Overcoming Our Natural Reactions

Overcoming Our Natural Reactions with Supernatural Responses

James 5:7-12

by +Ed Jansen

Have you ever had a day which started out like a dream, but ended in a nightmare? Well, that happened to me one Spring day some time ago. Thinking back I remember it was a gorgeous day in Norther Michigan. I was walking in the woods along a two-track trail with a friend who was visiting us with his two teenage daughters. The girls were city kids from Detroit and weren’t accustomed to the “wilderness.” I can still picture their smiling faces. They were totally enamored with the beauty of the area. My friend and I hadn’t seen each other in years and we were having a grand time catching up. As his daughters began to wander off Abe yelled out, “Be careful now and don’t get too far ahead of us.” There was a cedar swamp down off the trail to our left and the girls wanted to venture on down there. You could see they were so full of excitement when they said, “Dad, please, can we just go down there and take a look?” Abe looked at me with raised eyebrows wondering if it was safe. Believing nothing could harm them I gave Abe a slight nod which the girls couldn’t detect., “Okay,” Abe said “but don’t get wet!”

 

I didn’t expect the girls to stay down there too long because the mosquitoes were as big as horse flies. But it turned out, mosquitoes were the least of our worries. All of a sudden we heard the girls screaming….hysterically. They were waving their arms and hands all over. Abe and I ran down the slope. As we approached, I could see a swarm of sweat bees attacking the girls. My natural reaction was to stay back and verbally guide them to run away from the nest they had stepped upon, but they couldn’t even hear me yelling. Abe just froze so I decided to rush down, grab them by the arms and drag them away. As I came near them, the bees turned on me. It seemed like a wall of bees swarmed on my face and body. Zap! Zap! Zap! All I wanted to do was turn and run away. But those girls were in great danger. Even though I have never considered myself courageous, something drove me to the girls while the bees relentlessly attacked. Zap! Zap! Zap…..Zap! Zap! I finally reached them, grabbed their hands and pulled them to safety. We all rushed to the hospital. We were treated for our bee stings and released. It took hours after that to calm the girls’ hysteria. We all survived the ordeal, but to this day I’m in awe of the outcome. Something supernatural happened that day in spite of the nightmare. You see, all we can ever do is speculate on how we’ll respond in any given situation. We’ll never know with absolute certainty until we’re put to the test. That day, by God’s grace, I overcame my natural reaction to flee from a very frightening and painful situation. I was able to respond to someone in a supernatural way. Now I’m not bragging about some heroic deed; frankly it’s quite the opposite. I’m speaking of my own weaknesses, my natural reaction to self protect and how the power of the Holy Spirit enabled me to overcome my instinct to run. Our lesson for today comes from the word of God in James 5:7-12. It speaks of Overcoming Our Natural Reactions with Supernatural Responses.

 

7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.


12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear– not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. (NIV)

 

Preface
To understand this passage accurately we must first look at the time and setting of when it was written as well as in light of the context of the previous six verses. At the beginning of Chapter 5 James was writing to the rich who were unjustly persecuting some believers of the day, You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:6 NIV) Now in verse 7, James switches gears and begins to speak to the believer whom the rich are persecuting. It is here we can begin to examine the text.

 

Examination
James knows full well that apart from God we can do nothing. He addresses those who are suffering and being persecuted and delivers a message containing four virtues to be sought after from God. These virtues will enable them to endure persecution and suffering in a Christ-like manner. They will also enable us to endure even when the bees of life are zapping us from all directions.

 

The virtue of being patient 8a Be patient, then, brothers
The first supernatural response to persecution and suffering is patience. Some believe that practicing patience is doing nothing while we’re waiting on God. That seems like a natural reaction. Yet there’s a patience which I believe is harder. I think James is speaking here of a working patience like that of a farmer. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under adversity implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength which only comes from God. It’s supernatural. It’s the ability to work under suffering while waiting on God: to have a heaviness in your heart and still get up in the morning; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks. It’s a Christ-like thing! You see, James is telling us to exercise our patience, not lying down, but in the work fields of life. To wait is hard, to do it with purpose and conviction is a supernatural response!

 

The virtue of being strong 8b stand firm,
Athanasius, an early bishop of Alexandria, vehemently opposed the teachings of Arius who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being. Hounded through five exiles, he was finally summoned before emperor Theodosius who demanded he recant his opposition to Arius. The emperor chastised him, then asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?” Athanasius answered, “Then I am against all the world.”

 

How was Athanasius able to stand up to this persecution and rejection? How can we stand firm when being unjustly persecuted? How can we endure suffering and stay focused? How can we keep on keeping on when all around us tells us to give up? The strength of conviction comes from above. And there’s a promise we can rely upon when we find ourselves in circumstances like this. Chuck Swindoll calls it his 50:20 principle. He quotes Genesis 50:20 which is one of the greatest promises in the bible about suffering: Joseph, speaking to his brothers about their misconduct towards him said this: You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, (Genesis 50:20) No matter what others do to us, no matter how much we are suffering, God will use it for our good. And that, beloved, is a promise which enables us to stand firm and be strong!

 

The virtue of being faithful
10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. Job is a wonderful example of one who supernaturally persevered through suffering. The great fact about him is that in spite of all the agonizing questions which tore at his heart, he never lost faith in God.

 

When we endure suffering and persecution, it’s natural to question and doubt God’s love for us. But it’s supernatural to respond by saying, “I know that my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25). Our supernatural response to persecution and suffering is NOT to try and figure out “WHY?”, but merely to look to our Redeemer. It is He who will either deliver us out of or through our suffering; often never answering the “why” question. And our faith is strengthened in spite of the pain and suffering because we know there’s always a good ending to the story: “the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12)

 

The virtue of being consistent
12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear– not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no
We’ve spent a lot of time in this series examining this virtue. This is where our faith is put into action. It’s where our walk equals our talk. As we respond supernaturally through patience, strength and faith, we will endure suffering and persecution without bending. This last virtue speaks of consistency in behavior. It represents a supernatural strength in doing so. We have strength not in ourselves to be consistent, but strength in the Lord.

 

Conclusion
How can we overcome our natural reactions to flee, to self protect, to fight back when we’re under attack by the bee stings of life? How can we endure suffering and persecution in a Christ-like manner? How can we respond supernaturally and stay focused on our life objectives? James says:

1. Be patient, not a passive patience, but a working patience
2. Be strong in your convictions and the promises of God
3. Be faithful knowing God will use all your suffering for good
4. Be consistent letting your talk be your walk

Wow! If we could only be like that all the time: patient, strong, faithful and consistent. What an incredible way to endure suffering. What a wonderful witness our lives would be. Well, God wants each one of us to emulate these virtues in our lives. It’s His loving plan for us. That’s why He’s given us this word. And now that you know what they are, they can be yours merely for the asking.

 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV)

 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
+Ed Jansen

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