Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
Warning, Patience, and Prayer
Of course, it is more pleasant and fun to always have what we want and to never suffer. However, that is not the kind of life that was promised to us when we became a Christian. We were promised to have exactly what we need exactly when we need it as we remain faithful to God and ask Him to give us the desire of His heart. He is always faithful and just to those who seek Him and love Him with his/her whole heart.
This week we are going to focus on the warnings for those who live according selfish indulgences, especially at the expense of others. We will also focus on being patient and striving to be Godly as though we are expecting Christ’s return, as well as, maintaining a faithful commitment to prayer and trust that God will bless us and use us to accomplish His good will.
Warning to the Rich Oppressors
Sunday: Read James 5:1-6 “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” Today’s passage is a warning against those who have been indulging in their own pleasures with no regard to God’s plan or direction for their lives. These are the people who are selfish and want to enjoy the earthly pleasures regardless of the harm their indulgences may cause others. The passage today is a warning that their pleasures will soon end, and they will receive their just punishment for such life choices. That punishment will bring extreme misery. Those who were oppressed by these selfish and unjust people also will receive their reward. They will be blessed throughout eternity.
One thing we need to keep in mind regarding today’s passage is that the pleasures of this world and our selfish indulgences will only be fun and last for a short season in comparison to eternity. It is far better to suffer with Christ today for a short season than throughout all eternity.
One way to look at this is from the perspective of a baby. Today my eight month old grandson badly wanted my husband’s dirty, sweaty cap that he wears while doing yard work. I cannot begin to describe the smell and grime that is penetrated in that hat. For some reason, it was very appealing to my little grandson. I knew it was not good for him, but he wanted so badly that when I took it from him, he cried.
We are sometimes like that baby when it comes to the things we desperately desire. Not all things we want are bad, and God does want to bless us with some nice, even extravagant things we want in life. However, those items should not become our treasure. God, family, Bible study, prayer, and friends should be our treasure.
Think about your life and where you stand in these issues. Read the passage again slowly; then, answer the following questions in your journal. Are you living for self or God? Make a list of the things you strongly believe you MUST have. How many of these items fall in the category that of things that will rot or corrode? Also in your journal write the things you treasure most in life. Again, look at this list and indicate which of these items will rot or corrode.
Monday: Focus on James 5:1-6 “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you..” Today, look at the same passage as yesterday, but focus on the people in your life or that you encounter. Think about how you treat others. Do you have a tendency to use others to get what you want? If you have ever been guilty of doing that write the person or people in your journal beside each name, write a brief description of the incident. Have you ever cheated someone from something that rightfully should have been theirs? (This is not only referring to an inheritance, but possibly taking credit for something that someone else did in order to make yourself look better). In your journal make a list of those people and beside each name, write a brief description of the incident.
Now, look at both lists. Is God prompting you to do something? Is it possible to right a wrong you have done to someone else as you climbed to the top or strove for the limelight? Write your responses to both questions in your journal.
Tuesday: Focus on James 5:7-8 “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.” Patience! These verses tell us we are to be patient and continue living according the standards given to us by God until the day Christ returns. We are to patiently treat others with the respect that comes from God, we are to demonstrate God’s love to others, and we are to live pure and holy before an almighty God until Christ returns. As I am writing this, I realize there are times when maintaining patience is next to impossible. Sometimes we get down right tired of the struggles, the frustrations, the obstacles, the attacks, and the routine of the daily grind. We even get to the point that things will never get better, yet we are instructed to be patient and wait.
What are we to do while we patiently wait? The last part of this passage tells us to “establish our hearts.” What does that mean? It means we are to continue to be faithful to God, strive for perfection, trust and allow him to guide us through our journey. Even though we endure difficult times, He promises to greatly bless us in the end if we have remained true and faithful to Him. He also promises to carry us through the difficult times. The best thing we can do is to set our mindset on the goal of persevering and continuing the pace until He provides an alternative route.
I recently experienced that myself. For four years, I felt the stress of a situation and saw no change for the better coming my way. I prayed, even begged and pleaded with God to provide a change for me. I began searching and probing into every potential new avenue, but nothing seemed to be the appropriate direction for me. I had been the Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God several times, and I knew deep within my heart the avenue I was seeking was not right, but I was becoming so desperate for a change, I was willing to step out and pursue regardless as to whether it was right for me or not. There were a few opportunities that I was moving toward that I knew was definitely wrong for me, so I prayed and asked God to close the door because I knew if it were offered to me, I would take it knowing it was wrong. I am so glad that God is always in control. He did just as I asked and closed all the doors that I certainly did not need to walk through. Last year, God opened the perfect door, and in my opinion, it seemed as though the timing was out of the blue; however, in God’s mind the timing was perfect. He greatly blessed me with the perfect fit for me.
What should you do when you are instructed to be patient and continue where you are doing what you are doing? Continue to pray and ask God to bless you with His perfect blessing for His plan for your life while continuing where you are doing what you are doing. I promise from personal experience, God will bless you and relieve your distress when the timing is right according to His plan. Keep in mind, God is never late, but He is always on time. Trust Him and keep going.
In your journal today, write about the stress or difficult situation that you are enduring and would love to have it changed. Next, write a prayer to God expressing your exact feelings about the scenario. (Remember, be honest because God already knows; He just wants you to communicate your feelings with Him). Finally, write a statement of commitment that you will remain faithful exactly where you are until He provides the perfect new direction.
Wednesday: Focus on James 5:9: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” Today’s passage is short but powerful. Yesterday, we talked about remaining faithful even in stressful or difficult situations when we see no escape at all. Today, we are going to expand that thought a bit further. We are not to grumble against each other as we are enduring these circumstances. If it is your co-workers or your boss who are causing the stress you are experiencing, you are not to grumble against them. Now, as those words came out of my mouth onto the paper just now, I realized how difficult it is to comply to this command. It is our nature to grumble and complain when people seem to be working against us and making our lives more stressful. Right now take a deep breath and absorb what this scripture is telling us to do (or not to do) and why.
If we begin telling the negative things about others, even if they are true, we cause others to see the negative aspects more readily. It is not our place to be their judge; it is God’s place. This passage tells us clearly why we are not to speak about others negatively; it is because as we do so, we appear to be judging them, and that will cause God to judge us for our words and actions. As I am stating these words, I am well aware that I have been guilty of doing this action myself. It is so hard to keep our mouths shut and continue when we know what is being done is wrong. However, God is the ultimate judge, and when the time is right, He will take care of the ones who are wilfully doing wrong to His beloved faithful children. I know it seems as though the ones who are doing wrong are “getting away with it,” and it seems so unfair. This is where our patience and enduring until God changes things comes into play. This may be a struggle for you, as it has been a struggle for me. However, if we can remain close to God, continue where we are and doing exactly what we have been doing until He opens a new door and redirects our paths. Remember also that God can deal with those who are in the wrong far better than we can, and He will, in turn, bless us if we follow His commands and trust Him. We tend to make situations worse and even get ourselves into trouble if we take matters into our own hands.
Today, write down the times you can remember when you broke this command and spoke in a grumbling way against those who were doing wrong to you. Did your grumbling make things better, or did it cause you to get more riled up and frustrated? Ask God to forgive you and to help you move forward with Him. Also ask God to give you the ability to keep your mouth shut and to continue where you are regardless of the circumstances and actions of others. Write a statement of trusting Him to handle things with those people and to remove you from the situation if He chooses when He is ready.
Thursday: Focus on James 5:10-11 “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.” Today we are going to go a step further with the idea of not grumbling. We are to be an example of Christ-like patience to others as we are enduring suffering. This is not easy to do, but others are constantly watching us, and the best witness for Christ we can give to others is our ability to maintain patience in the midst of difficulties. On the other hand, the worst witness of Christ we offer others is the way we lose control, explode, and gripe and grumble about the way things are going. People are watching us even when we are unaware. I have had moments when I must have handled situations correctly because I have received cards from students and sometimes from adults who have indicated they learned from me how to handle difficult situations in a Godly manner by watching me calmly and graciously demonstrate kindness and love to someone who was behaving in ways that were just the opposite. As I have read such cards and notes, I have thought, “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to demonstrate You enough to teach others how You expect us to act during adversity.” I also am very sorry for all the times when I have blown witness opportunities because I reacted from my own selfish thinking and anger or frustration (and believe me, I have done that a few times).
In your journal today, list times when you have reacted to adversity from others in a way that was pleasing to God and presented an appropriate picture of the patience of Christ. Now, make a list of the times when you behaved just the opposite. I know as you are thinking about the second list you are more than likely feeling rotten inside because I still have those feelings. Pray and ask God to forgive you; then, ask Him to remove those negative thoughts about yourself and your behaviour, so you can now move forward with God. Ask God to help you to always allow Him to have control over your thoughts and actions, so you will react according to His pleasing and not react out of hostility and anger. This is a prayer that you may have to pray daily. This is also a prayer that you should pray when you know you are going to be in situations that will test your patience.
Remember, you are a work in progress. If you falter with your reactions and patience, don’t beat yourself up. Pick yourself up, pray and ask forgiveness, and move on with the right attitude during the next opportunity. Let me caution you; once you make a commitment and set your mind to demonstrate the patience of Christ, you may be tested. Be ready!
Friday: Focus on James 5:10-11 “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.” Today, we are going to focus on the compassion God has toward those who have remained steadfast in the midst of their struggles and difficulties as well as our need for conversation and encouragement from Godly friends during these struggles. This passage reminds us of the saints of old who persevered in their trials and struggles and how we consider them to be very blessed people. Their example is there for us to use as a pattern for our lives and actions. The passage specifically points out the perseverance of Job and the favour he found from God as a result of his faithfulness. He certainly was a perfect example of remaining faithful and not complaining in the midst of the worst sufferings a person can endure. He did talk with his closest friends about his situation. He was seeking their spiritual guidance and seriously needed the companionship and open ears of his most trusted God fearing friends. Although they gave him poor advice by telling him to go on and curse God and end his suffering, the human nature of Job required him to need his friends and to have deep conversations in which he could express his emotions and confusion regarding his situation.
We discovered earlier this week that we are not to complain and grumble. Keep in mind, there is a difference in confiding in our closest friends and seeking support and guidance from those we trust regarding spiritual matters and grumbling and complaining to others. Our human nature compels us to need each other for strength and encouragement to help us through our difficult times. When we share our burdens, as we are instructed from the scripture to bear one another's burdens, we must make sure that we are truly going to those who are spiritually grounded and solid in their faith in Christ and truly strive to live Godly lives themselves.
In your journal today make a list of those in your spiritual circle that you know you can trust to provide you prayer support, Godly guidance, and encouragement in times of suffering and difficulties. Write a statement of praise and thanks to God for placing such people in your life. You may even consider writing each person a note of thanks for the Godly love and support they have provided you through the years.
Saturday: Read James 5:12 “But 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.” When we are upset and must give a response, we may tend to add expletives to our answer. However, this verse warns us against doing that. This verse begins by saying “Above all…do not swear…” The two words “above all” puts a strong emphasis that this is a very serious command that we are to follow. Then, it goes on to tell us to not swear by heaven, earth, or any other oath. Those who must swear or curse are considered an enemy of God. James tells us here to simply say “yes” or “no,” so we will not fall under condemnation. There is no reason that we need to add to the meaning of our intentions; we simply need to make a definite decision, state it in simple terms, and stand firm. The added expletives do not bring gain or pleasure to the situation; in fact, these expletives harm the reputation of a Christian. We must be very careful and guard our language especially in the heat of the moment. We will damage our witness. Besides, no one ever admires or respects a woman with a potty mouth.
Think about your language when you have been upset in the past. What kinds of words did you choose to use to express how you were feeling? In your journal evaluate the language you typically use when you are upset. Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Do you need to clean up your language? Submit that part of your life to God right now and let the the transformation begin.