October 27, 2019
Daybreak: James 5:1-20
“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:10-11)
Examples of patient endurance of trials are always encouraging to other Christians. Back in 1874, the American evangelist Dwight L. Moody visited a man in Dundee, Scotland, who had been bedridden for forty years as a result from a fall that had broken his back. For all those years, this man had endured acute suffering, as every movement brought considerable pain.
However, God was present in that bedroom. When Moody met the man and observed his sweet, trusting spirit, it seemed to him that little bedroom was as near to Heaven as one could get on earth. He commented later, “I can imagine that when the angels passed over Dundee, they had to stop there for refreshment.”
While visiting, the evangelist asked the bedridden man, “Doesn’t Satan ever tempt you to doubt God, and to think that He is a hard Master?” The man acknowledged that yes, Satan did try to tempt, especially when he saw his old school friends driving by in their carriages or observed some healthy young man walking by on the street. He said Satan would whisper, “If God loved you, couldn’t He have kept you from breaking your back?”
Moody asked, “What do you do when Satan tempts you?” The invalid man responded, “Ah, I just take him to Calvary and show him Christ. I point out those wounds in His hands and feet and say, ‘Doesn’t He love me?’ The fact is, he got such a scare there eighteen hundred years ago that he cannot stand it. He leaves me every time.”
In later years, Moody often told others about this man. He would relate, “That bedridden saint did not have much trouble with doubts. He was too full of the grace of God!”1
Like Job, whom James mentioned in our key verses, the man in Dundee was an example of patient endurance. He, too, was determined to hold fast in the challenges that came his way without losing his faith in God. And today, nearly 150 years later, we also are touched and inspired by his unfaltering trust.
Most of us likely will never suffer in the same ways that Job and the bedridden man from Dundee suffered, but we will face challenges in life, and some pain as well. Let us follow James’ advice, and look to examples of those who have patiently held fast in affliction. They will provide us with the encouragement to hold on in our own trials so we, too, can be counted among those happy ones who endure!
The epistle of James concludes with a series of instructions focusing primarily on a warning to the rich (verses 1-6), the need for patience in time of suffering (verses 7-12), and some closing exhortations on faith, prayer, and the restoration of erring believers (verses 13-20).
In verses 1-6, it may have been James’ intention to encourage the poor who were the recipients of his epistle, or to warn them not to envy those who were wealthy. As in other New Testament teachings, James did not denounce the rich for their wealth, but rather warned against the temptations to which the wealthy can easily fall prey, such as hoarding, dishonest accumulation, and selfish satisfaction — the topics covered in these verses.
In verses 7-12, James’s discourse centered on God’s overriding providence. He mentioned the coming of the Lord in verse 7 without introducing or explaining this event; clearly it was such a common hope in the Early Church that no commentary was needed. The husbandman referenced in that verse was a farmer, and the “fruit of the earth” was a grain harvest. The harvest was deemed “precious” because it was what sustained the farmer and his family.
The word grudge in verse 9 means “to complain or grumble.” The Apostle acknowledged that pressures and afflictions could cause the patience of believers to be strained, and thus tempt them to murmur against each other.
The closing verses of this epistle (verses 13-20) are a series of admonitions, beginning with an exhortation to prayer in times of trial. James explained the proper response to affliction (any type of assault from the devil), and to times when the heart is merry. The instruction for the merry to “sing psalms” could be translated “sing praises.”
Beginning with verse 14, James specifically addressed health issues and the doctrine of divine healing. He noted that in such times, a Christian’s privilege was to “call for the elders of the church” (spiritual leaders were recognized or appointed in local congregations as early as A.D. 40-50). The practice of anointing with oil is also mentioned in Mark 6:13.
James did not qualify his statement regarding the results that would occur. It was tacitly understood that while one did not know how God would answer in each case, extraordinary cures would occur. In James 5:17, we read that Elijah was a “man subject to like passions as we are” and God answered Elijah’s prayer. Thus, while “thy will be done” was consistent with James’ prior writing and implied here, it was also implied that God would give uncommon results to people who pray with fervent faith.
The Apostle’s final exhortation is also addressed to “brethren,” and deals with the importance of restoration of one who has backslidden. The phrase “convert him” does not imply that the Christian brings about forgiveness of sin, but rather that he persuades the erring one to return to the truth. Although every individual is responsible for his own choices, James’ instruction makes it clear that efforts toward restoration of the backslidden is a spiritually worthwhile endeavor.
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
X. Faith and various exhortations (5:1-20)
A. Exhortation to the rich (5:1-6)
1. The call to repentance (5:1)
2. The condemnation of the rich (5:2-3)
3. The conduct of the rich (5:4-6)
B. Exhortation to patient endurance (5:7-11)
1. The exhortation (5:7-9)
2. The illustration (5:10-11)
C. Exhortation to holy living (5:12-20)
1. In regard to oaths (5:12)
2. In regard to various emotional experiences (5:13-15)
a. Depression and cheerfulness (5:13)
b. Weakness (5:14-15)
3. In regard to prayer (5:16-18)
a. The principle (5:16)
b. The illustration (5:17-18)
4. In regard to correction (5:19-20)
A Closer Look
- What do you think James meant in verse 2 when he said, “Your riches are corrupted”?
- What example from nature does James give in verse 7 to illustrate the need for patience?
- Consider who you look to in your life as an example of patient endurance. What are some life lessons you have learned from that person which you would like to apply in your own life?
Individuals who have patiently held fast in affliction provide us with an example, and encourage us to hold fast and continue to trust God when we face challenging circumstances.
1 Moody, Will R. The Life of Dwight L. Moody. Westwood, N.J. Barbour, 1985, pp. 180-181.