February 5, 2016
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
On the one hand, James comes off like a prize fighter. He’s mastered the art of jab, jab jab and then the right hook you never saw coming. On the other hand, he can work with the deftness of a skilled trial lawyer. For instance, as he continues his exhortation about not taking revenge and waiting on the Lord’s judgment he calls the proverbial surprise witness: Job. And Job turns out to be not only a surprise but a star witness.
It’s like he’s saying to the little band of weary Christians in Jerusalem, “So you think you’ve got it bad? You think you are dealing with some pretty big injustices . . . ? Your honor, the prosecution would like to call Job to the witness stand.” He could have called Jeremiah or Ezekiel or Isaiah or any number of prophets who took their share of undeserved scorn and persecution. Not James. James presents the worst case scenario; the worst of the worst apparent injustices in the history of injustices. (In case you are new to Job, through no fault of his own he lost his seven sons, three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and all of his servants—in the span of a single day. If that weren’t enough, he next came down with something between skin cancer and shingles. And to top it all off, his good friends showed up and castigated him with blame for the situation for days on end.)
Why Job? Because Job patiently suffered it all without losing faith in God. Job took the long view. To be sure, Job protested. He cried out in frustration and angst, but through it all he never let go of God, because he knew God would never let go of him. James isn’t sitting around asking the “Why do bad things happen to good people” question. In fact, this question that so wrecks the faith of so many people today is not even asked in Scripture, much less answered. Of course bad things happen to good people. In a world as corrupt and fallen as ours has become, something bad is going to happen to someone good every single day. Through the course of history, the followers of Jesus have spent far more time combatting evil than trying to explain it.
The last thing a person can afford to do in the midst of a dark trial is to give up on God. James reminds us to take the long view. Don’t be afraid to cry out to God in angst and even anger. Lament and grieve in his presence, but never ever give up. Never ever let go. Remind yourself that the judge stands at the door. No matter how bad you have it, Job had it worse.
Finally, we need to be reminded that patience in the face of suffering is not somehow giving in or resigning oneself to their circumstances. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a deep inward supernatural disposition that arises from abandoning oneself to God in the midst of the trial.
1. Has it ever occurred to you to consider Job in the midst of a difficult trial or season of loss in your life?
2. How much have you struggled with the “Why do bad things happen to good people,” question? What would it mean to take more of a posture of combatting evil than struggling with the injustice of it?
3. How about patience in the face of hardship and suffering? Are you ready for a patience that comes from a deeper place than your own inner efforts? Have you witnessed this Holy Spirit infused patience in another person in a difficult trial? What do you observe about them?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.