08 May 2017

LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE LORD’S RETURN (PART 1)


James 5:7-12

Patience and suffering in the same sentence seems like an oxymoron. Its like oil and water, Sens fans and Leafs fans…they don’t work well together. If you asked most people they would tell you that they don’t like suffering at all and the last thing they want is to endure suffering or for it to be prolonged. But this is exactly what James is saying in his closing remarks. Patiently wait in your suffering and persevere in the truth of the gospel. Why? By the opening remarks of chapter 5 “Be patience or endure Christian, until the coming of the Lord.” See suffering is part of the Christian life…….at some point in time each and every one of us will face some form of suffering in this life: The suffering that the Bible talks about is so much more than your physical well-being, your finances, name calling or who unfriends you on Facebook! The suffering the Bible talks about is the battle of the Spirit and the flesh as we patiently endure this present evil age. Jesus said These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
  
Peter said rejoice in your suffering “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

See! It’s part of the Christian Life for this reason "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22

Martin Luther said "They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?"

Paul said all who desire to live godly will suffer “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Tim 3:12. The Lord says…….”Draw near to God” James 4:8 and His overcoming grace and power. The Lord hasn't left us alone to handle it or face it on our own! "I will never leave you, or forsake you" Heb 13:5. This is where that hope worth dying for comes into play for the Christian. I need not to fear anything…… and James reminds us of this truth. James tells us even though we are going to face suffering as we walk this narrow road. James says wait patiently! Why? Because the day is at hand and He is coming to receive us unto Himself! That’s good news that sustains us in our suffering. James gives us 5 practical views to patiently endure trials until the coming of the Lord.
  
ANTICIPATE THE LORD’S COMING WITH PATIENCE (V7 - V8)

James uses the example of a farmer who waits for his crops. In the agricultural society we are dependent on God’s provision in the weather. Think about that! Too much rain can kill a crop to rot and too little of rain can cause them to burn or dry up and die. And as Canadians we have another issue when it comes to planting things! Frost which as the same affects as too much rain and no rain. In the end it will die without God providing the proper amount for things to grow. And we know farmers and people in general are very patient people! Right? We know when you plant seeds in a field they don’t all of a sudden sprouts and produce the delicious vegetables and fruits we all are accustom to love and enjoy.

What is James trying to tell us? He is coming back again, so be patient. Faith involves trusting in God with what you cannot control. A farmer cannot determine when it will rain or when it won’t rain. When it comes to the Lord’s return and the injustice that were faced with each and every day the farmer reminds us to patiently wait. “Coming” (v7) is an important New Testament eschatological term; this is referring to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read and are reminded in 1 Thess 4:14-17 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” See if we focus our attention to this Truth, persecution or trials will not seem so big in light of this promise! This provides great hope for those undergoing persecution. For that reason, the more persecuted a church is the more eagerly it anticipates the return of Jesus Christ. This is our great hope, this we anticipate and this is what we are to wait patiently for every day. The church's greatest hope is the arrival of Jesus Christ when He comes to bless His people with His presence.

James says “establish your heart for the coming of the Lord.” (v8)

How does one establish his or her heart?

Invested your time with God in the Word and in prayer.
Reading His word and discerning the lies that Satan speaks to our hearts.
Remind yourself of the gospel and the promises it brings.
Never allow seeds of doubt to enter in about the eternal promises of God.
Count it all joy when you go through trails of various kinds. (James 1:2)

We are to patiently wait and trust in God with what we cannot control, but we are to honour God with what we can control.

RECOGNIZE OUR RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH HOLY LIVING (V9)
  
What are we to control? “Do not grumble against one another.” (v9) See as we patiently endure trials we will also be tempted to sin and usually that sin is easily achieved by the one another. It’s so easy to complain or find fault and speak evil of one another. We must resist this behaviour…this is something we do have control over. When we say “Oops I didn’t mean say that” what you’re really saying “I did mean to say that, but I meant to keep to myself. It’s the idea “Did I say what I really mean out loud?” We need to be extremely careful in this area of life because it’s so much easier and less work to destroy someone then it is to encourage and lift up someone. Why? James is reminding of this! “The Judge is standing at the door” (v9) Christ the Divine Judge is portrayed as ready to throw open the doors and burst onto the judgement scene. The Judge will bring every hidden thing to light, because He is at the door! 1 Cor 4:5 reminds of this truth! “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.” That's something that is worth taking note of or pondering over! He will reveal everything that is hidden. Do we as Christian's have anything hidden? James says “don't complain, brethren, against one another. What is James saying to these believers? Living with difficult circumstances can cause believers to become frustrated, a sense to lose their patience and complain. 

Complain means to groan within one-self, or to sigh, it describes a bitter, resentful spirit.

But Paul says to the Philippian believers don’t complain in the light of the day of our Lord's return. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Phil 2:14-17He is coming again………continue in your walk by living holy. So we can say with Paul "I have not run in vain or labored in vain" so patiently wait and anticipate His coming, through holy living.
  
FOLLOW THE LORD'S SERVANTS AND BE ENCOURAGED BY THEIR EXAMPLE (V10)

Be encouraged by believers that were and endured unjust suffering who though hardships spoke about the goodness, the greatness, the judgement and the mercy of God. Even when it wasn’t socially acceptable or  as today considered “Hate speech” They were example of people who loved the Lord and were willing to go to the ends of the earth for the gospel. “Spoke in the Name of the Lord” (v10) they represented all that the Lord is, does, and wills, the prophets were God's spokesman. Moses had to put up with the stiff-necked, rebellious Israelites who left Egypt “And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, "Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!" Exo 17:3-4. Jeremiah endured opposition through his ministry “Then they said, "Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words." Jer 18:18
  
John the Baptist cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ was faced with much opposition the end result was John's head “And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.” Matt 14:9-11. These are only a few of many who have been persecuted and endured great tragedy and trials. This is to encourage us as we again, wait patiently for the Lord's return, so let us run the race, let us patiently run this race for His glory. Are we willing to do the same as those who went before us? Jesus did it for us; can we do it for Him?
  
UNDERSTANDING THE LORD'S BLESSING THROUGH ENDURING PATIENCE (V11)

God will bless those who endure such trying times. We see this in the life of Job. A man who endured many trials and hardships. He lost his livelihood of 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys.
He lost his gifts from God, the death of his 10 children that he concentrated for every day to the Lord. “It may be that my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Job 1:5. And to top it off! Job was faced with bitter wife along with 3 so-called friends who were self-righteous and judgemental. And if that wasn't enough, poor Job had boils from the top of his head to bottom of his feet. Remember it took 42 chapters for the purpose of suffering in Job’s life to be revealed and only at the end did he confess. As Job said I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5-6
  
We can learn a lot from Job's life! Throughout this experience Job’s faith was never shaken and he was a man of integrity and would not curse God ever! “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.Job 2:9-10. If Job can get through this trying time as a sinner saved by sovereign grace, then so can you and me. This should encourage us to persevere through our tough times today or what lies ahead tomorrow. God's blessing does not come to people who do great things, but to people who endure great things for His glory. Those who will receive the greatest blessing in the life to come are those who have endured the greatest suffering in the present world. Remember what the Lord said “…..'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matt 25:33-34. The hope of future blessing should encourage and motivate us as we patiently endure in this present age! This has been the purpose in James’ letter “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12. Paul said this is a crown that can never be destroyed “…an imperishable crown.”1 Cor 9:25. Patiently waiting and enduring trials mean nothing in the big picture of things. The reward is eternally secure in the arm of a God who loves us so much He sent His only Son to die for the wickedness of this world!

APPRECIATE THAT THE LORD HAS A PURPOSE (V11) 

There are 4 important divine purposes for suffering in the believer’s life as we have seen in Job.

To test your faith to prove it is genuine.
To prevent Satan’s attempt to destroy that faith.
To strengthen your faith so that you see God more clearly.
To increase the blessing in your life.


We saw this in Job’s life at the end in Job 42:10-17 The example of Job should encourage us through suffering trials to be patient and endure and realize the Lord’s purpose is to strengthen us and bless us in ways we would never think or imagine. Suffering is the off-ramp where we find and receive His compassion and mercy.

“Full of Compassion and Mercy” reminds us of the Lord’s character which is a great comfort when we are faced with suffering. As God showed deep compassion in the case of Job, we have equal reason to suppose that He will do the same in ours. This is what compassion and mercy look like as we go through suffering. Enduring trials is nothing in compared to what the Lord Jesus endured for us! He has shown us great mercy. He as show us great love, even when we dead in our sins. We have received this love by the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. He allows us to endure and to learn patience because He is full of compassion and full of mercy. It’s a tenderness of heart which positions a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has become the Mercy Seat for His people. This is why we patient wait and endure this present world system. It’s all because His grace, it’s all because of His mercy and compassion. Listen to these three words put together in a promise of God’s character and hope we have eternal glory. “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9. Praise God for his amazing love and mercy that He shows each and every one of us. This is why we endure suffering in this life, He is coming back to receive us unto Himself!
  
5 practical views to patiently endure trials……..

Anticipate His coming at any time with great joy.
Recognize the Lord's Judgment on this perverse generation.
Follow the Lord's servants as examples of patience and perseverance.
Understand the Lord's blessing as you endure for His name sake.
Realize the Lord's purpose never go to waste.

Understand God has personally given this to us and allowed suffering in our lives for His glory! “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” Phil 1:29. This is part of our Christian Life as it prepares our heart for what is yet to come! A Heavenly homestead for all eternity. James wants to encourage us to be patient in times of suffering! Like the farmer waiting for a spiritual harvest and the fruit it brings though God’s provision and timing. The prophets who looked for opportunities to witness and share the truth of God’s word without worrying about what man can do to them. You like Job, who displays for us that God never causes His children to suffer needlessly. To understand that through suffering we know Him better for having been in the furnace of affliction. As Matt Chandler said during his cancer treatments “The good news of the gospel is not all my hurts go away. It’s that Jesus is enough regardless of the hurts.” We must endure with patience, because this is the Last Days and our victory is found in Jesus Christ our Lord!! And He is worth dying for, so be patient!

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