Saturday, August 29, 2009

James 5

In James 5 in verses 1 through 6 there is a warning of God's judgment and a call to repentance to the rich who live to make more money,indulge their selfish desires and exploit those who have less money, status and power. Chances are you do not consider yourself to be rich, but the term "rich" is relative. With more than 6.7 billion people in the world, it is likely that you are rich compared to someone else in the world. Accordingly, James' warning is applicable to all of us regardless of how much we possess.

Jesus taught that we are to lay up treasures in heaven because the things of this earth will pass away, and we are certainly not to earn money or anything else at the expense of anyone. A Christian who hoards and is stingy with their money and possessions, even to the point of cheating others what is rightful theirs, is not trusting God to meet his every need. The reason God gives us money and other possessions is not for us to collect them, but to use these resources to help the less fortunate and to spread the Gospel, all of which honors the Lord. You may think that the more you give away, the less you will have to support your needs. However, the reality is if the giving is done in line with God's will, God will give you more blessings than you could ever imagine in return. You can never out give God!

To those who are being taken advantage of and mistreated, it is easy to become discouraged; it is difficult to see how things will change and when the guilty will be punished. However, in verses 7 through 11 James reminds us of Jesus' imminent return and that judgment that will befall on the wicked. It is hard to wait, but anything worth having involves a wait;the wait is always worth it which is absolutely true of Jesus' return.

Until Jesus returns and pronounces judgment on the wicked, we are to endure the trials of this earth with steadfast faith. We can do this because we know God is control, and He will vindicate His children when they have been wronged. Also, in the interim, we are to refrain from complaining and criticizing one another. During difficult times it is natural to become frustrated and overwhelmed by emotions, and during these times, we should pour out our feelings to our Heavenly Father and not to each other. Regardless of the circumstances that we may encounter, we need to remember that we will be held accountable for any careless words that we may speak. While we are waiting on God to deliver us from our unbearable situation, we can find comfort that others, such as the prophets from the Bible, have endured and survived the hardships of life. James, in particular, singled out Job who endured tremendous trials, but He remained faithful to God throughout it all.  God brought Job through that difficult time and bestowed great blessings upon him. God can do the same for us, if we will endure faithful and not lose hope no matter what happens. 

In verses 13 through 18 James urges us to be people of prayer.  Whether we are healthy or sick, happy or sad, with plenty or very little, we should always pray.  Paul affirmed this in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he said to "pray without ceasing".  Our prayer life should remain active regardless of our circumstances, and we can do this by trusting fully in God's sovreignty over our lives and to regularly praise him for the blessings he gives us. 

Verse 16 states that "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective".  James illustrates this point by reminding us of Elijah who prayed fervently that it would not rain, and God answered Elijah's prayers by withholding rain for three years until Elijah asked God to provide rain.  Elijah is proof that God hears and responds to persistent prayers.  But what made Elijah righteous?  He was a believer of God who lived his life in God's will by being faithful and obedient.

Lastly, the book of James ends with a reminder to Christians that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ who stray from the Gospel and live a life that is in rebellion to God. Our motive in doing so should be out of godly love and not condemnation.  All Christians belong to one body, the body of Christ.  When one member is living outside of God's will, the entire body of Christ is affected, that is why it is so important that we encourage each other to perserve through life's challenges and to remain faithful to God.

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