Statement of Faith
The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell
Listen to this week's message!
Map to the Church
Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!
AM Bible Study Archives
"God's Good Outcome"
Wednesday AM Bible Study
October 29, 2003
There are certain lessons of faith that are so big, and that so involve
the whole course of our lives, that they require more than our own narrow
experiences for us to learn them. We need to be taught some lessons of
faith by observing the whole life-story of someone else. We sometimes
need to be shown not only how other victorious saints endured trials throughout
the course of their whole life, but also the ultimate good that God brought
about at the very end of that life - or sometimes even long after that
life on earth ended. When such lessons finally take hold of us, they changes
everything else about us. It's to just such a method that James turns
to in teaching suffering Christians in the passage before us.
Consider Matthew 5:11-12. Note how, in that last words of that last
verse, our Savior points our attention to the prophets who suffered before
us. Their stories aren't so much the stories of great men as they are
the stories of a great God who used ordinary men in great ways. James
does the same thing in the text before us - calling his suffering readers
to look back to the life-story of these other saints, both to learn from
the example of the endurance of their faith while in their trials, and
to be encouraged by the outcome of that endurance that a great God brought
about. James' point is this: when suffering affliction, we should study
the examples of Old Testament saints, and be encouraged by God's good
I. LOOK AT THE EXAMPLES (vv. 10-11a).
A. In the broad scope, it is God's intention that we learn from
His past works in history. One of the reasons for His having seen
to it that these stories were recorded was so that we might learn
from them.(1 Cor. 10:1-11).
B. And now, in the case of suffering affliction at the hand of some
Christ-hating persecutors, James likewise encourages his readers to
open their Old Testament and learn from God's past works on behalf
of His people. He is trying to teach his readers about two important
1. He is trying to teach them how to conduct themselves while
going through a time of trial. He sought to teach them how to suffer
(an outward behavior of endurance) with "patience" (an inward attitude
2. For encouraging examples, he points to "the prophets who spoke
in the name of the Lord." He had pointed to the example of nature
previously (vv. 7-8); and now he points to the example from Scripture
of the Old Testament prophets and affirms that their patience in
suffering paid off. Today, "Indeed, we count them blessed who endure".
We, upon whom the end of the ages have come, have the great advantage
of hind-sight. We can indeed see that God proved a faithful trust
C. To which of the prophets was James pointing?
1. We might consider Hebrews 11 - God's "Hall of Faith" - as a
good catalog of possibilities:
i. Abel (v. 4);
ii. Enoch (v. 5);
iii. Noah (v. 7);
iv. Abraham (v. 12);
v. Isaac, Jacob and Joseph (vv. 20-22);
vi. Moses (vv. 24-25);
vii. And many more of which "time would fail us" to tell (vv.
2. The writer of Hebrews observes that these died in faith, without
receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed
them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers
and exiles on the earth (v. 13). But today, we all consider these
great giants of faith to be, in the end, blessed by God. "We count
them blessed who endure."
D. James gives special attention to Job for three reasons:
1. His suffering was unusually great;
2. It was clearly by the permission of God; and
3. It resulted in God greatly blessing him in the end.
II. LEARN FROM THEIR OUTCOME (v. 11b).
A. James states the moral of Job's story, and the story of the prophets,
this way: "You have heard ... that the Lord is very compassionate and
1. When he says that the Lord is "very compassionate", he uses a
wonderful word (polusplangxnos). In the Greek, it's composed of two
words: the word for 'great' or 'much' (polus), and the word for 'intestines'
or 'bowels' - indicating what they would have considered the seat
of affection and compassion; what we'd call "the heart" (splangxnon).
In using this word, James is pointing out that God is a very affectionate,
very compassionate, 'large-hearted' God.
2. He also calls God "merciful". God described Himself this way
to Moses (Exodus 34:6-7). He proved Himself that way to Job (Job 42:10-17).
B. The whole point James is trying to make is that when we're going
through a time of suffering and affliction - when we're tested in our
faith and are being dealt with unjustly - we should look to these great
men and women of God in the past, who likewise suffered unjustly.
1. The real value of our suffering isn't found in looking at the
suffering itself; but at its outcome. That's when such stories encourage
2. John Calvin wrote, "When we read of the suffering of the Saints,
none of us would call them wretched, but indeed blessed. James is
right to put this example before our eyes, that we may learn to consider
it in any time of trial when we lose patience of hope. He draws out
the principle that the prophets are reckoned blessed in their afflictions
because they endured them with constancy. It follows that we should
make the same conclusion when we are in affliction."1
1A.W. Morrison, trans., David W. Torrance
and Thomas F. Torrance, eds., Calvin's New Testament Commentaries (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), Vol. 3, p. 311.