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God’s Word for You

James 5:10-11 the perseverance of Job

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 29, 2020

10 Brothers, as an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 In fact, we consider those who persevered to be blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is so very compassionate and merciful.

Usually, suffering comes into our lives when we least expect it. James coaches us to remember the good examples of patient suffering and perseverance from the past. He doesn’t bother with mythological examples, since nothing is to be gained by comparing oneself to a fiction. Instead, he calls up the great prophets of the Old Testament, men like Daniel, who faced lions with quiet confidence (Daniel 6:16-21). There was also Jeremiah, who was lowered down into a cistern filled with mud (Jeremiah 38:6), who was beaten and locked in a prison (Jeremiah 37:15), and who was chained up and nearly sent away with the captives who were bound for Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). Before them, there was Moses, who was despised by Pharaoh (Exodus 10:28), despised by his own people (Numbers 16:1-2), and even challenged by his brother and sister when he remarried after his wife died (Numbers 12:1). God was with them all; God blessed each one of them and helped them to stand up to the troubles that fell on them.

James also brings up Job—the only New Testament author to do so. Job suffered horrible troubles. It was tragic that such a righteous man lost all of his material possessions in a short time, all his oxen and donkeys (Job 1:14), all his servants (Job 1:15-17), all his sheep (Job 1:16), and all his camels (Job 1:17), it is all the more horrifying that this man lost his children on the same day (Job 1:18-19). After this, he was struck with a terrible disease (Job 2:7). And still more than all of these, Job’s wife either lost her faith or came very close to it (Job 2:9). This last was perhaps the hardest trial of all, since to disagree with one’s husband or wife about your faith is an agony that must be the closest that anyone could come in this lifetime to the agony of hell, because it is a torment that doesn’t last a moment, an hour, or a year, but a lifetime. Better to be alone and painfully lonely than live with a spouse who rejects your faith and argues about it constantly (Proverbs 21:9, 21:19, 25:24). Yet Job did not fall into sin with the way he responded to his troubles. Blessed, truly blessed, is the man who can face trials in his life without falling into sin, whether grumbling, accusing, despairing, or any of the other temptations that come snapping at his heels. A man in trouble is the favorite target of Satan. What better time to tempt a man into terrible sins than when his guard is down, his heart is on his sleeve, and his friends don’t know what to say? “All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me” (Job 19:19), “my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams” (Job 6:15). Satan is never your friend. He will only kick you when you are down, and he will never ever give you a break.

But with Daniel, Jeremiah, Moses and Job, we see that the Lord had a purpose in mind with the afflictions he permitted them to suffer. In each case, they were tested. In each case, they persevered. Their faith was strengthened even though people around them slipped and fell, doubting God and wondering about God’s purpose or even about God’s very existence.

Not that any of them was perfect or even came close to perfection. Buddhists, Hindus, Methodists and others teach that kind of perfection, but the Bible does not. The Scriptures at every point encourage us to strive toward godliness in our lives and to grow in our faith. Grow in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8), grow in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10), grow in patience and endurance (Colossians 1:11), grow in your love for Christians (1 Thessalonians 3:12), and grow more and more in living to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1). We are burdened by our sinful flesh, and that won’t change in this lifetime (Romans 7:14-21), but we pray that the Holy Spirit will work in us and help us to be patient when we suffer, to ask God to hold us firmly in the faith and to help us, and to keep reminding us of our place in his kingdom through the merits of Jesus Christ alone. The Lord “is so very compassionate and merciful,” and we see this in the way he treated the suffering believers in ancient times. Job’s possessions were doubled, and the number of Job’s children doubled after his sufferings were at an end (Job 42:13). Daniel received a special blessing and rest from God (Daniel 12:13). After Jeremiah was kidnapped and forced to live in a place forbidden by God, the Lord blessed him and continued to reveal his word to him (Jeremiah 43:8, 44:1, 46:14). Moses was permitted to see the Promised Land, and he was buried by God himself when he died (Deuteronomy 34:1, 34:5-6).

When you are assaulted by troubles, things that make you afraid, or tempted, or sad, turn as quickly as you can to God for help. Explain what you are going through even though he already knows. Putting your problems into words as you pray will help you to understand them even better than you think you do. He is listening; he will help. “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me” (Psalm 118:13). He says: “I am the LORD your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear. I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).

  Lord take my hand and lead me
  Upon life’s way;
  Direct, protect and feed me
  From day to day.
  Without your grace and favor
  I go astray
  So take my hand O Savior
  And lead the way.

  Lord when the tempest rages
  I need not fear
  For you, the Rock of Ages
  Are always near.
  Close by your side abiding
  I fear no foe
  For when your hand is guiding
  In peace I go.

  Lord, when the shadows lengthen
  And night has come
  I know that you will strengthen
  My steps toward home
  And nothing can impede me
  O blessed Friend!
  So take my hand and lead me
  Unto the end. (Christian Worship 439:1-3)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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