Faith Makes Us Patient and Prayerful
“Exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—JAMES 5:8.
1. Why should we reflect on James 5:7, 8?
JESUS CHRIST’S long-awaited “presence” is now a fact. (Matthew 24:3-14) More than ever before, all who profess to have faith in God and Christ have reason to reflect on these words of the disciple James: “Exercise patience, . . . brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! The farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—James 5:7, 8.
2. What were some of the problems faced by those to whom James wrote?
2 Those to whom James wrote his inspired letter needed to exercise patience and resolve various problems. Many were acting contrary to what was expected of those professing to have faith in God. For instance, something needed to be done about certain desires that had developed in some hearts. Tranquillity needed to be restored among those early Christians. They also required counsel on being patient and prayerful. As we consider what James told them, let us see how we can apply his words in our lives.
Wrong Desires Destructive
3. What were the causes of congregational strife, and what can we learn from this?
3 Peace was lacking among some professed Christians, and wrong desires were the root cause of this situation. (James 4:1-3) Contentiousness was causing disruption, and some were unlovingly judging their brothers. This was happening because cravings for sensual pleasure were carrying on a conflict in their body members. We ourselves may need to pray for help to resist fleshly cravings for prestige, power, and possessions so that we do nothing to disrupt the congregation’s peace. (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Peter 2:11) Among some first-century Christians, covetousness had developed to the point of a hateful, murderous spirit. Since God would not fulfill their wrong desires, they kept fighting in an effort to attain their goals. If we have similar wrong desires, we may ask but will not receive, since our holy God does not answer such prayers.—Lamentations 3:44; 3 John 9, 10.
4. Why does James call some “adulteresses,” and how should his statement affect us?
4 Worldliness, envy, and pride existed among certain early Christians. (James 4:4-6) James calls some “adulteresses” because they were friends of the world and thus guilty of spiritual adultery. (Ezekiel 16:15-19, 25-45) Surely, we do not want to become worldly in attitude, speech, and actions, for that would make us God’s enemies. His Word shows us that “a tendency to envy” is part of the bad inclination, or “spirit,” in sinful humans. (Genesis 8:21; Numbers 16:1-3; Psalm 106:16, 17; Ecclesiastes 4:4) So if we realize that we need to fight envy, pride, or some other bad inclination, let us seek God’s help by holy spirit. That force, supplied by God’s undeserved kindness, is greater than “a tendency to envy.” And whereas Jehovah opposes the proud, he will give us undeserved kindness if we fight sinful tendencies.
5. To enjoy God’s undeserved kindness, what requirements must we meet?
5 How can we receive God’s undeserved kindness? (James 4:7-10) To enjoy undeserved kindness from Jehovah, we must obey him, accept his provisions, and submit to whatever he wills. (Romans 8:28) We must also “oppose,” or ‘stand against,’ the Devil. He will ‘flee from us’ if we remain firm as supporters of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. We have the help of Jesus, who restrains the world’s evil agencies so that nothing can do us permanent harm. And never forget this: By prayer, obedience, and faith, we draw close to God, and he proves to be near us.—2 Chronicles 15:2.
6. Why does James call some Christians “sinners”?
6 Why does James apply the term “sinners” to some professing faith in God? Because they were guilty of “wars” and murderous hatred—attitudes unacceptable for Christians. (Titus 3:3) Their “hands,” filled with bad deeds, required cleansing. They also needed to purify their “hearts,” the seat of motivation. (Matthew 15:18, 19) Those “indecisive ones” vacillated between friendship with God and friendship with the world. Warned by their bad example, let us exercise unceasing vigilance so that such things do not wreck our faith.—Romans 7:18-20.
7. Why does James tell some to “mourn and weep”?
7 James tells his readers to “give way to misery and mourn and weep.” If they did manifest godly sadness, it would be evidence of repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10, 11) Today, some who say that they have faith are seeking friendship with the world. If any of us are pursuing such a course, should we not mourn over our weak spiritual state and take immediate steps to correct matters? Making needed adjustments and receiving God’s forgiveness will produce a feeling of exultation because of a clean conscience and the joyful prospect of everlasting life.—Psalm 51:10-17; 1 John 2:15-17.
Do Not Judge One Another
8, 9. Why should we not speak against or judge one another?
8 It is sinful to speak against a fellow believer. (James 4:11, 12) Yet some are critical of fellow Christians, perhaps as a result of their own self-righteous attitude or because they want to exalt themselves by downgrading others. (Psalm 50:20; Proverbs 3:29) The Greek term rendered ‘speak against’ denotes hostility and implies making an exaggerated or false accusation. This amounts to judging a brother adversely. How is this ‘speaking against and judging God’s law’? Well, the scribes and the Pharisees ‘adroitly set aside God’s commandment’ and judged by their own standards. (Mark 7:1-13) Similarly, if we condemned a brother that Jehovah would not condemn, would we not be ‘judging God’s law’ and sinfully imply that it is inadequate? And by unjustly criticizing our brother, we would not be fulfilling the law of love.—Romans 13:8-10.
9 Let us remember this: “One there is that is lawgiver and judge”—Jehovah. His ‘law is perfect,’ not deficient. (Psalm 19:7; Isaiah 33:22) God alone has the right to set standards and rules for salvation. (Luke 12:5) So James asks: “Who are you to be judging your neighbor?” It is not our prerogative to judge and condemn others. (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4, 10) Reflecting on God’s sovereignty and impartiality and our own sinfulness should help us to refrain from self-righteously judging others.
Avoid Boastful Self-Confidence
10. Why should we take Jehovah into account in our daily lives?
10 We should always take Jehovah and his law into account. (James 4:13-17) Disregarding God, the self-confident say: ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to some city, spend a year there, do business, and make profits.’ If we ‘lay up treasure for ourselves but are not rich toward God,’ our life may end tomorrow and we may have no opportunity to serve Jehovah. (Luke 12:16-21) As James says, we are like a morning mist “appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” (1 Chronicles 29:15) Only by exercising faith in Jehovah can we hope for lasting joy and everlasting life.
11. What does it mean to say, “If Jehovah wills”?
11 Rather than boastfully ignoring God, we ought to take this position: “If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” Saying, “If Jehovah wills” indicates that we are trying to act in harmony with his will. It may be necessary to do business to support our family, to travel in the Kingdom work, and so forth. But let us not brag. “Such taking of pride is wicked” because it ignores dependence on God.—Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 21:4; Jeremiah 9:23, 24.
12. What is meant by the words of James 4:17?
12 Apparently to conclude his statements about self-assurance and boasting, James says: “If one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” Every Christian should humbly acknowledge his dependence on God. If he does not do so, “it is a sin for him.” Of course, the same principle applies to any failure to do what faith in God requires of us.—Luke 12:47, 48.
Warning Regarding the Rich
13. What does James say about those misusing their riches?
13 Because some early Christians had become materialistic or were admiring the wealthy, James makes strong statements regarding certain rich men. (James 5:1-6) Worldly men using their riches wrongly would ‘weep, howling over the miseries to come upon them’ when God repaid them according to their deeds. In those days, the wealth of many people consisted chiefly of such things as garments, grain, and wine. (Joel 2:19; Matthew 11:8) Some of these can rot or “become moth-eaten,” but James is stressing the worthlessness of wealth, not its perishability. Though gold and silver do not rust, if we were to hoard them, they would be as valueless as things that have rusted. “Rust” indicates that material riches have not been put to good use. Therefore, all of us should remember that “something like fire” is what those trusting in their material possessions “have stored up in the last days” when God’s anger comes upon them. Since we are living in “the time of the end,” such words have special meaning for us.—Daniel 12:4; Romans 2:5.
14. How do the rich often act, and what should we do about that?
14 The wealthy often defraud their harvesters, whose withheld wages ‘cry out’ for retribution. (Compare Genesis 4:9, 10.) Worldly rich men “have lived in luxury.” Overindulging in sensual pleasure, they build up fatty, unresponsive hearts and will still be doing this on the “day” set for their slaughter. They ‘condemn and murder the righteous one.’ James asks: “Is he not opposing you?” But another rendering is, “the righteous one; he is not opposing you.” In any case, we should not be partial to the rich. We must keep spiritual interests first in life.—Matthew 6:25-33.
Faith Helps Us to Exercise Patience
15, 16. Why is it so important to exercise patience?
15 Having commented on oppressive rich ones of the world, James next encourages oppressed Christians to exercise patience. (James 5:7, 8) If believers bore their hardships patiently, they would be rewarded for faithfulness during Christ’s presence, when judgment would come upon their oppressors. (Matthew 24:37-41) Those early Christians needed to be like the farmer who patiently waits for the early rain of autumn, when he can plant, and the late rain of springtime that results in fruitage. (Joel 2:23) We too need to exercise patience and make our hearts firm, especially since “the presence of the Lord” Jesus Christ is here!
16 Why should we be patient? (James 5:9-12) Patience helps us not to groan or sigh when fellow believers vex us. If we “heave sighs against one another” with a bad spirit, we will be condemned by the Judge Jesus Christ. (John 5:22) Now that his “presence” has begun and he “is standing before the doors,” let us promote peace by being patient with our brothers, who face many tests of faith. Our own faith is strengthened when we remember that God rewarded Job because he patiently endured his trials. (Job 42:10-17) If we exercise faith and patience, we will see that “Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”—Micah 7:18, 19.
17. Why does James say, “Stop swearing”?
17 If we are not patient, we may misuse the tongue when under stress. For example, we may rashly make oaths. “Stop swearing,” says James, warning against frivolous oath taking. Constantly affirming statements with oaths also seems hypocritical. Hence, we should simply speak the truth, letting our yes mean yes, and our no, no. (Matthew 5:33-37) Of course, James is not saying that it is wrong to take an oath to tell the truth in court.
Faith and Our Prayers
18. Under what circumstances should we “carry on prayer” and “sing psalms”?
18 Prayer must play a major role in our life if we are to control our speech, exercise patience, and maintain a healthy faith in God. (James 5:13-20) Especially when under trial should we “carry on prayer.” If we are cheerful, let us “sing psalms,” as Jesus and his apostles did when he instituted the Memorial of his death. (Mark 14:26, footnote) At times, we may be filled with such gratitude to God that we sing praises even in the heart. (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19) And what a joy it is to extol Jehovah in song at Christian meetings!
19. What should we do if we become spiritually sick, and why take such a step?
19 We may not feel like singing if we are ailing spiritually, perhaps because of wrong conduct or a failure to feed regularly at Jehovah’s table. If we are in that state, let us humbly call for the elders so that they may ‘pray over us.’ (Proverbs 15:29) They will also ‘grease us with oil in Jehovah’s name.’ As soothing oil on a wound, their comforting words and Scriptural counsel will help to allay depression, doubt, fear. ‘The prayer of faith will make us well’ if it is backed up by our own faith. If the elders find that our spiritual sickness was caused by serious sin, they will kindly make clear our error and try to help us. (Psalm 141:5) And if we are repentant, we can have faith that God will hear their prayers and forgive us.
20. Why should we confess our sins and pray for one another?
20 ‘Openly confessing our sins to one another’ should serve as a restraint against sinning further. It should foster mutual compassion, a quality that will move us to “pray for one another.” We can have faith that this will be beneficial because prayer by ‘a righteous man’—one exercising faith and viewed as upright by God—accomplishes much with Jehovah. (1 Peter 3:12) The prophet Elijah had weaknesses like ours, but his prayers were effective. He prayed, and it did not rain for three and a half years. When he prayed again, rain did fall.—1 Kings 17:1; 18:1, 42-45; Luke 4:25.
21. What may we be able to do if a fellow Christian is “misled from the truth”?
21 What if a member of the congregation is “misled from the truth,” deviating from right teaching and conduct? We may be able to turn him back from his error through Bible counsel, prayer, and other help. If we succeed, this keeps him under Christ’s ransom and saves him from spiritual death and condemnation to destruction. By helping the erring one, we cover a multitude of his sins. When the reproved sinner turns from his wrong course, repents, and seeks forgiveness, we will rejoice that we worked toward the covering over of his sins.—Psalm 32:1, 2; Jude 22, 23.
Something for All of Us
22, 23. How should we be affected by the words of James?
22 Clearly, the letter of James contains something beneficial for all of us. It shows us how to meet trials, counsels us against favoritism, and urges us to engage in upright works. James urges us to control the tongue, to resist worldly influence, and to promote peace. His words should also make us patient and prayerful.
23 True, the letter of James was originally sent to anointed early Christians. Yet, all of us should let its counsel help us cling to our faith. James’ words can bolster faith that moves us to decisive action in God’s service. And this divinely inspired letter builds an enduring faith that makes us patient, prayerful Witnesses of Jehovah today, during “the presence of the Lord” Jesus Christ.
How Would You Answer?
□ Why did some early Christians need to change their attitude and conduct?
□ What warning does James give the rich?
□ Why should we exercise patience?
□ Why should we pray regularly?
[Picture Credit Line on page 19]
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
[Picture on page 23]
Some early Christians needed to be more patient with fellow believers
[Picture on page 24]
Christians need to be patient, loving, prayerful