James 5:7 – Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
In the month of December, believers turn their attention toward celebrating the birth of the Savior. What a tremendous time of the year, as we remember all that the Lord has done for His people. James, in the fifth chapter of his letter, addresses the misuse of riches in verses 1-6. In the 7th verse James exhorts God’s people to be patient until the coming of the Lord. What James is addressing is relevant today.
There is a misery coming on those that are rich who do not regard our Lord and Savior. James makes a sobering statement when he says, “You and your silver have rusted; and the rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:3). Gold and silver don’t rust, so obviously the statement is an exaggeration to make a very important point. We now know that for that generation, the last days referred to the destruction of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish society as a whole. Men were putting their confidence in “riches,” but those riches were about to perish.
The application is vital for our generation as well. We do not know precisely when the Lord will return, but it is evident we are closer than when we first believed. The culture we have known is on shaky ground. The world economic picture is changing and will continue to change as we approach the end of all things. The exhortation of James to be “patient” is a worthy thing to meditate upon. “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9). In all we do, let the return of Christ be fully central in our minds. Judge your actions as believers, knowing that one day all our actions will be judged by Christ.
The return of Christ is the great filter for our motivations. Our faith is evaluated, not only on trusting Christ in His first coming, but on our confidence in His return. His first coming through His death on the cross provides us with the gift of salvation through repentance and trusting in His shed blood. Our patience toward His return helps us walk in righteousness before God and towards others.
Those who have preceded us, namely the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, are examples to us of suffering and patience. There are many throughout the world walking in that kind of endurance. Consider Job and his endurance. Also consider the outcome of Job’s endurance. The Lord was merciful and compassionate toward Job. He will also be merciful and compassionate toward us as we endure through difficult times, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who has His reward with Him.
Father, strengthen my patience by helping me be continually focused on the coming of the Lord. Help me to not trust in riches that will parish, but in the true riches of Christ. During this Christmas month, help me, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness, both of Your first coming as the Babe of Bethlehem, but also the Judge who will return to judge the hearts of all. I pray that I might be faithful in difficult times.
Proverbs 15:19 – The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
My father taught my brothers and me, “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today because tomorrow never comes, it is always today.” Delay in one’s responsibilities will cause a pileup of things to be done which will have a strong effect on your ability to think clearly. Procrastination causes great pressures in an individual’s life such as pressures in relationships, pressure regarding scheduling responsibilities, and pressure in one’s own emotional make-up.
Planning is vital for our spirituality. “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3). Planning begins with a life committed to God’s eternal purpose. Our time belongs to the Lord. We must learn not to be careless about how we use our time. As you plan your day, do it with the Lord. Ask the Father to be in charge of your plans. When you write down the things you need to accomplish, ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance. This is a sure way for your plans to be established. It is also good to ask for “divine appointments.” As we plan those natural appointments, know that the Lord may have some divine appoints He has prepared for you.
Planning is vital to our emotional well-being. When our mind is filled with confusion, it produces emotional stress that can affect every other area of our life. God’s will is for our emotions to be in a state of peace and rest. It is in that rest we find our greatest productivity. The Holy Spirit has been given to lead us into the rest of God.
Planning is vital to our physical health. Spiritual and emotional inconsistency is at the root of many physical problems. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Proverbs) 15:13. God made man a triune being after His own image. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Planning is vital relationally. Procrastination can be very difficult on relational health. It puts others in a difficult position as their scheduling is affected by another’s procrastination. Procrastination is selfish because it neglects to take into consideration this effect on other people’s time. The Holy Spirit is our helper. He is present to help us overcome procrastination.
Father, I commit my ways to You. I ask for the Holy Spirit to lead me in my busy schedule. Help me not to procrastinate, but be responsible regarding the things I need to accomplish in my daily life. Show me what my priorities are and what is not important. I claim the peace of God for my whole spirit, soul, and body that I might be a witness of godly order in a busy world.
James 4:11 – Do not speak against one another, brethren.
The Gospel has as a major focus on relationship. Relationship is rooted in care for another. Mature relationship is the willingness to put another person’s welfare above your own. The greatest demonstration of this is revealed in Christ Jesus. God put His love for us first when He gave His Only Begotten Son to mankind. As Mary carried the “the Prince of Peace” in her womb, she carried the greatest expression of love that creation has ever known.
Jesus taught His disciples about God’s love when He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The men the Father gave Jesus were about as diverse a group as one could find within the Jewish culture. In the natural, they did not have much in common. There were brothers in the mix, but even brothers can have deep-rooted issues in their relationship. It was the love of the Father in Christ that provided the spiritual substance for a new kind of love among people.
James instructs the body of Christ not to speak against one another. He helps us to understand that when we speak against our brother or sister, we are speaking against the law and judging the law. He goes on to say, if we judge the law, we are not a doer of the law, but a judge of the law. We need a proper biblical view. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12). Making judgment about others is a dangerous proposition for kingdom people. According to 1 Corinthians 11, the wrong judgment of others in the body of Christ caused some believers to die an early death, while others were weak and sick as a result.
When a person is judgmental and critical, the spiritual circulation system among believers becomes clogged. Having a loving and accepting attitude of others opens up communication and an opportunity for a deeper development of love and respect. There are times when a person needs a word of correction or reproof, but it is important to understand the depth of the relationship we have with the individual before bringing either one. It is also important to have invested time and care in the relationship because it creates a platform for a corrective word.
Many times a relationship breaks down because of speaking behind another’s back. I believe this is what James is addressing in his exhortation to not speak against one another. If you find that you are having a relational difficulty with a family member or a brother or sister in Christ, go to that one and gently seek to resolve the problem. Do not go to others in an attempt to try and figure out what to do. The Scripture is clear, go first to the person where there is offense and try to resolve the problem. You may win your brother or sister as you exercise Christ’ love toward them.
Father, keep me from being a judge of the law and help me be a doer of Your word. Keep me from a critical spirit and give me a sincere love for family members and my brother and sister in Christ. Preserve me as Your disciple through love for my fellow believer. In this Christmas season, help me to be a witness of the Prince of Peace.
James 4:1 – What is the source of quarrels and conflict among you?
James proceeds to answer his own question by identifying numerous sources of conflict. He begins with “pleasures that wage war in your members” (James 4:1b). Pleasures speak of lust. Lust can be manifested in numerous ways. Sexual sins, material wants manifested in things, and any other worldly possessions that come from fleshly desires. These things produce jealousy, competition, and covetousness. This is contrary to the exhortation of learning to be content in whatever state we are in.
Quarrels and conflicts, for the most part, are rooted in the attitude of insisting on having things my way. It is really the same root that is found in lusts. James continues his thoughts by saying, “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder” (James 4:2a). James is giving a tough message to the church. A familiar saying is, “I would kill for that.” Can you recognize the source of James’ comment in the more modern day expression?
“You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2b). No wonder James deals with the subject of faith and works. It sounds like those to whom he is writing are not living the life of faith, but still living by the lust of the flesh from which they had been redeemed. The life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit are in direct enmity. James goes on to deal with the subject of wrong motivations of prayer. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). James likens this motive to “adultery.” He calls it “friendship with the world.” Friendship with the world is hostility toward God. If one wishes to be a friend of the world, then that one becomes an enemy of God.
These are rough Scriptures to wrestle with, but important ones. At this time of the year, the world begins to put pressure on consumers to spend, spend, and spend. The world will make you feel guilty when you don’t spend a lot of money on gifts and other things at Christmas time. The world does not have our best interest in view. The world appeals to our lusts and pleasures. The Spirit of God in us is jealous for our life to not be drawn to worldliness. He wants to give us great grace as we humble ourselves before God. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7).
Avoid lusts, pleasures, envy, and jealousness. Avoid quarrels and conflicts. Draw close to God. Learn to be content with what you have. Give away and bless others, especially those who are lacking the basics. Nurture the presence of the Spirit of God who has come to indwell your life with His gracious presence. Long for fellowship with God, and not the friendship of the world.
Father, I ask You to help me avoid those things that are not pleasing to You. I ask for the Holy Spirit to show me when I am demanding my own way, so that I can repent. I desire to draw near to You, Father, and I thank You for Your promise to draw near to me.
James 3:13 – Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
As you begin to read the third chapter of James’ letter to the church, you read of comparing the gentleness of God’s wisdom to bitter jealousy and selfish ambition of the heart. The old nature can easily become filled with jealousy and selfish ambition. Both jealousy and ambition are products of the sin nature and represent the old self. They are focused on self-serving as opposed to serving others. Certainly this is a great contrast to the life of Christ, which was filled with gentle wisdom as He served the needs of others around Him.
Through faith in the power of Christ’s resurrection and His life-giving Spirit we too can be filled with gentle wisdom. Conversion, as it relates to Christianity, is about drawing our life from Christ’s life which has been given to the believer by the Holy Spirit. Many Christians continue to live from the old life and habits rather than the new life contained in the new birth. Jealousy and selfish bitterness can be entangled with many other sins. The danger of these sins is that they create arrogance and lies. The world system is filled with this type of arrogance and deceit. The world sees this type of nature as wisdom. It is not a wisdom that comes from God. James calls it “earthly, natural, and demonic (James 3:15). Where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you find disorder and evil.
God’s wisdom is pure. It has no hidden motives, just a desire to relate and help others. It is peaceable. It is filled with desire to produce peace in the life of believers. It is gentle. God’s wisdom seeks to help resolve problems with a gentle voice and a gentle hand. God’s wisdom is reasonable. The wisdom of God does not reason from emotions, but rather from truth. The wisdom of God is filled with mercy and good fruits. When God’s wisdom is administered and received, it is productive. God’s wisdom is neither double-minded nor filled with hypocrisy. It is unwavering in its nature and always has the best interests of others in view.
As we celebrate the birth of the “Prince of Peace,” make it your ambition to sow peace into the lives of others. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the wisdom of God. Ask Him for the life of Christ to be manifested in all you do. Seek His life of peace, gentleness, mercy, and good fruits. Make it your ambition to be known as a person of wisdom because of your relationship with the “God of wisdom” through His Son, Jesus Christ. Develop a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit by listening carefully for His promptings and knowing His word through the Scriptures.
Father, I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit in drawing my life from the new birth and not the old natural life I had before Christ. I pray for Your gentle wisdom to control me and to produce good behavior that is pure and peaceable. Help me, Your servant, to be unwavering without hypocrisy in all I say and do.
James 3:6 – The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
In this verse, James goes straight to the heart of human problems. James says, “No one can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). Only Jesus was able to control His tongue, He did this by only saying what He heard His Father saying. The Holy Spirit was given to bring forth the life of Christ in each believer. He begins with the heart because the issues of life flow from the heart. Next, He wants to control our tongue. It is profitable for believers to give themselves a personal evaluation. Consider what changes have taken place with your words since you believed. Have there been changes such as cursing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, or harsh comments toward or about others? Then think about what changes still need to take place, such as a soft answer, more positive conversation, and words for encouraging others around you.
The fire of the tongue can be quenched by the “water of the Word of God.” It is through the Holy Spirit that the tongue can be controlled. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). What a great prayer that David gave us! Why not daily ask the Lord for His help regarding your words and the things you think about? Invite the Holy Spirit to be in charge of your conversation. Freely give your heart and mind to Him day by day so He has your permission to assist you in what comes out of your mouth. It might take a while to break old patterns of speech, but He will faithfully help if you will be persistent.
“Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue” (Psalm 15:1-3). The Psalmist lists a few things that God cares about. Walking in integrity speaks of values and wholeness. The first step in quenching the fire of the tongue is to be established in the value of relationship. That is, caring about the feelings of others. Next is experiencing your own wellness. This means coming to a place of wholeness through Christ. Another area that concerns our Lord is works of righteousness. Works of righteousness are rooted in what pleases God and what affects others in a positive way for their good. A third area is learning to speak truth from the heart. A healthy heart, spiritually speaking, becomes a fountain of kind words that cleanses others. Last, is guarding your tongue from slandering another individual. Make it a habit to not uncover another person’s weaknesses in front of other people.
Father, I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to tame my tongue. I trust You to help me with the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart. I pray that both will be acceptable to You.