WHAT IS GRACEFULLY, REALLY
Well - we’re starting the last chapter of James! I’ve said before - but I’m saying it again - many Bible teachers believe that the book of James is giving a true picture about what grace really is. Actually, our brother, James, really listened to, and obeyed, God and gave us pictures of what grace is and what it isn’t. So, as we begin this last chapter, he starts by using examples of people in the world, who are not Christians, along with some Christians also, so we can get a picture of what God wants us to avoid and be deeply aware of. So, when we start reading these verses, keep that in mind. It will help us understand it better.
James 5:1-3 - “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” By the way, did you notice that he said it again - ‘Come now.’ Again, it has the meaning for us as, “COME ON!”
Now - James isn’t talking of all rich people - but he is speaking to the one’s in the world, and a few who are Christians but who are living the ‘world’s way’, who are letting their wealth rule their lives. He is talking to rich people who are rich because they have stolen from others, and are responsible for people being dead because of how they have handled things. In other words, he is speaking about evil rich men. When it talks about their riches being corrupted and their garments being moth-eaten, it is talking about their spiritual condition. I believe God wants us to imagine what they would look like if their riches are corrupted and their clothes moth-eaten - and then realize that that’s the state they are in spiritually.
Then he talks about having lots of silver and gold and it being corrupted. Think about this. A person can have lots and lots of silver and gold when they die - but it won’t buy them a seat in heaven!!!!! That’s the nitty-gritty that this is getting down to.
Listen to these two verses - Matthew 6:19-20 - “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
Now - to make this simple to understand - these verses are saying that, no matter who you are, if getting lots of money and more, and more, and more, while you’re here on earth, and becoming richer and richer, is your goal and really what your life revolves around - you are not thinking like God thinks. Now - let’s be clear about this - God loves for your needs to be met - and He also loves for you to have more than you, yourself, need to live comfortably. He loves for you to have more so that you can always be able to give to others - to church, to missions, to friends in need, to people, you’ve never met before, who are in need - and on and on. He has said, in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” See, that’s the way God thinks, and operates - and, like everything else with God, it involves us operating in FAITH. Now the opposite of that is to just keep on trying to get more and more money, any way you can, to be rich, and richer, and richer.
These verses are talking about “gaining more and more and more riches” being the goal and purpose in someone’s life - JUST TO BE RICH!!! That kind of attitude and way of thinking gives a false security while on earth and it is the very thing that will “eat their flesh as fire” as one of those verses said.
Now - don’t get confused. God is not saying that it is wrong to have money to meet all your family’s needs - He is not saying it is wrong to have a savings account - He is not against us being able to go buy what we need and want. It is the heart attitude toward gathering riches, no matter what it takes to do it. When the heart attitude has riches as the number one important thing in life, it will lead to where God doesn’t want us to go.
Now - these next verses are still talking about this. I really think that the Lord inspired James to talk about this so much because it is a HUGE, HUGE problem that Christians have to overcome. Now, I’m not saying that you have to be really rich to have this problem in your life. THE DESIRE FOR RICHES is something that a lot of people have to deal with - and many do not even realize that it is hindering them. So - o - o - o, let’s go on to the next verses.
James 5:4 - “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your field, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” Now, it’s pretty obvious that he is talking about using any kind of method you can to keep from paying people the exact amount that a person is due - just to keep your own bank account getting bigger and bigger. I think this also makes it clear that the Lord takes notice of any and all ways that people take advantage of others by paying them less than was discussed. I believe that the words in that verse, “The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth,” are referring to the Lord as a military commander (because that’s the meaning of ‘Sabaoth’ in the Hebrew) and saying that He will avenge those workers who have been defrauded. I think this makes it pretty clear that God doesn’t approve of people not paying others what they said they would. Of course, the motivation behind that is always to keep more money in your hand than in someone else’s hand. God is just giving us a picture of how He views things like this.
Now - He goes on with other ways to see how THE LOVE OF MONEY AND RICHES, AS WELL AS OTHER KINDS OF LIFESTYLES, IS THE OPPOSITE OF A GRACEFUL LIFE. So - I’m going to read James 5:5 - 8 now. “You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
The Lord just wants us to understand, through these verses, that desiring to be rich will lead a person into realms that are disasters to themselves and other people. He wants us to see that, when you have a close relationship with the Lord, which really is an intimacy between you and the Creator of the Universe, you begin to understand His way of doing things. He uses the farmer, as an example, to show us that patience is necessary in our lives, in order for us to see the end results that we’ve been believing Him for.
Brothers and sisters, it is so, so, so important that we realize that God has already said, “YES,” and the provision, or healing, or whatever the answer is, has already been given to us - it’s just in the spiritual realm and has not manifested in the physical realm yet. So, instead of begging and begging and begging Him - we need to be thanking Him, even though we can’t see it with our eyes yet, or feel it in our bodies yet.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “By His stripes, you WERE healed.” So - when I have pain in my body, when I pray, I quote that verse of Scripture, and I tell the Lord that I am so thankful that He has already provided healing for me. Then, I speak to my body and tell it what it has to do. Often, I speak to the evil one and command that he loose my body and get out - I tell him that he is trespassing on God’s property! I also say it with authority.
If I do not experience immediate change in my body, I operate in patience, just like that farmer, waiting for the fruit of the earth to come forth, and I continue to speak, out of my mouth, “I AM HEALED.” In other words, it’s already a done deal, because God said so.
One other thing I want to comment on is the fact that the verse says, “The coming of the Lord is at hand.” That was 2,000 years ago that James wrote that - but, all you have to do is turn on your TV, to see that the world around us is getting further and further away from godliness than it has ever been before. Really, a lot of it has happened in the last 60 or 70 years. I was born in 1937 and, as a little girl, in the 40’s, there was still a strong awareness of GOD in America. I can remember, as a little girl, gathering around our radio, which was a piece of furniture then, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was having his ‘Fireside Chats’ with the people of America. He was a Democratic President, but there was no BIG ‘HATE’ DIFFERENCES between the political parties then. Americans would gather around their radios ahead of time to be ready to hear their president. There was respect and even love for him, no matter whether they had voted for him or not. My little OLDER ‘Grandma Great’, which is what I called her, would be bringing her comfy chair up by the radio, 30 minutes before it was going to be on. She wanted to be ready. The rest of the family would follow - me included - and we were all ready when he came on the radio. Americans were loving and respectful of one another. Going to church was never made fun of and you never heard cussing or bad words over the radio. There was no TV then.
It’s definitely not that way today - plus there’s topics discussed constantly on TV today that were never even known about or approved of then. I say this because we really are getting closer to “The Coming of the Lord.” I really believe that having our hearts established in the grace of God is essential to a successful Christian life.
Okay - let’s go to James 5:9 - “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” First, it is saying, what has been said before in this book, about talking negatively about your brothers and sisters. I personally believe that James is reminding us that, instead of talking badly about them, we should be praying for them so they can hear what the Lord is trying to show them - and get their lives straightened out. When it says that the Judge is standing at the door, it’s not meaning that you’re going to be in trouble with the Judge if you don’t stop talking bad about people. Your sins have been forgiven. However, we really don’t know what’s going on in the lives and hearts of other people and, therefore, it could be a great advantage to the person you’re talking about to get things right and perhaps keep someone else from going to Hell. So - instead of talking negatively about them, we should be praying for them. It’s either one or the other. It is rather useless to be praying for them and then talking to others about them and all that they do wrong. WE HAVE TO SEE PEOPLE AND TREAT PEOPLE WITH THE SAME UNDESERVED FAVOR THAT GOD DOES US!!!!! That’s the reason I call James, ‘God’s Book on Grace’.
Now - James 5:10-11 - “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 brings up the Old Testament prophets here. Now think about this. If those Old Testament people could endure the suffering and anguish that they went through, and hang on and come out the other side, without turning away from the Lord - when they weren’t living under this New Covenant that we are, we should be learning from them - instead of having a pity party, ourselves. Remember, Jesus hadn’t taken man’s sins away yet - they had not been given authority over the devil yet - they didn’t have the promises that Jesus has given us - they weren’t born again like we are, with a new spirit, and on and on. But they endured! They suffered but they did it with patience, and Job is a good example of that. That man suffered terribly, but he endured, and came out of it ‘smelling like a rose’! Giggle. He didn’t have the promises that we have, under the New Covenant. But, we can certainly learn from him because he would not let anything be more important than God to him.
Now - the main point of all of this is this. Our relationship with the Lord should be so close and intimate that, when we are going through something, we are to take His Word, especially the New Testament promises, and soak in them - say them outloud to ourselves so our own ears can hear the TRUTH. That TRUTH of the Word of God should become more real to us than anything else. We should be patient, like the farmer, but we should not give in to doubt and unbelief. I have personally found that clinging to the Word of God, as God’s personal TRUTH AND PROMISES TO ME, has to be more important than anything that anyone else says. It has to be my reason for being happy, in the midst of the storm!
Brothers and sisters, the only way you can live that way in the midst of a situation, when you haven’t seen the complete answer in the physical realm yet, is to be so close to the LORD AND HIS WORD that it consumes your being more than the problem does.
Now - I’ve shared this story before but I’m going to share it in more detail than I have before. I had moved back to Kansas City, Mo., my home town, to be on staff at the church of some friends of mine, and I talked about that last week. I was very busy with church teaching, activities, meetings, etc. I knew that the Lord had led me to do exactly what I was doing. That really brings peace into your life, when you know you’re exactly where God wants you to be, doing exactly what He wants you to do.
I began to have some pain in my lower back. I prayed about it but didn’t mention it to anyone else for awhile. It kept on getting stronger and, although I was praying and believing for healing, I went to the doctor and he didn’t think it was any big deal and gave me a prescription for the pain. It kept on getting worse.
It was Christmas time and I already had plane tickets to come to Florida to be with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson for Christmas - so I did. For the week and a-half that I was with them, the pain increased and they pushed me around in a wheelchair. It was NOT the best Christmas in my life. I flew back to K. C. and my son picked me up and took me to my little apartment. We talked and talked about my problem. He re-arranged his work schedule and offered to take me to Truman Medical Center and try to get some help with it.
We made an appointment and ended up spending most of the day there when we went. They ran all kinds of tests on me and, after hours and hours, I was told that my problem was not something that could be helped with surgery. THEY TOLD ME THAT I WOULD PROBABLY BE IN A WHEELCHAIR for the rest of my life. That certainly was not a fun day or an exciting report. They gave me prescriptions to be taken every few hours. My son brought me back home and we talked and prayed - but it was not a lovely time for either of us.
I began on the medications, following the doctors’ orders and sat with the Lord, over the next few weeks for hours at a time, praying with my understanding, and praying in the Spirit. I began to have this strong KNOWING - DOWN IN MY KNOWER - that this was not over yet - that I needed to BELIEVE, WITH NO DOUBT OR UNBELIEF - THAT I REALLY WAS ALREADY HEALED IN THE SPIRIT REALM - AND THAT IF I WOULD BELIEVE IT, IT WOULD BE MANIFESTED IN THE PHYSICAL REALM.
I determined to be patient, instead of frustrated and nervous, or having a little pity party, and I was absolutely TRUSTING THE PROMISES OF GOD TO BE ACTIVATED IN MY BODY, IF I WOULD JUST KEEP BELIEVING.
This went on for weeks and weeks. I was pushed around in the wheelchair by many of my friends there. Many of them were praying for me. I was continuing on doing the teaching God had given me to do.
So, several weeks later, one Sunday, this couple (Jeff and Dee) that I had become very close to, came up to me and Jeff, handed me a ‘tape series’ (4 tapes I think) from Andrew Wommack, called “What To Do When It Looks Like You’re Not Healed.” He said, “I believe this series of Andy’s would be helpful, so I want to loan it to you.” Of course, I accepted it and thanked them for it. I had been listening to Andy for years but I hadn’t run across that series.
So, the next morning (Monday morning) I made a committed decision to listen to the series, or, what I like to call, ‘an appointment with God’. I closed all the drapes and turned off the phone, so I wouldn’t be distracted. I brought the tape recorder into my little living room and placed it so that I could handle it all easily - I knew it would be several hours.
I began to listen to it and I committed to focusing on every detail. I sat there for a long time, taking in every Scripture and every word of helpful understanding. Yes, I had heard some of it before - but I determined to get everything out of this that God wanted me to get - because I was sure that He had planned this for me.
Several hours later, I was on the last part of the last tape, and I could tell that I was so absolutely convinced that God wanted me free from this problem, that I had an overwhelming peace and joy flooding my being. As Andy finished, and the people were all clapping, and singing, and standing and shouting, they all began to sing together. I wanted to sing with them. So I stood up out of the wheelchair and threw my hands up in the air and entered in to their praise. I WAS ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT - JUST LIKE I WAS RIGHT THERE WITH ALL THOSE PEOPLE!!!! THEN - ALL OF A SUDDEN - I REALIZED THERE WASN’T ANY PAIN IN MY LOWER BACK!!!!!
I stood still and was quiet for a minute - to make sure I was analyzing everything accurately. I WALKED AROUND A BIT - AND I HAD NO PAIN! I WAS TRULY HEALED!
I began praising the Lord and thanking Him for the healing, for His WORD OF TRUTH, and all those promises. The tape was over - it was just me and Jesus. I will never forget that miraculous moment. What a wonderful and powerful and loving GOD our Heavenly Father is, who keeps His promises, and has taken us into His family and, through His Word, has shown us how everything works!
I threw away the prescriptions. I didn’t want them in my presence. My God had kept His promise! I didn’t need the medicine!!! This was really a miraculous moment for me - and I believe the Lord wanted me to share it in detail today because in those last two verses we were talking about, ‘Suffering and Patience’. I have learned that, while we are in these physical bodies on this earth, there are times when there’s a little suffering sometimes - and God’s way of us getting through that and coming out the other side ‘smelling like a rose’ (Giggle), is through putting complete trust in God and His Word - and operating in PATIENCE - FREE OF DOUBT AND UNBELIEF - AND QUESTIONING GOD AND OTHERS WITH, “WHY - WHY - WHY!”
Brothers and sisters, our faith must be based on the WORD OF GOD with all those promises which are, “Yes and Amen.” I’m going to read 2 Corinthians 1:20 - “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him, Amen, to the glory of God through us.” Did you get that? They don’t happen just automatically from Heaven - they come THROUGH US! We have to believe them and receive them. THEN THEY MANIFEST IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD.
Getting ahold of this powerful truth is HUGELY IMPORTANT IN LIVING GRACEFULLY. If a life is being lived with constant questions as to why God does this and doesn’t do that, with doubt and unbelief rising up in you instead of FAITH, it is really difficult to live life gracefully.
I have learned, in my life of 86 years now - 73 of them being born again - that I have to believe, deep down in my heart (where only the Lord and me are aware of) that He meant what He said in all those promises in the Word. Jesus made some powerful promises (there in the New Testament) to all who would follow Him and believe in Him. I have to really, really, really, believe Him and talk and act according to what I believe deep within me. It’s not about putting on a good show. God knows what’s truly in your heart.
I have learned that, if I’m having questions upon questions about why, when, how, where, and on and on and on, I’d truly better center in on convincing my heart that He meant what He said, so I can really TRUST HIM. I have found that SOAKING IN THOSE PROMISES UNTIL THEY ARE MORE REAL TO ME THAN WHAT I CAN SEE OR FEEL is the only way to strengthen my faith in Him.
If I’m having a ‘faith’ problem, I like to read in one of the four Gospel books - and read OUTLOUD the words that Jesus spoke to the people so that my ears can hear the words that came out of Jesus’ mouth to all His followers. I like to imagine myself being in that crowd of people, listening to the LORD OF THE UNIVERSE SPEAKING TO ME.
I really have learned that living that way in my day-to-day life produces a graceful life. It’s not me huffing and puffing and trying real hard to do everything right - it’s about a close relationship with the KING OF THE WORLD, WHO HAS GIVEN ME A BRAND NEW SPIRIT AND GIVEN TO ME, IN THAT NEW SPIRIT, EVERYTHING I NEED TO LIVE A GRACEFUL LIFE WHILE I’M HERE ON THIS EARTH. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME - IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM - BUT I HAVE TO BELIEVE IT!
So - o - o, when you get right down to it, we’re all a work in progress. God wants for the last years of our lives here on this earth, whether it’s still 20 or 30 years here, or maybe just 5 or 6 more years here, to be lives which show the rest of the world around us what GRACE LOOKS LIKE. When we get ahold of these truths, about the way He wants us to live - from our hearts - it will draw people to Him. He wants us to treat people, from our hearts, the way He is toward them - full of GRACE AND MERCY!! In other words, giving them Grace (UNDESERSVED FAVOR) that they don’t deserve) and Mercy (FORGIVENESS) and not giving them what they do deserve.
The only way we can live like that is by taking in the TRUTH OF THE WORD OF GOD, and by accessing the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, which is in our NEW BORN AGAIN SPIRITS. God wants the rest of the years, however many there are, while we’re here on this earth to be showing the rest of the world (from our hearts) the way Jesus lived - because He has given us the power to do that! We can live GRACEFULLY!
Scriptures for this lesson
1 Peter 2:24
2 Corinthians 1:20