Sabbath School Lesson for December 6-12, 2014

We have learned from James in his epistle how we are to live for Jesus. But this week he zeros in on the event that makes these efforts so necessary. James is adamant in declaring that we need to be ready for Christ’s Coming, or parousia, as it’s called.

The word for “coming”, parousia in Greek, is also a word used to express the arrival of a king or other dignitary. Consider the extensive preparations that are made when the President of the United States travels anywhere for instance. Or just how much cleaner you want your house to be when important guests are coming to visit.

James, and other New Testament apostles, were ever mindful of the Second Coming and the need to be ready for it even back then. If you’ve ever wondered why they talked about the event being so near, then this week’s study is for you.

Key Text: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” James 5:8 NKJV

James is forthright in pronouncing the key ingredient needed in our waiting for the Lord’s return. We need patience. The same kind of patience that prophets and martyrs have needed down through the centuries, even before James’ time.

We all face trials and endure suffering to some extent in our lives, so the call to stand firm in our faith applies to all of us in the Christian faith, no matter what our place in history.

Sunday: Waiting for “Rain”

Notice the language of agriculture used by James in this verse:

“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.” James 5:7 NKJV

Even if you’re not a farmer, you have probably experienced this kind of waiting for something to blossom and grow–be it a special houseplant, bush or tree in your yard, or even your child or the child of someone you love. We can’t wait to see how the story ends or how the finished product looks.

All waiting requires a degree of patience. But notice what the farmer is waiting for. He’s waiting for the weather to bless his labors. How scary is that? To depend on the weather for the outcome of our crops? What kind of fool would do that?

Well, as Christians, our faith must look foolish at times too. Paul spoke of the natural mind perceiving the things of the Spirit as foolishness (I Corinthians 2:14).

To understand further this reference to the early and latter rains, we can go to the books of Hosea and Joel.

  • Hosea 6:1-3 “…Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.” NKJV
  • Joel 2:23 “…He will cause the rain to come down for you–The former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” NKJV

Joel 2:28, just a few verses away from this imagery of rain, we read: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” NKJV

Peter himself in Acts, chapter one, preached that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was the fulfillment of this prophecy. See Acts 1:14-21.

And what about this talk of the harvest? Jesus answers the question about what the harvest symbolizes. He says in Matthew 13:39 “…the harvest is the end of the world…”.

Discussion Questions: Read Matthew 13:28-30. Compare it with Malachi 3:17, 18. Why is it only at harvest time that the wheat and tares are distinguishable from each other?

Why do you think God allows the wheat and tares to grow together?

In terms of church discipline, how are we to deal with outright rebellion or apostasy that directly affects other church members, or the church as a whole? If the sole purpose of the “tares” is to choke out the wheat, are we to sit back and do nothing? What do you think James would have to say about this problem? What does patience look like in these instances?

Monday: How Near is “Near”?

James said in our key text, James 5:8, that His coming draweth nigh, or is near. But that was almost two thousand years ago. So, how are we to understand God’s promised return when it’s taking Him so long?

As we’ve found so often, James takes his counsel directly from his brother, Jesus. Jesus said, ” ‘…Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “ Matthew 4:17 NKJV He even told his disciples to preach that message. See Matthew 10:7.

Paul seems to have felt that this Coming was near also, with statements like “…now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11 NKJV And in Hebrews we read, “…exhorting one another, and so  much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25 NKJV

Jesus’ parting words with His disciples encompassed this same question about when He would come back:

“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.’ ” Acts 1:6, 7 NKJV

Studying Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of heaven would reveal that this kingdom has two aspects:

  1. a present, spiritual reality (when Jesus sets up residence in our heart) and
  2. a glorious, future reality (when He actually comes back in the clouds to take us to heaven with Him).

That’s why it’s important for us to be ready at all times, to “establish our hearts”, as James puts it.

This word for establish means to “fix firmly” or to “strengthen”. It means that we are so firmly attached to the Lord that we can’t be moved. It brings to my mind the roots system of certain plants or trees that are “rootbound”.


Paul describes this type of establishing with a little more description, when he says, “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” I Thessalonians 3:13 NKJV

He says further in II Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” NKJV Be sure and notice that God does the establishing; it’s not something we can muster up ourselves. Also, that…

  • it guards us from Satan’s temptations and
  • leads us to holiness, or holy living.

But we can also understand this “establishing” with these texts:

  • we become settled in “present truth” (see II Peter 1:12)
  • our endurance and trials help strengthen and establish us (see Acts 14:22)

Discussion Question: Read I Corinthians 3:11-15. Discuss the various building materials in this passage. Which ones would obviously burn? Why do you think the list does not include ordinary stone, but only precious stones?

Tuesday: Grumbling, Groaning, and Growing

You’ve heard it said about someone that they “are their own worst enemy”. Recall that the most dangerous threats in the history of Israel were those that came within their own ranks and that were within their own hearts.

That’s why James reminds us, “Grudge [or grumble] not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” James 5:9 KJV

Here are some challenges facing the early church. See if some of them apply today to you or your local congregation:

  • favoritism (James 2:1, 9)
  • evil surmising (v. 4)
  • evil speaking about each other (3:10, 4:11)
  • envy (3:14)
  • quarrels (4:1)
  • worldliness (vs. 4, 13, 14)

The solutions that James has been presenting in this epistle are:

  • faith (James 1:3, 6)
  • “the implanted word” (v. 21 NKJV)
  • beholding “the law of liberty” (v. 25, 2:12 NKJV)
  • single-mindedness and godly wisdom (3:13, 17)
  • grace (4:6)
  • clean hands and a pure heart (v. 8)

All of these are outward expressions of God’s working inwardly on our heart.

Discussion Questions: How many times have you been known to grumble or murmur against others, or even against the church itself? Perhaps you had good cause, but why does James discourage it?

As we wait patiently for the Lord’s Coming, what are some positive ways you can encourage and uplift others? How does this strengthen us for the waiting too?

Wednesday: Models of Patient Endurance

 “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:10, 11 KJV

If patience had a face, it would be the face of Job, at least in the Old Testament. Even in James’ day, Job was famous for his patient endurance in the face of insurmountable trials.

Both Job in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New had these characteristics:

  1. they refused to indulge in criticism that was not constructive and uplifting
  2. they remained calm and gentle in the midst of their pain and suffering

Discussion Questions: Read Hebrews 11:33-37 and discuss what Bible characters are described in this “hall of faith” chapter. [hints: “stopped the mouths of lions” (Daniel), “quenched the violence of fire” (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), “escaped the edge of the sword” (Elijah and Elisha), “had imprisonment” (Jeremiah and Micah), was stoned (Zechariah, son of Johoiada), “sawn asunder” (Isaiah), etc.]

Think of the most patient person you know or have known in your lifetime. Did they have many trials to endure? What connection do you think those trials had to their patience?

Persecution allows us to reveal where our allegiance lies–with Christ or with Satan. If our allegiance is with Christ, do we have to worry about how we will deal with persecution or trials should they come our way? Why or why not?

Thursday: Transparent as the Sunlight

Some have wondered about the last verse in James’ discourse about patience of the saints. He counsels us about swearing solemn oaths:

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heavens or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation.” James 5:12 RSV

“Above all” really flags this advice as important. Was it important to Jesus? In Jesus’ words, we read:

“Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King…let your communication be, Yeah, yeah; Nay, nay:…” Matthew 5:34, 35, 37 KJV

One can more fully appreciate the meaning of these verses when you stop and think that when you swear by these things, you are making yourself the owner of them. There is really nothing that we have a right to pledge by.

As Christians we need to be truthful for truth’s sake. Transparency is a fancy by-word these days, but it really must be included in the job description of a saint. Deception, in any form, comes from Satan.

Two things must be remembered about speaking the truth.

  1. We seldom know all the truth, so we must be humble about it.
  2. The truth should always be spoken in love with grace.

Discussion Questions: What is your understanding about judicial oaths? Some religious groups refuse to take them. Read Matthew 25:63, 64 where Jesus answered the High Priest under oath. Could there not be circumstances, such as in a courtroom situation, where we might be required to swear or guarantee that we are speaking the truth to the best of our knowledge? Is there anything wrong with this kind of oath taking?

Read Ephesians 4:15, 29 and Colossians 4:6 and notice that humility and grace are needed in our truth telling. What does it mean to be “seasoned with salt”? Can we be “brutally honest” and still be loving in our delivery?


With the coming of the Lord near, James encourages his fellow believers to:

  • wait patiently for the Holy Spirit to give power when needed
  • become established in truth and righteousness
  • stop working against themselves by grumbling and complaining
  • look to models of patience in the lives of the prophets
  • become beacons of truth for the world, in the midst of dark deception


Take a deep look at the book of Job and/or Hebrews 11 for models of Christian patience.

Determine if there are any areas of your life that might require more patience than others, and think of strategies that will help you demonstrate more patience, instead of frustration and anger.

Such as:

  • prayer
  • Scripture memorization
  • remembering the soon Second Coming and our reward in heaven
  • deep breathing or counting to ten (or more, if needed)

Next Week: Prayer, Healing, and Restoration

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