“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.” – James 5:11 (ESV)
In our passage today our promise is mercy if we remain steadfast in suffering. It is those who suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ that are promised this mercy. Not only receive mercy but show mercy when we face tribulation, persecution ⸺ any undeserved action because of our confession of faith in God. As faith believers we recognize that suffering is a part of the life that comes with proclaiming the Gospel of salvation which comes only from believing in Jesus. His half-brother James, had not always believed in Jesus during His earthly ministry on earth. But James came to believe and was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. James had seen the suffering firsthand. This included decapitation, stoning, imprisonment, whippings, beatings, and attempts to eliminate or squelch the believers of Jesus. So James reminds us to consider two things in this verse. First, that we remember how Job remained steadfast through the worst trials and suffering we can imagine. Second, that the Lord is full of both compassion and mercy – that means Jesus delights to show mercy to those who are suffering. That is why He willingly went to the cross to die.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” – James 3:17 (NASB)
Mercy! What a concept. For one might bestow it on one who cries for it but does not deserve it. A man arrested for taking part in the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021 petitioned for release from jail. The judge refused. As the judge stated his reasons for denial, the man cried out “Your honor, have mercy on me! Please!” Circumstances, prior actions, published videos and words, left Robert Sandlin only able to beg for mercy. Mercy is shown to the undeserving yet needy. But not this time. “No mercy!” said the judge. The author of James instructs us to live by Godly wisdom from above. That wisdom comes with spiritual integrity and moral sincerity (it is pure). It is “peace loving” or “peace promoting” (peaceable). It includes kind, courteous and patient humility (gentle). It marks someone who is teachable, and willingly submits to both moral and legal discipline (reasonable). Has the gift of showing concern, pity, compassion for those who suffer pain and hardship (full of mercy). Such a person produces good works (fruit), steady in conviction (unwavering), and makes no unfair distinctions (without hypocrisy). Such not only displays mercy but has mercy within.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” – John 1:12 (ESV)
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” – James 2:19 (ESV)
We use the words “faith believers” to identify any who truly believe in God by grace through faith. We do so to help others understand that “to believe” in Jesus Christ is more than believing He lived on this earth. Also, believing in God’s existence makes us no different than demons who believe God exists. Many believe in a god that is not the One God and some believe who are still under the influence of Satan and reject His offer of salvation and forgiveness. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that our saving belief comes by grace through faith and both are a gift of God. Faith believers have been given the grace and faith to believe in God and to receive wholeheartedly His promise of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ – they are forgiven and possess eternal life. Not by our effort to be good enough are we accepted by God – our faith by grace is not of works. If we have believed in faith, the truth of salvation which has saved us from the penalty of our sin. By that gift of grace through faith we become a child of Almighty God – we are faith believers.
“ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7 (ESV)
We find in the Bible promises that are within instructions. We have such a promise in our verse today. We have two commands, two actions we are instructed to do. The first is Submit and the second is Resist. Working together obeying these instructions has a promise. But instead, many times we Resist Submission. Submitting is contrary to our concept of “free will.” The word “submit” here is a military term “to be subordinated” or “to render obedience.” Submitting is required in many circumstances. Resistance fits more comfortably with our concept of freedom, but here’s a problem, that’s not freedom. When we resist God we are submitting to the way is the devil wants us to behave. Of course that’s backwards from what we are instructed. We’ll never see the promised results of running the devil off if that is the way we live. What we really want, and need is freedom from sin and the devil. That comes when we submit to God and resist the devil. The devil cannot overpower God power in our lives. Submit to God, Resist the devil, We must do this with consistency, over and over. The victory of Christ becomes more precious.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:5-8 (NIV)
Because context is important, our promises are sometimes in more than one or two verses – that is the case today. The promise today is boundless. “If any…should ask…gives generously…without fault…will be given.” But the promise has a requirement and a caution – “must believe and not doubt.” When a friend asks for prayer, how do you respond? Do you say you will pray but actually, rarely remember to pray? Do you send folded hands emoticons suggesting that you are indeed praying? When you are sincerely praying is it more than a feel-good acknowledgement. We might ask God for wisdom to help us choose our right path. When we need wisdom we ask God; He promises to give richly without humiliating us⸺that’s important. God promises we will receive wisdom when we ask in faith believing. Those who ask with doubt are double-minded people. No wishy-washing doubting allowed. Faith in God that He will hear our request for wisdom and provide what we need is essential. If you do not believe God can or will answer and if conviction is not truly in your heart, then like a rudderless boat being tossed by the wind and waves.