journey thru James (18): twenty questions on James 5:7-20

 

This coming Sunday morning (Nov. 27) at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 5:7-20. This will mark the conclusion of our Journey Thru James. We’ll use the following two phrases to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: persevering in patience in view of the Lord’s presence (5:7-11) and keeping your promises, offering your praise, praying in faith & pursuing the stragglers (5:12-20). To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty exercises and questions.

Scripture

Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged. Look! The judge is standing at the door!

Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness. Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Most important, my brothers and sisters, never make a solemn pledge—neither by heaven nor earth, nor by anything else. Instead, speak with a simple “Yes” or “No,” or else you may fall under judgment.

If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:7-20 CEB)

Questions

1. Would you say this section (5:7-20) is rather random in thought or do you see a connecting thread? Explain.

2. James’ original readers clearly hungered (vs. 7) for the Lord’s return (10 on a scale of 10). How about you? Why?

3. How does James’ teaching to be patient (vs.7-8) fit in with the preceding context (4:13-5:6) and consequently, what
does it mean to be “patient” here in this context?

4. What can a Christian practically do to “strengthen” their “resolve” to wait patiently for the Lord (vs. 8)?

5. It’s easy for church to become “the complaint department” (vs. 9). How can a person break their habit of complaining?

6. What statements by Jesus come to mind when you read about how to avoid being ‘judged (vs. 9b)?

7. Does vs. 8b,9b teach that James expected Jesus’ return to be quite soon? It’s been nearly two millennium. Thoughts?

8. What specific prophets and events come to mind as examples of “patient resolve and steadfastness” (vs. 10)?

9. Read vs. 11. Knowing what you do of the book of Job, how is it exactly that it can be said that Job “endured?”

10. Read vs. 11b. What evidence in life speaks strongly to you that God truly is “full of compassion and mercy?”

11. Does vs. 12 forbid the taking of oaths by Christians in a court of law or saying the Pledge of Allegiance today? Explain.

12. What have you seen happen to peoples’ prayer life when they underwent suffering? (vs. 13a) What happen to yours?

13. The word “sing” (vs. 14) could be literally translated as “psalm.” What Psalm do you like to read when happy or what song do you particularly like to sing to God in praise?

14. Which do you think the illness spoken of in vs.14-15 is, physical or spiritual? Why?

15. Does vs. 14-15 speak of an experience limited to the time of the apostles or of one that is still valid today? Why?

16. James says “confess your sins to one another” (vs. 16). Why don’t we see and practice such more often than we do?

17. Working only from 5:13-18, what would you say are some essential qualities or traits of godly prayer?

18. How can you tell if someone has wandered (vs. 19), taken “the wrong path” (vs. 20) and is headed for death (vs. 20)?

19. Whose sins are being forgiven in vs. 20, those of the restored wanderer or those of the earnest seeker? Explain.

20. What is the best thing you’ve learned or been reminded of in this Journey Thru James?

a person just like us

Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:17-18 CEB)

We live in a time when talk of “heroes” and the portrayal of “superheroes” is all the rage. I confess all of this unsettles me a bit for I don’t see it as perfectly “harmless.” It is only a very small step to thinking that nothing of great significance can be accomplished except by super people with super skills or super “powers.” But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it’s with that same sort of thinking that James is doing battle here in this very text.

Contrary to popular notion, James affirms the prophet Elijah was no “superhero.” God worked great things through him not because he was a great or special person but, because he chose to do so. James says Elijah has nothing on us, but was “just like us.”

Contrary to popular belief, God’s people are not in dire need of super people with super talents or super resources. Rather, what the church most needs today is a membership with a mind fully persuaded that a super God answers the fervent prayers of ordinary people who are completely sold out to him. This is no small thing. It’s the difference between focusing on Elijah and focusing on Elijah’s God. It’s the difference between being dependent on extraordinary people and depending on an extraordinary God. And that’s a world of difference, to say the least. Some powerful questions to mind.

  • Do you believe the God of Elijah still lives and works today?
  • Do you believe God can hear and answer your prayers the way he heard those of Elijah?
  • Do you believe God so that you’re willing, as you are, to be totally sold out to him for his use however he will?
  • Do your prayers reflect that faith and your life that commitment?

Elijah was an ordinary person just like us. He prayed fervently that it wouldn’t rain and it didn’t rain – for three and a half years. When he prayed again, God brought rain and the earth brought forth fruit. (James 5:17-18 DSV)

Holy Father in heaven, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.