Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives (Good Gifts 4:5)

In this week’s video lesson we examine James 5:1-6 and dig into what makes for a fattened heart in our relationship with God and one another. We are imperfect believers in an imperfect world, but He is an ever Faithful and Perfect Father with Good Gifts for us! We also bounce around Scripture to discover God’s gift of a wide open heart through our Lord and Savior.

What gifts does He give us for stretching our hearts wide open for Christ Jesus?

Good Gifts Week 4 – Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Share the graphic today or download the image as a phone wallpaper.

Let’s pray this prayer together- Lord, open wide our hearts for You and Your people.

Video notes:

James 5:5 – “You have fattened your hearts…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm

James 5:6 – “He does not resist you.” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/498.htm

2 Corinthians 6:11 “our heart is open wide…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/4115.htm

 

The patience of Job…or not so much (Good Gifts 4:4)

People who reference the patience of Job have clearly never read the book. Job is a man and, in being such, he only has so much patience. The book of Job is also quite a comfort for someone afflicted with just about anything, because Job was afflicted with just about everything. Let’s hear a little from our friend, Job, and then we’ll get to James.

Job 3:11-13 

“Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
    I would have slept; then I would have been at rest…

Job 14:1-3

“Man who is born of a woman
    is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers;
    he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one
    and bring me into judgment with you?

Job 23:2-4

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
    my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
    and fill my mouth with arguments.

This is me, slightly taking Job out of context and that’s not fair. Job vacillates back and forth, just like we do, between frustration and anger, understanding, angst, hope, asking questions, and jumping in with an answer too quickly. He’s a man, not a martyr. He’s a child of God, imperfect, but redeemed.

He’s not in the Bible because he was patient. He’s in the Bible because he was steadfast.

There’s a difference.

Let’s look at where James and Job meet in James 5:8-11. The first part of this passage overlaps where we left off in yesterday’s lesson.

You also, be patient. 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. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.

The Bible never said that Job wasn’t angry, didn’t have to confront ugly emotions, nor does it say he gave great answers for himself or his friends. He simply gave God an open place to work, and that’s what we can do as well.

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” 

We live an imperfect life with lots of bitter and lots of sweet. Steadfastness is holding fast, clinging to our Faithful Father through both. Job’s story gives us insight about how to cling when life is hard, as well as when it’s wonderful. Look up the following passages from Job and find what gifts God gives us to remain steadfast, even when we aren’t patient.

The Lord remains steadfast.

Job 10:11-13

You clothed me with skin and flesh,
    and knit me together with bones and sinews.
12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,
    and your care has preserved my spirit.
13 Yet these things you hid in your heart;
    I know that this was your purpose.

We read the Steadfast Word.

Job 23:10-12

But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to his steps;
    I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
13 But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
    What he desires, that he does.  

We fix our eyes on Eternity, which is real and steadfast.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!

We are given the steadfast Holy Spirit.

Job 27:2-4

“As God lives, who has taken away my right,
    and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
as long as my breath is in me,
    and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
    and my tongue will not utter deceit.

Like Job, I say and will probably continue to say ridiculous things in my days, particularly on the hard ones, the bitter ones, and the sad ones, but the Holy Spirit gives me breath and life. God’s Word keeps me grounded, and His Son keeps me fixed on all those blessed tomorrows of Eternity with Him, rather than the struggle of a moment.

James turns our eyes to our Savior. Read James 5:11 one more time.

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.

Job is mentioned once, but James draws our attention to the Lord by repeating His name twice.

The Lord has a purpose.

The Lord is compassionate.

The Lord is merciful.

Many, like Job, have gone before us that have been steadfast because the Lord is steadfast. Who in your life has lived with eternity steadfast on their heart and mind?

Today, consider them, consider Job, consider the prophets, and consider the Lord. In the bitter and in the sweet, our beautiful Savior is always there.

What did God really promise me? (Good Gifts 4:3)

We are so much like little children when it comes to God.

We want what we want, how we want it, when we want it.

No? No? It’s just me?

I sincerely doubt it. I’m old enough, with enough grey hair, to look out at our culture and see our expectations of God are out of control. We don’t want a fire-and-brimstone God, one who judges our thoughts and actions, but we also don’t want a God who lets the sins of the murderer slide. We want Him to intervene, but we also want Him to leave well enough alone. We want Him to fix things in our lives, but we want to be absolutely in charge of our own lives. Can you see these ideas play out in the culture around you?

James, again, wants us to have a congruent picture of God, as well as a congruent walk of faith. He’s very concerned with who God really is, according to Scripture, not our changing pictures of Him.

In James chapter 5, he addresses the subject of promises – the things we hold God to, what we want from Him, what we expect from Him. In just two short verses, James turns our God-in-a-box ideas upside down and inside out.

Instead of looking inward at our own ideas and suggestions, James reminds us that our eyes, thoughts, ideas, and trust are firmly fixed on eternity in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit living in us.

Read James 5:7-8 –

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.

So, what does God promise? Let’s sit on that for a minute. What promises does He make to us? List some in your head or on paper.

He promises us – He values us (Luke 12:6-7).

He promises us – He loves us (Romans 8:38-39).

He promises us – He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9).

He promises us hope, a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

James 5 in my Bible begins with the subheading, “Warning to the Rich” and then another subheading “Patience in Suffering” before James 5:7-8. Subheadings are helpful, but remember, they are uninspired. They can play mental mind tricks and cause us to see the passage as two separate pieces instead of one letter. For our purposes today read through James 5:1-10 as one segment, forgetting the subheadings, and answer the questions that follow for yourself:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back 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 in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. 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. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

What does richness or wealth have to do with patience or impatience?

What grumbling may come against our brother because of wealth of any kind?

What did the prophets fight for in the name of the Lord and what does that have to do with patience? What does it have to do with wealth?

I can’t say it enough- in this world we like stuff. We value stuff. Because of that, even if we’re not really “stuff” people, we want stuff from God and we inadvertently hold Him to promises He never made. 

We look at our neighbors’ house and think – “Well, God, they have nicer things. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I’m faithful.”

We look at our neighbors’ family and think – “Well, God, their children are well behaved. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I follow You.”

We look at our neighbors’ lives and think, “They have it so much easier. Where’s the burden, Lord? Where’s the struggle? Why me, God? You are giving me less.”

These sound harsh, but the internal dialogue down deep helps us to understand our need for Jesus.

God promised Jesus.

End of sentence. All His promises (and there are many) could be wrapped up into that one sentence.

God promised Jesus.

No matter what else we want from Him, this is the promise that everything else clings to.

If we look deep down at what we want from God and don’t come up with Jesus, or something related to Jesus, it was never really promised to begin with.

James 5:8 tells us simply and eloquently –

Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Jesus is the promise.

In the struggle, I see Jesus tend to me. He is at hand.

In the abundance, I see Jesus’ overflowing love. He is at hand.

In the early rains, I see Jesus’ plans spring up. He is at hand.

In the late rains, I see Jesus’ perseverance and pursuit of me. He is at hand.

What promises are you asking of God today? Hold them out before Him. Ask yourself, ask God in prayer,

Is this about Jesus?

If not, it’s secondary. It wasn’t promised to begin with. It’s not eternity; it’s just now. It may happen, but it doesn’t have to happen, and our awareness of eternity brings patience.

I’m holding God to His promises with you, friends!

Lord, in Your Spirit, give us forgiveness, and always, always give us Jesus. Amen.




Discussion:

What promises of God can you recall from Scripture?

What promises do people hold God to that are not about Jesus?

What prayer requests do you have and how can you apply the question, “Is this about Jesus?” in those?