Recently, I have been brushing up on nautical knowledge. I found a list of “What every skipper should know in case of an emergency” this gives step by step instructions of how to function as a captain of a vessel. In this long list… one theme kept reoccurring.
The skipper is entrusted with much.
It just so happens that this topic is highly applicable to the subject that we are studying today. We are about to dive into the beginning two sections of chapter five in James. We will break down “The warning to the rich” and “Patience in suffering” and though they might seem like topics that are unrelated James, who is a skilled communicator, blends them seamlessly together.
These two sections do two main things for us.
They are meant to remind us, and instruct us.
These verses are somewhat rhetorical. They were written for people that would never receive the letter but it is written nonetheless to influence.
Remember who this letter is addressed to. It is not addressed to the wicked and the rich, it is for the Christ followers dispersed among the nations. He really isn’t addressing the wicked and wealthy, he is making a rhetorical statement addressing the rich and worldly who do not produce righteous actions.
So if James isn’t directly addressing the rich and worldly we can assume that he is addressing Christ followers. But that would be preaching to the choir, wouldn’t it? Because if people are true Christ followers then they would already know everything James says here about the people he describes in verses 1-6.
See here, James is reminding Christ followers to keep clinging to and walking in righteousness; even Christ followers can forget the consequences of the pursuit of worldly possessions, wealth, and status.
One of the things I had mentioned in our earlier sessions was that the pursuit of money is one of the trials and temptations that will pull us out of the Christian process. It is among one of the many temptations with which Christ followers can be lead astray. No one is safe from this temptation because in some way, shape, or form we all have or will struggle with the temptation of worldly prosperity. Worldly prosperity comes in the main form of a “Love of money” or the “Pursuit of wealth”.
That’s why at the beginning of Chapter 1, James introduces us to the topic when he says,
“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
He just gave us a little taste of what he was going to say at the beginning of chapter five.
But the message in James 1:9-11 is the same message as James 5:1-6:
It is important to remember the balance of prosperity. You can be rich and still serve God and you can be poor and still worship wealth. You will lose your focus on God if you develop a love for money, worldly possessions, or social status. That shift in focus will pervert your perspective on what prosperity looks like. If your perspective of prosperity becomes perverted, you will turn away from God’s right perspective. This is a dangerous place to be because you will then be the same wicked people James describes.
This is such a vital topic for James to bring up because our lives become complicated. We go through dry seasons. It becomes more difficult to live as a Christian because of all the opposition and the trials that we face. Because of all this we become discontent; we begin to compare our lives to the lives of others whose lives seem to be more prosperous than our own. When we compare, it begins to make our hearts question God and what He is doing in our lives.
We look at how those who are unbelievers prosper and might find ourselves saying:
“Why can’t I live like that?”
“Why can’t I have what they have?”
“Their life seems so easy and mine is a constant struggle…”
Psalm 73 shows us that even as Christ followers we can get caught up in this temptation. Verse 3 says, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
The psalmist goes on to basically repeat the above questions I’ve listed, but he changes his tune in verse 17:
“Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.”
See, ultimately James reminds us of the same thing the psalmist was reminded of. God gives true riches to His believers; true wealth that is everlasting. God will judge the wicked and He will bless the righteous. Justice will be restored to the Christ followers.
Collect yourself and come to God. He will redirect your perspective to see what he sees.
Though you may be poor and afflicted, you are blessed. Though you might have much money, it ought to be used for His glory and not your own gain. To the person who has a balanced perspective on prosperity, you will be blessed. God will avenge you for your righteousness.
James reminded us of the dangers of losing our focus. He reminded us what the consequences were for being distracted by the things of this world. Now, James tells us to remain steadfast because we are God’s chosen and elect. This section of scripture is meant to instruct Christ followers.
He tells us to wait it out:
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)
Be patient, quiet your spirit, and collect yourself. Remember that your God will avenge you for the unfair treatment the world inflicts on you. Your deeds do not go unnoticed. Your heart is not a mystery to God. His vengeance, fulfilment of promises, and blessings come in His perfect timing. Think on this when you go through trials and be patient in the meantime.
He tells us to follow through with our duty:
“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:9-11)
Yes we must be patient, but we shouldn’t be idle.
Christ Followers should strive to persevere through the trials and testing in the Christian process. When we go through the refining fire we come out every time looking more and more like the image of Christ. It is our duty to lead others by our conduct and by the way that we act out our faith. The fruit we produce through our faith exemplifies Christ. We must follow through with our duties as Christians without grumbling. We ought to remember that God entrusts us to keep our lives on track, to care for the blessings we receive, and to lead others.
James is saying in this passage;
When you go through trials don’t complain about it. Remember you are to consider it pure Joy. God will judge the heart. Those who remain steadfast are those who have sought the joy of the Lord above sympathy for their affliction.
Job had many afflictions come upon him, yet, in the midst of all his trials he never blamed God. Job did not grumble against others and he never cursed God. Instead, he always collected himself and continued on. He knew what his duty was; to serve God and remain faithful and steadfast. We ought to live by this example. By being faithful to God we are performing our Christian duties. Because Job was steadfast he was able to be entrusted with much because he had proven himself worthy of more responsibility.
A “Skipper” is a captain of a ship or boat. As the Skipper you are responsible for the ship, the crew, and whatever else is on board. The skipper is entrusted with a great amount of responsibility. A skipper is first entrusted with a boat. On that boat he learns how to follow procedures, how to stay on course, and how to survive severe weather. If a skipper is caught in the middle of a storm he must learn how to make it through safely; He must be patient in the storm and must wait it out. If the skipper cannot perform his duties and proves to be defective in his job, than he will never be entrusted with much because he can’t even be trusted with what he has. A skipper must be passionate about and faithful in his job. If a skipper is not passionate he will never be thorough, useful, or effective in his job. The “Good skipper” who handles the storms and fulfills his duties is entrusted with much. The “Good skipper” is entrusted with a larger ship, cargo, a crew, passengers, and much more.
May I suggest that you are a skipper? God has entrusted you with a boat. Yet, if you do not learn how to keep yourself on course or how to weather the storms God will never entrust you with more.
James reminds us that we must not go off course, and he instructs us that we must be able to ride out the storms.
If we can’t be trusted with these simple terms He proposes, how are we to think that we can be trusted with more?
If you can be trusted with the little things, God will entrust you with greater.
Have you been shifting off course? Have you been led astray by the desire for:
- Wealth and riches
- Earthly Possessions
- Fame/status/the world’s attention
- Have you been patient in the storms?
- Have you been complaining in your trials?
- Do you fail to have the Joy of the Lord in your struggles?
- Are you sick of waiting for God’s promises in your life?
- Do you feel forgotten by God?
If your answer is “Yes” to any of these you are unfit to do anything great for God because you have lost your ability to perform the necessary duties of a productive Christ follower. But there is good news. You can be a “Good skipper” entrusted with much.
Collect yourself and go before God. Admit your struggles, admit your failures, and ask that He equip you. Listen:
- To the instruction in His Word.
- To the wisdom from your leaders (leaders in the church that are entrusted with your spiritual wellbeing).
- For the answers to your prayers.
Make sure that the wisdom you are listening for is applied to your life.
Lord, I pray that I have a passion for you. I pray that I am faithful as a Christ follower. I have been led astray and I have been impatient through the trials. I long to be entrusted with more, I long to do great things for God, but I need you to equip me! Lord I pray for your strength.
I am defective in my faithlessness but I am effective in your faithfulness.