It is virtuous to be patient, but often we desire patience and yet want to bypass the very thing that grows our patience best: suffering. It was the same for those in the early church, so James helped them remember a man who was familiar with both patience and suffering. Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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. Job was blessed by persevering. The Lord is full of blessing, full of mercy, full of compassion. Hold tight to Him and to His promises. Nothing is wasted in our lives as we live out God’s Story trusting fully in Him. Job was blessed. So were countless others who have persevered, suffered, grew in patience and in doing so knew the compassion and mercy of God. It is now our generation; our turn. How will we choose to respond to suffering?
To make his message about training the tongue clear to his readers, James brings to life many visual aids. Animals can be trained, but can the tongue? With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Do we want to be blessed? Don’t curse. When we desire purity in our body and speech, we take action to rid ourselves of the hypocrisy that our enemy would like to trap us in. James desires us to thrive in the freedom that comes from living an unmixed life. Then we can in full confidence bless God and bless people.
Do we want to be blessed in what we do? James gives helpful direction. We cannot just listen to God’s Word; we need to actually do what it says. That means taking it in, then working it out. This concept reminds me of a friend back in our Marine Corps days when Russell and I served in Spain. This young man would swallow several bodybuilding supplements with the desire to be buff but not take the time to lift weights in the gym. His body should have processed the supplements during sweaty workouts as his muscles were being built, but instead of bigger muscles, what his body produced was an unpleasant smell. We sure do not want to be stinky Christians by just taking in more information. We are blessed when we study God’s Story and then live out what it says for us to do. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does. We need to do more than just take in truth. Those who follow Jesus need to actively apply that truth, situation by situation. What good is the freedom Jesus provides if we do not live in it? Press on into blessedness. God, may our love for Your Word increase in us, not puff us up with knowledge but give us strength to live life effectively. I pray that our actions really would show what we believe and that loving You and loving people becomes our treasure. May our lives be a fragrant offering. Amen.
James, believed to be a half-brother of Jesus, is a to-the-point kind of man. As a leader in the early church, he addressed persecution and his words of wisdom hold true for all generations. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” His letter goes on to give advice for remaining steadfast. James teaches us to be unshakeable, wholehearted and firm in our convictions by gaining a realistic perspective of trials, temptation, and the need of putting faith into action. Each lesson builds on the other. But is it all worth it? Remaining resolute and loyal to God is a blessing in itself. If we need more motivation, let’s ponder “the crown of life” that James says God promises to the ones who love Him. When the busy swirl of day-to-day obligations and pressures make it hard for us to contemplate the future that awaits us beyond this world’s struggles, we are wise to pause and re-think priorities. Do our thoughts and behavior reveal a trusting, growing, dependent and joyful love of God? Nothing needs to separate us from that love. Embrace Him in the good and in the bad times because the testing will come. I like the expression “she passed” as a way of saying that someone has died. This world is our test; at the end of it I sure want to pass—pass with flying colors right into the Presence of God who knew me even before there was a me to know.