This morning we’re concluding our message series from the book of James called “Life Lessons.” Every Sunday, we’ve been going through one chapter in James and today we come to James chapter five. Our message today is entitled “Adjust Your Attitudes.” Attitudes are the way that we think or feel about something or someone. Our attitudes are usually an emotional response to a particular situation. Many people think that they can’t control their attitudes. However, the Bible teaches us that we can control or adjust our attitudes with the Lord’s help. In fact, God’s Word instructs us to adjust our attitudes in many places. And God never tells us to do something that we can’t do, with His help. Our attitudes can either be wrong, sinful attitudes or they can be right, godly attitudes.
Let’s look at a story from the first book in the Bible, Genesis, that contrasts a right and a wrong attitude in two brothers. The background to this story is that Adam and Eve had sinned by eating of the forbidden fruit. God had cast them out of the garden of Eden and a curse had come upon both them and the whole earth. Yet, God blessed Adam and Eve with the birth of two boys. The first son was Cain and the second was Abel. Let’s pick up the story in …
Genesis 4:3-5a (ESV) In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Adam and Eve had taught their children about the Lord and the need to worship Him. Both brothers brought offerings to the Lord from their respective vocations, Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. But we are told that God accepted both Abel and his offering but not Cain and his offering. Why? What was the difference?
Hebrews 11:4 (ESV) By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
The difference in the offerings lay in the heart attitudes of each brother. Abel offered worship in faith, whereas Cain just went through the motions.
Genesis 4:5b-7 (ESV) So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
The Lord spoke to Cain and instructed him to adjust his attitudes. Cain was angry at God and his brother and his face fell, he was depressed. God warned Cain that his wrong attitudes were a prelude to wrong actions. Sin was crouching like a ravenous lion, ready to devour him, is he did not rule over it. We know from the rest of the story that Cain did not make the right choice. He did not adjust his attitudes. Cain gave in to anger and jealousy and murdered his brother Abel.
Today, we want to learn how to make the right choice to have godly attitudes. The first attitude that we need to learn about from James is how to …
James 5:1 (ESV) Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
James begins this chapter by addressing people who are wealthy and who put their trust in their wealth. Is he addressing believers or unbelievers? It really isn’t clear and doesn’t matter because the truth applies to everyone.
James 5:3 (ESV) 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.
James continues by indicating that judgment is coming for the ungodly rich. What is their sin? They have laid up treasure on earth in the last days. The people of James day were living in the last days and so are we. What does it mean to lay up treasure on earth? It is to put your hope and trust in your wealth that you have stored in bank accounts, stocks and other places. Jesus taught us that we are not to lay up treasure on earth, but to lay up treasure in heaven. We lay up treasure in heaven by giving to expand the kingdom of God, rather than to spend it on ourselves.
James 5:4-5 (ESV) 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.
James expands on the sin of the wealthy. They have not paid their workers fairly in order to increase their profits. They live in luxury and self-indulgence when others live in poverty and without the necessities of life. Clearly these rich people have not used their blessing to bless others, but only on themselves. How we should live with our money that God has blessed us with is to be generous to those who are needy around us.
Is it a sin simply to be wealthy? Not in every case, but Jesus taught us that is was extremely difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because they tend to trust in their riches rather than God. Jesus instructed a rich young ruler to give away his riches and follow Him, but he refused. His riches were more important to him than God and his eternity. God desires for us to have a generous attitude, not a greedy or stingy attitude. An attitude of faith allows us to give to God and others, believing that God will provide for us as well. We mustn’t put our trust in our money, nor must we worry if we don’t have enough.
All that we have comes from God. As we seek to serve Him with all that He has entrusted to us, He will provide all our needs. As we are faithful to give our tithes and offerings to our local church and faith promises to support missionaries around the world, God will take care of our needs. Some people think that they can’t give because they won’t have enough to live on if they do. God tells us to trust Him. If we give to Him what His Word commands, He will take care of us. A generous attitude is the result of a faith-filled heart. The second attitude God wants us to have is to …
James 5:7-8 (ESV) 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.
In this next section, James talks to us about the attitude of patience. We need to be patient until the Lord returns. The coming of the Lord has been imminent since Jesus ascended into heaven. The imminent return of the Lord means that it could happen at any time. That was true in James’ time and it is true today. The opposite of patience is to be impatient or worried or stressed out about things.
Many things in life are like a farmer sowing seeds into his field. He needs to be patient until the seed germinates, grows and eventually brings the harvest. In the same way, we need to be patient in every aspect of life. Waiting for the Lord to act and bring a crop of blessing. In it all, we remember that when Jesus comes again, all will be made right. So, we wait in patience for the coming of the Lord.
James 5:9 (ESV) Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
When we become impatient with another person, what do we tend to do? We tend to grumble against them. Either they moved too slow or they did something we didn’t like. To grumble against another person is to judge them, which James has previously instructed us to avoid. When we remember that the Lord’s return as a judge is imminent, it will help to be more patient with others.
James 5:10-11 (ESV) 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.
Finally, James reminds of the patience of the Old Testament prophets and of Job. They all went through suffering of many kinds, yet their faith in God remained strong as they were patient. They were steadfast in their faith and God will bless each one in eternity. Be patient in suffering. We face many unforeseen difficulties in these days. Some is due to the ongoing pandemic, other is due to economic issues and yet other difficulties are simply due to the broken world that we live in. Patience is an attitude that comes from having a strong faith in God. When we choose not to worry, but to put our faith in God, He will help us have patience.
To have patience is to trust in God to work out our future. All our difficulties or suffering in this life is momentary compared to eternity. Most difficulties don’t last a long time, even compared to our lives. Some may last a lifetime, but God is there to give us patience to stand steadfast and trust in Him. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. The fruit of patience has a chance to grow when we go through difficult circumstances. Some of the prophets were not rewarded in this life, Job was. We don’t know the future, but we do know the one who holds the future in His hand. Be patient in suffering.
James 5:13-14 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
James has just talked about being patient in suffering. So, what are we to do in suffering? James here tells us to pray. If things are going well, praise God. If you’re sick, which is a form of suffering, call on the church leaders to pray for you. After the service each Sunday, we’re always available for prayer. So, just come up to me, Carol or another leader and we’ll pray for you.
James 5:15-16 (ESV) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
In these verses, James gives us a wonderful promise. When we pray for the sick with faith, God will heal that person. It is important that any sins of the sick person be confessed. Why? Because unconfessed sin can stand in the way of healing. Prayer is evidence of faith in God and has great power as we learn to trust God.
James 5:19-20 (ESV) My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
In these last verses in the chapter, James speaks of a spiritual sickness. The picture is of a sheep wandering from the flock, here described as wandering from the truth. People wander from the truth when they begin to believe the lies of Satan and the deceptions of false teachers. We are to make an effort to bring back wanderers from their sin, back into the church family.
How is that accomplished? By patient prayer, trusting God to work in their lives and giving us the words to say to draw them back. James is clearly talking about believers who knew the truth but have wandered away from it. If they are not brought back, their soul will experience eternal death. As wandering away from God’s truth is certainly a sin, bringing the wanderer back will involve their repentance for a multitude of sins. We must depend on God to guide us to bring the wanderers back home.
We see that prayer is the key to right attitudes. Not just any prayer, but prayer prayed in faith, believing that God will answer. The example given, which we didn’t have time to read is of the story of Elijah. Elijah’s prayers impacted the weather, they were so powerful. Elijah, James says, was a man just like us, so our prayers can be just as powerful and effective as his.
If you’re sick in body or know someone who is, I encourage you to find me, Carol or another leader outside. We will pray the prayer of faith over you. We also have a Seek God prayer meeting every Wednesday, except the first Wednesday, at 7 pm via Zoom. We’d love to have even more people join us and that is another opportunity to have your prayer needs prayed for. Our dependence on God is measured by our prayer lives.
Today, we’ve talked about adjusting our attitudes to becoming more godly. God desires for us to have generous attitudes that give freely to God, believing that He will reward us and supply our needs. God instructs us to be patient in suffering, looking forward to His imminent return. Finally, we show our dependence on God by seeking Him in prayer. As we look to God to adjust our attitudes, it positions us to both be blessed and to be a greater blessing to others.