James 5:7-20-Living Faith in Christian Community-August 21, 2013
What qualities should we aim for in true Christian community? How are we doing?
This section of James explores four areas in which a Christian community cultivates a living faith: by developing patience, by being a place of integrity, by maintaining an enriched prayer life, and by protecting one another.
A Patient Community (5:7-11)
Developing patience is one benefit of living in a Christian community. Each of these five verses examines an area of patience that every Christian can nurture with focus on God while relying on God’s power.
First, patience within a living faith is not just sitting idly, waiting for the world to pass by, but rather is an optimistic expectation. Two examples: the Lord’s coming and a farmer waiting on his crop (5:7). In both cases, patience is tied to hope and anticipation. An expectant patience is the realization and acceptance of our limits while trusting in God to provide that which we anticipate, demonstrating patience with a purpose.
Second, patience within the Christian community is a steadfast patience. “Be patient and stand firm” (5:8), knowing that the Lord will come again allows Christians to maintain a fortified faith that will stand the test of time, demonstrating patience with determination.
Third, we are commanded to be patient with one another (5:9). We tend to lose our patience with those who are closest to us. We do “grumble against each other,” showing our lack of patience despite what the Bible teaches. James offered a sober caution. As sure as “the Lord’s coming is near” (5:8), “the Judge is standing at the door” (5:9) for those who are grumbling against one another. Let us be kind to one another, demonstrating patience with love.
Fourth, patience is also the ability to handle suffering. The prophets in the Old Testament suffered for many reasons (5:10). Having faith does not exempt anyone from the problems of this world, but faith gives us a way of handling problems, demonstrating patience under fire.
Fifth, endurance is the last aspect of patience that is mentioned. Living faith provides the ability to endure even in the most trying circumstances, demonstrating patience with lasting strength.
A Community of Integrity (5:12)
James 5:12 refers to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37. Christians must be people of integrity, especially here in what they say. The prohibition against swearing by heaven or earth stresses that Christians should not have to swear by anything. They should be credible enough to be taken at their initial word. As a part of the community of faith, Christians must be honest with one another. The Christian community as a whole must demonstrate the same integrity to the rest of the world in order to be trustworthy, without having to have a stack of Bibles in hand.
A Community of Prayer (5:13-18)
The church must be a community of prayer. This section reveals the place, privilege, and power of prayer in the community. A Christian community should be a place of love, care, and concern. Gathering the elders of the church around the person is the perfect example of being a community of prayer. What an act of fellowship, ministry, and worship.
Another aspect of the privilege of prayer is confessing sins to each other. Confession builds a tension of trust, vulnerability, accountability, and confidence in each other. It is a privilege to be allowed into the lives of others to such a depth. Understanding those personal needs can help drive the members of a Christian community toward a richer living faith.
The most important aspect of prayer is its power. James 5:16b is one of the classic Scriptures regarding prayer in the Bible, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (NASB). The first two parts of this verse reveal why prayer seems so ineffective to many people. “Effective” prayer is intense. Intense prayer implies a commitment of time and heart, devotion to God, and concern about the matters at hand.
The second part of the verse indicates that powerful praying comes from righteous people. Powerful prayer is found in the context of a sincere faith and supposed by a life of integrity and endurance until the end.
A Community that Protects One Another (5:19-20)
A privilege and responsibility of being in community is that we care about what happens to one another in a redemptive manner, thereby protecting one another, which can only be done if we are sensitive enough to notice one another’s spiritual lives. The community is not saving the sinner but assisting in directing him or her to the one true Savior.
How Do We Apply?
Beyond developing a personal living faith, Christians gather together as a community, having the privilege and the responsibility of investing our lives in one another. Each individual affects the community, and in return as a whole the community affects each believer. We learn patience with one another and in the face of things of this world. We should demonstrate lives of integrity, both as the Christian community and in our own private lives. We must develop effective prayer lives based on obedient lives. We ought to protect one another and as a community guide each person to reject a path of sin and follow the way of righteousness. Together each of us grows stronger in our faith as we invest in one another as a living community.
The Letters of James and John-BaptistWay Press by Tom Howe ©2010 (59-68)