS.: Children – difficulty understanding time – Granny is coming next week – can’t comprehend – they can only think in terms of 1 – 2 sleeps!

 

We must remember that we are living in time but dealing with eternity!

What we might think of as ‘delay’ is infact a sign of God’s mercy – that fact that he hasn’t come to judge the world yet but extend the opportunity for people to come to him.

 

2 Peter 3:8

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (NIV)

 

2) it is sudden.

 

The Bible is clear that we do not know when Christ will come – there are pointers but we do not know – When Jesus was on earth he said that he didn’t know but only the Father.

 

There is an unexpectedness about the Lord’s return – in Matt 24 which we read ‘..one taken and the other left ..’ ‘eating, drinking, marrying ..’ in other words life seemed to be going along and normal – and suddenly he cames!!

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

 

Knowing that Jesus could come at any moment – our responsiblity is to ‘live in the light of his coming’

 

3) it is glorious

 

When Jesus came the first time is was in obscurity – to a peasant family in a backwater of Palestine. His 2c will be with power and great glory.

 

Matthew 24:30

30 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (NIV)

 

Revelation 1:7

7 Look, he is coming with the clouds,

and every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;

and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (NIV)

 

There will be no mistaking when Jesus comes!

 

“Many people will be surprised when Jesus comes but no one will be mistaken!” anon.

 

Fancy theories about – now is the right time because we have satelite TV and therefore every one can view it!! Do you think God has been sitting in heaven waiting for us to invent satelite TV!!

 

As lightening fills the skies so Christ’s coming will fill the skies – but is a greater way – the whole earth will see!

 

4) it is decisive

 

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (NIV)

 

God will bring history to a close when Jesus comes again! God is not sitting in heaven ‘biting his nails’ wondering when world conditions will be suitable to send Jesus back. God is not waiting on the world, the World is waiting on God – He is moving history to a climax – and history will end when Jesus returns.

Whether people know about the 2c or even care, whether they are Christian or not — every man and woman is moving towards the coming of Christ!

 

His coming will close the curtain on history!

 

  1. The judge is standing at the door. [v9]

 

We are dealing with a God who is always at hand. There is never a time when God does not know who we are, where we are, what we are doing and thinking and how we feel. God knows at all times.

 

On the one hand this can be a frightening thought – but for the Christian is is very comforting – God knows your situation – nothing can happen to you that he is not there at hand!

 

Two judgements——-

 

1) between believers and unbelievers

 

There will be a time when God separates those who are his from those who are not.

Matthew 25:32 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (NIV)

 

That time hasn’t yet come and if you have not come to Christ – if you don’t know Jesus Christ – COME TODAY!! He is at hand ready to receive you!!

 

Come before it is too late!!

 

I think the most terrible words in all Scrpture come from ….

Matthew 25:41

41 “Then he will say to those on his left [the unbelivers], ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (NIV)

 

 

2) the quality of the believer’s life

 

Judgement is not only for the unbelivers

2 Corinthians 5:10 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (NIV)

 

The question here is not our salvation but our reward.

The fire of God’s judgement for the Christian will expose our works but will not take away our salvation.

 

In Luke 19 Jesus tells the parable of the Minas – [ a sum of money] — a nobleman gives each servant a sum of money – [ the same amount!!] — and expects them to put it to work for him – when he returns they are summoned so that he can inspect their work –

 

Each Christian is given – salvation – the scriptures – the Holy Spirit etc…

– What have we done with these things that come into our possession.

– Have you become more Christlike?

– Have you grown in holiness and maturity through the indwelling spirit?

– Do you know the Bible in an increasingly better and deeper way?

– How many people have you told about Jesus and his gospel?

 

In Matthew 25 the parable is different – each Christian in given deffering gifts and abilities – ‘talents’ – and God will hold us to account as to how we use them!!!

 

In these parable I want you to note that the emphasis of the judgement is positive and not negative. Yes Jesus is our judge but remember that he is our loving, caring Saviour – who longs to come to us and say      Matthew 25:23

23 “… ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! .. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (NIV)

 

One day Jesus will return whether you are ready or not!!

 

We do not want to be ashamed at his coming! For the Christian it should not be a fearful thing but a joyful expectancy – as we long for an absent loved one to return!!

 

Are you ready???!

 

 

If you knew Jesus would return today waht would you change in your life?

– Is your haert cold?

– Is there something you would scurry about to do before he comes?

– someone who should put things right with?

 

How can we be ready?? By living each day each moment for him….

 

…… So we can be like the old puritan Pastor when ask, ‘What would you do if Jesus was coming tonight?’ ‘I would study the scriptures this morning, speak at the womens’ meeting this afternoon and visit Mrs. Jones in Hospital – I would have my dinner and go to bed.’

 

C H Spurgeon ‘ The fact the Jesus Christ is coming again is not a reason for star-gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Spirit.’

 

Lord help us to live in the light of your coming,

striving for purity, fleeing from sin,

catching a glimpse of what we are becoming,

being transformed to your likeness within.

[Geoff Baker]

 

 

COMING! – ready or not!

 

James 5:7-9.   [Matthew 24]

 

  1. “ .. the Lord’s coming ..” [v7]

      epiphaneia’ – appearing / manifestation

      apokalypsis’ – revelation

      parousia’- coming / arrival / presence

 

  1. “ .. the Lord’s coming is near.” [v8]

      it is imminent

      it is sudden

      it is also glorious ..

                                         .. and decisive

 

  1. “The judge is standing at the door!” [v9]

      – he is always at hand

      he will judge:

                  between believers and unbelievers

                  the quality of the believer’s life

James 4:13-17 – This is YOUR life – or is it?

This is YOUR life – or is it?

James 4:13-17.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Be reminded that the context of this passage is humility before God – the preceding verses spoke about ‘slander’ – meaning the attitude that judges and condemns others – it was a case against us being both law-maker and judge which is basically trying to usurp God’s position – which is the essence of sin.

 

Now in these verses before us James is continuing the same theme by giving us another example of how we try to play God by thinking that we are the controllers of our own destiny.

 

Maybe there were those among James’ readers who were saying to themselves, “Well, we don’t slander anyone we simply pursue our own lives!” James has something to say to those who are tempted to think like this.

 

ILLUS.: Shirley Bassey sings a song entitles ‘This is my life!’

And there is that popular TV show hosted by Michael Aspell called “This is YOUR life!” where he surprises celebrities with a show in their honour looking back over their life.

 

In answer to the statement ‘This is MY / YOUR Life!” — James poses the question – ‘ …. is it?’ Is it your life? –

 

Let us look at what James says!

 

Firstly let us look at whet some of his readers were saying and what is said by many people today.

 

  1. FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS.

 

James 4:13

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

There are four assumptions that are being made by those who were expressing themselves in this manner.

 

 

  1. a) Assumption about time.

.. “Today or tomorrow … spend a year there…

 

One of the amazing things about the human species is that we think we have time on our side – that it is at our disposal – we can make plans for today / tomorrow or next year in the confidence that time is ours to control.

 

As James is writing it seems safe to conclude that he has businessmen in mind – although the principles include more than just businessmen – these men assume that tomorrow will be there and they will be there tomorrow. There is an arrogant or is it, ignorant assumption that things will always be as they now are.

 

What plans do you have for your life? What are your plans for this week? Do you have plans for your retirement – what you will do? where you will live? Have you mapped out a course that says ‘This is what I will do next year!’

 

  1. b) Assumption about Choice.

James 4:13

.. “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

The right of Choice – it is part of our humanness to be able to choose – what is more we have the individual right to choose according to our society. This is one of the selling points of modern politics – Political Parties have this in their manifesto – The people have the right to Choose which school their children go to; whether to own or rent a house; which hospital you will be treated in; ……

 

When you go to the supermarket or the furniture store or the clothing shop the choose is overwhelming – in many ways it was much easier in the days when there was only one kind of milk – now it is skimmed or semi-skimmed or fullcream – do you want decaffeinated or ordinary coffee – filter or instant – Brazilian or French or Arabic – cappuccino or expresso – …….

 

Choice is carried over into the spiritual sphere – there is a smorgasbord of religion to choose from and it really doesn’t matter what you choose because it is after all YOUR choice and YOUR life and any god you choose to worship should be grateful for your homage.

 

Such an attitude presupposes that we are the masters of our own lives and we only have to decide and, lo and behold, it happens just as we wish.

 

 

  1. c) Assumption about ability.

 

James 4:13

13 …… carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

These business men about whom James is writing are assuming that they will have money to use, products to sell – that there will be people willing and able to buy their goods. There is no doubt in their minds! ‘…we will….’ — You can imagine them sitting around a boardroom table planning the details of this business venture.

 

They seemed to have every confidence that they would succeed.

Similar philosophies abound today.

‘You can do whatever you set your mind to!’

‘You can succeed if you want to!’

‘You can do it!’

 

ILLUS.: The advertisement from an insurance Company – ‘Your destiny is in your hands, your path is yours to choose!’

 

  1. d) Assumption about outcome.

 

James 4:13

…, carry on business and make money.” (NIV)

 

They are not only confident in their ability but are also in no doubt as to the outcome of their venture.

 

And it is clear that the purpose of this whole exercise is to make money. Profit margins are the motivation and the goal.

The word that James uses here is not simply a neutral word for making money but carries with it the element of loving to make money.

 

What is it that motivates so many people – the desire to be rich to have money – very often those who say ‘Money is not important to me!’ – are usually those who have money!!

 

However we must also remember that simply because a person is not well off or even is poor that they are therefore exempt from the attitude of these businessmen. It is equally possible for poor and rich alike to have money as the goal.

 

Putting these 4 things together the point that James is making is that we cannot “speak to ourselves as if life were our right, as if our choice were the only deciding factor, as if we had in ourselves all that was needed to make a success of things, as if getting on, making money, doing well were life’s sole objective.” [Motyer]

 

James condemns this attitude in 4v16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (NIV)

 

The use of ‘brag’ is slightly weak in it translation and does not grasp the full depth of the word – originally it was used to refer to a charlatan and therefore carries with it the sense of making a false claim.

 

The kind of men James is addressing are those who make the false assumption that even without God they can make a success of life. Such boasting is evil, says James. But what makes it hard is that very often such men – those who have no regard for God – seem to do well and prosper so we can understand the cry of Job 21:7

7 Why do the wicked live on,

growing old and increasing in power? (NIV)

 

The group James is writing to seem to have been successful and it is often the case that when we are successful and things are going well that we tend to forget God.

 

ILLUS.: Before the Israelites entered the land of Palestine God warned them through Moses not to forget Him …. Deuteronomy 8:10-18

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, ……… 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…… (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: Remember that well known comment about the Titanic ‘Even God can’t sink this ship’ — we all known what happened on her maiden voyage!

 

  1. FLAWED KNOWLEDGE.

 

James 4:14 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. …. (NIV)

 

Can you feel the irony about what James is saying – these men are laying plans for next year – they are speaking about what they are going to accomplish and it is almost as if James taps them on the shoulder with a smile on his face saying –’Next year! — you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow!!

 

The fundamental flaw in their thinking was not so much their greed for gain – although that motivation is condemned — As John Blanchard puts it ‘Their greatest sin was not that gain had too big a place in their lives, but that God had no place at all.’

 

They were saying ‘.. we will ..’ BUT God says ‘..you don’t even know ..’ they should have read the book of Proverbs 27:1

1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. (NIV)

 

It is God who creates!

It is God who gives time!

It is God who ultimately determines what will and will not happen!

 

ILLUS.: You see, Boris Yeltsin may be in power in Moscow; Bill Clinton may be in power in Washington and John Major maybe in power in London — BUT God is in control!!

 

They can plan and predict and do demographic studies but they do not know what will happen tomorrow.

 

ILLUS.: On 13th March, [1996] 16 or 17 [?] little children went happily off to school in Dunblain, a few hours later they were dead.

 

On 18th July 1976 – I said goodbye to my sister, Jayne and my sister-in-law Esther, – ‘I will see you next week!’ – in less than 24 hours they were both in heaven, killed in a motor accident.

 

We do not know what will happen tomorrow, let alone next year and it is arrogant to an extreme to predict!!

 

Why?? The next point is so obvious!!

 

  1. FRAGILE LIFE.

 

James 4:14 …… What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (NIV)

 

Our lives are like a puff of smoke!

Most of us seldom think about dying – we will think about it when we are old – we all know we are going to have to die one day – it is not until we are face to face with death that the full impact of our frailty hits us.

 

ILLUS.: Most of you know that I was diagnose with cancer in October last year [1995] – BUT Lord I have plans for when I retire – I have plans for the things I want to do, places I want to go …. — BUT I have been brought face to face with death, I don’t like it, BUT I am learning to live with the fact that I will die — I may live to be 85 — only God knows — but one thing is certain; I will die!

 

And so will you! – Are you ready to die? Do you know where you are going? Are you at peace with God? You can have all the philosophies in the world lined up; But there is only one sure way to face death and that is in Jesus Christ – no one else has beaten death except him and he is the only one who can help you to beat it! He can give eternal life!!

 

This physical life is just a mist in a moment of time!

1 Chronicles 29:15 15 .. Our days on earth are like a shadow, … (NIV)

 

Job 7:7 7 Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;.. (NIV)

 

Ecclesiastes 8:7-8

7 Since no man knows the future,

who can tell him what is to come?

8 No man has power over the wind to contain it;

so no-one has power over the day of his death.

(NIV)

 

Psalm 102:11

11 My days are like the evening shadow;

I wither away like grass. (NIV)

 

1 Peter 1:24 24 For,

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, (NIV)

 

People may strut about the world boasting about their achievements and their plans BUT when all is said and done life on this earth is a mist.

 

Jesus told the story of a businessman who should have heeded this

Luke 12:16-20     16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 

As always James gives us hope!

 

  1. FAITH-BASED PLANNING.

 

James 4:15 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)

 

Two things James is not saying that I want to emphasise:-

  1. a) He is not saying ‘Don’t plan!’

He is not saying that it is wrong to make a profit, after all no-one goes into business to make a loss.

It is not wrong to set goal, develop strategies, to carefully plan next week or next year.

But James is appealing to these businessmen – bear in mind they are Christians – he is reminding them that their faith in God extends beyond Church and family and into the business and work-a-day world!

God is as much concerned about your work-life as he is about your church life and your family-life SO when you go to the office, school, workshop … tomorrow don’t leave God at home!

 

  1. b) James is not saying that D.V. [if God wills] is a superstitious formula NOR is it simply an appendix that we add to our already formulated plans.

I get irritated when people add D.V. [Deo volente – God willing] to every sentence BUT then some of us should say it more often to remind ourselves that we only continue to live at God’s will.

 

It is easy to fall into the trap of planning our own lives and then asking God to rubber stamp them. We should prayerfully plan and seek God’s will in our planning.

 

As Christians we need to be aware that we are accountable to God as to what we do with the time God has given us on earth. God has a plan for this world and it includes you and me – Hebrews speaks of ‘the race marked out for us’ and Ephesians about the ‘good works God has prepared for us to do’.

Knowing God’s will is not easy – BUT I don’t believe God wants us to sit about star-gazing waiting for a blue print of our lives to drop out of the sky.

 

God has given us enough principles in his Word so that we can get on with putting them into practice now – God knows where you are – your family and work situation – he has also given you a brain and he expects you to use it guided by his Word and by his Spirit.

 

God wants our lives to be purposeful – after all, he came to give us abundant life – so where you are now he wants you to be the best you can be – the best businessman or woman, the best teacher you can be, the best mechanic, the best secretary, policeman etc… “Lord, this is where you have put me – if I am in the wrong place move me but until you move me and change my circumstances I will be the best I can be for you in what I am doing now!”

 

God has given us this life – this one life – It is not YOUR life to do with as you please it is God’s gift to you. Our time on earth is a mist BUT Jesus offers eternal life – a full, meaningful, useful life now – and a life that will continue after death in an even fuller way.

 

In every aspect of life, including its planning, we need to acknowledge our utter dependence on God not only for own individual lives but for the very existence of tomorrow.

 

 

“This is YOUR Life!” –

                                                 – or is it?

 

James 4:13 – 17.

 

  1. FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS. [v.13 & 16]

     ² assumption about Time

      ² assumption about Choice

      ² assumption about Ability

      ² assumption about Outcome

 

  1. FLAWED KNOWLEDGE. [v.14a]

      ² tomorrow is unknown

 

  1. FRAGILE LIFE. [v.14b]

      ² ‘life … a mist … for a little while …

            … then gone’

 

  1. FAITH-BASED PLANNING. [v.15]

      ² plan in dependence on God

 

James 4:11-12 – The case against slander

THE CASE AGAINST SLANDER.

James 4:11-12.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUS.: Watched or listened to debates in the House of Commons on ‘Westminster Live’- esp. Prime Minister’s Question time – I understand that it is very popular in the USA – and certainly it can be very entertaining and sometimes amusing – the quick wittedness of some of the speakers is very clever. The titles they use to address each other are very polite “My right honourable friend ….” or “The honourable gentleman/lady ..” and then proceed to say something that is not honourable in the least – it is cutting – it is pulling the other down – to an outsider it seems that the hold purpose of these parliamentary sessions is not to run the country but to discredit the party opposite ….

 

Much of what is said in parliament is a ‘speaking against’ those opposite – often it is not opposing an issue but simply attacking the person – cutting down the party opposite in order to promote one’s own party and one’s own position.

 

This is what James is talking about in 4v11 when he uses the word ‘slander’ – it lit. means to speak against someone.

 

Before we look at these verses before us, it will be helpful to look back briefly and see how they fit with what has gone before.

 

The basic thrust of this whole section, going back into chapter 3, is the need for humility before God. James has been at pains to show that the fights and quarrels, the desire to always come out on top, stem from inside us – those inner attitudes and passions that put self-gratification and pleasure at the top of our motivation list.

 

James shows us that the problem is not so much the fightings and quarrels – these are the symptoms – the problem, the root problem, is the sinful human spirit that is jealous, sensual and selfish and is the opposite of heavenly wisdom but shows all the characteristics of earthly wisdom.

Now from 4v11 to 5v6 he shows three ways in which this attitude is manifest in the way we behave.

 

  1. 4v11-12 ~ putting others down to elevate self
  2. 4v13-17 ~ the arrogance of thinking that we control our own destiny
  3. 5v1- 6 ~ the materialistic pursuit of things

 

  1. What is meant by slander?

James 4:11

11 Brothers [and sisters], do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother [or sister] or judges [him]his brother or sister speaks against the law and judges it…..

 

Gk. root ‘katalaleo‘ lit. means to ‘speak against’ – used 3x in v.11. Means to speak against another person/s in a disparaging and defamatory way so as to put them down.

 

When we use the word slanderous today we generally mean saying something that is false. But it is possible to say something that is perfectly true while at the same time to be speaking against them.

 

ILLUS. Take the race issue – one can speak about someone who is Black or White – which is perfectly true, they are!! – but it can be done in a way that is derogatory. eg~ ‘Well, of course, she’s black!’ in other words she did what she did because she’s black and we all know that they are inferior!! That is the implication!!

 

Another word that is sometimes used to translate this word is ‘backbite’ – to be spiteful – to have a go at someone esp. when she is not there to defend herself.

 

One of the deadliest forms of this within the church of Christ is tale-bearing! It is amazing how fast news travels esp. when it is bad news! We so easily pass on that rumour or that juicy bit of gossip – it is only a word or two here or there but it can do untold damage to the person being spoken about, the Church as a whole and to the one passing it on! Don’t allow yourself to be a rubbish bin – one who collects and enjoys damaging stories about others.

 

ILLUS.: [Blanchard] If someone passed you a counterfeit coin that was of no commercial value, what would you do?? The honest thing to do would be to take it out of circulation!!

 

When you are the recipient of a juicy bit of gossip don’t pass it on – take it out of circulation.

 

Why is slander so wrong? is it because the thing said is untrue? not necessarily! It is incompatiable with humility and that is what God calls us to be. Slander by it very nature ‘puts down’ in order to exalt self which is the antithesis of humility.

 

James now puts forward a number of things that we need to consider as to why ‘slander’ or speaking against’ is so wrong!

 

  1. CONSIDER OUR RELATIONSHIP TO EACH OTHER.

James 4:11

11 Brothers [and sisters], do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother [or sister] or judges [him]his brother or sister speaks against the law and judges it…..

12 … — who are you to judge your neighbour? (NIV)

 

By using the word ‘brother’ [and sister] 3x and ‘neighbour’ once James is emphasizing the family bond that exists between Christians.

 

ILLUS. I have a brother and a sister – I never choose them – as it happens we get on very well – but even if we did not get on well that would not change the fact that we are family.

 

Maybe you have a family member that you don’t like – no matter what you do they are still family. There is that uncle with a shady past! There is that over-bearing aunt! There is that whinging, wimpish nephew!

 

In the spiritual family we have all kinds of people – some who we would not naturally choose to associate with – but we are family!!

 

We are related to each other you and me;

We’re the body of Jesus Christ the Son;

We are joined by his covenant we walk in unity;

We are family eternally as one. [Chris Christensen]

 

– We had better begin to get used to our brothers and sisters in Christ because we are going to be with them forever!

 

We are family because we have a common father – God! He is only the Father of those who have come to God and said ‘sorry’ for their sin – who have repented and asked God’s forgiveness. This is the only way! BUT it is a way offered to all

– thus

John 1:12 12 Yet to all who received him [Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — (NIV)

 

If we have to become children of God then it presupposes that there was a time when we were not children of God. ARE YOU A CHILD OF GOD??!

There is no room for ‘one-up-manship’ in God’s family we are all co-equal members.

 

Not only are we brothers and sisters we are also neighbours. We can not think of what it mean to be a neighbour without going back to Jesus’ own definition of neighbourliness.

The parable of the Good Samaritan. There is no room for slander or ‘speaking against’ in the parable – the wounded victim is anonymous and needy and the Samaritan does not talk down but comes down to where the need is. That is the response we are to have to each other! Jesus was trying to get his hearers [and us] to understand that neighbourliness is simply reaching out to those in need.

 

Slander cuts down and discredits – it highlights the other weakness and tries to gain personal mileage out of it. Neighbourliness goes to where the wounded is and tries to lift up and not to cut down.

 

Consider our relationship with each other!

 

  1. CONSIDER OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE LAW.

 

James 4:11

11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. (NIV)

 

What law is James referring to? It could be a general reference to God’s law although it is more likely to refer to the royal law that James mentioned in chapter 2. James 2:8

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. (NIV)

 

This law sums up all that God has ever told us about how to act and speak towards each other.

Galatians 5:14 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (NIV)

When we malign and slander our fellow believers we are guilty of breaking this law. We are therefore guilty of breaking all of God’s law. To love one another is to seek the good of the other – to seek their blessing and welfare and when we criticize and belittle them we are doing exactly the opposite.

 

James is saying that we are going against the law when we do this BUT he is saying much more – we are setting ourselves up in judgement over the law of God – we are saying in effect that we know better than God’s law – we are saying that this is a law that is not worth obeying and that we can break it with impunity. James 4:11

…. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. (NIV)

 

There are two ways we can harm our neighbour – by deliberate act OR by willful neglect.

 

ILLUS.: Often hear people say ‘I have never do anyone any harm!’ GOOD! The question remains — BUT have you ever tried to do them positive good?

 

Love is not simply failing to harm BUT actively seeking to do good!

 

  1. CONSIDER OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD.

James 4:11-12

………. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbour? (NIV)

 

When we set ourselves up as judge of God’s law – we are not only considering ourselves above the law but we are setting ourselves in opposition to God and usurping his authority.

 

The law of God is not give so that we can pontificate about it but that we should obey it.

 

ILLUS.: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – yes they disobeyed God’s instructions BUT they tried to usurp God’s authority. In effect they were saying, “God is wrong! We don’t agree with his law and we are going to make our own laws!”

 

Lawlessness is a word that the Bible uses to describe sin – 1 John 3:4

4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (NIV)

 

John does not only mean anarchy – i.e. disregard for the law – taking the place of the law-maker. That is the essence of sin.

 

You may be thinking, “Well, I acknowledge that God is there and I do what I can!” The more important question you need to ask is “Am I picking and choosing those instruction from God that are convenient to me or am I committed to obey all!”

[I am not talking about sinless perfection but a commitment to want to obey!!]

 

If we are picking and choosing then we are setting ourselves up as judge of Gods’ law and trying to play ‘God’ and that is the essence of sin.

 

To drive home his point James tells us two things about God:-

 

  1. a) he is lawgiver and judge.

This is a timely reminder from James that we are in no position to make our own laws. Not only that but we are in no position to judge others.

 

What we are so good at doing is drawing up our own list of criteria as to what we think a Christian should be and how they should behave. And then to judge them by our criteria – They need to dress in a certain way – use the right ecclesiastical jargon — hold to a certain system of theology — worship is a particular way — sing the right kind of hymns or choruses — NO! NO!

 

God is the judge and ultimately we are responsible to HIM! [I am not saying that there shouldn’t be Church discipline – nor that there should never be helpful criticism when needed — BUT we had better be should that it is with the motive of help and concern and not an excuse to promote self]

 

God said we are to love our neighbour by showing helpful, caring concern and we had better not replace that with arrogant hurtful words!

 

  1. b) .. he is able to save and destroy.

Slander is a way of destroying a person – how many lives have been ruin because someone has spread malicious rumours – Slander is so devastating because it is not only attacking a person actions BUT their character – their person – who they are! When we behave in this way we again, like with the law making, usurp God prerogative – God is judge!

 

And God is a far more merciful judge than any one of us will ever be.

Our judgement is never totally unprejudiced – no matter how much we know about someone we never know all the facts – God knows everything – every action, every thought, every word, every motive –

 

It is so easy to misjudge situation – we jump in feet first and before we know it we have made things worse.

Heard the saying “She was born with a silver foot in her mouth!” or “He only opens his mouth to change feet!”

 

Not only do we not know all the facts BUT we ourselves are not perfect and are therefore in no position to judge other – it is a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’.

Matthew 7:3-5

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NIV)

 

Slander or backbiting shows itself to be a disregard for God’s law but this disregard for God’s instructions is more than law breaking – it is a usurping of God’s position and making our own laws [saying to God that we think that he and his law are dumb and we are not going to obey them]

 

With such an attitude God would have every right to destroy us!! BUT notice that even in the midst of a passage on judgement James still puts God’s ability to save before his ability to destroy.

 

God can not deny his character and his first desire is to save and not destroy. The very fact that we are here is evidence of God’s mercy and his desire to save. People often say when things go wrong or they see suffering and evil in the world “Why doesn’t God do something??” Do you want God to pour out his judgement on evil now! Warlords – yes! rapist – yes! murderer – yes! child abuser -yes! adulterers – ?? – gossips – ?? Slanderers – ?? Where must he draw the line??

You and I may not think we are evil in comparison to Hitler or Idi Amin or Jack the Ripper BUT in comparison to God and his standards of perfection we are evil.

 

BUT listen God does not want to destroy – he has gone to the ultimate extreme to make it possible for us not to be destroyed – he sent his Son into the world to save us –

 

1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 …… God our Saviour, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (NIV)

Luke 19:10 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (NIV)

1 Timothy 1:15

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. (NIV)

 

Have you cried out to God for mercy – for forgiveness –

There are only two possible destinies for every person – salvation or destruction – heaven or hell – I know it is not popular to speak about hell these days BUT Jesus spoke of hell as a reality.

 

God wants to save, not destroy – after all that is the name he gave his Son – Jesus = Saviour.

 

Having saved he wants us to obey him and live in humility before him and in harmony with our fellow believers – loving each other not backbiting or slandering – not judging our neighbour BUT loving our neighbour in word and deed as outward evidence of our love for God.

 

 

THE CASE AGAINST SLANDER.

 

James 4:11-12

 

  1. CONSIDER WHAT ‘SLANDER’ MEANS.

            to speak against

            to cut down so as to elevate self

 

  1. CONSIDER OUR RELATIONSHIP:-
  2. a) TO EACH OTHER.

            we are family

            we are neighbours

 

  1. b) TO THE LAW.

           disobeying the law

           making our own laws

 

  1. c) TO GOD.

             usurping God’s position

 

                  ¦ God’s authority     lawgiver

                                                         –  judge

 

                  ¦ God’s ability           to save

                                                         –  to destroy

James 4:4-10 – War and Peace (part 2)

WAR AND PEACE !     [part 2].

 

James 4: 4 – 10.                                                                             [part 1. v1-3]

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

In verses 1-3 James is writing about the cause of conflict between People – and he was writing to Christians within the church. He told them that the real problem was not their circumstances, nor their upbringing, nor their social enviroment, nor their father drinking problem [all these things do have an effect on us – I am not minimizing that] BUT in the final analysis the real problem is within us.

 

No matter how many psychological excuses we can dredge up – it is our desires and passions that ultimately determine how we think and act and speak – What is inside us determines what we are!

 

These desires and passions that war within us affect our relationships with other people – [how many husbands and wives have allowed their desires and passions to ruin their marriage because of adulterous affairs – adultery is not just a matter of sexual impropriety it is also a matter of broken vows and broken trust resulting in bruised and broken hearts] – before any of us become proud and judgemental about this matter remember what Jesus said about commiting adultery in our hearts. HOWEVER as we shall see in this passage there is a way to forgiveness and restoration

 

– these passions and desires also affect our relationship with God and James likens this to adultery.

 

  1. [3.cont. from part 1] RESULTS OF THE CONFLICT.

 

James 4:4

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (NIV)

 

From the time God choose Abram and as a consequence the nation of Israel he likened his relationship with his people to that of a marriage. God was the ‘husband’ and his people the ‘wife’.

Whenever the nation of Israel drifted away from God and followed other gods God considered them to be unfaithful and adulterous. They had broken trust with God.

 

Listen to Jeremiah 3:14&20

14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. ….

20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,

so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,”     declares the LORD. (NIV)

 

2 Corinthians 11:2 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: During part of the marriage service the bride is asked ‘… forsaking all others keep you only unto him as long as you both shall live.’ To which she replies ‘I will.’

 

This is the imagery that the Bible usage to describe the relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ. When we run after other gods – the most frequent being self – and put these before Christ we are guilty of committing spiritual adultery.

 

This was the essence of the problem with James’s readers – they were putting their own selfish desires and passions before anything or anyone else – thus he calls them an adulterous people.

 

We all know about and some have experienced the heart-break of a broken relationship – our society is full of people with broken hearts – even the politicians recognise the tragedy that broken marriages cause not only to those directly involved but also to society as a whole.

In a way that is true also of the spiritual relationship between the believer and God – when our relationship with God is damaged it is not only the individual who suffers but the whole family of God’s people –

If you have moved away from God and are in a backslidden state that affects all of us in some way –

 

Whenever we are unfaithful to God when we break our vows – remember that when we become Christians we are asking Jesus Christ to come into our lives as Lord and Saviour – if he is to be our Lord and Saviour then we must live according to His desires and not our own.

 

What are Christ’s desries? Many!! And we can say that we don’t ever keep to them fully and, of course, that is true. Nor do we keep then perfectly because we can’t as we are not perfect. The question I want to ask you is are you aiming to? Very often I think we use the fact that we are not perfect as an excuse for not even trying!!

 

For example, do you agree that the passion and concern of Christ’s heart is that ALL peoples and nations throughout the world should hear the gospel. Is that true – do you believe it? If that is his desire shouldn’t it be ours?? How much of a concern is missions and evangelism to you? Are you and I being unfaithful to Christ in this area? Are we guilty of being squeezed into the mould of a world that says we must accept as equally valid ALL belief and faith when Jesus clearly taught the exclusivity of his message?

 

This brings us to the point that James is making about friendliness with the world and enmity with God??

 

World – not ecological world. Not the people of the world as individuals but the world system and philosophy as it is set up against God.

 

James is using strong language of friendship and emnity – how can those who claim to be Christian, who have been been brought into a relationship of peace with God now flirt with the enemies of God. He is not saying that they are no longer Christian but is showing the utter inconsistency of claiming to be Christin and yet living as if they weren’t – by their friendship with the world [living by the world’s standards rather than Christ’s].

 

When we live our lives by the philosophies and principles of the world’s system then we are friends with them — HOW? What governs our lives? What is important to us? What are our hopes and dreams? What are our ambtions for our children? What occupies most of our time — esp. our spare time [non-working time]? The answers to these questions will give us an idea of where our loyalties lie!!

 

I am NOT saying that everything in the world is unnecessary and time wasting – your house and your car and your material possessions are important and God has given them to you BUT how are you using them      — [What value do you place on them??]     — for yourself or as tool in God service to minister to people. When all is said and done the only things in this world that are eternal – are people. The Bible teaches us that everything else will be destroyed.

Your cherished house, prize garden, your wonderful career, your bank balance will all come to naught –

 

A worldly system that excludes God must fill the void with something and it is usually with self and selfish ‘wants’ – and God looks at our hearts and asks ‘Where is your passions and desire? Is it for me? or for the world??’

 

He is a jealous God –James 4:5-6 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud

but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV)

 

verse 5 is difficult for the simple reason that this exact wording is not found anywhere in the scriptures – however I think it is safe to assume – and most commentators seem to say – that this is easily seen in the intent of scripture in many places.

 

James seems to be saying ‘Listen, God has given you His Spirit as a gift, as a guarantee that you belong to him, as a consequence of already having given you his Son, Jesus – BY going your own way and following the world’s path you are slapping God in the face and he is a jealous God.”

 

‘envies’- or is jealous – We use the word jealousy to refer to an emotion that rises within us when someone else has what we would like for ourselves – we use it in a negative way.

It can be used positively – Used of God in the Bible it refers to God’s longing for the welfare of those he loves.

ILLUS.: We have said God like a Husband – we speak of ‘a jealous husband’ [negatively refers to a husband who restricts and smothers his wife] BUT positively all husbands should be jealous for their wives – to love unconditionally, to want the best for them, to give them the freedom to be everything they can be, –we are God’s jealous possession – he wants for us our highest good, he wants to protect and guard and provide for us.

 

God loves you – you matter to God – BUT so also do all his children so when there are wars and quarrels among believers God’s heart breaks.

 

James is saying ‘God has put his Spirit within you and the presence of His Spirit in you is incompatible with those desires and passions which pander to self-interest and which destroy fellowship and peace within the Church of God.”

 

What then is the remedy to these outward wars and quarrels and the inner selfish desires??

  1. THE REMEDY FOR THIS CONFLICT.

 

James 4:6-9 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud

but gives grace to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. (NIV)

 

The first 4 verses are quite depressing in some ways – we see the selfishness of our hearts and we know our own weakness and inability to change ourselves.

What can I do? How do I overcome this?

 

But he gives us more grace. — where would we be if it were not for the ‘buts’ of scripture!!

 

Christian, you have already received grace – you can’t be a Christian without being the recipient of God’s grace [favour or goodwill] –

BUT you may think – ‘These demands that Jesus makes – these weaknesses in me – I can’t handle these demands …’   True! But he gives more grace!!

 

God’s grace is always sufficient for all that we need all of the time!! His grace never runs out.

 

Annie Johnson Flints words.

His love has no limits, his grace has no measure,

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth and giveth again!

 

While it is true that God’s grace is all sufficient it is also true that we have a responsibility.

 

James is not saying that God’s grace is an instant and effortless ticket to perfection — he is not saying that The Holy Spirit will come and dwell in us while we pursue our selfish pleasures!

As Motyer puts it “The benefits of grace and more grace are ours along the road of obedience and more obedience. The God who says ‘Here is my grace to receive’ says in the same breathe ‘ Here are my commands to obey.’”

 

OUR RESPONSIBILITY – James has said that God gives grace to the Humble and now he proceeds to explain what some of the qualities of humility are.

 

The first step along the road to humility is submission to God – this is not a very popular concept today – the slogan of today is ‘assert yourself’ – the idea of submitting to and obeying someone else is anathema to modern people. This strikes at the very heart of our natural inclination – naturally we are for self BUT God requires our obedience to himself – In some ways the word ‘submit’ is limited because it does not captire the full meaning of the orginal – it is not a passive word, which is what submission tends to emphasize – What James is calling for is ‘active allegience’ – that attitude of mind that leave you in no doubt as to whose side you are on.

 

Francis Schaeffer used the phrase ‘active passivity’ to capture this idea of submitting to God – I like that!! It is a willing desire to obey our Lord!!

 

Secondly, resisting the devil – if submitting is too passive a word then resisting Satan has often been interpreted too actively.

I have hear people say something like “Well, I just tell Satan to buzz off!!”

Never underestimate the power of Satan!!

 

This is not a word telling us to go chasing after Satan to frighten him off – this is a word to us to be aware that we are constantly under pressure from the devil – Remember we were all born into Satan’s kingdom – BUT God has rescued us from the Kingdom of Darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son – we were once enemies of God BUT now that we have come to Christ we have changed sides and are now enemies of Satan and he is not happy about us defecting to the other side and he will do all in his power to make life as difficult as possible. He is always looking for ways to bring us down.

 

1 Peter 5:8-9

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith….. (NIV)

 

The devil will try every trick in the book to deflect us from following Christ – And don’t think it is only at the time of trouble and pain — NO! NO! one of the most effective of Satan’s weapons is to make us comfortable and life easy!!

 

Ease and comfort is not the mark of a godly life — 2 Timothy 3:12 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (NIV)

How do we resist him? — BY actively submitting to Christ!!

 

Thirdly, submitting to God is not like submitting to an impersonal military commander, it is having a close personal relationship with him.

As we come to him, he comes to us. He longs for fellowship with us! He is not distant – if he feels distant it is probably because we have become cold towards Him.

 

We have already seen how God uses the marriage relationship to illustrate his realtionship with us – In our society marriages have been so damaged and people so hurt that the idea of a marriage being something pleasureable and desireable may not be very appealing to some people — BUT think of the ideal – of what marraige should and can be when both partners love each other and seek the highest for each other –THAT is the kind of relationship God want with each of us!!

 

This is possible – James is not talking about snatching romantic moments but a lifestyle of walking close to God! Good marriages have to be worked at. Our relationship with God takes work!

  • the regular discipline of Bible reading
  • prayer [from scripture, church directory, missionary news letters, CARE Trust info re. social issues, ……]
  • private and public worship [use hymns – chorus book]
  • fellowship [quantity and quality]

 

We do not simply drift into this kind closeness to God – it takes effort

 

ILLUS. I remember Gary Player that Great SA golfer in an interview – Interviewer, “That was a lucky putt!!” Gary , “The more I pratice the luckier I get!”

 

The more effort you put into your relationship with God the more blessed you will be!

 

Fourthly, clean up your act – Purification – remember what he said in 1:21 James 1:21 21 Therefore, get rid of all [weed out] moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (NIV)

 

WEED OUT – get rid of – this take effort and energy on our part.

  • not saying the unkind word
  • not watching the sleazy program on TV
  • going the extra mile to help
  • sacrificing time for someone in need

The imagery is of a gardener – there is the positive planting and nuturing of plants and the negative removing of weeds –

 

The Psalmist, King David says the same thing:

 

Psalm 24:3-4

3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?

Who may stand in his holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false. (NIV)

 

we are talking about outer actions and inner attitudes!

 

It is not that we can clean up our lives and then draw near to God – rather it is when we draw near to God and come under the influence of his holy Spirit that we find ourselves motivated by the desire to be like Him.

 

Fifthly, Repent and lament, – ‘ grieve, mourn, wail…’ These are emotions that are not on the top of our agenda these days – we live in a society in which the pursuit of pleasure has become an obsession. We would be foolish to think that this attitude has not influenced the church – joy peace and happiness are the characteristics by which we now judge spirituality. BUT these can be very superficial..

 

I am NOT saying that Christian should always be miserable – and some are – corpses have more life – BUT there is a need to recognise the seriousness of sin and to come to God in repentence asking forgiveness.

 

What is the outcome of all that James has been talking about?

 

THE REWARD.

 

James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)

 

Martin Luther – “It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing, that is why he cannot make anything out of [the one] who is not yet nothing

 

Naturally we are proud and it is only the grace of God that can humble us! BUT it is only as we come near to God that we can being to see ourselves and we really are!

This is not just a pious platitude!! Someone has called it ‘practising the presence of God’.

 

What do we mean by ‘practising the presence of God’?

we need to bear in mind that Christ is with us always

  • in our home
  • at meals
  • when we watch TV
  • in our conversation
  • reading a book
  • in relationship with spouse, parents, children
  • in business
  • on the phone
  • on the sports filed
  • in Church

 

As we are aware of Christ’s presence with us ALL the time we become aware of our shortcomings and sinfulness which should lead us to deep sorrow and repentence – at which point we cry out for more grace which he freely gives!!

 

Matthew Henry “The highest honour in heaven will be the reward of the greatest humility on earth!”

 

1 Peter 5:5-6

5….. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another[practical humility NOT pious navel gazing] , because,

“God opposes the proud

but gives grace to the humble.”

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (NIV)

 

James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)

 

WAR AND PEACE!

 

James 4:1-10.

 

  1. THE ROOT OF THIS CONFLICT [v.1]
  • condition detected
  • cause discovered

 

  1. THE REASONS FOR THIS CONFLICT [v.2]
  • selfish wants & desires

 

  1. THE RESULTS OF THIS CONFLICT [v.3-5]
  • ineffective/unanswered prayer
  • enmity with God

 

  1. THE REMEDY FOR THIS CONFLICT [v.7-9]
  • God’s sufficiency
  • Our responsibility

                   submitting to God

                    resisting the devil

                    purification

                    repentance

                    humility

 

  1. THE REWARD. [v.10]
  • honoured by God

James 4:1-10 – War and Peace

WAR AND PEACE!

 

James 4:1-10.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

James has spent ch.3 dealing with the tongue which is more difficult to tame than a herd of wild horses and with wisdom in its good and evil forms. [Remeber that this letter was not written in chapters and verses] He ended chapter 3 talking about peace and a harvest of righteousness – this would be ideal – this should be the goal. HOWEVER it would seem James readers were far from reaching this ideal – in fact the contrast between 3v18 and 4v1 is quite astounding.

 

James 3:18-4:1 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? (NIV)

 

He now goes on to point out very clearly that these fights and struggles are not from God and calls on those involved to repent and be forgiven.

He states what the problem is – strife, fightings, wars, quarrels.

He explains the cause of the problem – selfish desires and motives.

He expounds a solution to this problem – repent / draw near or submit to God.

 

OUTLINE:- The Root of the conflict.

The Result of the conflict.

The Remedy of the conflict.

 

  1. THE ROOT OF THE CONFLICT.        

 

James 4:1-2

1 What causes fights [WARS] and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (NIV)

 

– fights = [WARS] – fights; quarrel; battle; kill — isn’t James being a bit dramatic? Isn’t he writing to Christians? Surely he can’t be describing what happens in churches?

 

These are the kind of words we use when describing the conflict in Bosnia or Chechenya – or when we are discussing World War II. This is the language of flame-throwers, missiles, anti-missiles and nuclear weapons – of burning buildings and body-bags.

 

But James is not writing to a Military Academy he is writing to a church – but [ as Alec Motyer writes] he “Chooses the vocabulary of war to express controversies and quarrels, animosities and bad feeling among Christians, not because there is no other way of saying it, but because there is no other way of expressing the horror of it.” (Motyer p.141)

 

CONDITION – James is describing the condition of the Churches to whom he was writing and it is not a pretty picture. He does not mean that they are actually murdering each other or continually quarreling but that there is a atomosphere of animosity. The peace and unity of the Church is not what it should be!

 

ILLUST.: The American frontier where two families would fued for years – that did not mean that they were shooting at each other every day but that there was a state of war between them that would break out into fighting from time to time.

 

Sadly these situation sometime arise in Churches – power struggles between different personalities

 

Why do such situations arise? CAUSE – Whenever there is a war or a fight or an argument – there is always a cause. Wars don’t just happen – someone starts them!! It is always the fault of the other side, however! James does not allow us to look at this from a distance BUT he tells us to look inside us James 4:1

……..   Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (NIV)

 

Listen!” says James “You guys are a walking civil war! The fights and arguments between you are only a symptom or a much deeper conflict – the one inside you!”

 

These desires and passions inside us are characterised by self seeking – it is doing and promoting those things that we want and heaven help anyone who gets in the way! The pursuit of the heart is our own happiness.

 

BUT we don’t have many arguments and fights in our church – NO! praise God for that BUT let us be honest with ourselves – sometimes there is a cold war – we disagree with someone but we don’t have the courage to say so and as a result we harbour resentment and bitterness. And then pat ourselves on the back for being controlled!

 

Maybe there is a situation in the Church or in the home that you disagree with but you don’t want to be seen to be the odd one out so you use spoiling tacits. Cold war tacits can be just as damaging to a relationship as can open warfare!

 

It is so easy to say “Well I don’t behave like that so I’m not guilty – this message is not for me!!” Listen – when there is bitterness, resentment, name-calling [even in the silence of your own heart] , anger –….etc. then you too are guilty!

 

Jesus thought it was serious – Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (NIV)

 

Something – he did not specify how big or how small – something important or insignificant — just something [anything] — Was Jesus exaggerating when he put these things under the heading of ‘murder’!

When we see two Christians fall out with each other – or when we ourselves fall out with someone do we shrug our shoudlers saying that that is simply part of life.

Whose interests do we have at heart?? Are we doing what the Bible enjoins upon us to ‘consider others better than ourselves’ –

 

  1. THE REASONS FOR THE CONFLICT.

 

James 4:2a 2a You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight…. (NIV)

Possibly a better translation – moving a few punctuation marks and adding two little words ‘so’ … and ‘so’ You want something but don’t get it [so]you kill. You covet, but you cannot have what you want so you quarrel and fight….

 

It would be much easier if James listed the things we should not want then we could tick them off and desire others BUT it is general and applies to all of us.

 

Twice in this verse James says ‘..want …’

Twice ‘.. can’t have … ‘ ‘…don’t get..’

 

So often we pursue possessions, power and pleasure – we sacrifice in order to have yet we are never satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

1 I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly — my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worth while for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

and this was the reward for all my labour.

 

In these verses ‘I’ ‘me’ ‘my’ ‘myself’ occur over 30x – Yet listen to the preacher’s assessment of his achievements.

 

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;nothing was gained under the sun. (NIV)

 

Oscar Wilde – “Sometimes the only thing worse than NOT getting what you want, is getting it!”

 

We must never under estimate the power of human desire

ILLUS.:- we only have to look at King David when he desire Bathsheba – adultery – murder – death – break up of his family – death of his child.

King Ahab – desire Naboth’s vineyard – murder —

 

BUT much closer to home we need to look into our own hearts to realise that that is where the real problem lies – it is easy to see the faults and weaknesses in others – it is so easy to be self-righteous and smug.

 

 

 

ILLUS.: Many years ago The Times newspaper read some correspondence under the title ‘What is wrong with the World?’ The best and shortest letter read:

“ Dear Sir, I am. yours sincerely, G K Chesterton

 

This is the kind of honesty we have to have with ourselves – unless we see ourselves as we are, we will never see the need for repentence and God’s continuing forgiveness – one of the things that I believe is missing in my own life is that I have become insensitive to sin – I have been a Christian for a long time and I have developed a Christian lifestyle that is outwardly respectable and I bask in the light of people’s praise and yet I know that often my heart is cold and I am far from God –

It is in me that wars and fightings begin –

 

  1. THE RESULTS OF THE CONFLICT.

 

James 4:2b-3 2b ….. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (NIV)

 

There are two things that are the results of these conflicts and desires:

unanswered prayers

emnity with God.

 

  1. a) They do not have because they do not ask.

 

Are there things that you want from God – Have you asked him!

 

O what peace we often forfiet

O what needless pain we bear

All becaue we do not carry

Everyting to God in Prayer.

 

If you can’t pray about it then ask if it is right and if we ought to be doing it — NOT ‘Lord bless me while I do this’ BUT ‘Lord what do you want me to do’

 

  1. b) When they do ask they don’t receive.

James 4:2-3 ….. don’t get it. …. you cannot have what you want. … You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3…, you do not receive, …

These verse not only marked by intense desire but also by immense disappointment in that we don’t get what we desire.

 

It is not that God doesn’t hear – God is not deaf –

Not that pray is not answered – BUT that they don’t get what they want.

 

  1. c) They don’t receive because their motives are wrong.

 

Why do we ask for things –

Possible – ask for wokmate so we easier life

Possible to ask for spouse so we more comfortable

Possible to ask for mission need so we less pressure to do something..

 

BUT God is sovereign and he does grant many of these things often in spite of our selfish motives!

 

Parable of Tax-collector and Pharisee

Luke 18:10-14 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV)

 

Jesus does not comdemn pharisee for honesty, not commiting adultery or forfasting BUT for his motives and boastings.

How then should we pray?? JOHN tells …

1 John 5:14 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (NIV)

 

Q> What is prayer according to God’s will?

– not a way of manipulating God.

– not a way of changing God’s mind?

 

Psalm 37:4   4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)

I used to think I had God over a barrel on this BUT as we delight ourselves in the Lord our desires become his and we then ask what according with his will.

 

Q> What about asking in Jesus name?

 

John 14:13-14 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)

ILLUS.: Secretary does things in the name of the Boss – eg. letters – BUT she knows tha Boss well enough to know what he wants said and often exactly the way he would.

As we grow in Christ we grow in the confidence that we will ask according to his will and that he will hear us and answer!!

 

All true prayer is simply a variation on a theme – “Your will be done….”

 

 

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden — ‘ My will be done..’

 

It is difficult to know – our motives so mixed – often do not even know our own hearts —

Bible tells that our hearts are devious and decietful..

 

When we follow our own desires and passions there is always a price to pay – — in human conflict and damaged relationships — and in unfulfilled desires — BUT also a spiritual price in a breach of communication with God.

 

Two options — stop our prayers or cleanse our hearts — James will deal with this in vv.6-10

 

Need God’s wisdom to know our hearts and to know how to pray – James has already told us that we should ask God who gives generously to all who ask — Maybe we don’t hav this wisdom because we have not asked God.