My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. – James 5:10-11
As Christians, our greatest heroes of the faith endured great times of difficulty. These people were of the most godly people in the world, people of whom the Holy Spirit says, ‘the world is not worthy’ (Heb 11:38). The greatness of these men surpassed what this world has ever produced. They are the ones that are beloved of heaven (Daniel 9:23), the mouthpieces of God.
In consideration of these man, James exhorts us to look to them as ‘an example of suffering and patience.’ James wanted to remind the saints that difficult times were not regulated only to the ungodly, but that they were a hallmark characteristic of the most holy of people. Thinking back of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and the like will certainly invoke many stories of difficult trials. All of the great men of the bible endured much hardship, and out of those times of hardship came some of the greatest stories that have ever been told.
Joseph, for example, endured 13 years as a slave and a prisoner. But in one day he rose up to be the second most powerful person in the world.
David wandered the wilderness, being hunted by a vile man. He had his chance for revenge, but instead he trusted in the Lord during those difficult times, and the Lord rose him up as king.
The three Hebrew children in Babylon were literally thrown into a fire, but they would not bow to the idol. The Lord saved them from the king and from the fire.
Jesus suffered greatly, even though He had done nothing. They beat him and plucked out His beard. They nailed him to a cross, and hung him up to die… but three days later He rose from the dead!
But out of all the biblical stories of difficult times, there is one that stands out as the quintessential example of difficulty and suffering: the story of Job.
In our title verse, James invokes the perseverance of Job as a thing to be admired. He notes how this story demonstrates the ultimate end intended by the Lord, and how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
The story of Job is fascinating. In this book, we get a glimpse into the heavenly realms, to see interesting happenings there. The veil is pulled back and we see God interacting with Satan during a heavenly meeting. God proceeds to brag about His servant Job to Satan, how there is none like him in all the earth:
Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? – Job 1:8
It’s interesting to ponder why God might have said what He did. It may have partly been due to the fact that much evil was in the world. Satan had worked his cunning ways, going to and fro across the earth, but he had not been able to cause Job to stumble. His deceptions and temptations had not worked on this man. Perhaps God wanted to rub it in his face, if you will. But more likely, God, in His omniscience, wanted to bring about this scenario in order to teach the world an important truth, and to bless Job in the process.
So Satan challenges God’s claim of Job’s righteousness. He maintains that Job only serves God because of His blessing and protection. In response, God allows Satan to work his evil upon Job’s house. In one day, Job loses everything except a grumpy wife. But, even with all his children dead, and all his possessions gone, he worships God, saying this:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
And that’s not the end. After an undisclosed amount of time, Satan again meets with God. Once again God brags upon His servant Job:
And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you have incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” – Job 2:3
Satan responds by telling God that if He would only allow him to touch his person, then Job would certainly forsake his integrity, and curse Him to His face. God gives him leave:
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And [Job] took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. – Job 2:7-8
But Satan left Job’s wife alone. I can’t imagine why…
Then [Job’s] wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die” – Job 2:9
After Job’s friends hear of his condition, they come to visit him. Upon their arrival, when they seen the terrible distress that Job was in, they sit down in silence with him for seven days! It wasn’t until after the seventh day that Job final speaks up. The situation is so bad that he curses the day of his birth–he wishes he was never born.
Have you ever been in a situation that bad before? So bad that you wish you were never born? Or that you wish you were dead? Job wished for one or the other.
The rest of the book of Job is a whole lot of jangling back and forth, with Job and his friends trying to figure out why this has happened. His friends insist that he must have sinned somehow in order to bring all this upon him. Job maintains that he has done nothing wrong, but that God has singled him as an enemy for no reason. He complains bitterly to God, crying foul.
But God never tells Job why all this happened. Instead, He challenges Job’s intellectual powers. He asks Job many question that he can’t answer. Job’s only response is to put his hand over his mouth.
Then God describes two enormous creatures: the behemoth and the leviathan. He describes their might and fierceness, and how none dare challenge them due to their great strength. He asks Job why no man, in his limited strength, would dare challenge the strength of the leviathan, yet that Job, in his limited intellect, would try to challenge His perfect wisdom and infinite mind. Job finally repents from his complaining. Afterward, God blesses him with good health, twice as many possessions as he had before, and many children.
Job definitely went through the valley of the shadow of death. The important thing to note in this story is that he did finally come out on the other side, and that his latter end was better than his former.
James (in our title verse) wants us to learn some important things from the story of Job:
- He wants us to look at Job’s perseverance.
- He wants us to understand God’s intended end.
- He wants us to understand God’s compassion and mercy.
1. Although Job complained too much, he never gave up his faith.
Even when all hell broke loose against him, he refused to ‘curse God and die.’ He had a firm commitment to God that he wouldn’t break, no matter what. And even when he didn’t understand, when he complained bitterly, when he questioned God’s motives, he still didn’t abandon God.
God never gave the reason for Job’s suffering to Job. He had to learn to trust God without understanding why. We must learn to do the same thing. We must commit to trust Him even when everything looks really bad. The truth is that God has our best interests in mind. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but He does.
Hard times are going to come. Is your connection to Christ strong enough to hold when comes hell and high water? Is there anything that could shake your faith? The true Christian will let go of all else, if need be, to cling only to Christ. Do you know Him like this? If not, get to know Him now! The fair-weather Christian will not last when the storms come.
2. God had an end in mind before all of this began.
What was that end? It was to be exceedingly good to Job.
God has that same end in mind for us. What father doesn’t desire to bless his son? Even now, Jesus is preparing a special place in His Father’s house just for you. No devil in hell can keep you from a blessed end in God. Even if the world cuts you off in its anger, you have not lost. God will receive you into everlasting arms; you will be exceedingly blessed beyond what you could have ever hoped for. (And God will even bless you on earth, as well, if conditions permit.)
3. God is compassionate and merciful.
Job didn’t do everything perfectly. He resorted to complaining and bitterness. It kept him in the valley longer than he had to be (Job 36:16-17), but God was merciful and brought him out anyway.
We also sin in our difficult times, adding salt to our wound. We tend to loath in a self-made pit of mire–but let us not. Instead, we must repent quickly, receive God’s mercy, and allow Him to bring us out of whatever dark valley we might be in. He is eager to do so.
God is compassionate. He feels our pain and desires to do something about it–whether that pain is self-inflicted or not. Don’t think that because you made your bed that you have to lie in it forever. God is compassionate and merciful! He will raise you up out of that bed! Jesus died on a cross so that you could escape the errors of your own ways, not so you would have to wallow in them. He is compassionate! Let Him help you. Trust Him. He’s not judging you. He didn’t come to judge, but to SAVE. (see John 3:17).
Hard times are going to come. Remember that they also came to the greatest of saints gone by. Instead of complaining, let us rejoice (James 1:2-4). God is teaching us perseverance. God is preparing us for a greater blessing to come. God is walking with us in the dark valley, to bring us out. He most certainly will. Amen.
endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ – 2 Timothy 2:3
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