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James 5

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James 5:7-19

An old seaman said, "In fierce storms we can do but one thing. There is only one way (to survive); we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there."

Commenting on this idea, Richard Fuller wrote:

      This, Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul,

      you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies

      on you.  Reason cannot help you.  Past experiences give you no

      light.  Only a single course is left. You must stay upon the

      Lord; and come what may -- winds, waves, cross seas, thunder,

      lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers -- no matter what,

      you must lash yourself to the helm and hold fast your

      confidence in God's faithfulness and his everlasting love in

      Christ Jesus.

1)  The Expectation of the Lord’s Return. (vs. 7-9)

What a wonderful practical tie there is between this truth of the coming of the Lord and our appearing before Him, and the living of our daily life!  "Every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."  Let me illustrate that by the life of Martha Snell Nicholson who, for more than thirty-five years, was so transcendentally triumphant through those many weary years that she wrote some of the finest Christian poetry which has ever been written. A number of years before she died she wrote about her hope of the coming of the Lord.  This is what she says: The best part is the blessed hope of his soon coming.  How I ever lived before I grasped that wonderful truth, I do not know.  How anyone lives without it these trying days I cannot imagine.  Each morning I think, with a leap of the heart, "He may come today." And each evening, "When I awake I may be in glory." Each day must be lived as though it were to be my last, and there is so much to be done to purify myself and to set my house in order.  I am on tiptoe with expectancy.  There are no more grey days -- for they're all touched with color; no more dark days -- for the radiance of His coming is on the horizon; no more dull days, with glory just around the corner; and no more lonely days, with His footsteps coming ever nearer, and the thought that soon, soon, I shall see His blessed face and be forever through with pain and tears.

HOPE

Hope opens doors where despair closes them.

Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot.

Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God.

Hope "lights a candle" instead of "cursing the darkness."

Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities.

Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.

Hope sets high goals and is not frustrated by repeated difficulties or setbacks.

Hope pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit.

Hope puts up with modest gains, realizing that "the longest journey starts with one step."

Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst.

a)     Suffering is seasonal.  You’d better believe that there is an end to it and God knows how much we can endure.  Often we are convinced that we can take no more when God knows that we can.

If I were going to train someone, I would immediately take them out of their comfort zone.  Physical training is the process of introducing pain into a person’s life.  We would never put ourselves through that pain because it hurts too much.  Others, circumstances, withholding the object of our desire (If we want it enough we will endure.) produce something in us that make us better.

Once I am in shape I am no longer bothered by the same rigor of exercise.  What once brought pain, I can now handle with ease because I am stronger.

In pain we are instantly qualified as guides to those who are in the mists behind us.

In our sufferings we find a point of identification with Christ.

b)     It takes time to produce a crop.  I am convinced that there is no adversity that enters our lives without bringing the opportunity to become better, stronger more able to bear lasting fruit for the Kingdom.  Often we do not look for these benefits.  We object to troubled times as though they were purposeless.  Sometimes the lessons that we can learn in times of lesser trouble can preserve our very lives when the ultimate test comes.

Afflictions, when sanctified, make us grateful for mercies which before we treated with indifference. We sat for half an hour in a calf's shed the other day, quite grateful for the shelter from the driving rain, yet at no other time would we have entered such a hovel. Discontented people need a course of the bread of adversity and the water of affliction to cure them of the wretched habit of complaining. Even things which we loathed before, we shall learn to value when in troubling circumstances. We are not fond of lizards, and yet at Pont St. Martin, in the Aosta valley, where the mosquitoes, flies, and insects of all sorts drove us nearly to distraction, we prized the little green fellows, and felt quite an attachment to them as they darted out their tongues and devoured our worrying enemies. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this among them--that it brings into proper estimation mercies which were before lightly esteemed.

n      Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

It is suffering that creates compassion in my heart for others who go through difficult times.  Divorce and the pain that I encountered as a teen has left a very soft place in me for young people who encounter the same thing.

The story goes that Harry the Eighth, wandering one night in the streets of London in disguise, was met at the foot of a bridge by some of the night watchmen; and, not giving a good account of himself, he was carried off to the Poultry Compter and shut up for the night without fire or candle. On his liberation he made a grant of thirty chaldrons of coals and a quantity of bread for the solace of night prisoners in the Compter. Experience brings sympathy. Those who have felt sharp afflictions, terrible convictions, racking doubts, and violent temptations, will be zealous in consoling those in a similar condition. It would be good if the great Head of the church would put unsympathizing pastors into the Compter of trouble for a season until they could weep with those who weep.

n      Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

As soon as we know our dependence, our own nothingness, we begin, by dying, to live. In this is our only hope: that knowing our nothingness, we come to learn from tribulation--and then tribulation, instead of paralyzing us and beating us to death and despair, is the necessary condition for us to learn how to live and tribulation teaches us the truth: it teaches us that our philosophy in which everything is centered on ourselves is false and deadly, because evil, in it, is inexplicable, and increases more and more as we try to avoid it more and more.

   -- Thomas Merton in Run to the Mountain. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 6.

c)      Growth is facilitated by rain as much as sunshine. Almost everyone would rather have sunshine than showers.  But just imagine what our world would be like if it never rained again.  An example of such a place is in Northern Chile.  Franklin Elmer, Jr., described a region between the great Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean where rain never falls.  He wrote, "Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east; each noon it shines brightly down from overhead; evening brings a picturesque sunset.  Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks are observed far out over the sea, the sun continues to shine on this favored and protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise; but it is not. Instead, it is a sterile and desolate desert!  There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there."

  

Elmer then made this application: "Too often we long for total sunshine and joy in life.  We have wished to be rid of burdensome responsibilities.  But, like this sunny, unfertile part of Chile, life without its burdens and trials would not be creative, productive, or challenging.  We need sunshine and showers."

The storm clouds of suffering may at times blot out the sun and threaten to engulf us.  But the trusting Christian recognizes that in God's wise design and under His sovereign control they actually bring showers of blessing.

d)     Don’t fight the wrong enemy

2)  The Example of the Prophets  (vs. 10,11)

a)     It takes courage to speak in God’s name

b)     We respect people who endure

c)      God ultimately restores

3)  Exhortation Relative to Personal Integrity (vs. 12)

a)     Don’t be hasty with promises

b)     They bring a different kind of bondage or consequence

c)      Extra consequence when we tie our promises with an oath

4)  Explanation of Place of Prayer (vs. 13-19)

a)     Live in “connection” with heavenly resources

b)     Live in “connection” with others

c)      Live in concern for one another

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOD'S PEOPLE?

God's will is to heal. His desire is for good to come to us. But His ultimate purpose is to bring us closer to Him. The Lord sometimes uses affliction and infirmity as tools to refine His

servants. He seeks to build character in us.

Not all sickness and infirmity is intended by God to produce character - much of it accomplishes nothing but destruction. At times, however, God gives Satan permission to touch us (Job is an example) and He will not bring an immediate solution because He intends for Christ to produce something deep in our hearts.

God uses infirmity to:

  * Correct disobedience. He does not discipline you simply to

    punish you for wrong behavior, but rather to restore you to

    right behavior. Before I was afflicted I went astray but now

    I keep Your word (Ps. 119:67). God's discipline is always for

    the good. It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I

    may learn Your statutes (Ps. 119:71). When affliction

    strikes, it's wise to let your first response be one of

    broken repentance. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any way in

    which your life may be out of order.

  * Produce greater knowledge of Christ. Affliction naturally

    produces desperation. If you allow your desperation to push

    you into Christ, you will come to know Him in a profoundly

    new and intimate way. Even Jesus sought to be closer to the

    Father. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly (Luke

    22:14).

  * Develop greater spiritual maturity. Calamity can become a

    catalyst for accelerated spiritual growth. The vital

    ingredient for turning affliction into maturity is

    perseverance. We also glory in tribulations, knowing that

    tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance,

    character; and character, hope (Rom. 5:3-4).

  * Remove judgmentalism. God wants you to have empathy and

    compassion for those who are suffering. When you suffer you

    understand in unfathomable ways with other hurting people in

    the world. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

  * Restores real Christianity. Where there is great persecution

    people turn from being merely believers to becoming

    disciples. When you suffer financial, physical, or family

    distress it can rekindle your zeal for the Lord. Jesus said

    to the believers in Laodicea, because you are lukewarm, and

    neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Rev.

    3:16).

  * Reveal His glory. When the disciples asked Jesus why a

    certain man was born blind He responded that the works of God

    should be revealed in Him (John 9:3). Then Jesus proceeded to

    reveal His glory by healing the man.

  * Accomplish His plan. Chances are that some of you reading

    this are experiencing great affliction. If that's you, take

    heart; God will complete the work He is doing in You. Be

    confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good

    work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ

    (Phil. 1:6). His purposes shall be accomplished.


   Bob Sorge is a teacher and author of several books,

   including Exploring Worship, In His Face, and The

   Fire of God's Love. Bob and his wife, Marci, live in

   Kansas City, Mo., with their three children.

   From "Why Do Bad Things Happen to God's People?"

   adapted from The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob

   Sorge, copyright (c) 1996, used by permission. Bob's

   latest book is entitled, Pain, Perplexity and

   Promotion: A prophetic interpretation of the book of

   Job. To place an order call 816-623-9050. "Why Do Bad

   Things Happen to God's People?" is from Spirit Led

   Woman, published by Strang Communications, June/July

   1999, copyright (c) 1999.

Jacques Plante was an amazing man. His career as a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, The Toronto Maple Leafs and finally the Boston Bruins included the development of the goalie face mask, and the movement of the goalie out of the net to help the defense (revolutionary when Plante began them, but now standard practice). He won the Vezina trophy seven times for highest achievement in goal, and was named to the all star team seven times. He had 79 career shut-outs.

   What most don't know, however, was that it was adversity that moved the man into the goal net. Jacques Plante was a severe asthmatic. As a child, when he would play defense on the ice-pond in sub-zero weather, he had difficulty breathing whenever the position would require him to skate fast. As a result, he moved into goal where he wouldn't have to do high-speed skating. When Plante was interviewed about his illustrious career, he frankly confessed, "If it hadn't been for my asthma, I probably would have stayed on defense and never progressed beyond pond hockey."

   What may seem an obstacle may in fact be the stepping stone, the loss may in fact be the gain.

   -- Rev. David Chotka. From the files of Leadership.

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