Summary: How should Believers live in a world hostile to God? We find some answers in the closing verses of James.
“Christians Under Pressure”
It wasn’t long after his birth that Jesus first experienced hostility (i.e. Herod in Matthew 2:13-23).
In our generation we are seeing Christians experiencing hostility around the globe (e.g. Churches in Indonesia). There is an element to the current wave of terrorism which is aimed at a false perception of Christianity (i.e. Western=Christian/immoral TV).
But by in large the nearest threat of hostility faced by western Believers is closer to home – impatience; boredom with the faith; infighting in the church and in some cases cynicism and disillusionment. These are the terrorists within that many western Believers fight against.
The bottom line is that this world is a hostile place for followers of Jesus Christ. And that battle rages on the outside and on the inside.
But my question this morning is “How should Believers live in a world hostile to God?”
We find some answers in the closing verses of James.
1. WAIT FOR THE LORD (v 7-12)
And James begins by pointing out that while living in a hostile world Believers need to wait for the Lord.
a. The Lord’s coming is near (v8)
James’ message here is for those who experience difficulty in life simply because they call themselves Christian. His advice to Believers is, be patient and wait for the Lord because, “The Lord’s coming is near” (v8).
JAS 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
JAS 5:8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. JAS 5:9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Believers suffer various types of pain simply because they are Christians. For some it means physical suffering (e.g. Indonesia). For many it means ridicule from others. For most it means some level of sadness over habitual sin. For others it means sadness as we wait to be reunited with loved ones who have passed on. And for a large number it means heartache over the lost. Especially heartache over sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives that are yet to come to Christ. If we had not come to Christ, these things simply wouldn’t concern us. But in many ways the life of a Believer is a life of deep sorrow.
Yet at the same time there is immense hope and happiness isn’t there? This is because we can be sure that Christ is coming back. And Christ’s return is the solution to all of life’s problems.
But some times it’s just plain hard to sustain this hope isn’t it? But there is some help for us here in this passage. One secret of endurance that we find here is the purpose of our waiting. When we understand the reason why we have to wait, it can make the waiting easier.
You see, God is producing a harvest in your life. He wants the fruit of the Spirit to grow (Gal 5:22-23). He wants to produce characteristics in you such as…
…. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control.
And the only way he can do this is through trials and troubles.
In v7 James encourages us to be like farmers waiting for a “valuable crop.” You see, these are not just any characteristics, these are fruits of the Spirit, the most valuable of all personal distinctives.
So instead of growing impatient with God and with ourselves, we should instead have fertile lives that surrender to the Him and allow these fruits to grow. Believers are spiritual farmers looking for a harvest of Christ-like qualities in their lives (Weirsbe p155).
b. The patience of the Prophets an example (vv10-11)
And then James points to the OT prophets as a good example of patient waiting.
JAS 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. JAS 5:11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James’ point here is that not one of these OT prophets knew what we now know about God’s plan of a global rescue through Jesus Christ – yet they faithfully waited – not knowing how – but believing that God would do exactly what he had said he would do.
An end will come to all pain and suffering, trials and troubles. We know it will, but we just don’t know when – we need to patiently wait on the Lord.