How to live confidently! – James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 3, 2013 AM
In my early 30’s, I questioned what my future held. I was newly married, working at a good job, but I could not see the finish line. I wanted desperately to be “out there in the real world,” working in pastoral ministry. I observed people my age who were established in ministry. Soon, a ministry opportunity arose that was the beginning of a future I could not have imagined—one better than I could have drawn up. I wish I could say I never again lost confidence about the future, but I can’t. Yet in my journey, I have learned valuable lessons. God works on His timetable and I can trust Him.
Disappointments make adults less confident about their lives. Some lose confidence and concentrate on the worst that could happen. They always wonder when the next shoe will drop! Other adults worry about the future. Limited incomes, aging, health-care, terrorism threats, the economy, and other concerns erode their confidence about the future. Some adults have lost confidence in prayer. God desires us to live confidently and James teaches us how.
James declares that wicked people will lose their wealth; in fact, it will ultimately testify against them! God already knows about people’s evil and will judge them. As a result, they will suffer for their acts of ungodliness. However, we can live confidently because we know…
I. The wicked will be punished! (5:1, 4-6)
1. James had referred to ways some rich people treat believers—oppressing them, dragging them into court, and speaking evil of their Lord’s name (2:6-7). James now addresses non-Christian rich people directly. Evidently, these rich folk were unbelievers who took advantage of the destitute believers. Weep and wail describes loud mourning—howling in terror—and bursting into tears. Misery means “calamity” or “distress.” James declared a time was coming when the unscrupulous rich would face the consequences of their actions. Their wealth would decay. Moths would eat holes in their hoarded clothes, and their silver and gold would rust (vv. 2-3)! Then, James outlined three charges against them! First, they had hired workers to reap their fields and had withheld their pay. The failure to pay was cruel and fraudulent. Poor Jewish day laborers expected to be paid at the end of each day as the law required. They depended on it for their families’ survival. James stated that the withheld pay cried out against them and now, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” God takes note of rich people’s ruthless treatment of the poor. He can—and will—address the wrong. The heartless landowners had deprived the day laborers of their subsistence, but the wealthy “lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” They had “fattened (themselves) in the day of slaughter. James compared the self-indulgent rich with animals that went on feeding securely, unaware of the looming day of slaughter. They had lived a soft (delicate) life and engaged in extravagant wastefulness; solely for their own pleasure. James then leveled a third charge against wealthy unbelievers, “You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” He may have referred to their having control of the courts so the poor had no recourse and thus were deprived of justice. Their exploiting the poor amounted to murder. In Jewish tradition, people could murder others by depriving them of their living. The poor had no power to gain a fair hearing in the courts. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!
EXAMPLE: We can be confident about our future because God will punish the wicked. We are not to rejoice at the prospect of their judgment; we should be concerned that they repent and turn to Christ. Yet we can take comfort in the truth that God is fair and just, and we can leave reward and punishment to Him. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!
James turned again to Christians. He called for believers to be patient as they await Jesus’ return and to endure on the basis of God’s nature. We can live confidently because we know…
II. Our future is secure! (5:7-11)
1. James encouraged his brothers to be patient “until the Lord’s coming.” Rather than to seek revenge for wrongs, we are to live in anticipation of Jesus’ return. An illustration from farming presses James’s point. The farmer plows his field and sows his seed. “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” Believers are to follow the farmer’s example of perseverance. In light of Christ’s imminent return, we are to strengthen our hearts. We are to persevere in faith and renew our courage and commitment. Believers are not to “grumble against each other… or you will be judged.” Christians must remember that, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James wanted believers to stop grumbling against one another so they would not be judged! With the Judge so near, how can believers continue to grumble against and find fault with one another? Christians will face the same judgment as the wicked. Instead, believers will be judged on the basis of their relationship with Christ, and the wicked will be judged on the basis of their lack of a relationship with Him. James pointed believers to the prophets as a group for an outstanding example of suffering and patience. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.” The prophets were worthy examples of steadfastness. James reminds us, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Job is a great example of perseverance. He was not patient in our usual meaning of the word; he “had it out” with God, but he remained steadfast in his faith. God restoring Job demonstrates His compassionate and merciful nature. James writes, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!
EXAMPLE: We can patiently await and be confident about the future because God is in charge of it. We are to persevere in our faithfulness to Christ, no matter what difficulties we encounter. We have the opportunity to follow outstanding examples of endurance and in the process to become models for others. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!
James echoed Jesus’ teaching about speaking truthfully without using oaths (Matthew 5:33-37). Instead of cursing God or others about our circumstances, we should pray. James points us to God’s past consistency in answering prayers. On that basis, we can be assured of our prayers’ clout! We can live confidently because we know…
III. Our prayers are powerful! (5:13-20)
1. James then asked three questions that expected a “yes” answer. First, are any believers in trouble? He is referring to experiencing hardships. That person should keep on praying for God’s help. Second, is anyone happy (in good spirits)? That person should sing praises—literally, “sing psalms.” Singing to God is a fitting way to thank Him for blessings. James’s third question concerns believers who are sick. An ill person may lack the strength to pray, so the individual was to call for the elders of the church. Elders may have been older, respected Christians, or they could have been leaders with pastoral functions. The elders’ role probably mirrors a similar role found in the Jewish community, and James’s advice reflects a familiar practice in that community. The elders first were to anoint the sick person with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The word anoint means more than using olive oil in a ceremonial gesture; it means “to rub” in the medicinal sense. Thus, their prayer is to be combined with the best medical treatment available. The phrase in the name of the Lord emphasizes dependence on God. On the surface, this verse seems to offer an absolute guarantee that this would always result in healing. However, we must consider an underlying condition. The phrase the prayer of faith refers to petitioning God in total confidence. James meant that it is God alone who “will cure” or “will restore to health” the one who was sick. “The Lord will raise him up.” James’ comment, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven”, does not indicate all sickness is a result of sins. Rather, it points out that where sin is present, God’s forgiveness is available. James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. A righteous person has a close relationship with God and demonstrates faith through obedience. The idea is that God hears and makes effective the prayers of His faithful people. Thus, His people are to pray. As an example of a righteous man’s powerful, effective prayers, James pointed to the prophet Elijah. James’s point was that Elijah was human as we all are; yet because of his right relationship with God, his prayers were effective in God’s causing and then ending drought. James urged believers to develop and maintain a vibrant relationship with God out of which they could pray effectively. In fact, Christians are to be engaged in the ministry of restoration as they endured trials and an ongoing struggle against sin. “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!
EXAMPLE: Intercessory prayer is essential as an expression of Christian concern and of faith in God’s care and power. Intercessors’ presence with the sick person gives assurance of the church’s fellowship and provides a personal touch that can strengthen the individual’s faith. Yet seeking the best medical treatment is always valid and crucial. We can be confident about our prayers because God always answers them, often in exactly the way we ask. Even when He seems to be silent, we can be confident that He has not forgotten our petitions and is working on our behalf. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!
1. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!
2. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!
3. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!
This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.