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"God's Good Outcome"
James 5:10-11

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 outcome.

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 qualities:

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 of long-suffering).

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 for them.

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. 32-40).

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.


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 merciful."

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 us.

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.

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