What's a Christian to Do?

Bible Book: James  5 : 7-12
Subject: Christian Living
Introduction

In Florida some time ago, residents awoke from a night of sleep to behold something truly remarkable. The ground beneath the street outside their homes had literally collapsed during the night. The street had disappeared into what is called a sinkhole. During the ensuing day, the sinkhole grew larger and larger. Cars, pavement, sidewalks, even lawn furniture fell into the enlarging cavity (as told by Gordon MacDonald in Ordering Your Private World).

Life is sometimes like a sinkhole. The ground beneath just seems to give way. Plans and hopes seem to disappear from view. What is a Christian to do in such an uncertain world, especially in a society that so anti-Christian?

Indeed, the world Christians once knew in America and around the world is sinking from view. By the politicians we are called far-right, radical, or fanatical extremist. By the entertainment industry we are called puritanical prudes. By the intelligentsia of the universities we are called ignorant kooks. By the Bible-denying liberal religionist we are called the Bible-thumping bigots. By the media we are called the dangerous fringe element  the religion. What's a Christian to do?

Our nation is liberalizing its laws while winking at crime and amoral and immoral behavior. Our schools are demanding acceptance of diversity while complaining about kids with crack cocaine in the noses, bongs in their mouths, rings hanging from various parts of their bodies and heavy metal t-shirts draped over their shoulders. Our government votes in more and more government control of our lives while claiming that individuals and families must take more responsibility. Parents are denouncing the free sex attitude of kids though they are sitting by while schools and government agencies hand out condoms to their children. There is a cacophony of conflicting voices which confuses our generation and leaves many people dazed and absent a moral equilibrium for standing straight in such a crooked world. What is a Christian to do?

Sin is increasing, sorrow is enlarging, and suffering is expanding in our world. What is a Christian to do? Into dark times like these, James sent a word from God. It is word to beleaguered and weary saints in his own day! You see, this world is not our home. For every generation of Christians times have been tough. We need to know God's directions for dealing with the issues victoriously.

James shares three things that will lift the spirit of any Christian who will trust and obey.

I. Listen To The Exhortation

James 5:7a

First, and foremost, we must listen carefully to the commands of our Lord found in His word. This passage begins with an imperative, which is the same as an army officer giving the troops an order from the Commander-in-chief. We must be careful to face uncertain times with God's directions and not with human understanding or impulses. This requires spiritual inspiration and faithful obedience. So, what is it that this command states?

When James A. Garfield was president of Hiram College, a man brought for admission as a student, his son, for whom he wished a shorter course than the regular requirements. "The boy can never take all that in," said the father. "He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?" Mr. Garfield, a minister‑educator said, "Oh yes. He can take a short course; it all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but He takes only two months to make a squash." Pulpit Helps, Jan. 1992, p. 10.

If we truly want to be something for God, we must learn the spiritual operation of patience, and that is just what James states in the passage before us.

A. We Must Wait Patiently

The word patience is used several times in these verses. The passage begins with an imperative to patience.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." (Rousseau_Instant Quotation Dictionary_, p. 225).

Most importantly, we need to know that patience is not a suggestion - it is an order. Waiting does not mean doing nothing, but rathe is much like a waiter in a restaurant. We are to be on duty, ready for each request the Lord makes of us. We serve Him and that means we must never get ahead of Him or lag behind Him in our service, worship and witness.

B. We Must Work Productively

James uses the idea of a farmer to reveal the full impact of the word patience. The farmer works for months, laboring in the hard ground, the cold of winter, the heat of summer, all to bring forth a crop. We must do likewise.

We can work without grumbling. We can labor without murmuring against each other. Here is a very important lesson! Warren Wiesbre points out in his book on this subject, that farmers have long been known for their cooperation. If one is in trouble, the neighbors will come to his aid. Barn-raising and crop-gathering for sick or overburdened farmers has long been a part of the history of farmers. We must work the same way!

A fireman was trying to reach a woman in the window of a burning building. The fireman was already slightly burned and choking from the smoke. Someone below yelled to him, "Come down, you cannot reach her." The fireman started down the ladder leaving the poor trapped woman to her fate. Just then someone else below cried out, "Give him a cheer, he can do it!" The people broke into applause and filled the air with shouts of encouragement. The fireman stopped his descent, went back up the ladder, brought the poor woman out of the burning building to safety.

That is what God would have us do for each other. We must not grumble, but we must encourage each other in the work of God. No one really knows how truly effective a word of encouragement may be till it is given. In order to be patient, in a biblical sense, we need encouragement from one another, so that we can be faithful in the good times and the bad.

C. We Must Witness Positively

Like the prophets of old, who had a word for the Lord in negative times, we can have a positive witness in a dark world. We can let our yes be yes and our no be no! We can tell it like it is on all occasions, and do it with love!

David Hume, the infidel, was accused of hypocrisy because he went on several occasions to hear John Brown preach. Hume replied that though he did not agree with everything John Brown said, he was sure John Brown believed everything he said and that it was refreshing to hear someone who preaches as if the Lord Jesus is standing at his elbow." We need that kind of witness in our world (as found in Free Will Baptist Magazine).

Listening to the exhortation in our text leads us to the next issue in faithfulness...

II. Look Toward The Examples

There is a second consideration for us as we live in dark days of demonic disturbance. We must look to the examples which God has for us in His Word. James points out three such examples for us in this passage and each one has a particular purpose.

A. An Example of Circumstances - The Weather

The farmer is one example. He faces circumstances beyond his control, but he can still trust God with the results! Some circumstances in our day work against us, but we can trust our Lord to see us through. Like the farmer, we must do our part and trust the rest to God.

A tourist driving through West Texas stopped at a gas station and observed a piece of rope dangling from a sign labeled "Weather Forecaster." "How can you possibly tell the weather with a piece of rope?" the tourist wanted to know. "It's simple, sonny," was the answer. "When the rope swings back and forth, it's windy, when it gets wet, it's raining, when it's frozen stiff, it's snowing, and when it's gone... tornado!"

As a Christian, we are called upon to be faithful in the sunshine, the rain and the storms of life. But, look at another example...

B. An Example of Confrontation - The Wars

The prophet is an example of someone who had to face opposition from people. The prophet had to be a warrior for God. Sometimes attacking, sometimes standing his ground, sometimes holding on to God when all hope appeared to be lost. He was called on to be a good soldier of the Lord.

I think at this point of a man like Jeremiah. He was once cast into a pit where he mired up to his waist in mud and muck. His enemies did not want to hear his message of impending doom any more than people today want to hear such a message. Yet, Jeremiah remained true and faithful. He was tempted to keep silent, but he stated that the message burned in his bones like a mighty fire.

Paul wrote about being a good soldier of Jesus on more than one occasion. In Ephesians 6 he reminded us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but is a spiritual enemy always seeking to depress, discourage us and defeat us. But, we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Put on the whole armor of God and stand against the tricks and schemes the enemy throws in your path.

Now, notice one other issue regarding examples to help us remain faithful...

C. An Example of Confusion - The Worries

Job is another example of the attack that comes against us. Here we see the believer confused by the terrible issues and circumstances he is facing. Job could not understand what was happening to him. He was worried and troubled by his situation, but God was still on the throne. Poor Job even had some friends he added to his discouragement. Have you faced that? Are their people around you that make the journey more difficult? Don't listen to depressing voices. The Lord is with you. Read His Word! Do His Will! Walk in His Way! He will not fail you, no matter how difficult the path you travel. Always remember, no matter how dark the night, Jesus is the Light!

Now, let's consider one other major issue...

III. Live In The Excitement

We are to life our lives in an attitude of excitement. Why? When times are really difficult? When the way is tough? Why should be glad or excited? Think about some reason why the Christian always has joy - a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

A. The Exciting Compassion of the Lord

You will note that the text speaks of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. It is exciting to know that God does not give us what we deserve but He blesses us according to the riches of His dear Son, Jesus! He is full of compassionate and has not forgotten you. He did not give Job what he deserved but doubly blessed him following his long, patient wait.

God has plans for you that you cannot see and the world cannot understand. When the way is difficult, look to the coming day of God's full blessing, when Jesus returns!

B. The Exciting Control of the Lord

God has a former and a latter rain. What He did in the former days, He will do in the latter days. God is on the throne and will bless His people forevermore. When we look at how God brought Joseph out of his situation and made him the prime minister of Egypt, we rejoice! The Pharaoh thought he was in control, but he was wrong. Nimrod thought he was in control, but he was wrong. Sennacarib thought he was in control, but he was wrong. Haman thought he was in control but, but he was wrong. Herod thought he was in control, but he was wrong. Agrippa thought he was in control, but he was wrong. Dear friend, Satan thinks he is in control, but - praise God - he is wrong, too!

American Indians approached the tent of the stranger with war paint on their faces and tomahawks in hand. They had planned to kill the white man who had set up camp near them. They quietly slipped back the tent flap only to see the white man on his knees. They did not know what he was doing, for they had never seen anyone pray in this manner. Just then they noticed a rattle snake slithering across the back of his legs. The snake stopped as if he were going to strike but then moved away. From that day the Indians believed the Great Spirit sent this man to them and would not allow anyone to harm him. His name was David Brainard and he had risked his life to go to the Indians with the message of the love of Jesus Christ.

Our God is an awesome God and He is still upon the throne. What is more important, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The songwriter penned it thus, "Our God Reigns." Indeed, He does! No matter how things may look, let us look to Him who holds the four winds in his hands - our wonderful Lord!

I heard of a missionary who did not receive her monthly check. She was seriously ill and because of no money had to live on oatmeal and canned milk. She received her check thirty days later. After mentioning this incident while on furlough a doctor asked the nature of her illness. She described the intestinal digestive trouble she had been having and the doctor said, "If your check had arrived on time and you had been eating your normal diet you would now be dead, but because your check was delayed and you ate only oatmeal, you are alive. You see, the best treatment for the illness you had was a thirty‑day oatmeal diet."

God knows what He is doing even when we can't understand it. We forget that through faith and patience we obtain God's promises.

Note also...

C. The Exciting Coming of the Lord

The great preacher F. B. Meyer once asked D. L. Moody, "What is the secret of your success?" Moody replied, "For many years I have never given an address without the conscious awareness that the Lord may come before I have finished." This may well explain the intensity of his service and the zeal of his ministry for Christ. Dear friends, if you and I can keep our eyes on the skies, we can live faithfully and patiently.

He is coming, hallelujah! We shall see Him bye and bye! Let this excite your soul and encourage your heart!

Conclusion

Some of us need to rededicate our lives today to the exhortations God has given.

Some of us need to rededicate our lives today to the examples God has given.

Some of us need to rededicate our lives today to the excitement which our awesome God supplies to those who focus fully upon Him!

An aviation cadet was practicing solo landings one day when he was suddenly stricken with blindness. He called the tower in a panic. An instructor quickly came to the tower and called for the cadet to calm himself, telling him that everything was going to be all right. He then guided the pilot into to a safe runway by giving him carefully, continuing instructions. By following instructions to the minute letter of obedience, the cadet brought the plan in safely. That is what God would have us do. In this dark day, we must listen to him and wait patiently upon His directions (as reported by Henry Bosch, Our Daily Bread).