November 21, 2021 / CAN
Rev. Shihoko Warren
Since this September, we have studied the book of James. Today is the last study of this book.
James’ central teaching is to reveal authentic faith in our actual life and our community! That’s why James strongly tells us throughout the book: “faith without works is dead” (2:7)”, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (2:14) “Do not merely listen to the word, but become doers of the Word of God.” (1:22)
In each chapter, James gives us practical examples of how to be authentic Christians and to build authentic Christian community.
Chapter 1 urges us to reveal God’s ‘authentic stability’ in our daily life, especially in times of trials and tribulations.
Chapter 2 encourages us to build a community that reveals God’s ‘authentic love’, letting go of our partial and conditional love.
Chapter 3 exhorts us to live with ‘authentic self-control’, especially in the area of our speech, as our mouths can speak for good or for ill. The highest use of our mouths is to praise God in our daily living. The lowest use of our mouths is to “curse” other people.
Chapter 4 teaches us that ‘authentic humility’ revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ is the key ingredient for our Christian life and community.
Today, we are looking at Chapter 5: ‘authentic hope’.
What is your definition of the word, ‘hope’? What does ‘hope’ mean to you?
Many people may understand the word, ‘hope’ as their wishful desire, focused on their own benefits or convenience.
For many people, ‘hope’ means to get what they want and to avoid what they don’t want.
Have you ever watched the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’? In the movie, the five children and their parents were invited to tour the ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’.
The four children and their parents come to the factory to get what they want, focused on their selfish hope. Yet, Actually, they get their impulsive desires, but in the end, these 4 children and their parents leave the factory so miserable and displeased.
Only Charlie, a 11-year-old boy who has grown up in severe poverty, is different from the other 4 children. His ‘hope’ is to share love with his family and others, and to build a loving community. Willy Wonka asks Charlie to abandon his family and home if Charlie wants the million-dollar valued chocolate factory. Charlie turns down the offer.
In the ending of the movie, Charlie, his family, and Willy Wonka are joyfully living together and continue to build a loving home.
In the same way, people come to God or a church community with different definitions of ‘hope’. Some people hope to get only what they want from God or the church community. When they don’t get what they want, they usually leave God and the church community with great disappointment, just like the 4 children and their parents in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.
On the other hand, some people come to God and church to seek ‘authentic hope’. Once they find ‘authentic hope’ in our Lord, Jesus Christ, they patiently strive to serve for Christian community and Christ’s New Commandment. On the night that Jesus was killed on the cross, Jesus told His Disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) People who hold ‘authentic hope’, continue to serve God and their neighbors for the rest of their lives.
Christian hope is not a wishy-washy desire, focused on our own benefits or convenience.
Christian hope is grounded in Jesus Christ; His Birth, His atonement on the cross and Resurrection.
In chapter 5, James leads us to the climax of ‘authentic hope’ in the day of Christ’s coming!
James is telling us that our ‘authentic hope’ is in ‘Christ’s Coming’!
James says in verse 7-8: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
As we have engaged in the New Eden ministry, we can really understand why James talks about farmers as an example of patience and hope.
Every year, with hope we patiently continue to sow the seeds, take care of the garden and the crops, in rain or shine, cold or hot, no matter how tired we are. Sometimes we are frustrated for our garden work, when we see the crops not coming up or not growing well, yet other times, we are so excited to witness the beauty of life, growth, and harvest. Whether we are frustrated or excited, we continue to do the tasks we need to do for the garden. It is because we believe that these are all part of our call to prepare for the Lord’s Coming! We envision the ‘New Heaven and Earth’ (New Eden) to come, as described in the Book of Revelation 21-22.
Therefore, we continue in the work that God has called us to do, in patience and hope.
2 types of believers
The Bible tells us that Christians are surely insulted, persecuted, and will go through tribulation until the ‘Lord’s Coming’. When we read the epistles in the New Testament, we realize that there are 2 types of response to the ‘Lord’s Coming’ among believers.
One type is to continue to stand firm in faith and patiently continue to do their call from God, no matter how they are insulted, persecuted or face suffering until the ‘Lord’s coming’.
The other type is to become fearful and lose hope, and give up their faith or call from God, whenever they experience insults, persecutions, trials, or sufferings.
Apostle Paul, Peter, James, and faithful believers in the Early churches, stood firm in the ‘authentic hope’ of ‘Christ’s Second Coming’. They were not waiting for the ‘Lord’s Coming’ in a superficial form of wishy-washy hope. They waited for the ‘Lord’s Coming’ very realistically, practically, and urgently.
They were always aware that they would be insulted, severely persecuted, and suffer because of their faith in Christ. They were always ready to be martyred at any time, because of their faith. They never gave up the ‘authentic hope’ in Jesus Christ, and continued to share the Good News with others, whenever and wherever they were!
They patiently endured all insults, persecutions, sufferings, and even death, for the ‘authentic hope’ in ‘Christ’s coming’!
In chapter 5, James is talking about this type of believers. James is telling us to become such real and authentic Christians!
That’s why James throughout the Book, keeps teaching us: “Rejoice always in all trials and tribulations, and continue patiently to labour and strive for Christ’s commandment, with the ‘authentic hope’, until He returns.
Henri Nouwen says in his article about ‘Christian hope’:
Christian Hope is our steadfast trust in God! Christian Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in God’s good hands.
All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.
James in chapter 5 also describes an important example of the faithful elders in the church community. It is because they are people of hope and prayer. They know more deeply that “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (v.10), through their many experiences of life trials as well as the joy of life!
James is right! Look around us! Look around at the faithful seniors in our community (& Nikkei Home)! Also, remember our faithful elders who are now resting in heaven until the Lord’s Coming!
We have been so blessed by their faith that reveals God’s authentic love and hope to us!
We deeply give thanks to God for our faithful elders! They have inspired us, encouraged us by their steadfast faith and practical love in God, so that we may continue to stand firm in faith and service to our Lord Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives.
From faithful seniors to the next generation, in this way, authentic Christian faith and community has been passed down from generation to generation, for two thousand years.
We are the followers of Jesus Christ, living in the 21st century. We too are part of this glorious call to pass down authentic faith and community to the next generation!
In the last part of chapter 5, James encourages us with practical instructions to continue patiently and faithfully to build an authentic Christian community until the ‘Lord’s Coming’!
Just as mentioned before in the movie, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, Charlie’s hope is different from others. His hope is to share love with the people around him and to build a loving home whenever and wherever he is. In the same way, our Christian hope is fundamentally different from the worldview. Our call from God is to continue to build authentic community patiently and faithfully, following Christ’s New Commandment until the ‘Lord’s coming’!
Let us pray:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Glory be to our God: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!