James 5

Vs. 8, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lords coming is near.”  A timely reminder as we remember Jesus’ first coming and look forward to His second coming.  We are a consumer society and we are exhorted not to treasure the wealth that the world offers (vs. 1-6).  Wealth itself is not a sin, but its when we put it before God or acquire it an unethical way (vs. 4).  We are then reminded to be patient through the trials and suffering of our lives (vs. 7-12).  Just as a farmer must exercise patience to await a fruitful crop, we too must remember things don’t grow overnight.  We are to remember the prophets and Godly people who came before us (vs. 10-11).  Question: What then shall we do when we face trials of many kinds?  We must pray (vs. 13-20).  While we can use our tongues for evil (James 3), we are now exhorted to use it for the highest purpose.  Prayer is so powerful that it can heal (vs. 13-15, it can reconcile (vs. 16), and it can cover over sins (vs. 20).

Regarding application…Power or Prayer.  Vs. 16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Prayer is one of those things that we know is important, yet many of us fail to exercise this part of our life.  Many of those in our nations gave prayers to the Newton elementary tragedy in Connecticut.  We pray because we realize that there is only one source we can turn to in our darkest times.  Prayer is the compass for our life.  It recalibrates our hearts and minds so that we can remember the bigger picture of life.  Let us be people who live righteous and powerful prayer lives!

James 1

Vs. 2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”  We don’t wake up in the morning hoping and praying for trials in our lives.  However, James reminds the Christians who were living in their day that all their trials had its purpose.  Many of the recipients of this letter had lost much of what they had once known; their loved ones, their homes, their community, their means of income.  When we go through such trials, we must persevere and grow (vs. 3-6).  James also reminds us that much of our trials can also be a lack of our own faith (vs. 6-8).  Sometimes we think the grass is greener or that money will take away the trials (vs. 9-11), however, we should be thankful for such situations in our lives.  When those trials come, our response to them can determine our spiritual condition of being alive or dead (vs. 12-15).  In light of our nations tragedies of the Connecticut school shooting and Oregon mall shooting, it is tempting to blame God.  But God is the source of good things (vs. 16-18).  As children of our Father in Heaven, we would do wise to listen to the Lord and others (vs. 19-21).  But James doesn’t stop there, while we may listen, that is only half the battle.  We must take action and be doers of God’s words (vs. 22-25).  But we must not be selective in our doing, Let us be authentic and speech and deed (vs. 26-27).

Regarding application…Persevere.  Vs. 12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  Question: Persevere from what?  From trials.  This is someone who had endured much trials and opposition, but none of that stop their ultimate faith in the Lord.  Think of Job in the Old Testament.  Jesus forewarned us that we would have troubles in this world (John 16:33).  There are troubles and atrocities that we cannot fathom, but let us persevere in our faith to bless the name of the Lord in good times and bad times.

QT – Job 37

Vs. 14, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.” Elihu takes the time to expound upon the greatness of God. God shows this by the nature around what we experience. Some scholars believe that an actual storm was approaching while Elihu was speaking which then prompted him to use such analogies. But, Elihu was right that we must come before God and realize how mighty He is! But, though Elihu thought he had the answers to God…we must remember that God doesn’t intend for us to know everything. Though God will soon answer Job, perhaps Job’s challenge/petetion to God was not in complete Godly fear. When we encounter God’s majesty…may we always revere him with Godly fear!

Regarding application…Wondrous God.  Have you ever had the chance to consider God’s wonders? Think about it…People who have experienced natural disasters…earthquake, tornado’s, snowstorms, etc, we begin to just glimpse God’s awesome power in nature. But God’s power is so much more than that! Sometimes we begin to think we can grasp God or compare Him to something we understand….but nothing compares to God! All we can do as his creation is consider God and know by faith that He is in control. Job wasn’t so sure about that…and there are times we are not going to be so sure either. But God will soon answer Job…and God answers us through his Living Word! 

QT – Job 36

Vs. 4, “Be assured that my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you.” Umm…yeah, I would say Elihu’s head is getting a little too big! Though Elihu approached with suggested humility, we see the extent of pride. No matter how right or smart we are…it is a dangerous thing to claim such things as young Elihu did. But there is wisdom in what Elihu has to say, Vs.7, “He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever.” Remember that Job thought that God must be ignoring him, but God never took his eye off his righteous servant. Elihu was once again magnifying the greatness of God. Though he is young, Elihu’s fervor for God is quite evident. But truth without love is only puffed up knowledge…that leads to pride.

Regarding application…Fathoming God.  The more we know about God the more we will be able to respond to him appropriately. The response of the heart is the key. Some may falter and turn from God and no matter how much God loves & disciplines them…it only makes them turn further from God. While others who are humble in heart understand and turn away from sin and unto God. Job must make a decision…and we too must make a decision. We know earlier that Job had talked of just giving up…before we judge too quickly…how often have you just given up at things in life. Whether little or big…it’s human tendency to stop if we are not successful. But Elihu tried to remind Job just how Great God was! Sometimes we just need to sit back and fathom the greatness of God! Choose the path less traveled and never give up for we serve a Great God! Amen? AMEN!

QT – Job 35

Vs. 16, “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” Elihu goes on to speak of the Greatness of God. Though Job was somewhat prideful and Elihu attacked him for that…let’s remember that Job was important to God. In fact he was so important that God & satan would talk about him. Elihu also argues that God is not affected whether we sin or whether we are righteous…for God is greater than all of that. While it is true that God is Great, we can either grieve or bring joy to God by our actions. Though we are nothing compared to God, we still were created by a loving Father who desires his creation to be reconciled to Him.

Regarding application…Greatness of God.  Because God is so great, we can sometimes begin to think if we are really that important to God. Some people are raised in negative environments or maybe you tend to be a negative person. But don’t forget that the greatness of God should never make you feel like your nothing. Yes, God does judge and give us consequences for our sins…but God is great in his Mercy, Grace & Love! In fact, we are so important that he sacrficed his own Son for us. When your feeling down or depressed and feeling confused about life….remember that God Greatness gives us the ability to turn to God. For if God was not great, perhaps he wouldn’t have the ability to forgive or allow us to come to him.  That reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Remember when they all get to Emerald City and they can’t wait to see the Great Oz! In fact, when they approach his kingly throne…He even refers to himself as Great! But in this illustration…his greatness kept them from really having what they sought from him (in the first encounter). But God is not like the Great Oz. When we approach His throne…God doesn’t have to have a big show of his greatness and because of how Great he is…we can approach the throne of Grace with confidence! That reminds me of the praise song lyrics…”God is Great and his Grace fills the earth, fills the Heavens!”

QT – Job 34

Vs. 36, “Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man.” Even young Elihu gets his turn to mock & accuse Job. This is not new for Job, for Elihu responds with his harsh words rather than words from a heart to help. Elihu’s comments in this chapter are also the same old thing regarding God’s “Just attributes” and Job’s seemingly obvious sins. Let’s not forget that some of Job’s comments in the end were not appropriate either. While Elihu was right in God’s sovereignty and justice, he also forgot to mention God’s grace.

Regarding application…Questioning God.   Vs. 12, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.”  There are going to be times in our lives where we will question God. Whether it be circumstances in our lives, the paths we’ve chosen to go down, tragedies that happen…we have all questioned God and probably will have questions till the day we die. But Elihu reminds us of the fact that God is Just.  He always has been…he is now…and he will be forever! My prayer is that we all would remember this whether we are the victims or the encouragers. Remember that our limited knowledge will never really comprehend God’s ways, but that’s where faith comes into the picture.

QT – Job 33

Vs. 1, “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say.” Elihu approaches Job with a different strategy than the other three. Rather than accuse Job of sin, Elihu brings some new ideas on why we suffer. Elihu proposes in vs. 19-22 that sometimes suffering comes simply to warn us and turn us back to God. Kind of like God’s way to get our attention. Elihu wrongfully accuses Job for claiming to be without sin vs.9, but that was Zophars words about Job. Though Job consistently defended his integrity, he never claimed he was without sin. But Elihu does confront Job about the fact that Job was wrongfully accusing God that He was unjust and treating Job like an enemy.

Regarding application…Source of Suffering.  While suffering does come from God at times, it is a mistake to say all suffering comes from God. Because we ourselves cause much suffering that God never intended we have. Joy riding around town and speeding too fast may cause an accident that results in many who suffer. Not taking care of the body like smoking and drinking can cause numerous physical sufferings in the future. While there may be temporary pleasure in sin…realize that sin causes suffering. If we turn from God…there is a price to pay one way or another. Besides for Job, suffering was actually a tool that God used to build up Job even more. This reminds me of Paul’s thorn in his side and though it might have brought him down, Paul used it as a means to stay humble! Before we decide that we want to be bitter or upset in our present circumstances, let’s take a hard look inside and make sure that we are not the cause of our own suffering.

QT – Job 32

Vs. 6, “So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know.” Elihu comes dramatically into the scene! He is wise enough to know that since he was young, he would have to wait it out until his turn to respond. Though he speaks eloquently and has to say a good many truths…it is not seasoned with love. In fact, Elihu himself describes himself as angry. Though God will indeed speak, Elihu is an interesting interlude between Job’s three friends and God. Yet in the end…when God comes into the scene, Elihu will not be mentioned. But some scholars believe that it was Elihu that came to begin preparing Job to understand and be prepared when God would come.

Regarding application…Assuming Incorrectly.  Vs. 18, “For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me.”  There is definite wisdom in young Elihu for he patiently waited to hear both sides before he spoke. So many times we are all so busy wanting to share our own thoughts about something we rarely even take the time to listen to what others think. So let’s give credit to Elihu for his respect of elders (to a certain degree) and the fact that he listened before he spoke. We would gain a great deal of respect from others if we considered what young Elihu did. But I suppose the biggest application here is that we must not so quickly assume that we are being compelled by God’s spirit (vs. 18) to share some new revelation to others. Encouraging and comforting a friend who is suffering is a task that has never been an easy one. Elihu’s mistake was that he was too emotional (angry) to realize he needed to tone it down a little. Let’s be brothers & sisters who lovingly listen and lovingly share God’s word to comfort those in need.

QT – Job 31

Vs. 35, “Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense-let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing.” This chapter records Job’s final defense. Job laid it all before God and his hope was that somehow God would hear his cry & rescue him. Job was prepared to give an accounting of his actions. Even today many of the temptations that Job listed are temptations that can bring even a Godly person into sin. Lust, deceit, adultery, behaivor towards employees, behaivor towards his neighbors (others), worship of God and not wealth…these are all things Job was accused for, but wanted to show that it wasn’t any of these things that brought him his current sufferings. Job’s friends were sure that God would condemn him. Job was sure that God would vindicate him. What will God do? The answer may suprise you as we read on!

Regarding application…God is Watching Us.  Vs. 4, “Does he not see my ways and count my every step?”  Job knew that God watched him…do you know that God watches you too!? Though we know it, isn’t it easy to forget that God is always there? From a human vantage point, its quite an impressive defense Job puts up. I wonder how many Godly men & women would be able to defend themselves with a life of such integrity? This chapter really challenges us as Christians to take inventory of our spiritual life. Do you have eyes that wander lustfully? Or feet that move deceitfully? Has lust been fulfilled in your sins? Have you treated others as God wants them treated? Have you coveted the rich or been proud of what you possess? How do you respond to the suffering of others or the needs of a stranger? The analogy of Horizontally looking at the world vs. veritically looking to God couldn’t be more applicable in today’s passage. As we live our lives, may we do our best to live a life of integrity. Job’s perspective will change and our perspective must change too. Job had yet to know the Mediator who was to come…but we have Jesus who mediates for us to the Father!

QT – Job 30

Vs. 27, “The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.” In the previous chapter, we read of Job’s past – but now Job is forced to confront the present. He was wise enough to at least know that he couldn’t just stroll down memory lane his whole life. By choosing to live in the present rather than the past, Job takes a huge step of faith & maturity. For Job who once had respect now gets none – who wants had blessings, but none now – who wants had help, but no help is here – who wants had a bright future, now the future is without hope – who once was encouragement to others, but is now scorned by others. Yet we have someone who understands just what Job went through, Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin” No matter how weak Job got…God knew what it was like and indeed had sympathy upon Job.

Regarding application…Enduring Sufferings.  Looking at Vs. 27…As we have been considering Job’s plight…I’ve began to realize something. While we know that suffering is a part of being a Christian…sometimes we don’t always know why. Setting aside some of the more obvious reasons…I have come to another conclusion. In our pursuit to know God more…perhaps one of the most honorable ways to know Jesus intimately is to endure sufferings. While we know that suffering helps us to turn to God…perhaps suffering also helps us to know God more! We think of methods like Prayer, Bible Reading, fellowship & worship as means to know God more, but suffering doesn’t usually fall into that category. Yet it is through suffering that we begin to fathom what Jesus the Son of God must have felt. As we suffer in this world, consider it joy my dear brothers & sisters that you are worthy to suffer…for in our sufferings we take the same road our Lord did.