Studies in James. Presentation 19. The Structure of the Book. Introduction and Trials in the Christian Life (1: 1-8) Happiness in our Circumstances(1: 9-11) Trial, Temptation and Gift (1: 12-18) Hindrances to Fruitfulness(1: 19-21) Doers and Hearers (1: 22-25)
Introduction and Trials in the Christian Life (1: 1-8)
Happiness in our Circumstances(1: 9-11)
Trial, Temptation and Gift (1: 12-18)
Hindrances to Fruitfulness(1: 19-21)
Doers and Hearers (1: 22-25)
True Religion (1: 26-27)
Favouritism (2: 1-7)
The Royal Law (2: 8-12a)
Showing Mercy (2.12b-13]
Faith and Works (2:14-26)
Teachers and the Tongue (3: 1-12)
True and False Wisdom, (3: 13-17)
Peacemakers (3: 18)
Defeat Through Lack of Submission(4: 1-6)
Victory Through Submission(4: 7—10)
Judging One Another (4: 11-12)
Boasting of Tomorrow (4: 13-17)
The Misuse of Wealth(5: 1-6)
The Need of Patience (5: 7-12)
Appropriate Responses (5:13-16)
Restoring the Wanderer (5:17-20)
It is no exaggeration to say that one of the hardest issues to come to terms with in our lives is the problem of suffering.
Suffering lights the fuse that produces an explosion of questions:
“Why does God permit this?”
“What kind of God would do this to me?”
“What have I done to deserve this?”
At sometime we will all ask these
questions in our hearts if not speak
them with our mouths? James deals
with the problem of suffering, not only
at the beginning of his epistle but also
at its conclusion.
In both cases James’ concern is the same. He doesn’t want our experience of suffering to corrode our minds and hearts.
He doesn’t want it to perversely colour our view of God. What grotesque caricatures of God we often permit our suffering to paint on the walls of our minds.
In this environment cynicism and bitterness grows. James wants us to replace this unholy graffiti with a statement of fact:
"The Lord is full of compassion and mercy"v11.
But how do we deal with the growth of cynicism and bitterness that suffering can produce?
James’ answer may strike you as strange and inadequate? He calls upon us to exercise patience! He sees true patience as the only adequate remedy to the perversions which suffering can produce. But he is too much of a caring pastor to say tersely to the sufferer, "Be patient!". He promotes patience by
 providing valuable examples,
 by pointing out the dangers of impatience
 by providing us with incentives towards patience.
The first example of patience is the farmer "who waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, how patient he is." v7
He waits patiently for his crop to be watered and grow.
What is this example meant to teach?
First, if the farmer is prepared to wait for his grain-crop, then the Christian should be prepared to wait for his crown of glory. Why? Because, in the plan of God, the seed of suffering produces a harvest of glory.
This is supremely true in the life of Jesus
The writer is encouraging his readership to persevere to exercise patience in the midst of suffering because v11 "it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it.”
But only the attitude, of patient perseverance towards suffering will bear fruit. This is why Christians of a former age talked of, "improving upon their sufferings".
Many Christians are hurting deeply, their emotions may be shredded inside despite their external appearance. God can
produce a harvest of righteousness and peace if they trust him to do so.
It takes a considerable period of time for the farmer to see the result of his labour.
Only in fairy stories like "Jack in the Bean-stalk" can you can scatter the seed one night and the next morning discover a plant that stretches into the sky.
Cultivation is a long process. It cannot be hurried. Similarly, the fruit of suffering and trial in the Christian life is not something we become conscious of overnight. We may not see the results in this life, though many do, but we will see them in glory. It was for this reason that Paul could write 2 Cor.4.17..."
Secondly, look at v10 "Brothers as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord". What's the significance of this example? Stephen asks his accusers in Acts 7.52 , "was there ever a prophet
your fathers did not persecute?"
All God's servants experience suffering. None are
immune! Suffering and opposition can have a
disheartening effect. We are tempted to think that
our suffering is uniquely severe and so wallow in
Think of Elijah in 1Kings 19.14 "I am the only one
left and now they are trying to kill me too". God's
reply was that he had a further 7000 faithful followers
in Israel who, unknown to Elijah, also had their
particular crosses to bear.
When we think of the sufferings of others we are less likely to indulge in self-pity? A Nepalese man was forced to work each day in a 2 metre tank of human excrement Because he was a Christian. He rejoiced in his situation because, the guards didn't come near him and he could sing praises to God. When we hear of others in Iran and elsewhere who have suffered courageously, are we not encouraged to bear our burdens with resolute faith? Jesus said,
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets that were before you.“ Matt. 5.11-12
What of the suffering we experience which is not as a result of persecution? At this point James introduces as his final example, Job.
Despite being a godly man Job lost his wealth, his family, his health, his reputation, and his friends. He was left with two things; breath in his body and faith in his God.
What do we think of when we think of Job? We think of his patience! This is what has given him such a prominent place both in history and in in God's Word.
He did not realise that his loyalty and love for God were being tested. He did not understand whay was happening to him but he held on. He cried out in his darkness’ "Thou he slays me yet will I trust him“ Job 13.15
He would not allow the most adverse of circumstances to discredit God in his eyes. Throughout his suffering, Job keeps his unshakeable resolve in the fact that whatever God is doing it is for his good.
He declares, "When he has tested me I shall come forth as gold” Job 23.10
Job's story only makes sense when we see God at work doing something for his glory. Remove this thread and the whole experience collapses into a meaningless heap of pain and sorrow.
The book of Job ends with Job receiving great material blessing but more importantly he was blessed spiritually. God’s creative use of our suffering is something we need to grasp.
That said Job’s question the ‘why’ of his suffering is not answered. But Job no longer needed that answer. He had found something more important, a God who could minister to him in his deepest need.
Have shown the value of patience in the midst of suffering James points out the dangers of impatience.
First, the impatient man who suffers is likely to take it out on others,
"Don't grumble against each other brothers"v9.
How often we begin by grumbling about our circumstances but end up directing our grumbles against others. And the first people to suffer are those dearest to us. We can be very unforgiving on the one hand and yet very demanding on the other. It is irrational to blame those closest to us for all our troubles. Nevertheless that is what we do.
When we begin to carefully analyse this behaviour, we discover we can’t excuse ourselves by pleading, "I am under a lot of pressure".
The fact of the matter is, we resent these pressures very
bitterly. When we are hurting and we find ourselves
hurting those nearest to us who are doing their best
to help. We are in fact saying,
‘I resent the circumstances in my life, I
resent having such a hard time’.
We transfer our anger at our circumstances
towards those around us. We don't like to
admit this of course but if we fail to
patiently submit to the circumstances
that God surrounds us with then we
cause others to suffer.
The second danger of impatience is that of irreverence, "Above all my brothers do not swear, not
by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your
yes be yes and your No, no or you will be
The intention of this verse is not to prevent
the Christian from taking an oath before a
judge but to discourage the use of oaths in
the ordinary relationships of life and above all
as an expression of impatience.
The impatient man when surrounded by
sore providences or when under pressure
may be tempted to take God's name in
vain. But in doing so he is expressing
contempt for God's name and authority.
James asks why some seek to establish their reliability by the use of oaths eg, "Cross my heart", "On my mother's grave“, instead of a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Complete truthfulness, which
can be costly, is only possible where there is a
complete trust in God.
Now James argues that the impatient man is
not trusting God as he ought. He is not as
truthful as he ought to be and so resorts to
oaths, when he wants to be believed.
A failure to trust God under trial has a
corrosive effect on our integrity. We cannot
compartmentalise our lives saying,
‘I cannot trust God in this one area of my
life’ and expect other areas of our lives,
which also require trust in God, to be
Finally, notice that all of what James has to say about the exercise of the patience of faith in the midst of suffering is set within the framework of the second coming of Christ cfv7-9.
And it is the return of Jesus, to bring down
the curtain on this present world order and
to establish his kingdom, which James
presents as THE great incentive towards
the exercise of patience.
It is a comfort to know that suffering is not
indefinite. This vale of tears does not last
forever. Suffering for the believer ends
when he goes to be with the Lord or when
he returns at the consummation of the age,
whichever comes first.
When Jesus comes he brings his reward with him. Believers will enter into the harvest of their suffering. And justice will be meted out to those who have oppressed his people. All the injustices, mentioned earlier in the chapter, will be dealt with.
It is also challenging to think that God’s own people will, among other things, give an account of how they have coped with suffering.
Do we improve upon our suffering? Can we say with James, "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy"?Or do we allow our suffering to embitter us and cause us to lash out at men and God. Be patient the Lord is coming!