Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s massage is found in verses seven through twenty of the fifth chapter. With these final verses we find James bringing his epistle to a close—an epistle which was chalk full of tremendous truths which should strike us at our very core. In the first chapter alone names not only wrote and spoke about counting it pure joy when we experience divers temptations, but he also addresses and speaks to the reality of us being double-minded when we ask of God, and yet we do not ask in faith, but instead doubt within our hearts. Within the same chapter James also writes concerning pure religion and undefined which is to look after and care for the fatherless and widows in their distress and affliction. Within the second chapter of the epistle James writes concerning faith and works, and makes a wonderful and yet powerful declaration that just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also is faith without works dead. James sought to bring his readers and his audience into a place of understanding concerning works as a demonstration and manifestation of our faith—a faith which we more often than not are better at describing and defining rather than demonstrating. For James, it was true that we are and we were justified by faith, but faith without works simply isn’t enough, for there needs to be some evidence, some manifestation of faith. James made the case that faith needs an outlet and a place to flow, for it and unless it does not it will shrivel up and die. When we come to the third chapter of the same epistle we find James writing concerning one of the most difficult realities we face within our hearts and lives—namely the bridling of our tongues.
When we come to the fourth chapter of James’ epistle we find him writing and speaking concerning that which causes fights and quarrels among us—namely, in that we scene and we connive and we manipulate to engage our lists, our passions and our desires. James writes in the fourth chapter that we murder and we will in order that we may lay hold of that which we can expend and indulge our lists and pleasures. James declares that we have not because we ask not, and that we ask amiss in order that we might waste and spend what we have upon our sinful desires. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for when James presents is with the remedy and solution to this reality within our lives, he does it through the lens of humility before God and submission before Him in His sight. What’s more, is that James also instructs is to submit ourselves unto God, and to resist the devil, knowing that when we resist the devil, he will and must flee from us. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for failure to do so would result in our inability, and perhaps stubborn refusal to resist the devil. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is how well we are resisting the devil within our lives, and whether or not we are resisting the devil from a place of submission. I am utterly and completely convinced that we resist the devil through, by and from a place of submission before and unto the living God. RESISTANCE THROUGH SUBMISSION! The only way we can truly resist the devil is if we devote and commit ourselves to abiding in a place of submission unto the true and living God. Oh that we would recognize and understand this incredible and powerful truth, for the only way to being an end to that which causes fights and quarrels among us—even within our own selves—is through a place of submission before and unto the living God. This submission not only enables us to resist the devil, but it also enables us to humble ourselves before the living God, and to abandon any and all trace of pride.
As you come to the fifth chapter of this same epistle you will find James writing concerning speaking evil of our brethren, and how by speaking evil of our brethren we are actually setting ourselves up in the judgment seat. What’s more, is that when we speak evil of our brethren, what we are actually doing is speaking against the law, and placing ourselves in a place where we judge the law. I can’t help but be incredibly gripped and captivated with and by this concept of speaking evil of another, and how by doing so, we are actually setting ourselves up in the place where we judge another. Scripture is perfectly clear—both concerning judging others, as well as speaking evil of those before and around us. I have to admit that I am incredibly challenged by the words which James writes within this epistle, for there are two things which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I struggle with—namely, bridling and controlling my tongue, and speaking evil of and thus judging another individual. I know enough about myself to know that I have an incredibly difficult time controlling my tongue, and that the tongue and the words which proceed forth from my mouth are a direct revelation and expression of what is within my heart. Oh, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the direct connection and intrinsic link between the heart and the tongue, for that which proceeds from, with and by the tongue flows directly from the deep reservoir which is found within our hearts. It was Jesus who declared that “out of abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and His words hold true in absolutely every area of our lives. Concerning myself, I know that I struggle with not speaking evil of those around me—particularly those who II have a difficult time with, or those who I feel are threats within my life. I know that I myself have an incredibly difficult time not setting myself up in the judgment seat, and thereby passing judgment on others when I speak evil of them. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that each and every time we choose to speak evil against another, that which we are actually doing is setting ourselves up in the judgment seat and passing judgment against them.
Upon coming to the final portion of the fifth chapter of this epistle written by James the half brother of Jesus, we find him concluding the epistle by writing and speaking concerning two distinct realities and needs within the heart and life of each and every saint of God. If you read the fifth chapter of the epistle written by James you will find that in the latter half of the chapter he first begins speaking of patience—particularly and especially concerning patience as we wait for, hope for, and expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. James begins bringing this epistle to a close by writing concerning our waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord before transitioning to the place where he writes concerning the great and tremendous need for prayer within and among the saints of the living God. Consider if you will the words which James writes in the fifth chapter beginning with the seventh verse: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth,a nd hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 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 5:7-11). Within this set of verses James begins by simply using two words—two words which many of have an incredibly difficult time with—the words “be patient.” Pause for a moment and consider the last time you were encouraged and instructed to be patient, and think about the context in which those words were spoken. Pause for a moment and think about how you respond and how you react when you have someone else speaking to you and not only telling you to be patient, but also that you have need of patience. I will admit that two of the greatest things for me to hear are to “be patient,” and “you have need of patience.” If I am being honest with myself and with you who are reading these words, I have to admit that patience has never been, and still is not one of my strongest traits and characteristics. Within and throughout my life I must admit that I have been a man of very little patience, and that I really don’t like waiting for anything or anyone. I fully recognize and am self-aware enough to be able to admit and accept this reality, and to know that something needs to drastically change within my heart and life. I am wonderfully convinced that patience is something which is needed within my heart and my life, and that I have a very short fuse when and as it pertains to patience. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote in the tenth chapter of the epistle:
“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:32-39).
There is within and throughout Scripture a clarion call and undeniable declaration that we have great need of patience within and throughout our lives. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James wrote earlier on in this very same epistle—not only concerning divers temptations, but also concerning patience. Beginning to read with the second verse of the first chapter we find the following words which were written by James unto his audience: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). It is absolutely amazing how James begins and opens up the epistle by writing concerning patience—and not only patience, but also patience in the midst of afflictions and suffering. What’s more, is that just as James opens up and begins the epistle by writing concerning patience, he also concludes the epistle by writing concerning patience. What’s more, is that when we come to the end of the epistle, we find James merging together and marrying prayer and patience in the life of an individual saint and believer. For James, the link between prayer and patience was absolutely undeniable and unmistakable, and he knew and understood the tremendous need for patience within the lives of each and every saint. In the beginning and opening of the epistle James writes how suffering and affliction works patience within our hearts and lives, and at the end of the epistle James instructs and encourages us to be patient, and to do so unto the coming of the Lord. Essentially that which James was writing was not only that we have need of being patient, but also that we are patient until the coming of the Lord. In other words, it is not enough simply to be patient, for we are to be patient until and all the way through to the coming of the Lord in that final hour of human history. The more I sit here and consider this, the more I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote when he wrote unto those saints which were scattered abroad in the diaspora. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Peter wrote beginning with the first verse of the third chapter:
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that hue may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned upon. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all Holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (2 Peter 3:1-15).
When you come to the end of the epistle which was written by James the half-brother of Jesus, you come to a place where you find him not only writing and speaking concerning the need for patience, but also patience in direct connection to the coming of the Lord. James uses the illustration and analogy of the husbandman who waits patiently for the precious fruit of the earth and of the harvest, and the husbandman has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. James seeks to bring his readers and his audience into a place where they are not only patient in the midst of suffering and affliction, but also in the midst of a very real and powerful waiting for the coming of the Lord. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we not only have patience within our hearts, but whether or not we are patiently waiting, hoping for, and looking for the coming of the Lord. One of the greatest realities centered upon and surrounding the Old Covenant was the Messianic expectation that was present within the hearts of all those who lived during those times. If you read the writings of the Old Testament authors—particularly and especially the Hebrew prophets—you will find that there was this wonderful and powerful expectation and anticipation for the coming of the Lord. There was within the Old Testament and during the days of the Old Covenant a wonderful expectation for the coming of the Messiah, as men and women patiently waited for it, and perhaps even thought that they themselves would see the day when the Messiah would come. I can’t help but wonder if there were men and women who perhaps thought that they would see the coming of the Messiah in their generation. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women waited patiently for, and longed for the coming of the Messiah. There are perhaps no greater examples of this patient waiting, and eager and earnest expectation concerning the coming of the Messiah than is find in the lives of Simeon and Anna. If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find these two individuals patiently waiting and longing for the coming of the Messiah. What’s more, is that when we come to the second chapter of Luke’s gospel account, we not only read and find of their patient longing and expectation, but we also find their response to the fulfillment and culmination of their waiting. Consider if you will the account of Simeon and Anna as they are presented before us in this New Testament gospel beginning with the twenty-first verse:
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the Temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:21-35).
“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city in Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:36-40).
I use the examples of Simeon and Anna to present you with the tremendous expectation and anticipation that was found within the hearts and souls of all those who lived in the days of the Old Covenant. Simeon and Anna not only represent all those who before them eagerly waited for and anticipated the coming of the Messiah, but they also represent the culmination of that longing and waiting. Simeon and Anna represent a powerful and pervasive sense of an eager Messianic expectation that was found within the hearts of all those who were found present within and during the days of the Old Covenant, for a great host of men and women patiently waited for the coming of the Messiah. Simeon and Anna represent a long line of men and women who spent their days longing for the coming of the Messiah—that one who would be anointed of the Lord as His servant, and who would fulfill and carry out the will, plan and purposes of the living God. If you read and study the words and language contained within the writings of the ancient Hebrew prophets, you will find over and over again a wonderful and powerful Messianic expectation and hope, for there were countless references and prophetic declarations concerning the coming of the Messiah within such epistles. In fact, no prophet prophesied more concerning this Messianic expectation than did the prophet Isaiah, for Isaiah was one who continually and repeatedly prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah within and upon the earth. In fact, once you come to the fortieth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find the prophet beginning to prophesy and speak concerning the Messiah more frequently and more often. With that being said, there are two distinct passages within the seventh and ninth chapters of this prophetic book that describe and speak to the reality of the coming of the Messiah. Consider if you will the words which are found in the seventh chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (Isaiah 7:14-16). Consider also the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied in the ninth chapter beginning with the second verse: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them that hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his k indomitable, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justified from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:2-7).
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that within the Old Testament and during the days of the Old Covenant there was a powerful and pervasive expectation and longing for the coming of the Messiah. Now we know from Scripture that the coming of the Messiah which they were eagerly looking and longing for was the first coming of the Messiah when He would come as the suffering Servant and as the Lamb of God. We know that one of the reasons why countless men and women missed the Messiah when He did come and appear for the first time was because He did not come the way they anticipated and wanted Him to. They expected a conquering king and a mighty warrior who would throw off Roman oppression and rule, and would bring about a great deliverance in the physical and natural realm. It’s interesting to note that when you study Scripture it can essentially be broken up into distinct and unique parts—the eager anticipating and expectation of the Messiah, the first coming of the Messiah, the eager anticipation for the second coming of the Messiah, and the appearance of the Messiah. It’s worth noting that within Scripture there were essentially two expectations and anticipations for the Messiah—one that would see the Messiah coming as the Lamb, and the other that would see the Messiah coming as a Lion. One Messianic expectation would see the Messiah come as the Servant, while the other expectation would see the Messiah coming as the King. It’s worth noting that we are living during the days when we are eagerly waiting and expecting the Messiah to come as King, for He has already come once as the Lamb of God which takes away—in reality which took away the sins of the world. We who are living in the days on the other side of the Day of Pentecost are living in days and during times when we are waiting for the Messiah to come as a conquering King who will once and for all triumph over evil. In fact, I am utterly and completely convinced that this is one of the main and underlying reasons why it is so incredibly easy for us to eagerly wait for, expect and anticipate the coming of the Messiah, for we know that when the Messiah comes a second time, He is not only coming to rapture His body and church, but He is also coming to wage war in both the physical and natural realms. The latter portion of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation brings us face to face with the reality that the Messiah will indeed and will in fact engage in warfare and conflict with the kings of the earth, as well as with the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon himself.
When I read the words which James writes in the fifth chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto those which were scattered abroad in the earth, I am absolutely and completely gripped—not only with and by the tremendous need for patience during the days in which we live, but also for the tremendous need for prayer during those times. I am utterly and completely convinced that it is not enough simply to wait for and exercise patience without also engaging ourselves in prayer before the Lord. In fact, I would dare say that prayer and patience are intrinsically linked, and the two cannot be separated from each other. If we have any hope, if we have any desire to possess any measure of patience within these days, it can only come through a life of prayer which we regularly and routinely engage ourselves in. Beginning with the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter we find James writing concerning prayer, and appealing to the saints to pray in all circumstances. Consider if you will the words which James writes in the fifth chapter beginning with this thirteenth verse: “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:13-18). When we finish reading this epistle written by James, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the tremendous marriage between the patience of the saints, and the effectual fervent prayer of those saints, for the two cannot by any means be separated one from another. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when coming to the end of this epistle, it’s that there is this wonderful and powerful marriage between prayer and patience, and that more often than not patience is a byproduct and fruit of prayer within our lives. We cannot, we dare not, and must not expect patience to be found within our hearts if we are not willing to give and commit ourselves diligently to prayer—and not only prayer, but also the effectual fervent prayer which does in fact avail much.