Monthly Archives: July 2013

James – Asking for Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

July 28, 2013

James – Asking for Prayer

James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Notice the responsibility and the chain of events evidenced in this passage. A person who is sick, must first recognize they are sick. They take the responsibility on themselves to call on the elders of the church to anoint them with oil. The elder(s) responds by praying for them, but it is the prayer of faith that heals them. Please note that this does not mean that the elders are to be callous and not reach out to folks it simply means that if we need prayer we must seek it.

It is interesting to note the words used for “sick” here in this passage. The first word for sick is the word “asthenei” and means weakness. It references a sickness but more so of the kind that is evidenced in weakness or a lack of strength. While the word can be translated as a sickness, it can also be translated as a spiritually weakened condition. 

The second word used in this passage is the word “kamnonta.” it also carries the idea to be sick. It also connotes a sense of physical weariness. The idea here is that James equates being sick with physical weariness and spiritual weakness. 

While we call upon the elders to pray for us, we find that later in this passage healing is also a community event as we confess our sins to one another. The confession of sin is one avenue by which we are healed. For example, the act of forgiveness and then living in forgiveness can lower one’s blood pressure, reduce one’s heart rate, reduce possible heart issues, restores serotonin levels in the brain, and stabilizing one’s emotional outlook on life. This is a result of acting and living out forgiveness. But, lets save this for another sermon for now

As we look at this text, we must understand a couple of things. First, when we anoint with oil but the oil itself carries no healing properties. It is simply a symbol of the Holy Spirit who initiates forgiveness and brings the healing. The oil was used to anoint leaders such as the King in the Old Testament. We also find in the New Testament that oil was thought to have medicinal value. So it was when one was sick they were anointed with oil. In the case of the king, he was not dabbed on the forehead but it was poured over them so that it ran down their whole body. 

We see evidence of this in Psalm 133:1. David compares the unity in the church to the anointing of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 

On the other hand when the oil was used for medicinal purposes, the oil was swabbed over the wound or the area of sickness. 

While these may be true, we must understand that the oil itself has no healing quality per se. We anoint with oil as an outward expression of dependence on the Holy Spirit to heal and restore. We could say that the anointing with oil is similar to that of the bread and the juice used in communion. The elements have no power in themselves but they point to and represent the forgiveness and healing that is available through Christ.

Second, we must note that the elder’s prayer is no more special than anyone else’s prayer as we are all called into righteousness through the death and resurrection of Christ. We see this in the reference to Elijah. James notes that Elijah was just a man who was obedient to God and who was willing to be used by God for His good. To somehow believe that the elders prayer is more potent or more powerful is to elevate him to a role of the priesthood. It is also causes one to miss the New Testament view of prayer in that every believer’s prayer has power. 

As we know in the New Testament Christ came to dissolve the priesthood as the only priest we need is Christ himself. He also established that his followers are a body of priests.We see this is 1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Too often we are dependent on someone else’s prayer when we have all the prayer we need and all the power we need. 

Third, the action proposed by James should not be taken as some kind of formula that automatically works without considering the spiritual condition of our hearts and the purposes proposed by God. Just because we do all the things detailed here does not mean that we are guaranteed to be healed. Too often, we do not experience healing because we do not confess sin in our lives. To walk in repentance is to experience a change heart or mind that leads to a change of action. The problem is that we want the healing without the righteousness which is right action. 

For example, I know people who have issues with their lungs. They ask for prayer continually and yet they continue to smoke 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. It is my belief that God does not have to bring the healing unless they are willing to change the actions that have brought the illness to them in the first place. When they live in disobedience and they live contrary to God’s word, God is not obligated to heal. God will not cast his pearls before swine. Now this does not mean that everyone who is sick is sick because of a sin in their life. That would be a judgement on our part and one that is warned against by God. 

This relates back to James 2:18 when James says You have faith, your works will express that faith.

If these are true then why do we pray and do what James has detailed? First, the prayer of faith is an act of aligning one’s self to His word, His will and His ways. When we are out of line with God’s word, will and ways we can pray and he will not answer because we pray amiss as recorded by James in an earlier passage.

Second, the act of calling on the Elders is an act of submission and an act of humility. It is to acknowledge that we need help. You can’t do it alone. It is also a recognition that where two or three agree on a issue it shall be done in the name of Christ. We are living in such an independent society where we don’t believe that we need anyone or anything in our life. 

The idea of calling on the elders is a gesture of obedience but it is also a gesture of submitting to those who are over you in the Lord and to those who are called to care for your soul

Third, notice that he calls on the church to confess their sin to one another. It is in that act that healing comes as well. We focus on the prayer of faith but we miss the confession of sin. We must choose wisely who we will share our confessions with.

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James – Prayer and Praise!

Peninsula Community Church

July 21, 2013

James – A Call to Prayer and Praise!

James 5:13-15 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. 

Throughout the Book of James, James has detailed misuses and abuses of the tongue. We have seen him condemn complaining, swearing, and judging others. Here, in this text, however, James moves toward expressing how the tongue can be a positive influence. A tongue that positively influences their environment is one that exalts God, prays as a means to focus one’s heart on God, and focuses on praising God. 

In this passage, James presents several rhetorical questions. He presents a question and then answers his own question. He asks, “Is anyone among you suffering?” His answer is “Let him pray.” The idea presented through this word “suffering” or “affliction” is that there are outside impediments to one’s ability to live life to the fullest. This could be viewed as one’s boss, one’s spouse, a car accident, the weather, a stock market crash, the crash of the housing market, an illness, and so on and so on. The affliction is one that is burdensome and ongoing. This affliction is not like a hang nail, stubbed toe, or a bad hair day. It is a major issue.

When we face suffering, we are to pray and to refrain from complaining, judging, criticizing and finding fault with others which tends to be the pattern when we are afflicted. The mature believer is one who talks to God about their problems rather than complaining to others about their problems. Through this text we witness the power of the tongue to bring results when we pray. We have here the dynamic of our responsibility and the dynamic of God’s response to our spiritual action. Next week we will see that calling upon the elders to pray and confessing our sin brings answered prayer and victorious answers.

What do we do when we are afflicted? We pray. Praying serves a number of purposes. First, we turn our eyes away from the affliction and the desire to criticize, judge and complain onto our need for prayer and for God’s intervention. We turn inward to allow God to change our heart. By praying, our focus is shifted away from the problem and the affliction we face, and it is turned to Christ. We are humbled by the fact that we can enter boldly into the throne room of God. Second, in prayer our faith is built, as by praying, we are in essence putting our trust in the one who is able to help us deal with the affliction of our life, especially when that affliction is beyond our control.

When it comes to prayer, this study reminds me of the little boy who had been acting up in church. Finally, his dad had enough, so he scooped up the little boy and put him over his shoulder. On the way out the door you could hear the little boy yell to the rest of the church. “Pray people pray!” I don’t think that is what James had in mind.

When we pray; one of two things will happen. We will either be rescued from the affliction or we will be given strength to navigate through the affliction. Either way, God gets the glory and we get the blessing. We would all love it if the afflictions of our lives were immediately removed. But, we also understand that God strengthens us, at times, to endure the affliction and the issues with face with grace and mercy from God. And sometimes, we must remember that the trials we face are often the consequences of decisions we have made and the disobedience of our past where we are currently reaping the fruit of those decisions and those acts of disobedience. At times unfortunately, we are reaping the fruit of others decisions. Remember the little boy in our earlier story? He asked for prayer in hopes the penalty of his disobedience would be removed?

I love the words of Paul who puts this issue in such a great context. He says:

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:6-11).

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus ‘sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).

What powerful words!!!!!! What hope we have!!!!

The second question posed by James is “Is anyone cheerful?” His reply is “Let him sing praise!” I would also propose that it is a good time to sing not only when we are cheerful but also when we are afflicted. Music moves and inspires the soul. It awakens something within us that other stimuli are not capable of doing. Think for a moment when a song comes on the radio that might have inspired you when you were younger. Perhaps, it is a love song you heard as you sat in your car at inspiration point or at the curb of her parent’s house. What is your reaction when you hear that same song, today? Think for a moment about the kind of music that moves you in worship. Perhaps, it is the music that made an impact in your life, somewhere on your journey. 

I love the song “It Is Well With My Soul!” The reason it is so special to me is that I and some friends were facing a difficult season in our lives in college. The college and the church on campus had been broken into and serious damage had been done. The piano had been turned upside down. The organ was now on its back four rows into the sanctuary. The communion set was lodged into one of the stained glass windows. When the first police officer arrived on the scene, the culprit picked up a metal lectern and threw it, completely across the sanctuary, at her like a spear. She yelled for us to grab him as he exited the back of the sanctuary. We did so with fear and trepidation, as he had just demolished a piano and organ all by himself. Because we witnessed all of this, we had to appear in court everyday for more than three weeks. We had to testify against a man who had once been a student and a friend; and now he was in trouble with the law on a number of levels and completely messed up emotionally. After the trial, the ruling came down that he was innocence by reason of temporary insanity. We were heart broken because of what he had done and the fact that he was now allowing drugs to dictate his life. In the service, the next Sunday, the choir director led the congregation in “It Is Well With My Soul.” Those facing the difficulty broke into tears as the song ministered to their hearts. When I raised my head I saw that there was not a dry eye in the church. People were rejoicing with tears of joy because they were not going to allow a messed up young man to dictate their worship or if they would have joy. Since that time, this song has had special meaning to me. No matter what comes, it will be well with my soul.

The idea of this word “cheerful” is the idea of “being joyous in mind.” The idea presented here is that our heart is dictating to our mind the response we need to have. It is a response of worship and praise. Through singing we let those around us know what is in our hearts. I would suggest to you that singing praise is not just relegated to times where we feel like it but it is to be a part of all we do. Sometimes, as we begin to sing praises to God, we sense a change in our mood and we are suddenly empowered to endure whatever is thrown our way.

While the heart dictates our response, there are also times where we need to purpose in our hearts to sing praise even when we don’t feel like it. We choose to sing! We choose to praise God! We act out on what should be rather than what is. This is not some fairy tale experience but it is a conscious decision of the heart formed by wisdom and understanding by God’s Word that chooses to pray and to sing. 

Think for a moment, the difference that comes when we pray and sing rather than judge, complain and criticize. Have you experienced this? What’s your story? Would you tell someone your story today? Will you tell someone your story this week? Are you facing affliction, pray? Are you cheerful, sing?

 

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James – Keep Your Word!

Peninsula Community Church

July 14, 2013

James – Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say!

James 5:12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

As I was preparing this message, I came across this illustration: The story is told of a woman who was at the beach and was approached by a little boy wearing his swim trunks and carrying a towel. “Do you believe in God?” he asked. The young lady was a bit surprised by the question, but said, “Why, yes… I do!” And then the little boy asked, “Do you go to church every Sunday?” Again her answer was, “Yes!” Then he asked, “Do you read your Bible and pray every day?” Again she answered, “Yes!” But her curiosity was getting the best of her. At last the little boy breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, “Ma’am, will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?” 

The little boy was simply trying to get someone to hold his quarter. The fact is that we are all looking for someone to hold our quarter while we go swimming. We are looking for people who possess a basic honesty and trustworthiness. We are looking for people we can trust. At the same time, we are trying to be good quarter-holders ourselves. 

As we look at this passage, the following questions must be considered. Can the words we speak be trusted? Do we follow through with our commitments? If we fail in these areas, why? What motivates us to act out such things?

The main theme that James is proposing here is that we must be people of our word and that we are to avoid any sense of dishonesty or lying. Have you ever looked at the word “to lie.” To lie means “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive” or “to create a false or misleading impression.” The second part of this definition is the core of the message that James is presenting.

James is in essence quoting from the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37. Jesus said, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

We also see the idea of keeping one’s word in Numbers 30:1-2 “Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

James deals with this issue because the people of his day, as well as those in Jesus’ time, had become good at making promises in every manner possible; as long as it was short of swearing on God which was condemned in the Old Testament. As only the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day could do, they developed an elaborate system of rules that governed the idea of swearing. It listed the unaccepted phrases and those that were accepted. The problem is that they turned the issue into one of “swearing” or “cursing” rather than one of perjury or of integrity and honesty. You know what its like. When we want someone to promise us to do something. We say to them, “Do you cross your heart?” or “Let’s pinkie swear.” The problem, however, is that the people of Jesus and James’ day were doing these acts to make people believe they were men and women of integrity when in reality they were dishonest and had no desire to to keep their word.

Why is it important to keep our word? First, your word speaks of commitment. In other words, we are men and women who do what we say we are going to do. We have heard it said, “We should be a man or woman of our word.” We have also heard it said, “Our word should be our bond.” We complain about lawyers, but most lawyers would not exist if people were honest and kept their word. I remember my dad saying that he purchased the home they now live in back in the fifties with a handshake.

Second, your word speaks of integrity. By reneging on your commitments, you are in fact being disingenuous and dishonest. A man of integrity counts the cost of his commitments before promising or acting. Choose wisely in what you commit to. Let to say the most important word in all of the English language. “NO!”

Your word speaks of trustworthiness. Do your words betray you? Can you be trusted to follow through with what you promised to do?

Your words speak of right motivation. You don’t promise anything you can’t do. I have heard it said that we should under promise and over fulfill. Too often, we promise to do things because of a lack of self-esteem or in that we want to please others and make others happy. This never works.

Robert Feldman, a researcher at University of Massachusetts, found that lying is tied to one’s self-esteem. “We find that as soon as people feel that their self-esteem is threatened, they begin to lie at higher levels. We first experience the terror of being invalidated when we are small children, but by the time we are 3 or 4 we have learned a way to avoid it: we have learned to lie. From then on, whenever we glimpse the faintest possibility that our selves might be threatened with annihilation, we lie. The same is true for making commitments.

To fully understand these things we must emphasis that keeping your word is an issue of the heart. The kind of heart we have will determine our actions. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Jesus said that it is out of the heart that “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft and false witness and slander all come” (Matthew 15:19). If our hearts are evil, then we will react out of and respond from the condition of our heart. 

So if our hearts are misguided, and we are not led by the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are self-protecting, selfishly motivated and full of pride. That leads us to distort the truth and make promises we cannot keep. If a person cannot be trusted then look at their heart for it is the heart that the patterns of life are formed.  

What sets us apart as believers? In Ezekiel 11:19, God promises that, “He will remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” As believers, we have been given a heart of flesh that is sensitive and pliable in the hands of God. The opposite is a heart of stone that is callous and hardened. 

When we have a heart of flesh we act differently. When we have a heart of flesh we are sensitive to keeping our word, living in integrity, being trustworthy, and having the right motivation. We do what is right because it is right.

One of my favorite commercials is the one about the woman waiting for a bus. As the bus arrives, she quickly gets up to board the buss but leaves her pocket book on the bench. A young long haired skater boarder type is sitting on the bench. When the bus pulls off, he grabs the purse and runs away. In the next scene you see a police car patrolling the idea and the boy continuing run while climbing over fences and darting around corners. The last scene is commercial we see the boy reach out and hand the pocket book to the woman who just got off the bus.

The problem is that when we do not keep our word we are condemned. You might say we are not to judge another person but we can certainly fall under condemnation by others when we cannot be trusted to follow through. We begin to doubt a person’s sincerity and commitment when they fail us over and over again.

How do we resolve this if this is our issue? We repent and turn from this wrong. We pray as the Psalmist David prayed, “Create in me a new heart, renew in me a right spirit.” That is what we need for it is our of the heart that the mouth speaks.

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James – Establish Your Heart!

Peninsula Community Church

July 7, 2013

James – Establish Your Heart

 

James 5:7-11 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

We spoke last week about the farmer and how the farmer illustrates the need for patience in our lives. James is saying to us, just as the farmer is patient, you too need to be patient. Once you do all you can do and you do all you know to do; you wait and God at the right time will fulfill his will and his promises in your life. One thing I forgot to mention last week, while the farmer is waiting for the harvest from the seed he plants, he is not sitting at home drinking ice tea and watching Duck Dynasty or Fox News. He is preparing his equipment to reap the harvest He is planting other fields. He is preparing his grain bins for the harvest he is about to take in. The work is never over. He trusts God to bring the harvest.

In this passage it is also noteworthy that James gives the command to “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” The word used here for “establish” means to “fix.” This does not mean to repair but rather to fasten or to secure one’s self as in the preparation for a storm or in unknown circumstances. It means to fasten our faith to God’s promises and to what he has proclaimed. The effect of fastening our hearts to the promises and claims of God is that we are able to endure the trials and difficulties of life. No matter what comes we will be secure.

I enjoy touring local wineries. One of the tours we enjoyed on Thursday was Layton’s Chance Winery. WhenI was talking with Joe Layton, one of the owners, he made an interesting comment. He stated that the best wine is formed when the vines are stressed. When I asked him what that meant, he stated the following. For one, the best fruit is produced when the lower vines are stripped of any buds that would form future fruit. He also stated that the best fruit is that fruit that is in direct sunlight. And finally he stated that you would think that the vines that are in well watered soil would be the best but the best fruit comes from the stress of little water or at least the right amount of water. Since I was preparing for this message, I thought about where the fruit of my life has been tested and where it has grown the best. The fruit of my life has grown the best when it has been stressed or tested. If for no other reason it is from the stressors of life that the quality of the fruit of my life is revealed. Once again, it is in the stress, I find where I lack the growth I need to have. It is in the stress that my heart is revealed. It is easy for me to go along and be happy when everything is going great and there are no problems in my life. But when the stressors come, I lean on God and God’s word in my heart because my heart has been established in Him.

One means of strengthening our hearts is to be reminded of the coming of Christ. Two times in this passage James encourages the church to hang on because the coming of the Lord is near. Why is this important? First, it speaks to the fact that there is an end in sight. Second, it speaks to the fact that this life is not all there is. If this is all there is, we are men most miserable but a full, eternal life is available to those who are called by his name (1 Corinthians 15). Third, we are reminded of the promises of God. Jesus said that if I go away, I will come again and receive you unto my self (John). That was not an empty promise. Fourth, we can comfort each other with these words (1 Thessalonians). 

What do we know about the second coming of Christ? First, we know that it is a promise from God and he is one that keeps his promises. Second, no man will know for sure when he will return. We must be ready and prepared for his return at all times. Third, we know that it will be sudden. It will be in a twinkle of the eye or as a thief in the night. Fourth, we must be watching for his coming. Finally, we must not despair in waiting for him to come. This requires us to be patient, especially when it appears that he is delaying his return.

Another means of strengthening our hearts is to refrain from grumbling against one another. I classify these as the “if onlys” and the “shoulda couldas.” When we are living in the “if onlys” we tend to blame others for our own short comings and failures. This action creates tension in us because we do not take responsibility for our problems, our issues, or our failures. We say things like…That wife… that boss…. that pastor…. that chairman of the elders… that neighbor… that son or that daughter. The problem when we grumble is that in most cases we do not take the necessary steps to move beyond the current situation of our lives. We become fully satisfied to stay with the status quo and grumble about what others are doing. The problem with the “if onlys” is that it invades our “what if” and we lose focus on the present possibilities of what could be in us. 

The “shoulda” “coulda’s” are also a problem. Once again we are forced to live in the past by concentrating on the past problems and failures and not what we have or what we have accomplished. When we live this way, we are living in the arena of wanting to change things that cannot be changed. We cannot change our past but we can certainly make a difference in our future. It becomes an issue of “Been there, wish I had not done that” or it is a matter of saying that my past is behind me and I am going to push ahead to the future.

To help us understand the issue of suffering and the need to be patient, James reminds us of the life of the prophet and the life of Job. Let’s look at the prophets for a moment. Suffering can come from sin and unfaithfulness and yet suffering may come for being completely faithful to God and his will. We are seeing persecution coming to the Christian church not because they have broken any major laws but only because they are faithful to maintain a biblical standard that is solid and strong. The prophets suffered most from the people that should have known better. 

Elijah prophesied of three and one-half years that a drought was coming. When the drought came he suffered through it just like everyone else, but we see that God provided for him even in the midst of the difficulty. Notice the story of Jeremiah. He is called into service by God with protest. He is mocked and persecuted by his fellow villagers. He is forbidden to marry. He is beaten and put into the stocks. He barely escapes a death mob and then goes into hiding. He is accused of being a traitor. After being thrown into a dry well, he is released and put into prison. To our knowledge he never had a convert. And yet, in Lamentations 3:22-24 he penned these words. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in him.” It is of note that most prophecies had a two-fold fulfillment. There was the immediate and then there was the futuristic fulfillment. 

James also uses Job as an illustration of endurance and fixing one’s heart on Christ. Job as you know by the end of chapter two had lost everything he possessed. He lost his riches, his children, his home, and he suffered health issues. His friends and his wife while trying to be helpful did little to encourage him. Most of us would have fallen apart and would have been angry at God for all that transpired but listen to the words of Job. “For I know my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my flesh has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me (Job 19:25-27). He also says this. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face (Job 13:15).

In the final analysis, the point James is making is that our peace, patient, and security cannot rest in our possessions but in our relationship with Christ. Everything around us may fall apart. Our world may crumble.  Our friends may leave. Our spouse may try to persuade us to turn against God. We may find that we are being severely tested even in the very center of God’s will and in the very center of where he wants us. The question for us is not so much the circumstances of our lives but where have we fixed our hope? Where have we fixed eyes? “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

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James – Don’t Be Restless

Peninsula Community Church

June 30, 2013

James – Don’t be Restless

James 5:7-11 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

As we look at this text today, let me ask you a question. What causes you to be anxious? What causes you to toss and turn at night? For some, what causes you to bite your nails? For others, what causes you to eat to try to calm your nerves? For still others, what causes you to drink alcohol in excess or even greater still to turn drugs to calm your emotions?

How many like to wait? I have found that I do everything fast. I eat fast. I shower and get dressed fast. I play sports fast. The problem with doing everything fast is that it does not allow much rest. I am always in high gear. The problem is that I seldom sit and rest as I am always in motion. I am learning to sit and rest.

The point is we all experience times of anxiety. It is a part of who we are. As with other emotions, we have been created with the emotion of anxiety. It is a normal reaction to stressors in our lives. If, however anxiety becomes excessive or we never move beyond looking at the problems of life then we need to look deeper into what is causing the anxiety. It is the symptom, not the problem. We must understand that anxiety is a part of our makeup. It serves the  purpose of warning us when something is not right. It is like the warning system on our car that says there is a problem.  The warning light is not the problem it only points to a problem. So it is with anxiety, it is only a mechanism that points us to a problem.

James gives us a command here. He says to “Be patient, until The Lord comes.” The word he uses here for “patient” actually can be translated “long-tempered.” The words endure and patience mean to remain under. These words speak of “endurance” through difficult times and under great stress. One commentary translated the word this way. Patience means to “stay put and stand fast when you’d feel like running away.” Some scholars believe that long suffering refers to “patience” when dealing with people, while “endurance” refers to patience when dealing with conditions or situations.

The first illustration he uses is one of the farmer. The farmer is patient about the fruit of his labors. The farmer takes the necessary steps to prepare his soil, choose the seed, plant at the right time, fertilize with the correct fertilizer and then he waits. When the farmer has done all he can do, he waits. There is nothing he can do to expedite the growth of the seed other than what he has already done. When we have done all that we know to do, we wait patiently upon The Lord. We do not know the outcome but we are patient. I do not know any farmer that plants and then stands in the field to be sure the seed grows. He has a trust in the seed, in the fertilizer and the outcome that is up to the natural processes of plant growth.

Farming in essence is an act of faith. You plant and you wait. Why does the farmer wait so long? The fruit is precious and it is of great value to the farmer. As believers, God is calling us to faithfulness. We do what we know to do and then leave the rest to God, without any measure of anxiousness. The outcome of our lives is that we mature and the fruit of the spirit is cultivated in our hearts. As with the farmer, we don’t always see results right away but below the surface things are happening. There is a germination that is taking place and then suddenly up sprouts a shoot of life. It is a testimony to the process of waiting.

It is important to note that the farmer is not idle while he is waiting for the harvest. He is preparing his equipment. He is getting the storage bins ready. The result of being anxious and restless is that we fail to do what we need to do to get ready for the harvest in our lives.

We can do all of those things and yet still have to wait.

Look at these passages with me. Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Psalm 37:5-6 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37:4 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. 

Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 

It is interesting to note that the opposite of patient is anxiety, fear and nervousness. God has never called us to be anxious.  

Philippians 4:5-7 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What do we do while we wait?

  1. We do what we know to do based on the knowledge that has been revealed to us in the moment.
  2. We obey God’s commands to the best of our ability.
  3. We correct the areas in our lives that need correcting.
  4. We stay in the word which is an anchor for our souls.
  5. We focus on Christ knowing that he will lead us to where we need to be.

What are anxious about today?

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