James and Jude
Patience Under Pressure
Some of my strongest memories from childhood are of my mother standing up for me and my sister. We used to say that mom “made waves.” When bullied by bigger children, she taught us to stand up to them. When punishment from teachers exceeded the severity of the offense, she stood up for us. During hospital stays—I had two major surgeries prior to seventh grade—surly nurses weren’t tolerated.
The believers reading James’ letter were like his children. He was more than willing to “make waves” on their behalf, as we’ll see in this week’s lesson. I’m not sure if the ones bullying the believers ever got James’ message. But I do know one thing—every believer in the young churches that received a copy of this letter knew that the leader of the church loved them, was on their side, and was ready to stand up for them.
I. DAY ONE
A. As we begin today’s study, remember James’ admonition at the end of last week, “… to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
1. Read James 5:1-3. James has already addressed the idea of wealth and keeping riches in a godly perspective. The difference in this solemn passage from the bulk of James’ letter is that the people addressed here are probably not believers, but the godless rich.1
a. What does James say is coming upon the rich in verse 1?
b. What will happen to the rich person’s material possessions in James 5:2?
2. One commentator noted that “as to riches, two questions should be asked: ‘how are they secured?’ and ‘how are they used?’” James in this passage addresses those who “amassed wealth by fraud and cruelty; they were spending it in selfish luxury.”2
a. Read Mark 5:39, 14:72; Luke 19:41; John 11:33; Acts 9:39. What are the contexts for “weep” in each of these references?
b. Why would James call for such a deep lament?
B. The New Living Translation puts James 5:3 this way: “Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. This treasure you have accumulated will stand against you as evidence on the day of judgment.”
1. Read Mark 10:17-23. In this story a rich man comes to Jesus with a question about eternal life.
a. What was the one thing the rich man lacked in spite of all he’d done?
b. How did Christ feel toward the man in verse 21 and how does Scripture describe the man as he left Jesus?
c. In what way had riches become a witness against the man –as mentioned in James 5:3—and how was it consuming him?
II. DAY TWO
A. Today, James further condemns the ungodly wealthy in their cruel, selfish ways of living.
1. Read James 5:4-6. What unjust actions does James list in these verses?
a. Who does the ungodly rich man condemn and put to death in verse 6?
b. Why do you think he doesn’t resist?
c. How do you see these actions and character traits played out in the world today?
B. James 5:1-6 are warning verses to those who cruelly use the righteous, but verse 4 offers a reminder of protection for God’s own.
1. James tells us that the Lord of Sabaoth (NASB) hears the cries of those righteous ones who’ve been abused by the ungodly rich. This phrase, also translated “Lord of hosts” and “Lord Almighty,” means the “Lord of the armies of Israel, as those who are under the leadership and protection of Jehovah maintain his cause in war” 3
2. Skim through Exodus 14 quickly. This is the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. The Egyptians had been cruel taskmasters for 400 years—taking advantage of the Israelite slaves for their own gain. Yet, God did not forget His people.
a. What are some phrases and actions that show God’s protection and willingness to battle on Israel’s behalf?
b. What out of this story helps you today?
III. DAY THREE
A. Again, we start our Bible study day with a “therefore.” After James’ stern warning to those ungodly rich who oppress and abuse the righteous, he now tells those same righteous believers how to wait as the Lord fights for them (Exodus 14:14).
1. The very first thing James tells us to do is “be patient.” Read James 5:7-8.
a. According to verse 7, how long do we need to be patient?
b. In verse 8, how close is that time?
2. My daughter has a beautiful garden this year. After a lot of extra soil preparation, better fertilization, and more regular watering, she’s finally reaping a great harvest. The past two years have been disappointing, but she patiently tried again. Now we have lovely vegetables to eat and to share, both now and in the weeks to come.
a. James uses a farmer’s patience to illustrate how our own should be. Re-read James 5:7b.
b. What will the farmer gain with his patience?
c. For what is he to wait?
B. Since James and his half-brother both grew up in an agricultural society, Jesus also used growing things to illustrate His points.
1. Read Matthew 13:24-30.
2. How did the landowner need to be patient in this parable?
3. What do you have in your life that God needs you to patiently endure, awaiting His timing or even His coming?
IV. DAY FOUR
A. When we are stretched to the limits of our patience, we tend to complain. As James told us in chapter 3, we can’t ever tame the tongue, so it takes daily, even hourly—sometimes moment by moment—effort to control it.
1. Read James 5:9-10.
a. What will be the result of our complaining against one another?
b. James is again bringing out the idea of judging. He reminds us that “the Judge is standing right at the door.” What will the Lord hear from you if He stands outside your door?
2. This idea of complaining is to sigh or to groan, an unsettled longing.4 Read Romans 8:23; II Corinthians 5:2, 4.
a. What kind of longing is talked of in these verses?
b. How do the verses help you to have the kind of resilience you require for your current complaint?
B. In our efforts to curtail our complaining, James points to the fortitude of God’s prophets. He doesn’t mention just one, for they all went through suffering for the Father’s sake.
1. Read: Psalms 41:2, 121:7; Isaiah 31:5; II Thessalonians 3:3.
2. In light of what the righteous man has to endure, what encouragement to stop complaining do you find in these verses?
V. DAY FIVE
A. To round out this week’s study, James again encourages us to endure. As we’ve been learning, it takes patience. And one of the best people to teach us about patience is Job. Read James 5:11.
1. Let’s look at who Job was. Job 1:1 breaks down the essentials for us. What are all the things we learn about Job from this introductory verse?
2. James first reminds us that we’ve already heard about Job’s endurance. Read Job 1:13-22, 2:7-10.
a. In what difficult circumstances did Job find himself?
b. How did Job respond?
3. The next thing James reminds us is that we have “seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings” regarding Job’s situation. After much discourse from Job’s friends, often filled with frustrating advice, God has His say—and acts. Read Job 42:10-17.
a. What was restored to Job?
b. What of God’s compassion and mercy (James 5:11) stands out to you in these verses?
c. How long do you think the restoration from God took?
B. After skimming Job 38-41, where God is addressing both the main character and his friends, read Job 42:1-6.
1. Was a restored life guaranteed by the Father when Job made this statement?
2. How was Job exhibiting patience even here?
3. In what area of your life will you commit to an uncomplaining patience?
As any godly parent or leader knows, standing up for those who are weak is only half the battle. The other half is helping them to become strong, enduring with patient resolve and complete dependence on God. Remember what Moses told the frightened, inexperienced Hebrews, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14, NIV).
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes (Hendrickson Publisher,1991).
2. Charles R. Erdman, The General Epistles, (Baker Book House:Grand Rapids, MI, 1919) 52.
3. “Dictionary and Word Search for Sabaōth (Strong’s 4519.” (Blue Letter Bible: 1996-2010) 28 Jun 2010.
4. “Dictionary and Word Search for stenazō (Strong’s 4727).” (Blue Letter Bible: 1996-2010) 2 Jul 2010.
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