Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BE PATIENT!


James 5:7-11
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Pastor James has been dealing with the wicked wealthy who oppress the poor Christians in the first six verses of chapter 5. In this passage he is dealing with the oppressed brethren! Therefore, this is very applicable to us, even if we may not have the same amount of oppression. We are in a country, where our leaders are engaged in high levels of corruption. Consider the current scandals in the ministry of health. Billions of Kenya shillings are lost, while doctors are not paid, and patients are languishing in pain. While the medical supplies and medicine is scarce in government hospitals, there are wealthy people who are carting away all the money. People are dying because the government is not doing its work and even worse, it is protecting those who are stealing. What do we do?
How should Christians behave when they are under the pressure of oppression? Do they take to the streets to demonstrate? Do they go to the civil courts and litigate? Do they begin a revolution? What is the way forward? Questions abound. For those who are unbelievers, hopelessness is rife.
Thankfully the Lord knows too well our greatest needs. He is looking at His people with great favour. Consider what we have in this passage and the clear exhortation to be patient:
·         Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord (v.7)
·         You also, be patient (v.8)
·         As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (v.10)
·         Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast (v.11)
For how long should the Christians in Syria, Somalia and North Korea be patient under trial and oppression of their respective governments? What is the basis of our patience under trial? Why should we persevere under trial? How shall we be patient able to be patient? Why should we take the examples provided and be steadfast under trial? These are some of the questions that might linger in the minds of Christians under oppression.
Thankfully, the inspired word of God provides us with the necessary instructions to be better disciples of Christ in patience. Three things I have to say under this subject of patience:
1.      Be patient until the coming of Christ
Christians are those who are watching and waiting, looking above for the coming of the Lord. The great hope of Christians is not a better political leadership. Trump will not be any better than Obama, even though he may do some good. Therese May might not be any better than David Cameron or Gordon Brown. Therefore our hope cannot be in men, whether civil or religious leaders. Our Christian hope is tethered on the coming of our great Redeemer, Christ.
James impresses this upon the hearts of his hearers by the emphasis he lays: “…until the coming of the Lord” (v.7); “… Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (v.8)…” “behold, the Judge is standing at the door…” (v. 9). These three statements are the framework of this passage, as chassis is to a car. They capture the spirit of the great expectation that James wants to sow and cultivate in the hearts of his hearers. You would not miss it if you were blind, that the one thing where the hope of a believer is established is in the second coming of Christ.
This was meant to comfort the twelve tribes in the diaspora. Will there be an end to persecution? Yes! When will Christian oppression come to an end? When Christ will come, and reverse every curse of the Fall, uproot every thorn and thistle, overturn even scheme and design of the devil, dash to pieces the human kingdoms.
For how long do I persevere? Be patient until the coming of the Lord because the coming of the Lord is at hand! The full-stop of our patience and perseverance in trial is the coming of Christ. This was a comforting reminder that the Saviour is near… He will not delay. Each day brought the coming of Christ closer. The time of their suffering, oppression and persecution was shorter and shorter by the day! It was soon drawing to a close, even though the Lord in His wisdom has not seen it fit to tell us the exact period of waiting.
This was meant to soothe and console and strengthen them in their difficulties. It was also meant to help them put their hope in the right place and look in the right direction. We should always consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18). Bearing in mind that the suffering and affliction are short-lived, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The coming of the Lord would bring with it challenges of a different nature, for the Lord is coming not as a baby in a manger, but as the King of kings; NOT as not a Lamb, but as the eternal Judge. Am I saying that Christ is coming as a Judge even for Christians? Precisely! Christ is coming as a Judge even for Christians – because remember this letter is written to believers.
But this is what Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Paul is among those who will appear before the judgement seat of Christ, but not to be judged and condemned, but to be openly acknowledged and acquitted. This day will bring to light everything that is now hidden.
This great Day will test the quality of our ministry and service (1 Cor. 3:13). Our works will be exposed and our reward (or lack of it) will be given. At that time you will give an account to your Maker of your behaviour at home, at school, at work, your business ethics, your character, your prayer life, your stewardship of God-given resources, i.e. time, money, etc. This is what informed Martin Luther’s statement, “I preach as though Christ died yesterday, rose from the dead today and was coming back tomorrow!” How do you be patient now?
2.      Be patient by running away from sin
The exhortation, ‘…establish your hearts…’, must be considered. James is saying that there is false patience and it must be denounced. There is not patience or steadfastness if you are in love with sin. This is the point that Pastor James makes so clear when he points out in verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged.”
Grumbling is, generally speaking, intolerance. Even worse, grumbling is trying to weigh God on a human scale! Because of grumbling a whole Israel generation died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). But James is particularly speaking of grumbling against one another. Earlier on he warned against slander – do not speak evil against one another, brothers (4:11). This sin messes up human relationships.
Differences can be so heightened among brothers that they groan against one another as much as against the common enemy. Paul speaking of the state of the early days, shows how Christians were ‘biting and devouring each other’ (Gal. 5:15). To show their rage he uses words appropriate to the fights of animals. That is how it usually happens when conflicts arise in the church. Religious hatreds are most deadly. Thus Luther complains that he never had a worse enemy than Karlstadt, and Zwingli that the Roman Catholic were never so bitter to him as his friends. It is sad when we dispute against one another and tongue is armed against tongue and prayer is set against prayer and appeal is set against appeal – lambs acting the wolves part.  Thomas Manton
The consequences of grumbling are so clearly highlighted – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged. God will punish those who fail to love their brothers. All must be done to restore and build a broken relationship. All must be pursued to build bridges where attempts to burn them with the tongue has succeeded, and this should be done without any further delay.
It must never be forgotten that false brothers, just like the wealthy oppressors will be judged. False brothers are not brothers at all – they are hypocrites. So when you hear grumblings against each other, run as fast as you can before the judgement comes upon you. Grudges are a recipe for judgement – flee from them immediately!
3.      Be patient because of the examples provided:
The encouragement to patience would not be complete without a vivid imagery and illustration from day to day living. The Lord has given us work to do so that we may showcase eternal truths and realities. Consider the following:
a)      Farmer
A farmer ploughs, a farmer sows, and then a farmer waits. He does all this with the hope of rain and so he waits for the rains! In the Palestine climate, there is the early and the latter rain almost just like the climate of Nairobi. The early rain came in October and the latter rain came in March. The seed that was sown, would germinate and produce crop. More than the rain the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth. The farmer is patient until the fruit is ripe and ready for harvesting. He does not harvest it when it is not ready. He waits.
This is interesting because this is where Pastor James began the letter – faith meets life’s trials and tests and through patience (and not without it), it grows into maturity of character – the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing (1:2-4).Christian growth should be steady not just in spite of trials but in and because of trials! Just like nothing can hurry the early or latter rains, so nothing can also speed up the coming of the Lord. But what we are sure of is, yet in a little while and the coming One will come and will not delay (Heb. 10:37).
b)      The prophets
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (v.10). The prophets were a persecuted lot. And so Stephen asked the Jews who were persecuting him and he was on the verge of death,
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, (Act 7:52)
Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 and see how men of faith were afflicted and oppressed. Torture, chaining, prison, flogging, stoning, banishment and death by being burnt, beheading among other atrocities against Christians have been used and reported. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs has a lot to say on this subject. As we speak, there are many who are being killed in different parts of the world. It could be you.
The point to note here is, if those chosen by God to be prophets were so persecuted, if prophets so suffered, could we note that we are no better? But there is a word of encouragement – we consider them blessed who remained steadfast (v.11). In their perseverance, the grace of God of patience upon them was demonstrated and can now be pointed to.
c)      Job
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (v.11). We speak of the patience of Job. Job persevered in endurance for a long time in a steel faith in God. Job is a man when he had lost all his wealth, all his children and even his wife in one day and lost his health was able to say,
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)
And again,
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. (Job 13:15-16)
And again,
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, (Job 19:25-26)
Consider what God produced in Job. Job was able to see the second coming of Christ – “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Job’s hope was not in the restoration of his health, or his wealth. His hope was anchored on His Redeemer who lives and who would ultimately stand upon the earth.
 James tells us that in the story of Job we see God at work in a man. For we see the purpose of the Lord in it. We see God’s compassion and mercy. Job is a demonstration of God’s wise, powerful preserving and governing all His creatures an all their actions. Why else did God allow His beloved servant who was upright and righteous to be tested so severely, by our adversary the devil? It was to demonstrate His purposes and mercy, and to show that the devil is under the omnipotent hand of God, only going as far as the Lord would let him. Job’s story ends gloriously, with God vindicated in His mercy, and Job vindicated in his steadfastness.
We may be going through trials of such a nature that we are in the dungeon of giant despair. Look up to Christ who is our hope and stay. Edward Mote (1797 – 1874) put it so well on the song My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (I have changed it a little for effect):

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness;
We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
When darkness veils his lovely face, we rest on his unchanging grace;
In every rough and stormy gale our anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, and His Blood, support us in the whelming flood;
When all around our souls gives way, He then is all our hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, we stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
You may have been so tempted that you are swimming in despondency. Remember that our Lord was tempted in every way yet without sin. Look to Him, He will give you strength beyond degree. Only trust Him even though you are in the valley of the shadow of death – fear no evil for He is with you to uphold you.
It may as well be that your afflictions are at a fever pitch and you do not know what to do. Remember that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver them from all of them.
But remember that the Lord is compassionate and merciful. Go to Him in prayer. O what a Friend we have in Jesus, all our griefs and pain to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to the Lord in prayer.

May the Lord give grace to you so that you are not tempted beyond what you can bear – the Lord cannot test you beyond your capacity. He always provides a way of escape. Yours is to remain faithful in patience under trial – depending and trusting in the strength and wisdom of the Lord alone.

Friday, April 7, 2017

INDICTMENT TO THE RICH
James 5:1-6
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Men want to be like God – owning everything and living forever. Christians live in wicked world with wicked men. When we speak we must always speak as those who are aware of this sad environment. When we are aware of this unfortunate environment, then we would season our words so that they build and edify those who hear us.
James is not addressing believers here, he is addressing the wicked rich among them. This is the view many godly brethren on whom shoulders I am standing holds for the following reasons:
1)      James addresses his whole letter to the twelve tribes (1:1) in general without any express mention of their holy calling or faith. This is usual in the older apostolic letters.
2)      He uses the common form of greeting – just greetings. When writing to the Christians, the apostles solemnly wish them “grace and peace,” etc.
3)      The style is more rousing and persuasive than usual, as if it were intended to awaken complacent sinners or worldly people.
4)      The last verses of the letter seem to intimate that much of his purposes was to convert unbelievers; see 5:19-20
5)      Here he plainly speaks to the rich, wicked men. Though the truth is that it is not so much for their sakes as for the godly, to encourage them to patience. I like John Calvin’s assessment, “These six verses are not so much an admonition as a denunciation, in which the apostle is not so much telling them what to do as foretelling what shall be done to them, so that the godly may be encouraged to greater patience under their oppression. The apostle plainly implies this in verse 7”.[1]
James says here, “Come now you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” There is a possibility though that there were wealthy Christians who had been blinded by the deceitfulness of sin so as to behave in this manner with regard to their wealth. James tells them it is the time to shed tears. Tears is not something that the rich think about often. James is telling them that judgment is on the way to destroy them – doom is upon them all. Therefore, “Weep! Shed tears!” Yes indeed, the rich also cry.
This is an indictment to any wealthy person who acts in this manner. James is not simply condemning them for being rich, rather it is because of the manner in which they were minding or handling their riches. They were materialistic and covetous.
It is particularly the case with those who have bought land, and sometimes an acquisition where the Christian buyer has been defrauded into buying someone else’s land. You discover too late that you have been defrauded…what do you do? Do you marshal financial power and make sure that you wrestle the land from the poor owner by dragging him into the law courts? Do you bribe to have your way?
The point made here is that everyone could be in danger of abusing wealth and possession and this why there are so many passages exhorting the rich and the wealthy. The rich and wealth have unique temptations and are many dangers in their wealth and so the Lord would not have His children short-circuited by materialism.
A time is coming when some of you people could be rich and wealthy. This is the right time for you to learn how to use earthly riches and how not to abuse it. Unless you are prepared before the day comes, you are at a great risk of weeping and howling when riches are upon you.
This sermon is meant to vaccinate you against this terrible malady associated with the infatuation with the possession. Whenever you acquire a new possession, when you get a better paying job, or are given an inheritance or get a loan, always remember what the Lord said,  "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15.
Covetousness is a sin that demand a constant watch against, and therefore frequently to be warned against. The life of the soul, which is the man, does not depend upon possession. Worldly wealth, leave alone earthly riches will not suit the nature of a soul, nor supply its needs, nor satisfy its desires, nor last so long as it will last. Many who have abundance are discontented, covetous and fretful, as Ahab and Haman. Then what good does their abundance do them? They both fell headlong to their destruction! They both abandoned their wealth or rather their wealth abandoned them at their greatest hour of need.





1.     What is the cost of abusing wealth? (vv. 1-3)
1)      Now and here (vv. 2-3a)
Here is something about the misery of perishable riches on this side of eternity, here on earth. Possession in wealth in those days of James consisted of three things: grain, clothing and precious metals. Not one of these things lasts! Even gold, though not corrosive and does not rust physically, could not only diminish in luster but actually drops in value sometimes. In those days they did not have an elaborate banking system as ours. They did not have insurance companies to cover damages and loses as result of natural disasters such as disease, pestilence and calamities. Hence the destruction that pastor James speaks about.
They had more clothes that they can wear! They had more in their physical treasury and in their wardrobes than they had in heaven. Instead of giving these clothes to the needy they were storing up for their own use only for moths to destroy them. About this the Lord Jesus said, 
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mat 6:19-21)
You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deu 8:18). But God does not give riches to be stored. God gives wealth for personal use and for others and especially for the advancement of the Christian gospel. But instead of these people using the wealth they were storing it up and James is saying that what they were storing up was more material for their own combustion. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.
This hoarding of possession, whether little or much, has led to more evils in the world as people compete. We must always remember the words of the apostle Paul, the love of money is the root cause of all evils. The point is, if you are obsessed with foodstuff, clothes, money, gold, land and more possession, your only help is one – to weep and howl when they are destroyed.
2)      In eternity (v.3)
Not only to weep and howl when this earthly property is gone, but to realize that there is an eternal weeping and gnashing awaiting those who abused their wealth. This is what informs the sarcastic statement, You have laid up treasure in the last days’ (v. 3). Earlier on he had said, “…their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire (3a). The point is obvious, if you are going to misuse the wealth that God gave you, then be prepared for the pain that is coming upon you in future.
Therefore, those who make riches the primary object of their lives now and here, living without regard for God, will sooner than they expect regret, for the great loss that will befall them in eternity. The Bible is full of these reality-check stories and admonition. The rich fool, even though he had all his stores full, and even if he told his soul that he had ample goods laid up for many years, he was unable to relax, eat and drink and be merry, for God required of his soul the same day! Therefore the one who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:20-21) will find himself in eternal peril.
In eternity, they will see that they hoarded and amassed wealth as if they would live forever on earth, yet the truth is that they were living the last days of their brief lives. What became of the wealth of Mr. Dives in Luke 16:19-31? While he was so wealthy here on earth, he soon died and was buried but his soul was in torment of hell in darkness and anguish of pain. His wealth did him no good in eternity. So poor was he that he could not afford a drop of water for the tip of his tongue!

2.      What are some of the abuses of wealth? (vv. 3-6)
1)      Hoarding
The Bible does not condemn being wealthy… rather pastor James, by the inspiration of the Spirit is warning his readers who had ‘laid up treasure’. It is the same problem the Lord is addressing in Luke 12:21 of laying treasure for oneself and not being rich toward God.
You ask, “Pastor, are you saying that saving is wrong?” There is no doubt that we are encouraged to save up for the future. The Lord exhorts us to be wiser than the ants who lay something for themselves in summer for the use in winter (Prov. 30:25). So we are to think wisely about the future both spiritually and financially and plan prudently for it.
So what is hoarding? It is when you continue to accumulate above and beyond that which is necessary, and only for your own use. Like John Wesley, learn what is enough for you and yours and for the future. I knew a lady who passed on, not in very good conditions and yet so much money was found hidden on her pillow, and a lot of rotten rice and wheat flour was discovered in her bedroom, yet she could not let her care-giving daughter-in-law know that there was the rice to cook for her.

2)      Corruption/fraud
The law is so clear about how one is to deal with his workers (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14–15; Prov. 3:27–28). As at the time when the Holy Spirit went to the press, there were rampart cases of abuse of the workers by the rich! There were multiple ways in which they did this:
a)      Keeping back the wages of the labourers who had mowed their fields. That is, they were refusing to pay their workers on time!
b)      Defrauding workers, that is swindling them. They got less than the labour service discharged. They got less value for their sweat!
Although the rich had more than enough, they still reached out to the only lamb of their neighbours to slaughter it for their guests! They had plenty from which to pay, without taking from their labourers who depended on their daily wage to survive hand to mouth!
These are not people who could afford to picket or hire a lawyer to plead justice for them. There was no labour union anyway. But they went to the Judge of all the earth and so James records two of their cries to the Lord: The first is the cry of the unpaid wages after mowing their fields.
The second is the cry of the harvesters.
When they cried after working without pay and had nothing to give their children, the Lord of hosts heard them (v. 4). God is surrounded by hosts of angelic beings. He is greater than all of them, and will send them to execute justice on behalf of His people and wrath on His and His people’s enemies.
3)      Luxury and self-indulgence
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. The rich and the wealthy know how to pamper themselves. They only think about their needs and their wants and their preferences. They constantly talk about their comforts as they shop. Constantly buying and never stopping to buy – even what they do not need! While they are so generous on themselves, they are oblivious of the needs of those around them, even their own workers!
Thunderbolt is upon them – Pastor James tells them, “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. This is not meant to pamper them, it is meant to awaken them from their luxurious stupor of self-indulgence. Wake up, all you men of influence and affluence. They might not realize it now in the hammock of their opulence and luxury, but their hearts are on the waiting list of the day of slaughter. This reminds me of my huge cock in the compound, as it has been growing bigger, it is only being fattened for the day of slaughter which a few of you are waiting for!

4)      Injustice and murder of the righteous
What is it that Pastor James has in mind when he says, “You have condemned and murdered the righteous person?” Kent Hughes explains:
‘James is referring to judicial “murder”—primarily referring to taking away the means of making a living. The landed gentry controlled the courts. The poor could not oppose them because they had no way to use the system, and thus were helpless.
There are many ways to murder, scorched earth campaign is one of them – cut off the supply and they will starve to death!
This method of murder is so bad that the poor righteous cannot even resist the rich! But the attitude of the righteous is to be like that of their Master – who did not revile or retaliate even though He had legions of heaven to defend Him. He willingly submitted to unjust treatment so he could provide eternal salvation for sinners.
Applications
*      Come to Christ and find true riches and eternal wealth. There is real hope and blessing for this life and the one to come. The wealth that Christ offers, this world cannot afford! He has abundance of life to give all who request Him.
*       The rich are urged to become poor, recognizing that their riches cannot save them and are temporal. Happy and blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). True blessedness is only found by those who see their need and go to the only One who is more than able to supply their needs beyond their wildest imagination. He who depends on the degenerating arm of flesh will soon find himself defenseless. He who trusts in the chariots and horses will soon find that he is kicking against the goads.
*      How do you use your money? Is it for the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ? Christ gave us His all, even His own life; will you not give Him part of what He has freely given you? Or is it for personal luxury and self-indulgence? What percentage have you purposefully, determined to give for the cause of the gospel of Christ? How much do you give to share with others who are needy? Work out specific percentages before you get the money, before you are employed, before getting married think through it with your fiancĂ©e. Give faithfully. The church should be a place where the riches of God are exhibited by the giving of His people.
*      The manner in which you spend your money shows if you are worldly or godly, covetous and idolatrous or rich towards God. Remember that laying up your treasures on earth is only to be store them to be devoured by moths and thieves and rust. Remember also that when you lay up your treasure in heaven you certainly will reap now and in eternity. Unless you determine this now, you will soon find your heart firmly established here on earth, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!
*      How content are you with what the Lord has given you? Remember that godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1Ti 6:6-8).
*      The snare and danger of wealth and riches is a real one. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1Ti 6:9-10).



[1] Manton, Thomas. James, Wheaton, IL. Crossway Books, 1995, pp.287-288