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James #19, chapter 5, verses 7-11
Authentic Faith
The Test of Patience
James 5:7-11
I don’t think I need to remind anyone that we face trials and problems in life. If you’ve been around any time at all, you are well aware of that.  And I would guess none of us are living with the assumption that just because we are saved we are exempt from problems. 
We always need to keep in mind that whether or not we have problems and difficulties and trials is not the way to determine whether or not we are saved.  Have you ever done that or known someone who did?  “I’m going through this problem. Therefore, I must not be saved.”  Or, “Iif I was right with God, this never would have happened.”
Neither of those are true.  That is not the way to evaluate or test the authenticity of your faith.  However, there is a test in regard to those trial s that does revel whether our faith is genuine or not and that is the test of how we respond to those trials. 
James 5:7-11
The key verse is verse 7.  What we have here is a section of Scripture about being patient in the midst of trials. Again, let me remind us that James is writing to a primarily Jewish audience that has converted to Christ and we don’t know a whole lot about this group.   
We don't exactly know where they were located or where they were meeting.  But we are told back in the opening verses of the letter that they are representative of the twelve tribes of Israel and they are scattered abroad.  And apparently,, since it’s the first thing he brings up, they were experiencing trials and difficulties. 
So James tells them about the blessing of enduring trials and how God will use them in their lives to develop Christ-like character.  And now, in this section, he  returns to that subject to tell them about the need to develop patience. 
, representative of the twelve tribes as chapter 1 verse 1 says, were facing trials. They were facing temptations and afflictions and persecutions and so forth and they needed to be patient. They needed to learn patience.
That’s what verses 7-11 are all about.  Now it is written to those who can be patient, therefore it is addressed to Christians.   And it is another of the tests that help us determine whether or not we are saved.  And in so many words, James says, “If you're not patient when you experience a trial, it may be that you're not a true Christian because it is the nature of Christ to be patient.”
And while in chapter 1 the lesson was on being patient in the trials, here the focus is more on the people who are causing the trial. 
So how do we learn to be patient with people who are causing us distress?  Well, James offers us six practical keys to help. 
1.  Anticipate the Lord's Coming
verse 7a
We only have to be patient until the Lord returns.  When you’re going through a trial, just remember, it won’t last forever.  Keep your mind and thoughts on the coming of the Lord. 
By the way, he mentions the coming of the Lord in verse 8 and again in verse 9.  Three times in three verses, he says the Lord is coming.  Never forget, in any circumstances, we live in the hope of the coming of Christ!
We look for the Lord Jesus Christ! We are anticipating His soon return. We live in the light of that return. That's just the way it is with us. We know we're not going to be here forever, we know we're going to a better land, a better place, a city whose builder and maker is God. And we live in the light of the Second Coming.
Unfortunately, while we say that, I’m afraid we don’t always live that and I think the primary reason is we’ve had it too easy.  The persecuted church of the first century looked for the coming of the Lord a whole lot more than the pampered church of the 21st century.
It’s not uncommon at all to hear someone say tongue in cheek that they want to go to heaven, they just don’t want to go today!  We’ve had it so good and so easy we can’t see how heaven would be any better than we have it now.  
But a church and a people under persecution inevitably longs for the coming of Christ.  They anxiously await the appearance of the Lord!
And notice, James doesn’t give then any charts or diagrams to explain the last days.  He doesn’t offer them a timeline.  He just says, “Be patient because the Lord is coming!”
Then he offers them an illustration. 
Verse 7b
He calls their attention to this farmer.  “See” or “behold” is used to get their attention.  And then he uses this simple little analogy to make his point. The farmer plants, then the farmer waits.  That's just how it is if you're a farmer.  Now the unspoken point of the story is the farmer is dependent upon God. 
A harvest only happens if God brings together all of the right components to make the crop good. So what is the farmer looking for?  James calls it the precious fruit of the earth.  Precious means its valuable. He depends on it for his existence.  But he waits on it and it’s worth waiting on.  It’s precious.   
And, in like manner, the Christian who finds himself in a time of trial has to wait also.
Verse 8
Just like putting seed in the ground and praying for rain and tending the field and trusting God to bring something, we patiently wait for the Lord.
And notice the end of verse 8 where he reminds them the Lord is at hand. 
One of the forgotten words of the return of Christ is the word imminent.  The return of the Lord is imminent.  It is at hand.  The idea is it’s right on the edge.  It's just about to happen.   Listen, it may not see like you’ll ever get out of whatever it is you’re in, but the coming fo the Lord is at hand.  It is, most likely, much nearer than any of us think. 
Scripturally speaking, prophetically speaking, the only thing that needs to occur before the return of the Lord is the sound of a trumpet and the announcement of an angel.  When that happens, He is here.  Jesus could come for His church at any moment. He is near at hand.
Just be patient because the Lord is coming and He’s nearer than you think. 
Here’s the second thing.  Not only are we to anticipate the Lord’s coming, we are to
2. Recognize the Lord’s Judgment
Verse 9
On the positive side, the Lord is near at hand and that strengthens us as we wait.  But there is a sobering, negative side to that as well.  The same Savior that comes to deliver those who patiently wait also comes to judge those who impatiently grumble. 
Now this judgment is not salvation judgment, but service judgment.  This is the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ.
According to Paul, it is there that every attitude and motive and act of service will be very carefully examined by the Lord.  It is there that faithful Christians will be rewarded and honored.  It is also there that the wood, hay and stubble of our lives will be burned up. 
See, it’s possible to earn rewards in heaven.  It’s also possible to forfeit the rewards that we’ve earned, but lost for some reason. It will be put in the books to be rewarded and then, taken out of the books. You can forfeit by sin what you once earned and would have received.
And notice, the particular sin he highlights is that of grumbling and he says it can lead to condemnation.  I daresay most of the time we don’t think about murmuring and grumbling being that serious of an offense. 
But there is an implied series of events here that begins when we are under persecution.  If our thinking isn’t right, the trial or persecution leads to frustration, if it isn’t vented properly will lead to bitterness and that bitterness expresses itself by grumbling. 
You know as well as I that a bitter frustrated person is no fun to be around.  And the idea is that people living in difficulty can become so frustrated and so embittered that they lose patience not only with the persecutor but with everybody else around them. 
And the grumbling and bellyaching that comes out of that is a sin against God.  So James is reminding them to keep in mind the Lord’s return, not only because it is the way out, but you’ve got to answer for how you’ve dealt with the people involved. 
And he really drives the point home at the end of verse 9 as he tells them the Judge is standing at the door.  Just as the coming of the Lord is near at hand, so also is the Judge standing at the door eavesdropping on your conversation!
You can look at it positively or you can see it negatively, but either way, the coming of the Lord is close and we need to be patient in our trials because of that. 
Here’s the third thing that helps us be patient.  Not only anticipate the Lord's coming and recognize the Lord's judgment, but
3. Follow the Lord's Servants
verse 10
If you need an example to follow as you endure suffering and persecution, then take a look at the prophets of old.  Now an example is more than someone to admire and compliment.  Scripturally speaking, examples are given for us to follow.  
So James says, “Imitate the conduct of the prophets because they suffered and they were patient.  So follow their example.”
Since he is writing to Jews, I think it highly likely he is talking about the Old Testament prophets.
That is the clearest and easiest way to understand this verse.  He’s talking about those who have spoken in the name of the Lord and suffered because of it.  And notice, he says they are not just examples of suffering, but also of patience. 
The prophets are classic illustrations of those men who in speaking the truth suffered affliction and did it with patience.   Think back, for example, about Moses who endured a stiff necked and rebellious people, yet was faithful and meek.
Think back to David who was hunted by Saul like an animal in the mountains, yet he trusted God, waited for deliverance and wrote volumes of truth regarding God's saving power.
Think of Elijah whose life was sought by the wicked leaders of Israel, particularly Ahab and Jezebel, his pagan wife, and yet he was faithful to speak God's words of judgment.
Think of Jeremiah who was constantly persecuted yet would not complain but said, " I'm a sinner, I deserve nothing anyway.”
We could mention Ezekiel who suffered painful sorrow because it was God’s will that he prophecy from that condition.  In fact, God killed his wife as an illustration of what was coming to God’s people.  He suffered greatly to get the message across.
Daniel, deported, put in a den of lions but endured with great faith. Hosea, whose marriage was a disaster and a heartbreak, but in that very heartbreak came the Lord's message to the people and he was so patient.
John the Baptist beheaded for the Word of God because he was preaching boldly. He endured the persecution and the hatred that was coming at him and finally ended in his death.
And I can’t leave out the list of those found in Hebrews 11 where we find “Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David, and Samuel, and the prophets who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promise, stopped the mouths of lions. They quenched the violence of fire, verse 34. Escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong. Became valiant in fight. Turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others, speaking of the prophets and saints of the past, had trials of cruel mocking and scourging, moreover of bonds and imprisonment, they were stoned, they were sawn in half, they were tested, slain with a sword, wandered around in sheepskin and goatskin, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, and mountains, and dens, and caves of the earth.
The world wasn't even worthy of such heroes of the faith. And they're the examples. And what is the word to us? 
Hebrews 12:1-2:  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin that does so easily beset us and let us run...listen to this...with patience the race that is set before us." They were patient and we need to be patient.   Just follow the examples you’ve been given.
4.  Understand the Lord's Blessing
verse 11a
It’s one of those paradoxes of the faith that we wind up referring to those who suffer and endure as being blessed.  People who endure through trials are blessed people.  That’s what he’s telling us. 
That they endure is evidence of God’s blessing upon them.  And there’s a great life lesson found there.  God’s blessings come, not to people who do great things, but  to people who endure great things.
Remember when Salome asked for the thrones on the right and left hands of Jesus in the coming Kingdom?  How did Jesus respond?  He said, “They aren’t mine to give.  God will decide that.”
But there is a clue to who receives the position of honor in the next thing Jesus asked.  He asked, “Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink? Can you endure the kind of terrible experience that I will endure?”
They very arrogantly and ignorantly said, “Sure we can!”  They had no idea of what they were talking about.
But implied in the question is the thought that the highest eternal reward and honor is somehow linked to and reserved for those He who suffer the most.  In that same vein of thought, James says, “Those who endure the suffering as blessed”  God blesses those who endure.
5.  Realize the Lord's Purpose
Verse 11b
Many people will never come to realize that God has a purpose for what they’re going through.  Most of the time we’re trying so hard and praying so hard to keep people out of difficult situations that we never pause to think maybe God has a reason for what’s happening. 
So to illustrate that point, James brings Job to their mind.  Now the story of Job was very familiar.  It still is today.  You’ll hear a lot of people talk about the patience of Job. 
Job was a godly man. Satan came to God and said, "I don't think You have one man on the earth that will be true to You." He said, "Yes I do. Job will. Just test him and see.  You can't kill him but you can do just about everything else you want to him and I'll prove that he's a faithful man”
So Satan went after Job. He destroyed his crops and livestock.  He killed his children.  He ruined his health.  He caused his wife to turn against him.  But through it all, Job never wavered. He endured. He complained now and then, but mostly about his dumb friends who were giving him stupid answers as to what was going on.
His wife tried to get him to curse God and die, and he refused to do it. He said, "Even if God kills me, I’m going to trust Him." And he did it with praise in his heart.  He said, "The Lord gave, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
What an incredible man was Job!  He cried out to God in confusion. He listened to his friends give him all the wrong reports as to why it was happening. But he endured and he did it without sinning. 
So what was God's purpose with Job? I think there were several.  First, he did it to test his faith and prove it real. Second, it strengthened his faith so that he would see God more clearly. Third, he proved to Satan that there was a man totally committed to God, no matter the cost. Fourth, he increased Job’s blessings by giving him twice as much as he started with.  And fifth, he did it to give you and me an example.   
That’s what James means there at the end of verse 11.  You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord.  In other words, with Job, God had a goal in mind. And He does for us as well.  You say, "How do you know that?" I know because I read Romans 8:28!  God works all things together for...what?...good, Romans 8:28, for them that love Him.
Learn to be patient!  Anticipate the Lord's coming and live in the light of it.  Recognize the Lord's judgment and live in the fear of it.  Follow the Lord's servants and live in the pattern of their lives.  Understand the Lord's blessing and how He wants to bless us.  And realize the Lord has a purpose for everything that comes our way!
6.  Consider the Lord's character
Verse 11c
Do you ever find yourself questioning the character of God? Job did!  "Lord, are You there? Anybody home up there? Lord, are You the God I think You are?" Those questions had to be in his mind even though he never got an answer. 
Now you and I have it a little better than Job.  We have a finished revelation that tells us everything we need to know about God.  And here in verse 11, James says, “When you need to develop patience, consider the Lord's character and that will help you develop patience.  I want you to remember the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. 
Those two attributes make for a wonderful study in and of themselves.  The word "compassionate” is the word from which we get our word for bowels.  And notice the Lord is very compassionate.  It literally translates as God is “many boweled”.
That’s a very interesting phrase.  You say, "That isn't very interesting to me." Well let me tell you why it's interesting. The Jews always spoke of the bowels or the stomach as the seat of feeling because they could feel in their stomachs. We don't feel anything in our heart, we talk about the heart where we have feeling but we don't feel it there. We feel it in the gut.
So to be many boweled is to say God has a massive capacity for compassion. He feels things, deeply, broadly, greatly. By the way, this phrase is unique to James.  It does not appear in any writings, either Scriptural or otherwise, prior to its appearance heer in James. 
Later on, it was picked up and used by some pagan writers, but it appears to have been coined by James and James, the half-brother of the Lord, the one who perhaps had a more unique and personal insight into the character of God, the one who lived in the same household and was up-close and personal with Jesus, the very Son of God, says God is not just compassionate, He is multiplied compassion.
And He is merciful.  That just means He's tender.  He’s soft-hearted. He bears our infirmities. He carries our cares. That's why the Bible says, "Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you." Let Him bear your burdens. He knows your trial.
So, what are you going through? Are you going through the darkness of some trial, perhaps a trial in your family or marriage?  Maybe it's a child that's disappointed you. Maybe it's a struggle financially. Maybe you have a disease. Maybe you've struggled with work.
Whatever they are, know this, suffering and trouble and trials, whether it's physical, emotional, economic or whatever, just goes with the territory. So how shall we deal with it?
How about this?  Live every day anticipating the Lord's coming. And recognize that He comes as a judge and you don't want to let those trials cause you to sin in some way that will be embarrassing to you when He comes, or cause you to suffer the loss of some reward. And then follow the Lord's examples.
Remind yourself of Hebrews chapter 12 that you haven't yet suffered unto blood and remember those who did who were sawn in half, whose heads were chopped off, those who endured things that we haven't even thought of enduring and were patient.
And then consider the Lord's promise that the more you endure the greater the blessing. And then remember, the Lord has something in mind to perfect in you and something for His own glory by your trial. And finally, remember the Lord's character. He is compassionate. He understands and He will never let you have more than you can bear and you'll always find His tender mercy along with it.
Just be patient.  A better day is coming even in this life as God accomplishes the purpose here and certainly in the life to come.
Let's pray together.
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