Finishing the Race Successfully
WISDOM AND SUCCESSFUL LIVING – Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
Life begins and ends with gains and losses. Gains for sure in physical stature, in family and relationships, in possessions and opportunities. Lots of good things. But it also involves losses. Those who study these things say, the better way to brace for life is to recognize that life is a series of losses.
I don’t see things that “downer,” but it is true in part. In these studies in James, we begin with the instruction to receive with Joy the tests and trials of life (because that is the only way to grow up spiritually), and now it ends with recognizing the challenges of life, the results of bad choices and the great opportunity to carry hard things in life with those around us.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20.
1. The dangers of life missteps and sin. James has repeatedly warned his readers that sin has progressively bad consequences: Evil desires leading to death (1:15), the tongue corrupts the whole body setting a life on fire (3:6), disorder and every evil practice (3:16), condemned and murdered innocent men (5:6), and now wander from the truth … save him from death (5:19). You can’t understand the whole counsel of God and of the Kingdom without taking seriously these warnings for a life taking the wrong course.
2. The opportunity for making good life choices. There are two individuals in view here. The wandering saint who, in recognizing his errors, turns back from the error of his way. And the someone turning a sinner back, who earlier was named as leaders in the church, but equally can be a ministry of repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual redirection from unnamed saints who have been available for this spiritual ministry. Though unnamed here, not forgotten, rather great heroes of the faith.
3. The results of the ministry of reconciliation. Again, the same two individuals. The repentant sinner who enjoys the triple consequences of redirection from life errors, covers a multitude of sins, and preserved from discipline that could even lead to death. And the ministering saint who with the grace and mercy of God is the steward for restoration to that struggling saint. And lest we think these instructions to not apply to us: for we all stumble in many ways (3:2). No one has their act completely together. Everyone needs the encouragement of the saints to do well in our spiritual pilgrimage.
What great bookends to a great book. Beginning with the privilege of spiritual growth refined by hard times, and ending with the privilege of carrying the burdens of others, in our community and lives places around us. Paul said it so well:
Galatians 6:2 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Next week begins a new series from the Sermon on the Mount. God’s blessings to you in this new year.
– John Moore