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The Book of James has much to say on suffering in the life of a Christian. Let's go Church. Let's go Lambs. We are living in the land of the wolves, but our Lion is our King. And it doesn't matter what they do. It matters who He is. Trust Him!
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
We're in a series in the book of James. The book of James is a book that tells us how we should live if Jesus is who he said he was, the visible image of the invisible God, that if you've seen Jesus you've seen God. He is Eternal Father, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, revealed fully to us.
He is the exact representation of his nature, and he has come to satisfy the righteous wrath and holiness of God so the loving aspect and character of God can still be reconciled to us and be one with us despite the fact that we are not, in ourselves, righteous. An eternal holy God demands that a holy standard is met, and when we don't meet it a holy, righteous payment must be made, and the only eternal, perfect, and holy payment that could be made was God himself.
To show you the love of God, the mercy of God, the grace of God, and still highlight the righteousness, holiness, and goodness of God, he humbled himself, and being made in the likeness of men, being found in the appearance of a man, he became obedient even to the point of death, death on a cross, that you and I might have a provision from God that we'd be reconciled to him.
When you come to know it's nothing that we do but everything God has done that allows us to have a relationship with him… We're not here performing. We're not giving so God will love us. We're not not sinning so God will love us; we are sinners, and all we have done is acknowledged our sin and embraced the gracious salvation of God.
James is writing to the early church, people called out of rebelling against God and thinking we can find life apart from God, and saying that God is good and holy and righteous and true and all his ways are beauty and honor and those who fear the Lord receive humility and riches and honor and life. What else do you want?
If that's who we are, it should change us, in the Johnny Cash song. I've gone from being a Lower Greenville, Billy Bob (my Fort Worth friend), two-steppin', honky-tonkin' fool trying to find something that would give me life to saying, "I've found all the life I want in God. It's changed my life. I'm no longer to be catting around. I'm going to walk the line because you're mine." That's the book of James.
The book of James is telling you, "This is how you live in light of what you say you believe, and if you don't live this way, it ought to make you think that maybe you don't really believe it. You might intellectually be able to talk about it, you might have head knowledge, but you have not trusted in God."
As we've said bunches of times throughout the history of the church, there are a lot of people who are going to miss heaven by 18 inches. They know the story, they agree that the story might even be true, but they haven't acted on it. There hasn't ever been a faith transaction where they go, "It's going to change everything about me."
It's not a guy who says, "You're beautiful, sweetie. I'll change. I love you. I'll serve you the rest of my life," just to have some momentary feeling or experience with her and then goes back to a way of being an adulterous philanderer. That's the book of James. James is saying, "That guy who says he loves her to get some feeling for a moment but goes on untransformed is not a lover."
James is saying people who say they know God is good and who never walk with him as a matter of practice and surrender… He said you'd better be careful before you think your faith is good. It might be dead, a faith that's no faith at all. We've talked about how demons have a great understanding of who God is, and yet they obviously have never trusted in God's goodness. James is saying, "Let that not be your story."
I'm going to tell you something. If you're just looking to check out for a little bit, this might be your Sunday to do it. If you are somebody who does not struggle with the concept of delayed gratification, if you are okay sweating and working and not receiving an immediate return, you can check out this morning.
If you have no problem with wicked people who rebel against God and yet grow in wealth and in ease and never experience any consequence as far as you can see, and that doesn't bother you, you can check out this morning. If you don't mind suffering for something you did not do, then you can check out this morning. If injustice is not a problem for you, no need to listen.
But for the rest of us, James is going to wrap up in this second-to-last little discourse in this book this message with a word of encouragement for you and me, and boy, don't we need it, because I like immediate gratification. I don't mind watching wicked people have a day as long as they get a month of judgment immediately.
But when I don't see that happening, when I look around and go, "You know what? The guys who aren't faithful to their wives, the kids who go out on spring break, the guys who are cutting corners and shaving off some of the top look like they're having all the fun, getting all the toys," it can start to make you really struggle.
Psalm 73 is an entire psalm written to this. It almost caused the worship leader of Israel to abandon his faith because he saw the prosperity of the wicked. He needed James 5:7-12. David almost bailed out on God because of the oppressiveness of wicked people around him. David needed James 5:7-12, and there's a myriad of others throughout your Bible who long for a king like David.
Psalm 101:8 talks about what a good king does, what a righteous king does. David says, "Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity." Don't you want that? This is one of the great problems people have. It is called theodicy. It is the study of God. How can God be all good and all-powerful and it still be a world that looks like our world looks like?
I've answered this question extensively in previous messages, where I talk about the problem of evil in general, but James is just going to give a word to the church. Theodicy…theos (God), dike (judgment). It is God under judgment. How could God be okay with a world like this? Answer: He is not okay, and that is why he has done something about it. God does not like wickedness. He takes no delight even in the death of the wicked.
That's why he calls people who are wickedly rich and who trust in their riches to repent. That was all last week's message. That's why he tells people who are coveting money who don't have it, who think money is their god and if they just got more money they'd be happy, to repent. That's not the way to happiness.
God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, the Scripture says, but mark my words: he will judge the wicked. Meanwhile, you and I are here in this world where wickedness is real and suffering is real and death is real and disease is real and injustice is real. James wants you to know you shouldn't bail out, because God is going to make it right. That's the way he's going to start to move toward the closure of his book. It's a message we need.
We are not people who live with a Zoroastrian view, which is this idea that there are two equal and opposite gods, and sometimes the white god wins and sometimes the black god wins, and it's just a battle, and that's what's going on in the economy of force. That dualism is completely inconsistent with Scripture.
We don't believe God is an imperfect God who's not all-good or all-powerful. He's not like Zeus and sometimes he's moody. That's not the God of the Scripture. We don't believe evil is an illusion like the Eastern mystics. Evil is real. People have come up with all kinds of solutions to explain why there is evil. Christian Scientists today will tell you that evil is an illusion. It comes out of that Eastern mystic idea.
It reminds me of a young boy who went to a Christian Science practitioner. He said, "My father is very sick," and the guy said, "No, your father is not sick. He just thinks he's sick." The little boy went away, and about a week later the practitioner asked him, "Son, how's your father?" He goes, "Well, now he thinks he's dead." Death is real. Sickness is real.
When you wear a shirt like this, people are always asking, "Why is that guy wearing that shirt? Does he think he's a Labrador retriever? Is that why he's wearing that shirt?" Because it's out of context. No. This is the reason we are doing this QuestCare clinic. We're doing the QuestCare clinic because we know sickness is real, and we come alongside people's physical sufferings because God cares about your physical suffering.
He doesn't tell you he's always going to deliver you out of it. In fact, the way he's ultimately going to deliver you out of it is with hope that you won't always suffer, that there's going to be a day he's going to get rid of all diseases and all iniquities, but meanwhile, while we can, we should comfort one another as much as we're able.
Matthew 9:35 talks about how Jesus went from city to city dealing with their infirmities and their sicknesses and diseases. He didn't do that because he thought those diseases were their problem; he did that to show them he is sovereign over all of the effects of sin and he one day will deal with them, and he's going to deal with the root cause of all that is not as God intended by reconciling the broken world to him.
Now here's the story. Having been reconciled to God by faith through Jesus Christ, he leaves some of us here in this world where there is still injustice, prosperity of the wicked, suffering for stuff you did not do, and chaos, and he tells you to not be surprised. Let me read to you from James' hero, his big brother Jesus, in John 16.
"Truly, truly…" It's Jesus' way of grabbing his disciples. "…I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy." He doesn't say, "One day you won't be sad anymore." He doesn't say, "One day these tears will be dried." He just says, "What is a source of sadness is going to become a source of great delight. I'm going to turn it into joy."
"Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you."
What Jesus is talking about there in the immediate context is his coming crucifixion and coming resurrection, that they'll see that evil did not defeat the good King, but then he tells them again, "I'm going to leave for a little while." You might go, "This doesn't seem like a little while. We're coming up on 2,000 years." The Bible tells us why it's 2,000 years. "God is not slow, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, wishing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance."
God doesn't take any delight in the death of the wicked. So there are still some who, in his sovereignty, he is choosing to save. Today the Lord has not come ultimately to eradicate evil because somebody here in this room, somebody somewhere hearing the gospel, he wants to respond. There's going to be a day when he goes, "Okay, that's all I want on the ark," and the door is going to be closed. Today is the day, maybe for you, to listen and respond.
This isn't a message so much for those who haven't responded yet as it is for those who have responded and are still here suffering. We don't have to act like we're not suffering. Things are not as they should be, and God knows that. What he asks you to do is be a very present grace. He asks you to love in the midst of the hate and selfishness that's going to rule much of the world, and he asks you to speak the truth and remind people it's not all as they see.
The explanation for evil in this world is this is a world that has moved away from the God who is good and light and love, so you get evil, darkness, divisiveness, and hate. God says, "You minister to them. You tell them I can rescue them from that. The more people who do, the better it will be for you here, but just know this: evil will always be here until I come and make it right." Until the King does come and do what the king does in Psalm 101:8: eradicate evil every morning. But right now evil reigns. Let's read James 5:7-12 together.
"Therefore [in light of that] be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment."
Let me just make a quick observation. This makes great sense if you read James, chapter 5, verses 7, 8, 10, and 11. Verses 9 and 12 are outliers. They interrupt a flow. So what I'm going to do is teach James, chapter 5, verses 7, 8, 10, and 11, and then I'm going to come back and show you what he brackets that with, because James just can't stop shepherding the flock, even when he's comforting them. Let's see if we can't learn something here. I think you guys are going to really be encouraged, even as you're reminded that we aren't home yet.
He says, "Therefore be patient…" There are two words for patient here. By the way, did you see that theme? "Be patient. Be patient. Endure." Six times in this very short section he's saying, "You are going to have to be longsuffering [makrothumeo]." It just sounds nasty, doesn't it? Makro. We get that word still in English. It means big, large, huge. Thumeo is the word for pain. So you need to be longsuffering.
"Just know this isn't going to be a little while in your mind's eye, like just for a few minutes. This is going to be, for you, a lifetime, but it's not your forever, and because you know it's not forever you can endure it for a lifetime, if you know for certain who God is. But don't be surprised at the fact that the world hates you, that evil is still here, and that injustice still reigns, because this world is not yet my kingdom. I have not yet answered your prayer."
What's your prayer? "Jesus, teach us how to pray." Jesus said, "I'll teach you how to pray. When you pray, pray this way." Notice he didn't say, "Pray this prayer." It's a model prayer, not a magic prayer. But here's the model. "Talk to your Daddy, your Father, who is altogether separate from you. He's not on this earth of death and disease in the sense that his kingdom is not present. He is in heaven where it's all good and truth and light, but he hasn't forgotten you. He's still here.
This is your Daddy, and he loves you and is constantly aware. Your Father who is in heaven, whose name is holy and right and just and true. So if you see that which is not holy, right, just, and true, you can be sure it's because there is another Prince that is falsely ruling in the hearts of men. You pray that his kingdom would come on this earth like it is in heaven, where there is no death, disease, sadness, pain, and treachery.
When you pray, pray this way to your Daddy, that his way would rule and it would be right and true. By the way, you're your Daddy's boy, so in a world that has spun out of orbit and is cycling off into chaos, you be the one who is the voice of love, reason, righteousness, and redemption. You tell people how they can be rescued. It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it. I want you to be longsuffering, because this is your journey. You are called for this purpose."
We always tease about this. The reason we identify ourselves with Jesus publicly is because we're going to need the encouragement. We're saying, "I am enlisting. I am now a member of the faith. I'm going to walk the line. My life is going to be changed. I'm no longer somebody who lives in rebellion against God. I know who God is. I have hope. I have life. I have been forgiven.
I still will struggle with sin, but sin is no longer my master. Sin is no longer my hope. Sin is no longer my toy. It is my enemy, my sworn enemy. Count me as part of this army. Walk with me. Encourage me. Help me. Spur me on. Admonish me when I go AWOL. Encourage me when I want to get out of the war. Be patient with me as I'm training. Help me when I'm weak. Get underneath me. I'm enlisting in a battalion."
When you come into a relationship with God, you publicly declare that. You enlist. It's called baptism. "I'm identified now with Jesus. I am part of his family." The reason when you become that we don't just baptize you and hold you under and send you on to glory is because there is work to do. So we go, "Up! New clothes. Let's go to war." It isn't going to be easy. "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
Hebrews 6:10 is a verse I have to constantly remind you of, as you are longsuffering. God never forgets you. He never will miss a single thing you've done well, even if nobody else was around. Hebrews 6:10 says, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints."
Just know this: you're not always going to get pinned here on earth. You're not always going to get promoted here on earth. Even amongst the body of Christ, much of what you do may not be observed. I think the most faithful people in God's economy are not names we'll know. They're not going to be authors. They're not going to be pastors of big churches.
They might just be a single mom who didn't get bitter and didn't become unholy but, having been left, just loved and raised her kids with a great hope in God, who is the Father to the fatherless. She worked as a mom, she had to discipline as a dad, she had to be a provider and a protector in their home while they were abandoned, and she never cursed God. She did it all her dying days, never being held again, kissed softly on the cheek, or having her hair stroked by a man, but she loved her kids and she loved her God and served him.
I fully expect to be in line behind women like her. God is not so unjust as to forget what you're going to do in your longsuffering, so don't grow weary. The other word shows back up when we're talking about Job a little bit farther down. It's the word we translate in our English Bibles as endured. Maybe your Bible says steadfast. It's the word hupomeno. Meno is the word for life; hupo is under. It just means to live underneath.
Isn't that a great picture of suffering? Just living underneath the constant beatdown that is this world. He's saying, "I know it's an 80-pound pack, I know that's uphill, I know you're thirsty, I know you're tired, but keep going, soldier. Live underneath that. I know exactly what's going on, and my grace is sufficient for your weakness.
I know that you, at 9 years old, were struck with dystonia…" My buddy Brandon. "…and you can't run and jump and speak and do all of the things 16-year-old boys are supposed to do right now, but just be longsuffering. You be faithful. You continue on. I have watched every day that you have not cursed me, and even if the world doesn't rightly honor you, I honor you. You're my boy, and you're a picture of what faithfulness looks like, because this world isn't your home."
Can I just say this about people who have chronic pain? I don't know if you guys knew this or not, but last November I woke up and I went to my wife, "Golly, I've got a little crick in my neck. What in the world is that?" I just thought, "I'm moving well into my 50s now, and it's just the way it goes," but that crick slowly moved.
It turned out that whatever happened I just had a disk… The doc said, "You did this a long time ago, jumping out of trees, getting hit by linebackers, whatever else you were doing, and it just finally gave way. You have a disk in your cervical area…" Which I learned quickly not to call a cervix, because I kept telling people "my cervix…" Anyway, I had a little deal going on between C6 and C7. (That's a much easier way to say it.) It just hurt.
My wife couldn't sleep with me for a while. I couldn't find any place to rest. All through November and December, this is the only position I found relief in. What would happen is I'd be up here, and while the bumper was going I'd be like this. I'd be walking around the stage like this. I don't know if you saw me. "God, I have a question. What am I going to say today?" I didn't know what I was doing. I would do this, and when that thing would get to an end I'd just drop it down and go, "Okay, here we go."
That went on for three months. Little by little, it got a little better. I had some steroid injections up in my spinal column that helped, but eventually I just moved through it. The people who were close to me who knew who were praying for me… They asked, and they were so kind, but after the third time they asked they got tired of asking and I got tired of answering and saying, "I'm kind of enduring. I'm just kind of under it right now."
People quit asking. All of a sudden you're just there. You don't want to walk up to people and go, "Hey man, you haven't asked me lately how I'm doing, but it is still extremely painful. I'm not sleeping well. It's hard for me to read my Bible." People just quit asking, and I just lived with it for three measly months. There are some people who have been living with that for three years, three decades.
Keep asking. Keep telling them, "I'm so proud of you. I know you still have cystic fibrosis. I know you still have breast cancer. I know you still have a husband who is a wretch. I know you still have a kid who's a prodigal, and I still see you seeking God. How are you doing?" They might say to you, "I'm doing fine, just like I was last week."
"Well, good. That's an amazing thing that you would continue to live underneath that the way you are." Don't stop asking. Friends you know who just look like they're doing well because they've always done well, that ALS that keeps getting worse… You keep telling them, "I marvel at you. You're my hero," because this is a war. We have to ask this way.
"Hey, single friends who are 36, are you still faithful? Are you still pure? Are you still not hiding behind porn and self-pleasuring? Are you, in every way God would want you to be, living a holy life? Even though maybe your heart is sad that you don't have a physical relationship you can call 'spouse' or 'beloved,' I still see you loving the only one who is the true Beloved.
I'm going to tell you, I don't think it was any easier this week than it was the decade and a half before as an adult. Way to go. I think I've understood you say you would like to be married one day, but I love that you're not lowering your standard. You're lengthening your patience, and you're showing me the significance and sufficiency of my God. Way to go." Don't stop saying that, because this is a war.
We are longsuffering, brethren, like the farmer. What does a farmer do? In the spring, a farmer tills the land, throws the seed in, and prays for the early rains in April and May that would allow the seed to go deep in the soil, germinate, and die, but then nothing. You have nothing except a prayer and an expectation that a little bit later the late rains will come and allow the growth to come in, even as it should fully.
Depending on what crop you have, it might be the late rain or the early rain. It probably is for most crops planted after the harvest sometime deeper in the fall, and then you need more rain to come in April and May to make it grow and be bountiful. But that's a long time. You're protecting it. You're walking the fields. You're weeding it.
The farmer is working with no return for months, but he knows he'll reap what he sows, so he does the work of a farmer and believes God will do what God says he's going to do, which is to bring forth fruit from his obedience to a process God has ordained. James is going to use that picture, and he's going to say, "Just be like the farmer. Learn from the farmer." I don't like to learn from a farmer. I'm more like a 3-year-old.
When I want something, I want it right now. If at 3 or 13 or 53 somebody says to me sometime, "You can have this today, Todd, or in eternity you can have this," I'm like, "Give me the popsicle today. To heck with the Porsche. Who needs a Porsche? I'm 12. Give me the popsicle." It's what we do all the time, and James is saying, "Don't be like that. Just do the work of a farmer, and it's going to come. Mark my words."
He says, "You too be patient…" There's that word again: makrothumeo. Then I love this one. It says sterizo. That's the word for strengthen. Isn't that hilarious? Have you ever wondered, "Where did we get the word steroid?" Well, it's the Greek word for strengthen. That's what steroids do. It means to make stronger or more firm. That's sterizo. What he's telling us to do is "Strengthen your attitude and your belief in God, for the coming of the Lord is near."
What he's telling you to do is go back and meditate on the words of the One you said is God whose name is righteous and true. His name is Jesus. He said he's coming back. Strengthen your heart in that. That's the idea here, where it says, "…strengthen your hearts, for the coming…" The parousia. It's a word we use in English. It means arrival or present. It's a word that's used in ancient Greek for the invasion of an army into a foreign land or the coming of a king to be recognized by his people.
What James is saying… He goes, "You strengthen your heart. King Richard is coming. He's going to get rid of the wicked king. You don't need to be a Robin Hood. Just live faithfully in this land, speaking of the righteousness of God, and wait for him to return. He will return. He told you he's coming. It's imminent. It could happen at any time. You strengthen your heart on this, in your belief."
Now how do you do that? Primarily, you do that through the Word of God. You have to be expert in this Word. You have to know where to look. When you are starting to drift and starting to be weak, you have to be in God's Word and be reminded of its veracity, of its sufficiency, of its solidarity. That's why you spend time in the Book. Then you have to be around people.
I've already told people, "Hey, here are a few things you need to know about me. If some kind of tragedy hits my family like this, this is what I want you to do. I don't want casseroles. I want you to come and read God's Word to me. I want you to send notes to me about verses that remind me of the truth of what I'm in. I want you to come and sing songs in my presence, that I could participate with you and train my mind, strengthen my mind with what I know is true. Give me the steroid of God's Word."
There's a great hero of mine. Everybody has made much of Bonhoeffer in recent years, but one of Bonhoeffer's heroes and fellow laborers in Nazi, Germany, was a guy named Martin Niemöller. One of my favorite stories of Martin Niemöller… Niemöller was standing against Nazi, Germany, and Hitler's corruption of the German church. It was no longer the church. It was a Nazi-ized version of the church. It was no longer loving and speaking the truth.
It saw the evil, but it began to kind of go, "Well, the SS might be here, so we're not going to teach this." Pastors quit being pastors, and the church quit being a church, and that's why Germany quickly went down the drain. Whenever you take that which is supposed to be salt and light and make the salt not salty and the light not quite as light, you get Nazi, Germany. Mark my words. It'll happen in this land. It's happening in this land, because the church is feckless, ineffective, and doesn't teach God's Word. So we need to do that here.
Martin Niemöller was warned and warned and warned, and finally they arrested him and put him in prison and eventually sent him to Dachau. When Niemöller was in prison one day, there was a young resident pastor who was making his way and visiting prisoners, and he came across this hero of the faith in Germany, Martin Niemöller. He looks at him and goes, "Pastor Niemöller, what are you doing in jail?"
Niemöller looked back at him and said, "No, my son. What are you doing out there? I know why you're out there. Because you're compromised and political and you're not doing the work of a prophet. That's why you're free." Niemöller eventually found himself in a concentration camp, and he said this about the Word of God: "What did this book mean to me during the long and weary years of solitary confinement…" He didn't die there as Bonhoeffer did.
"…and then for the last four years at Dachau? The Word of God was simply everything to me—comfort and strength, guidance and hope, master of my days and companion of my nights, the bread which kept me from starvation and the water of life that refreshed my soul." Christian, some of you all can't even read the short segment in the Journey every day, and you wonder why your life is filled with hopelessness, despair, and compromise. Because you are not strengthening your heart. There is no steroid…
Think about how Barry Bonds' career was changed when he started to inject that stuff into his physical body. His head grew. So will yours. You will be strengthened if you put that in your head, and you will be weak and out of the big leagues very quickly if you don't. James is saying, "Hey, guys. You have to be in the Word. You have to meditate on it day and night, and that's what will make you like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that will not wither when the heat comes. Don't fret. Don't despair. Don't ever let your pain be an excuse for godless behavior. Be slow to speak, quick to listen."
Remember that that in James 1:19 is a word to the suffering. It's not talking about how to have a successful marriage. Mark my words. It's a good idea to be slow to speak in a marriage, but what it's talking about is when you are suffering, don't say, "God is incompetent, weak, distant, disinterested, and unable to care for me." Watch your mouth. Don't you ever say that. I don't care how long you suffer. I don't care how awkward the position you have to get in to find relief is. He is good.
Last night I was meditating on this, and I just shot out to a bunch of friends, "Our circumstances don't determine the character of God. God is all good all the time. All the time God is good." When your world is rocky and there is suffering around you, if you don't go to that Word that reminds you of that, you will abandon the faith. So find friends who will remind you the King is coming. He's already present, but he is being humble because he wants others to get on board before that ark closes.
He is sovereign, and there will be a day when all will acknowledge it, and you already know that. So he says, "You proclaim it and you do not bail." By the way, I talk about this, because we all put ourselves in situations. I wonder if someday God is going to have me with some radical Islamist who has me by the hair and has a little machete in his hand, and he's going to say, "You infidel, I'm about to behead you."
I'm going to say, "Well, brother, before you behead me, why don't you take off my cloak? Because it's going to get cold this winter, and you're going to need something to warm you. There's no reason for this to be wasted and bloodstained, so take it off, that you may warm yourself or someone you love, because this is your heaven, and you may as well make it as comfortable as you want to during this time.
You are not making me suffer and humiliating me; you are sending me to unspeakable glory. You need to know the one who's going to get me there. It's not my righteous profession; it's his righteous provision. His name is Isa in your language. His name is Jesus. There is no jihad you can commit that will ever get you reconciled to God. There is only one, and he is holy, and you apparently do not know him. So cut my little head off and usher me to glory."
That's what we do individually. Corporately, nationally, we arm ourselves and destroy that evil. We annihilate that evil. The Bible lets us do that, and we should do it. There is a separate command… I did a message on war. If you want to know what a biblical view of war is, go get you some of that. Just search for "war" on the Watermark website.
That is the right response to evil by an ordained instrument called government. For me, when somebody asks for my coat I give them two. When they slap me on the cheek I give them the other. That's my command. You want to fight? Enlist. But vigilantism is not God's way. His way is, "I'll take care of that, Todd. Let them cut your head off. That isn't your head he's cutting off; that's my boy's head, and he will deal with me. Mark my words."
You too be patient. You steroid up your heart. You inject it with the truth of God's Word. Verse 10: "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." It wasn't easy for them. Go back and look at the prophets. When you suffer for your beliefs an entire lifetime, when you're hated, what's going to happen? Do you know what's going to happen? There are a lot of Christians who go, "Todd, can't you just give them the 'Jesus being the only way to heaven' thing?"
Go read 1 John with me right now if you're in the Journey. It talks about the Antichrist was among us and went over there. The Antichrist is not going to be evil from day one. The Antichrist is going to come out of some Methodist church somewhere or some Bible church somewhere or some Baptist church somewhere, and he's just going to drift off over to this thing. He's going to be ecumenical and loving. "Why can't we just be more welcoming?" Because God's Word is first pure and then peaceable. That's why.
"Pastor Niemöller, why can't you just move forward progressively with the spirit of the age?" Because we don't change with the spirit of the age, because God's Word is true. So we don't drift. I'm going to tell you, the Antichrist is going to look like he is just a beloved person who's kind to all and welcoming to you whatever you choose, whatever you believe, and let's just all get along. He isn't going to have fangs. He's going to be fluent. He's going to be photogenic.
He's going to look really good, but he will compromise on Jesus and the Word of God. That is always the spirit of the Antichrist. What is he? He's the puppet of Satan. What was the very first thing Satan did? He quoted God's Word and twisted it. So you'd better know your Bible and know it correctly or you will find yourself following a pied piper right to a little tattoo on your forehead that will let you buy milk. I'm saying "No." That's the way of a prophet.
This is the kickoff. This is the first game. This is James. This is the first letter to the church. This is the last talk in the locker room before we usher in 2,000 years of the church age. He said, "Okay, boys, you ready?" Remember, he gave us a moniker. Our name is the lambs. Everybody else in the league is called the wolves. It's just the way it's going to be for a while. So suit up. And off we go.
Guess what happens? Your coach, your athletic director, the commissioner of all truth is a lion, and he loves you, so you serve him, just like the prophets did. I have all kinds of Scripture in the Prophets to read you, and I don't have time. You read them. Steroid up. Just know you won't be the first one who suffered.
I'll give you one. Jeremiah 4:19: "My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me; I cannot be silent, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war." He's just saying, "I know what's coming. It's not going to be easy." Jeremiah 9:1: "Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain!"
How about this? Jeremiah 20:7: "O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long."
That's the way of a prophet. Are you guys in? If you're not in, you're not the church. That's why James is writing this to you. Are you in or are you going to go, "I don't know if I want to say something that might offend people; this isn't politically correct"? You're not called to be politically correct; you're called to be theologically sound.
Now watch this. You're called to be winsome and loving and gentle, but when I'm talking to you in the locker room I'm saying, "Let's go," and when you get out there, you do it wisely and winsomely. That's why I'm doing Real Truth. Real Quick. I'm trying to give you words you can use.
Verse 11: "We count those blessed who endured." Who lived under it for a long time, like Job. "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings…" Everybody knows Job suffered. Right? Do you guys know what the outcome of the Lord's dealings was? Do you know what the Lord eventually did with Job?
Job 42:12 says, "The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…" Job is your model. Job is going to go through it, because there is financial, relational, physical, theological, relational suffering from Job, if you go and look. Demonic suffering from Job. The Enemy was all over Job. He suffered in all of those ways, and do you know what he did?
He said, "I know my Redeemer lives. I know I'm not suffering now because of something I've done. I know I'm not perfect, but this is not a reaping what I'm sowing. I'm just underneath it. I don't know why I'm underneath it, but I will not curse you, even though my wife told me to curse you, even though my theologically foolish, perverted, uninformed friends told me to curse you and were sure there was something I had done. I don't know why this is here." I know why it's there: because God wanted me to see that he takes care of Job and that his grace is sufficient for Job.
Now why Job was called into a little side room with God is because Job started to demand that God would take his infinite brain and pour it into little Job's pea brain. So in chapters 38-41, God said, "Hey, Job, before I write the rest of this story, why don't you come on over here, big boy? Why don't you answer a few questions for me? Where were you when I created the foundations of the earth? Do you know how to make the sun rise and the sun set? Do you know how I feed the antelope? Do you know how I feed this? Do you know how I do this?"
He runs him through oceanography, astronomy, animal husbandry. He runs him through agrarian science, and he says, "You don't know anything, pea brain. You're not God. I am, and I am good. Don't you ever demand that I explain to you what I'm doing. You just trust me. Now, Job, I love you and I know it's been hard." And he doubly blesses him. That's what he's going to do for you, but you have to be Job, man. Be the farmer. Be the prophet. Be Job.
Now what about these two verses I haven't taught? What about verse 9 and verse 12? Why are they there? Why does it say in the middle of that, "Do not complain, brethren, against one another…" It doesn't say, "Don't complain about how hard it is." It says, "Don't be bitter toward one another."
"You guys are going to have a hard time, because none of you are completely sanctified yet, so you're going to want to go after those who are too rich. You're going to go after those who are too poor. You're going to go after those who talk too much. You're going to go after those who talk too close. You're going to go after those who don't talk enough. You're going to go after those who just annoy you in little different ways, and you're going to have schisms and chasms and factions all among you. Just remember something."
Look down in verse 12. "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes…" What he's saying is, "While you're waiting for God to judge the wicked, make sure you're not wicked yourself. Make sure you're loving. Instead of talking about how the homosexuals shouldn't be loving each other, why don't you focus on the way you're loving each other?
Why don't you focus on your little community? Why don't you focus on your family? Why don't you focus on your tenderness toward your wife? Because before I judge the world, I'm going to judge you." You guys do know that's the story, right? He raptures the church. We stand before God, and we give an account for all that we do. We're saved by grace. We're judged by works. We will be saved no matter what we do, but he will evaluate you. "Before I deal with the log that is in the world, let's deal with the log that's in your eye."
He's saying, "Listen. Love (verse 9) and speak the truth (verse 12), and don't play games." That's what the Jewish people loved to do. They would swear by the temple or by heaven or by the hairs on their head or by the city of Jerusalem, and they could always wiggle out of those because they didn't swear by God's name. James is saying, "That's foolishness."
By the way, all that James is doing… Remember what I told you? James is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus says, "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.'" So what they did is they then swore by heaven or they swore by earth or they swore by Jerusalem, the city of the great King.
Jesus says, "Don't do that, because heaven is where God is enthroned, earth is the footstool for his feet, Jerusalem is his city. And don't swear by your head, thinking you can get away because you didn't swear by God." This is the fourth commandment. "Don't take the Lord God's name in vain." So what they did is they'd make promises by other things.
He's saying, "Hey, God is everywhere. He's involved in everything. He made your head. He numbers the hairs. When you're swearing by your head, that's his head, not your head." So Jesus says, "Let your yes be yes." Just what James is doing. All that Jesus is doing is saying, "Be righteous, Christian." All that James is saying is, "Be righteous. Don't talk about the wickedness of others. Get the log out of your own eye, because judgment is coming." Do you see that?
He's saying, "While you're waiting for justice and judgment to come, be just. Be loving. Be the church. Be pure and holy. Be faithful and true. Don't talk about others' wickedness; deal with your own. Run toward Jesus. Be conformed to his image, and you call the wicked into the joy and the beauty and the transformation that is your life." Amen? Are we ready?
This is a great book, isn't it? This is a book that just gets right to it. He's saying, "Let's go, church. Let's go, lambs. We're living in the land of the wolves, but our Lion is our King, and it doesn't matter what they do; it matters who he is. Trust him."
Father, one day the Lion is going to come. One day we're going to be home. One day it's going to be over, and we're going to want to be found faithful and true, so we look forward to that glorious day. We pray it would hasten and come quickly. But, Father, until it comes, until it is here, I pray that we would be faithful, that we would love one another, that we would speak the truth, that we would let our yes be yes and we would let the Word of God be the Word of God.
Would you let that be true, and would you now inject the steroid of passion and truthfulness and endurance to the end in our hearts as we remind ourselves of Scripture through song? We pray for that great and glorious day when you will come, but until then, may we be found faithful, amen.
That's why we gather: to remind ourselves there's a glorious day coming, but quit telling each other we're supposed to be rich and comfortable now. We're supposed to be rich in spirit. If you're rich without, be rich in good works. If you're poor without, be rich inside and glory in your humble circumstance, because you know you're headed someplace awesome. If Jesus is who he said he was, that's true.
Meanwhile, encourage each other day after day, as long as it's called "today," lest any of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, that the wicked will endure forever, that God is asleep. That's a lie. His Word is true, his judgment is sure, and following him is where life is. If you're here today and you don't know this glorious King, today is the day. Repent. Come. Trust in him, this God who is sovereign over evil, who's letting evil show you what happens when you leave him right now.
Come, as I have, and be forgiven. I don't care what you've done. I don't care how many heads you've cut off. Jesus died for you. If you are one who knows he has died for you, he has told you this is the little while. Quit living for ease and comfort. Stay busy. Stay connected. Stay steroided up on truth. Don't grow weary in doing good. Do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith. We're all chronically suffering. Remind each other of these things, brothers. Worship him.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.