Tag Archives: James

Morning Thoughts (James 5:11)

James 5:11, "Behold, we count them happy which endure, Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."

This morning, it helps people to know that others share similar experiences with them.  People who can empathize with you (relate to your sufferings) are generally more welcome than those who can only sympathize (feel sorry for the suffering but without any firsthand experience).  When I lost my father about 12 years ago, expressions of grief and compassion from others that had lost a parent – particularly a father – seemed to resonate the strongest with me.  As they described their feelings and emotions going through their loss, I could relate to the feeling as I had it too.  Part of the joy that comes with marriage is that two people living as one have mutual "high times" to share and experience together.  These joys seem doubled as the couple enjoys them together.  It is one of the trademarks of our makeup, and the Lord's infinite wisdom employs this characteristic when He inspired His Book.

The Bible is replete with examples – both good and bad – that we can easily relate to in many circumstances that we face in life.  Have you been tempted or succumbed to temptation lately?  If so, reading David's prayer in Psalm 51 can be more poignant and quite powerful during such a time.  Have you had a mountaintop experience with the Lord in recent days?  If so, then recounting Moses' experience seeing the hinder parts of God's glory can have special experiential significance.  In our study verse, James has been describing reactions to suffering in the context.  One of his primary points through the lesson is to exhort and encourage his readers to patience in the situations of life.  However, he does not stop short with just some intellectual discussion on the concept of reaction to suffering or the outcomes of suffering.  James affords us a real life example to not only show the experience of suffering but the correct way to endure it with a promised outcome on the other side of suffering.

James points us to Job, who endured as much – and possibly more – than any other person, save Jesus Christ Himself.  He had a "day" that I would suspect all of us find impossible to empathize with and probably even imagine.  In Job 1, he lost all of his children and his entire livelihood through possessions of livestock.  This day was followed by another hard day in chapter 2 when he loses his health as well, and in the midst of all of this suffering, his wife tells him to curse God and die, and 3 "friends" show up like an inquisition to beat a confession out of him, already judging him guilty.  What a complete tragedy of one's life circumstances!

James points us to Job as our example of how to endure sufferings.  He was patient (though not perfect) in his trial, and he is worthy of patterning to a point when we experience loss and tragedy in our own lives.  Too often, we like to play the "blame God" game when things go wrong, but Job did the opposite.  He blessed God in the midst of his toughest season.  He endured patiently, and as such, James holds him up as a shining example of patience even in the midst of life's sorest trials.  However, James also points us from Job to the Lord with a promise of the Lord's character in the outcomes of trials.

Not only is Job's case one to draw strength from with Job's patience in trials, we can glean even more consolation from an understanding of the Lord's character in how Job's case ended.  The Lord is described as being very pitiful and of tender mercy.  This means that the Lord grants compassion and has an infinite supply of pity for our sufferings and state.  So, how did Job's case end?  In the last chapter of Job, we read that the Lord has set the record straight.  He commends and rebukes Job.  He rebukes him for speaking on behalf of God (God can and does do that Himself), and He commended him when speaking in condemnation to Job's 3 "friends."  God said Job was upright, whereas they were not.  Finally, Job received twice as much at the end as he had at the beginning.

James points us to this end of the Lord for our consolation and strength for our trials, and the unchanging character of the Lord demands that we understand that the Lord's pity and mercy to Job will be to us as well.  Now the obvious question arises, "Does this mean that if we stay faithful and patient to the Lord that we can expect a pleasant end to our lives here?"  The obvious answer is "no."  The Bible is brimming with examples of people that died in tragedy and never attained any kind of "well off" status on earth.  A quick perusal of the prophets of the Old Testament shows that many of them lived and died in ignominy in the eyes of the people for standing for the word of God that they faithfully proclaimed.  Jeremiah is a good example of this very thing.  Hebrews 11 even tells us that one of the outcomes of living by faith is being able to do great things like stop lion's mouths, quench fire's violence, and wax valiant in fight. (Verses 33-34) However, it follows up that list of glory by saying that a life of faith can also yield torture, bonds, stoning, and being sawed asunder. (Verses 35-38)

So, which is it?  Does the life of faith and patience in trials yield desirable or undesirable outcomes?  Notice the verse says the "end of the Lord."  Though God showed in glorious fashion that Job's life was more blessed and desirable at the end, it is the principle that James is pointing us to that all of us can share in and enjoy.  I sincerely hope that I will not lose my children, possessions, and health to be followed by scorning from my wife and miserable accusation from my good friends.  If I do, perhaps I will endure and stand fast patiently.  However, I should not expect that before I die I will necessarily receive twofold from the Lord of all that I lost.  Job did literally receive those things, but consider the principle of the end of the Lord.  What was manifested to Job literally in the natural realm will be manifested literally to all of us in the better world to come.

The Bible tells us in many places that the Lord gives us abundantly more (twice as much) in goodness for our evil.  Isaiah 40 promises double blessing from the Lord for all of our iniquities, and Romans 5 promises that grace much more abounds in spite of abundance of sin.  However, when it comes to suffering and trial, what comfort yields the most precious strength and hope?  Job was not guilty but suffered anyway.  Though we do suffer for our sins, what grants the comfort and strength needed for the day when we suffer having done nothing that merits it?

Zechariah tells us that we need to turn to the stronghold as prisoners of hope. (Zechariah 9:12) Though we have battles and soreness of trial in this old world, there is a refuge and stronghold that we can lean on, latch onto, and draw strength from.  What is the root source of that strength?  The verse says that the promise upon which hope is anchored is the Lord turning to render double to us.  Just as Job received twice as much at the end as he had at the beginning, so we can faithfully say that the Lord will render double to us in the world to come.  This promise of double equates to many things, but consider that the Lord gives us a double inheritance (as joint-heirs with the firstborn in God's house), double security (being in both the Father and Son's hands), and double standing (we were taken from the throes of sin and depravity past the innocence of Adam to a position of pure holiness and righteousness).  The Lord lifting us soaring through the clouds to the gates of glory is something that this world is not worthy to be compared to.  And when the Lord blesses us with that rich experience, He will also set the record straight.  Though we may die at the hands of unjust men with our blood crying out to God, God will appear and have “His Day” when the mouths of the wicked are stopped and the righteous are exonerated before all. (Matthew 25:31-46)

What do you need to help you get through the trials of life?  James supplies the case of Job for many reasons.  One reason is that none of us will say, "I suffered more than he did."  Another is that none of us can say, "But how do I know that things will be better for me later?"  Because Job's case is our example, we can feel the closeness and association with others in trials, but because the Lord manifested His eternal promise through literal blessings to Job, we can look up and see by faith that those gone before us have entered into the great land of "double" where the presence of the Lord emanates throughout every soul in complete glory and majesty.  Dear fellow soldier, remember that others have gone before, and others are coming after: all to have similar experiences and afflictions.  More than anything remember the same Lord with immutable character is all in all with the promise of a pitiful and merciful outcome.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (James 1:23-24)

James 1:23-24, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was."

This morning, perception does not define reality, though quite often we live our lives with that mantra.  In every endeavor of society, we have to make observations and attempt to critically analyze situations to determine how we should think and proceed.  However, no man being perfect, the observation and analysis must always be tempered with the thought that we are fallible creatures and susceptible to error.  Still, man's pride often impedes his willingness to accept that fact or at least often employ it while going through life's situations.  Perhaps a boss has the wrong impression of his employees.  Perhaps a child has the wrong impression of his parents.  Perhaps the church has the wrong impression of her pastor.  In each of these cases, the vice versa could apply.  As the old saying goes, "You never know for sure how a man is or feels until you walk a mile in his shoes."  May we temper our observations and judgments with the reality of our own fallibility.

When considering the pages of Holy Writ, one must start with the realization that it is perfect.  James goes on in the verse following our verses to call the Scriptures the "perfect law of liberty."  In other words, the Bible does not present us a combination of truth and error (like situations of life do), and therefore our analysis of this perfect law of liberty does not include separating what is right from wrong.  Rather, our study of the Scriptures should only entail getting to the specific truth under consideration and seeing how it affects us and modify ourselves accordingly.  As a wise old elder once told me, "When you read the Scriptures, you can read them one of two ways: 1. use the Scriptures to prove what you think or 2. use the Scriptures to prove what to think.  Choose the latter."  Instead of forcing preconceived notions upon the page, allow the page to declare what your direction should be.

Notice James's thought above.  Under consideration is a man who has access to the word of God.  This person also has heard the word spoken through gospel power, but the reality is that many times the consideration of God's perfect law stops with the hearing or reading of it rather than extending into the practice of it.  How many times have you heard these sentiments, "Boy that sure was good preaching."  "What was it about?"  "I don't know but it sure was good preaching."?  Such a circumstance falls squarely into the realm of James's discussion.  The point of the Bible and gospel preaching is not for an intellectual exercise.  Indeed, the Bible is the most logical, reasoned, and completely true book ever written.  However, our reading of it and listening to the gospel is not to simply say, "Well that makes sense."  The point is to the see the sense of it and apply it like integrated light that touches every recess of our life.

One of the things that James compares the word to is a glass.  This word could aptly be thought of in our modern vernacular as a mirror.  When someone looks at himself in the mirror, the mirror does not make him look like he looks.  It shows people what they already look like.  The Bible and the preached gospel do not make us what we are, but they reveal what we are.  When a man leaves the mirror, no matter what he thinks or does not think, the image the mirror gave him holds true.  When a man closes the Book or leaves a church service, the reality stays the same even though the declaration is done for the time.  Reality does not change.  However, the perception often does.

One of the harshest realities the glass declares to us is that by nature we are worms and wholly undone. (Romans 3:10-18) The picture and image is not very comforting.  However, that is the reality of our nature.  We are totally depraved by nature.  Yet, one of the most glorious images of the glass is that by grace we are made in the image of His Son first through regeneration and then eventually in the resurrection.  We do go from one image to another as from glory to glory. (II Corinthians 3:18) This is reality friends.  Nothing changes it, for it is the way things are.  We can no more undo the image of grace any more than we could have undone the image of depravity.  We were wholly one, and we shall one day be wholly the other.  What if some, most, or even all do not perceive this or do not accept it?  It matters not, it is still reality.

Now the hardest thing is to remember these things when not standing in front of the mirror.  Let us consider a number of regular, consistent life situations that might lure us into thinking differently than the reality of the glass and thereby be guilty of doing what James warns against in our study verses.  When at work or somewhere in the world, how do we want to initially react when someone tries to run us down?  If they smack us, we want to smack them back.  If they verbally taunt us, we want to retaliate in kind.  Why is that?  The reason can simply be boiled down to the fact that we many times think too highly of ourselves.  Whether we admit it in those words or not, we confess it freely with our deeds.  Though we may fiercely amen the point of not deserving anything good when it is heralded from the pulpit, do we just as fiercely amen the point with our deeds when we are in the trenches of life?  Sadly, I must confess that I often do not.

Another common situation in life is when someone becomes overwhelmed with guilt.  It can paralyze their life to such an extent that they are rendered unprofitable for Godly service.  Guilt can stunt the development stymie the growth of a child of God.  I have seen guilt paralyze people to the point of fearing to return to church for the shame they feel or even being around their families for fear of verbal assault.  Guilt can be a tricky thing as it does not always come in the same way or linger for the same duration and season. 

So, what is the point of bringing up pride and guilt?  What do they have in common?  The commonality between them is that they both apply to us not remembering what we looked like in the glass when presented with the image.  Too much pride forgets the image of depravity that we fully bore by nature and still bear in our old man of flesh.  Too much guilt forgets the image of glory and grace that declares in the soul and spirit – and testifies in hope toward the resurrection – that we are children of the King Almighty.  Both actions, while opposite in appearance, equally apply to forgetting our image.  No matter what the person thinks or says while beholding the image, those things pale in comparison to seeing them and walking in them while not in front of the mirror.

One of the highest compliments I ever received about one of my sermons was when someone told me, "I heard you preach some months back.  Not long ago, I faced something you preached about, and I tried to do what you encouraged us to do in the sermon.  You know, it really is the best course of action."  Brethren, those are the most resounding amens a preacher can receive whether he is around to hear them or not.  The point of the Bible and preaching from the Bible is to do what is either read or heard.  As another wise old elder said, "The sermons a man preaches with his feet will always speak louder than the sermons he preaches from the pulpit.  Likewise, the religion a person shows between pew time will always testify more than the religion while in the pew." 

Now, it does behoove us here to plainly declare and state that sermons from the pulpit and religion in the pew is not only good but necessary and needful.  Sometimes people today can become so enamored with personal religion (living the Godly life) that they think the orderly public worship is no longer of necessity.  Friends, no matter how successfully we have been in the trenches in a given season, we still need those reminders from the mirror of the specifics of the image.  No sermon preached sticks with us in its entirety forever.  No reading of the word gleans everything or even retains everything that is understood.  We need the reminders of what is right and true, but coupled with that, we need to remember that it has sufficient teeth and application to navigate every avenue and question in life.

Friends, I rarely – if ever – like what I see in a natural mirror.  I like to tell folks that I never had to worry about losing good looks as I never had any to lose.  However, no matter what I think about the image in the mirror, alas! that is me.  It is how I look.  No matter what we think about the image in the spiritual mirror, that is the reality.  At first there is much alas!  Then, it gives way to much rejoicing.  May our lives keep those two main images in refulgent view.  As such we will not fall victim to the oppressive nature of pride or fall prey to the paralyzing influence of guilt.  We are, sadly, members of a ruined race of man, but we are just as surely members of the glorious family of the Almighty.  May our lives show forth these two things, manifesting that we both hear and do the perfect law of liberty.

In Hope,

Bro Philip