James’ final warning and encouragements

July 16th, 2017

Today we come to our last message from the Book of James. I was going to split it in two but prayerfully decided to look at the whole of chapter 5. Today we have four main points that I have titled, “James’ final warning and encouragements”.

As I have shared with you, James has been a big encouragement to me over the years. It has practically showed me how to live as a Christian man. It has showed me what I am doing well and it has also showed me where I need to improve. This time has been the same. Even though I have been preaching through it, it has been speaking to me again. I hope it has been encouraging you too.

Bible Reading – James 5:1-20 

1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.  7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  10 Brothers, 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 consider 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, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.  13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.  14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.  19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Message Points

1. A warning to the wicked rich

My first point for today comes from verses 1-6. When we read this first six verses which are pretty heavy, we have to remember that James is writing to a new community of believers who were made up of all types of people. There would have been devout Jews who came to Christ, moral people who came to faith, but also people whose lives were previously wicked and self-centred.

In these six verses James first declares the fact of coming judgment (v.1) and then lists the crimes against which this judgment will be meted out: hoarded wealth (v2-3); unpaid wages (v4); living in luxury and self-indulgence (v5); and the murder of innocent people (v6).

The warning to the rich is about mistreating those who work for them. The main charge was holding back wages that were due and cheating people of their rightful pay and keeping the money for themselves. We have all probably heard and seen examples on the current affairs shows of people mistreating their workers where they hold back money and live lavish lifestyles. There was one just recently of workers being paid the right amount and then their bosses standing over them demanding cash back on payday. This was so the books looked right and it looked like they were doing the “right” thing. To us as Christians this is obviously not the right thing to do.

Verse 5 says that the rich people have lived in luxury and satisfied every desire and the treasure accumulated will stand as evidence against them on the day of judgment in verse 3. So, their ill-gotten gains from wrong treatment of others will catch up with them in time.

For me as a Christian man, it comes back to treating people well by loving our neighbour as ourselves as it says in Mark 12:31. Matthew 6:19-21 also comes to mind when it tells us not to build up earthly wealth only for ourselves and the importance of building up heavenly treasures. We know that are gained by focussing on God and doing His will and treating people well.

I am not an employer of others, but if I ever do become one, I will keep this warning and the verses from James in mind. Also, the reminders from Mark and Matthew.

2. A call to patience and endurance as we wait for the Lord

My next point from today comes from verses 7-12 and touches of the idea of “Patience and Endurance”.

The first part of verse 7 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return…”

One of the great truths of the Bible is that Jesus is coming back. Jesus Himself said, “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:3).

That is a great promise for those who follow Jesus. That He will come back and take us to be with Himself and His Father for all eternity. It is a living hope we all share if we have put our faith in Christ.

In the end of verse 7 and in to verse 8 it tells us while this will happen, we need to be patient waiting like farmers waiting for their crops.

“Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near”.

Moving to a farming area has taught me a lot about farming and patience. Each year the farmers prepare and wait for the first rains, then they seed for weeks. Then they wait patiently for more rain and in time the harvest which is months away.

Just as there is a gap between seeding and harvest, there is a gap between Jesus first and second coming. In the meantime, we wait patiently and we do the things He asks us to do.

So today as we patiently wait for Jesus return let us remember His words… “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am”.

3. The power of prayer

“The Power of Prayer” is the next main section that James talks about. We see this in verses 13-18.

Verse 13 reminds us to pray when it says, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises”.

It reminds us to pray when things are going bad and to praise when things are going well. Whether good or bad is happening to us we should be connected to God in constant communion.

The passage gives us two examples of how powerful prayer is. The first is healing for when we are sick. It tells us to call the Elders of the church to anoint a person with oil and to pray. I heard a story once of a church who did not really pray for healing and then they studied this passage. The Elders though that because it says it in the Bible, we should do it. They got some oil prayed over it and then anointed the sick, and guess what, people started to get healed or their illnesses significantly improved.

I stand here today as someone who has been touched by God with my Rheumatoid Arthritis. I shouldn’t be able to the lift weights I do, I should be able to run after being diagnosed with RA at 12. But 38 years later I can because of God’s intervention as a result of my own prayer and the prayers of others lifting me up to God. If I was at home in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t be able to preach this message! It is all because of God’s intervention.

The second is when Elijah prayed for the rain to stop and the rain to start again three and a half years later. The text tells us that Elijah was as human as we are in verse 17. His prayers were powerful, so are ours.

Several years ago in Merredin they had an event called the “Wheatbelt on its knees”. About 100 Christians got together and prayed for rain. And guess what it came! We had one of the best seasons in years. Even a few weeks ago there was a prayer and fasting day in Merredin. Since that day we have had over 20 mils of rain.

I have experienced many amazing things as a result of a prayer of faith in God. When I trusted God’s ability to intervene or bring change, He has acted mightily.

Let us remember today the power of prayer. Prayer can be our most powerful tool as a Christian, or it can be one of our most underutilised resources. Verse 16b reminds us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results”. Never forget the power of prayer.

4. A call to go after wandering believers

In the last section of James, he looks at the idea of “Restoring wandering believers”. It comes from verses 19-20. It says…

“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins”.

These two verses tell us the importance of going out after people who have wandered away from the faith.

Over the years I have seen a number of people wander away from the faith. Some of the reasons I have seen are…

  • People have been hurt by the church or by people in the church
  • A breakdown of an important family relationship and they withdraw from life in general
  • A long-term illness that they can’t make sense of God allowing
  • Some have had no solid foundation of discipleship when they came to faith
  • Some don’t regularly pray, read the Bible and keep connected with God, so when the storms come, they fall away.
  • For some the decision to follow Christ was a quick alter call decision with no real thought involved.
  • They feel their needs were not met by the church or they felt they didn’t fit in to the church culture.
  • They love the world or someone in the world too much to fully commit to God.

It is not easy to approach people who we think have wandered away from God. It can be confronting and most of us would probably not do it if we are honest. But I think it is important to keep the lines of communication open.

Jesus reminds us of the importance of this in the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7. In verse 4 He says, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?”

Jesus goes on to say in verse 7, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away”!

As I was preparing this week I wondered if there are people in my life who have wandered away from God who need a shepherd to go and bring them back into the fold? How about your life? Are there any people you know? Maybe you could be the one that causes heaven to party because of your efforts to bring someone back into the fold.

Closing summary

Today we finish our look at the Book of James. It has been a practical reminder that shows us what James, Jesus’ half-brother, thinks are important about living the Christian life.

Our four points from today were…

  1. A warning to the rich to treat their workers well.
  2. A call to patience and endurance as we wait for the Lord’s return.
  3. The power of prayer.
  4. A call to restore wandering believers.

Amen.