At TGCW21, Nancy Guthrie teaches on James chapters 4 and 5 and paints a picture of two different songs being sung to us—the world’s song of self-indulgence and self-accomplishment, and the song of God’s sovereign plan of patient endurance through suffering. She explains that we must reject the world’s song and instead, sing the song of Scripture, which tells us to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord.
Singing God’s song of Scripture so that it comes out in our dreams, ambitions, and plans is the way to endure suffering. Guthrie encourages steadfast waiting with two reminders:
1. The prophets suffered and were blessed, and so will we be.
2. Consider Job, who refused to give up on God, and be sure that God will work in and through the worst things in our lives to refine us as we wait on him.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Nancy Guthrie: Thank you for being here. We’re so happy to be here in this room together. And I’m so happy that so many of you are joining us here virtually. Can I? Can I tell you one of my pet peeves? I find myself really annoyed by how much money all these insurance companies spend on advertising. And also that most of the commercials are really senseless. Am I right? Now, I mean, don’t get me started talking about that, you know, talking Gecko, or flow with her really heavy eyeliner, or that that creature likes that’s half man and half motorcycle. I don’t get that at all. That’s just weird. But we have to admit that insurance companies have done a good job implanting their jingles in our heads, haven’t they?
In fact, I’m going to give that a little test. See how you’re doing on this. I’m going to say the name of an insurance company. And then I want you to sing back to me, their jingles and for just this portion you at home. We have made special arrangements for us to be able to hear you doing this at home during this time. But so Alright, so are you ready? We think to me, all right. State Farm. Can you see the name the song? Yeah, you got it. See? Yeah. How about Liberty Mutual? Mammals creative? Yes. Okay. How about Farmers Insurance? How about here is the granddaddy like nationwide? Yeah, Brad Paisley, Peyton Manning, that would be so proud of you right now. Now, here’s the thing about this, none of you decided at one point that you wanted to implant those songs in your head. But they’re there. And it’s not just jingles that gets stuck somewhere in our brains. It’s the world’s ways.
And it’s the world’s wisdom or probably more rightly, the world’s foolishness that gets implanted in our brains. And it begins to work its way through our lives because it’s the atmosphere that we’re breathing in, day in and day out. But in this book, that we have been working through the book of James, it’s been inviting us to breathe in a very different atmosphere. He’s been inviting us to reject worldly wisdom, which if you remember he called earthly unspiritual, demonic in favor of receiving wisdom from above, that God gives generously. He wants something other than the jingles or the mantras that the world gives us to be implanted in our minds, and in our hearts. So that that will be what shapes our opinions and motivates our actions and tames the tongue. And what is that he wants that influence to be the implanted word.
Now, as you see, because it’s not that James doesn’t want any songs in our heads. In fact, as we work our way through this passage, we’re gonna sense that James has some songs, a voice inside his head that seems to motivate his message, and it seems to feed his sense of urgency, and it is the voice of this IMPLANTED WORD. It’s the voice of the law and the prophets. It’s the voice of Jesus himself. So let’s listen. To hear what songs or mantras the world sings to us that James is challenging us to reject. As well as the songs of the Scripture seems to us that James is challenging us to sing to ourselves and to the world around us. These are songs he hopes we will never forget. Because these are songs that have the power to shape, how we talk about our plans and ambitions. These songs have the power to change the way we make money and the way we treat those we work with and who works For us, these songs have the power to change how we respond when we are mistreated. But before we dive into what James has to say, I think that we have to determine who he’s talking to, in my particular part of the passage.
Open your Bibles to the book of James, if you haven’t already. And let’s actually look first at the first chapter of James, because there in James chapter one, verse two, he tells us who he is addressing in this letter. And then verse one, two is he speaks to him do see it there, he speaks to them as brothers, which we could rightly read as brothers and sisters. And I want you to see that three more times. He keeps calling them, brother brothers. Look at verse nine, do you see their verse 16. And Chapter One speaks to them as brothers, verse 19, he speaks to them as brothers. And actually six more times before we get to the passage that we’re in. He, in fact, right before my passage, Look in chapter four, verse 11, he speaks to those he is writing to as brothers. But we’re going to begin in chapter four, verse 14, and I want you to notice, he doesn’t call them brothers. And we’re going to move in chapter five verse one, and notice he doesn’t call them brothers. So the both of these begin in a similar way. First, he says, Come now you who say and for 13, and five, one come now you rich, so evidently speaking to people who may have been a part of the church gathering, but they may not be brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have seen on this tour we’ve been taking through James, that genuine faith is evidenced in a person’s life, who is in Christ, by what flows out of their lives. And evidently, James sees some things flowing out of the lives of these people that he’s talking to, that give evidence, not of humble dependence on Christ, but of self sufficient pride. He sees not Grace inspire generosity. Rather, he sees self indulgent wealth. So let’s listen to what James has to say to them. Begin in James chapter four, verse 13, come now, you who say, today or tomorrow, we’re going to go into such and such a town, and we’re going to spend a year and we’re going to trade and make a profit. You do not know what tomorrow will bring? What is your life for your a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes? Instead, you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will do this or that as it is you boast in your arrogance, and all such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him, it is sin. So who are these people? Are they merely people who make plans? I hope not. Because I’m a planner. I’m already planning fall of 2022. Okay. And I’ve already picked out a place where I hope my son will get married and there’s no girl in the picture.
I sent an email to someone I’m trying to get to work with me on a project a few weeks ago, and I told him God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life. And by the way, this year has been a really hard year for us planners has it not? Last March, we thought, okay, we’ll stay home a couple of weeks. Yeah, sure. That’s no problem. We were blissfully arrogant, weren’t we have the reality of the coming year and we have been learning that what James says is so true, we do not know what tomorrow will bring. So we’ve been trying to learn perhaps more than ever before to actually make these words from James a part of of our cab you Larry, if the Lord wills we will live and do this or that. So I don’t think he’s simply talking to those who like to plan ahead, and there’s actually something more sinister that’s going on here. He says these people did you see it they boast in their arrogance.
They have plans for making money, a lot of money and they are arrogantly think that they are the masters of their own destiny. So you see, the people James are speaking to are there are people who assume that their lives are all about what they will accomplish, what they will achieve what they will acquire, apart from God, with no need or thought of him. And James calls that evil. And James seems to have the song that the writer of Ecclesiastes sings about about life being fragile, and breathed, life is a vapor or a mist. He also seems to have heard the song the whole of the Old Testament sings about the God’s providential guidance of history. In fact, every person and particle towards its appointed NS and our utter dependence on God for life and breath, and he wants us to know that song by heart, so that it comes out in the way we talk about our dreams, and our ambitions, and our plans.
If James, were writing this to women who live in our day, in our setting, knowing the songs our culture sings to us, I wonder if he might say, I know what the world is saying to you, they are saying to you, you can achieve your destiny. It’s just it’s up to you. Believe in yourself, make something of yourself. That’s the world’s wisdom. That’s the world’s wisdom. And the wisdom for as the wisdom from above begins to shape our thinking and our planning, we begin to think about these things differently. So that we begin to say, my life will be whatever God makes of it, it will last as long as he intends. And my greatest accomplishments will be those ordinary, perhaps unseen acts of faith and love and obedience that he empowers. And it certainly isn’t going to be all about making money, and destiny. He is my destiny. I believe in Him, not myself. What is my life you ask to live is Christ, and to die is game. That’s my whole plan. And so I say, if the Lord wills, I will live. And when the Lord wills, I will die. And until then my life is going to be about humble reliance on God to work in me. And through me, it’s not going to be about self sufficient pride, or about what I intend to accomplish, or acquire.
So that’s what James has to say to those whose self sufficient pride is revealed in the way they talk about their plans and their ambitions. Now, it may be that the next group he’s going to address or at least impart the same people because these people with their plans, they intended to trade and make a profit. And so money seems to be what’s driving their plans and ambitions. And it certainly seems to be the case for the people that James addresses next. Beginning in James five, verse one, come now you rich, weep, how for the mist miseries that are coming upon you, your riches have rotted and your garments are moth eaten, your gold and silver is corroded and their corrosion is going to be evidence against you. That will eat your flesh like fire. Yikes. You have laid up treasure in the last days. The whole the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields which you kept backed by fraud, are crying out against you. And the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the LORD of hosts. You have lived on the earth and luxury and in self indulgence.
You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter, you have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. Earlier in James we read that the struggling Christians were showing partiality to Rich people who came to their church, the very ones who were oppressing them, the ones who according to James two, six, it says they blaspheme the honorable name by which they’re called. They’re taking the Lord’s name on themselves in vain. So it seems that James now speaks directly to those rich oppressors. Clearly, this crowd worships the false idols of wealth, and comfort, and self. They may be in the church, but they clearly are not in Christ. James sees exactly how their money is working for them or really against them. He doesn’t try tell them to do hard, work harder, try better, he tells them to weep and how all because of the future that awaits them beyond this life, evidently, all of that money that they think is going to comfort and secure their old age, it’s not going to completely disappear when they die.
They’re going to see it again. Except it won’t be shiny and valuable. It won’t be a number on their bank statement. It’s going to be corroded and rotten. It’s going to be presented as Exhibit A, in the courtroom, at the final judgment as evidence against their claims of having been genuinely connected to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they’re corroded coins, are actually going to begin to eat their flesh. Rather than comfort and protect them, James says it’s going to attack and consume them. Now, of course, the problem isn’t that they have money, just like the problem wasn’t making plans. So the real problem is the way they made their money. They have taken advantage of these desperate believers who were fleeing the persecution that came upon them in Jerusalem.
And so these rich people hired them to mow their fields and harvest their crops, but they didn’t pay them. Or at least they didn’t pay what they owed to them what they promised them or on time. You see in these, this culture, wages were paid at the end of every day, and every day’s work. And so if these workers didn’t get paid, they didn’t needs and their kids didn’t need. And so what’s happened to all of those wages they didn’t pay. James says that they’re in this courtroom too. And they’re not silent. They are crying out against the rich, hoarding, luxury loving exploiters. All their corroded money has found a voice and it’s crying out against them. It has an appetite. It’s consuming them. I mean, it’s really a pretty gruesome picture, isn’t it?
But I think it actually isn’t the scariest part of this picture. The part that should have given James first audience pause is when he said that the cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord of hosts. Notice that it doesn’t say the cries of the harvesters have reached God. It says the cries of the harvest is harvesters have reached the Lord of hosts, the Lord of hosts, as in the head of an angelic army that is arrayed for battle, the final battle that will crush all wickedness and purge all the evil in the world to make way for the new heaven and the new earth. And the angels in this army are not those chubby cherubs of modern artwork.
These are Fierce Creatures. In fact, every time they appear in the Bible, the first thing they have to say is don’t be afraid. But here I think James wants those he is speaking to to be very afraid. They they’ve been living a life of luxury and self indulgence at the expense of others. And they’re so deluded, they don’t even realize what’s happening to them. They are being they’re like livestock, who are being fattened up to head to the butcher shop. And why is that because they’ve treated those who are precious to Christ as if their lives have no value. Through fraud and cruelty. They’ve caused the deaths of those Christ loves. And while those oppressed workers might not have fought back and resisted, the Lord of hosts is going to fight for them. He will make this right. And it won’t be pretty. I think James, we’re writing to women in our day in our setting. I wonder if he might say to us, the world is singing a song to you and the world is saying, indulge yourself. You’re worth it. Take care of yourself, pamper yourself. Those people they’re just lucky to have a job.
That’s the world’s ways. The song the world sings in our ears. But as the wisdom from above begins to shape how we earn and spend our money and how we treat those who work with us and workforce, we hear a very different song. We hear Jesus singing in our ear, he’s saying, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where Moston rather going to destroy, where thieves are going to break in and steal layup for yourself treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys where thieves do not break in and steal. And when we hear him say it, we really believe it. And that makes us glad givers, fair, even generous employers glad investors in things that are going to pay eternal dividends.
Even though we might not have some of the same luxuries or experiences or possessions that people around us have. And as that song about having treasure in heaven begins to work its way through our thinking and valuing. It generates a new sense of contentment with what we have a greater concern for those who have far less, and we begin finding that we want to treat those who work with us and those who struggle to find work with dignity. We become more conscientious about paying our bills and paying those who do work for us on time. And instead of hoarding our wealth to pass along to our children. It brings us incredible joy to deploy our wealth, to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around us right now.
So James has talked to these self sufficient planners and these self indulgent oppressors. And now he seems to turn his attention back to his brothers and sisters. And he knows that they’ve been harmed by these rich oppressors. He knows how hard it has been for them to endure it to see their parents and their children go hungry to endure the going without. And the marginalization and the deprivation, even as they’ve watched those risks of pressures, show up at their church meetings and sit in the best seats and shake their head with a sermon and partake of the bread and wine. And perhaps these brothers and sisters are tempted to begin to forget or want to forget this plan to follow Jesus because it’s not proving of worldly advantage to them. Perhaps they’re tempted to grumble at every gathering, recruiting others to join them whether they’re gonna we’re going to take matters into our own hands, we’re going to set things right into them.
James writes, Look in chapter five, verse seven, be patience. Be patient, therefore brothers, until the calming of the Lord. Now I try to imagine what their response might be at this point. And I have to imagine that they would say patience. You say, James, you I don’t want to be patient. I want revenge. ENTJ I want my piece of flesh, and you want me to be patient until the coming of the Lord. You mean we might have to endure this kind of treatment? until Jesus comes back? How are we going to do that? Well, James is going to explain. He’s going to show them that they need to listen to the song that’s been sung throughout the whole of the Old Testament and Indian, the new, the song, the Bible sings of patience, endurance in suffering, while we wait for the Lord. And they need to let that song soothe their anger over the injustice they have experience, as well as fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit, James writes, and five or seven, 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. So here James is using this agricultural metaphor that they would have been very familiar with, they know they can’t control and manipulate the the rain, they have to trust God to send the rain in his timing.
But James is actually doing more than just using this agricultural metaphor to make his point. He’s actually reminding them of the words sung by Old Testament prophets, such as Moses, who use the imagery of early and late rains to speak of God’s faithfulness. And the prophet Joel, here’s what he wrote. He said, Be glad are children of Zion and rejoice in the LORD your God, for He has given the early rain listen to this part, for your vindication. He has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain. So when Joel’s writing about the early rain, he’s using it as a metaphor for God’s faithfulness, to vindicate his people by bringing judgment on their enemies. That’s what this first audience would have heard and what we need to hear. And when he when Joel wrote about the later rains, or the latter rains, he was speaking about the refreshment and healing and restoration in the lives of God’s people after that, vindication is accomplished. And so James wants the people in his day to begin to sing this song of faithfulness, of God’s faithfulness to vindicate his own, and to allow it to work in them toward developing patience.
Look, in chapter five, the middle of verse eight, he says, establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another brothers so that you may not be judged Behold, the judge is standing at the door, can’t you just picture the judge with his hand on the door, ready to push it open? And enter into the difficult reality of the injustice in this world. And when I see that picture, I just long for him to come through the door, don’t you? So in one sense, we understand what he’s saying. But in another sense, we don’t really get what he is saying. Because this generation that he told was the coming was at hand they lived a long time ago. So did James and the other New Testament writers who wrote about the coming of Jesus being soon and they all do. Did they simply get it wrong?
Did they misunderstand? No. We misunderstand. When James says soon, he’s speaking of Jesus’s return in the context of the entire sweep of redemptive history. As he takes it all in he sees the creation of the world. Check. Redemption of his people out of slavery in Egypt and delivering deliverance into the promised land. Check. The establishment of a king on the throne over Israel, check the exile and return check. The incarnation, the life, the death, the resurrection. In the ascension of Jesus, check the gospel going out to all nations check. And the next big event, the one that’s coming soon, is the second coming of Jesus Christ, when he’s going to come to earth to judge his enemies and save His people. And so rather than being lulled into thinking, it isn’t really going to happen, James says, establish or strengthen your hearts by and for this reality, I’m going to repeat that. Establish and strengthen your hearts by and for this reality, this certainty. And how are we going to establish or strengthen our hearts in such a way it’s going to keep us from grumbling about the injustice and suffering in our lives, we’ve got to fill our hearts and minds with the right songs.
And we got to sing them again and again. And it’s not going to be the songs that the world is singing. You see, the world is saying to us, you don’t deserve this, you deserve better. The world is saying stand up for yourself. The world is saying, you know, sometimes you just gotta take things into your own hands. And these songs sound good to us, especially when we’ve been hurt. They’re delicious. Especially when we’ve been hurt inside somebody else’s greed, or corruption or power grab or cruelty. And so we must rehearse the songs of Scripture, the song that says, Vengeance is Mine, I will we play says the Lord. The song that says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. And Jesus is final words to us in Revelation when he said, Surely I am coming soon.
You see, that’s what enables us to sing and to say, my suffering is going to only be what God allows it to be. And it is only going to last as long as he allows it to last. It allows us to say, I can wait. I can be patient, I can wait for the judge the righteous judge to come and set things right. James continues putting in front of his readers two examples of patience and suffering, for them to observe, that will help them in developing this patience of their own. And his first example is the Old Testament prophets. Look with me in verse 10, of chapter five as an example of suffering and patients brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, behold, we consider those blessed, who remained steadfast.
So James doesn’t tell us which of the prophets are supposed to be an example for us. But actually, he doesn’t have to, because they all experienced a significant suffering. You know, Isaiah spent his entire ministry preaching to deaf ears. And then we are told that he was sawn into Jeremiah was cast into a pit by his own people. In fact, Steven, on that day when he was being stoned right before then he said, which of the prophets did your father’s not persecute? You see, those whose lives have centered around the word of God. Taking it in, giving it out have never been treated well by the world.So why do we think our lives should be any different? Note in verse 11, see that first word, behold, it’s not a word we use every day is it? But whenever I see it, I think, look at this. Look at this.
And he says, Look at this. We consider, we can, he says, Behold, we consider those blessed, who remained steadfast. Well, this is radically different, isn’t it? From what the world considers to be a hashtag blessed life. These prophets who were mistreated, they were actually blessed. Ladies, here’s biblical wisdom for us to embrace. And it has the power to completely change our perspective about our lives. Because it’s telling us that the mark of blessing on a woman’s life is not that she doesn’t have to suffer for her bold allegiance to Christ. It’s that when she suffers for it, it doesn’t shut her up. It doesn’t cause her to compromise, or cause her to give up. So James uses the prophets as example. And now he has a second example. He wants to point them to to develop patience. He says, you’ve heard about the steadfastness of job. And you’ve seen the purposes of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. So James encourages us to consider job here was a man of genuine faith, who lost everything he owned, nearly everyone he loved.
And then he lost his health. He knew that God wasn’t punishing him for some sort of hidden sin. And he knew that the God he worshipped was worthy of trust, even if he didn’t, didn’t understand what God was doing. He simply refuse to give up on God. In fact, he says, Though he’s Slaney, yet, I will hope in Him. And it makes you wonder what song was job rehearsing in his mind, that could enable him to say something like that, in such a difficult situation? And I want to know, because I want to have faith like that, don’t you? I think we get to hear what song he’s singing when he declares, for I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last, he’s going to stand Do you hear it, he’s going to come, he’s going to stand upon the earth. And after my skin is thus destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God. You see what filled Joe with confidence when everything was so dark in his life was confidence that his Redeemer, his Avenger, his healer was coming. confidence that resurrection, restoration was coming, confidence that God was refining him in his suffering.
And one day he would see the beauty and glory of God in those sufferings, even though he couldn’t see it now. And in those dark days, he rehearsed what he knew about the God about God, the fact that he is going to come and it established his heart, it strengthened his heart for the waiting, my friends, if you belong to him, you can be sure that God will work in and through the worst things in your life, to refine you, and to conform you into the image of His Son. And one day, all of these things that are such a struggle now are going to be in the rearview mirror. And perhaps you will be able to say, on the other side of suffering, like Job said, my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. And you won’t be bitter. You’ll be blessed. We want to hear the song that the prophets sing and that job song but more than anything, we want to hear the song that Jesus, the only perfectly righteous suffer things we want. And we need to know what was the song that Jesus replayed in his head that enabled him to patiently endure the suffering and humiliation of crucifixion?
Well, I think Peter, and the writer of Hebrews helps us because Peter tells us when Christ was reviled, He did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten. He continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. Here’s a picture of active trust, perhaps a review about what he knew for Jesus, what he knew about his father God will do right in his timing. His perfect justice is, will make sure that evil is punished I can trust in my life and my death are in his hands. Then the writer of Hebrews tells us, it was for the joy set before him, that Jesus endured the cross as he faced the grace. With all of its anticipated agony, there was a song of joy on repeats in his hearts, there would be incredible joy on the other side of the agony, the joy of having a ransomed people from every tribe, tongue and nation for God, the joy of reunion with his father, the joy of a resurrection day, the joy of being presented with a bride who has been made beautiful, who he will spend an eternity with, in a cleansed creation.
This song established his heart so that he was able to be steadfast doing his father’s will, it filled him with anticipatory joy, so that he was strengthened to endure the suffering of the cross, my friend, this is the song that enables us to face being marginalized, or ignored or overlooked, or mistreated without grumbling, without giving up but instead established, steadfast as the implanted word is set to music in our souls. And as it begins to work its way through our lives. It’s going to shape how we talk about our plans, and our ambitions. It’s going to shape how we treat those we work with and those who work for us and what we do with our money. It’s going to keep us from grumbling. Against those who mistreat us, keep us from exacting revenge from those who hurt us deeply. It’s going to establish our hearts so that we will be able to entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly, even as we patiently await and invest all of our hopes in the coming of the Lord. In fact, I think we have to sing about it right now. Don’t we? Sing with me?
When he comes our glorious key all his friends some home to breathe, then new this song, we’ll see what has save your let’s pray. Hallelujah, what a savior. We see you Lord, as Judge standing at the door. And that makes us long for you’re coming. As we turn on the news. And as we just operate in this world, we our eyes are constantly on things that need to be set, right? And so we are so grateful for this word that assures us that you are not your ears are not stopped, you hear cries. You’re you’re not blind to what’s going on in the world at large and neither are you blind on what’s going on in the individual lives of every woman in this room and every woman who’s participating with us online.
You see, you know, you’re standing at the door door, Lord, would you give us the grace and the face If to be patient, and to wait for you, would you establish our hearts even as we set our hearts on your shore and certain coming? Lord, would you show us what it’s going to mean to stop taking in the world’s message and stop making that so much a part of our vocabulary and our thinking and our feeling and our valuing? And instead, Lord, we welcome the implanted word, this wisdom from above. That’s the creed that creates the change in our lives. We’re desperate for this word that will establish us and strengthen us to have a life that’s truly blessed. So we’re looking for you. We believe we believe you when you said you’re coming soon, and we’re setting our eyes on you. And we are looking for you to come. In Your name I pray, amen.