The early believers were not in a position where they could be passively waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ. They were under persecution and they were suffering for their faith. It was as likely, even to their knowledge, that they would die for their faith than that they might be alive when Christ re-appeared. James seeks to encourage his mainly Jewish readers with reminders of Old Testament characters who suffered for God. The Prophets were constantly under attack for pronouncing God's message to the people of Israel, who often did not want to head what God was saying to them. If you have the chance to read that great chapter, Hebrews 11, you will read about those who were killed in horrific ways-stonings, sawn in half, tortured, and by the sword. James also mentions Job, who endured the loss of everything except death, only to be given back all that he had lost and more! We are aware that even today, there are brothers and sisters in various parts of the world who are persecuted, thrown into prison and tortured for their faith. Their churches have been burned down, yet they refuse to give up meeting together. Their love for each other is bound up in their faith in Jesus Christ and their hope of resurrection and eternal life. Just as the readers of James letters knew about Job's happy ending, so he encourages them to trust that this is the same God they worship and follow, a God full of tenderness and mercy. We are more likely to experience sustained attacks from the evil one, as we seek to live our lives for the Lord. I was listening to a podcast yesterday, where a Christian presenter was interviewing a Catholic Priest, who was an experienced exorcist. One listener had emailed in to say that they didn't believe in God or the supernatural and they wondered, as they had got involved in some dark things, why they hadn't been attacked by demonic forces. The Priest's reply was that the devil didn't need to bother with them, as they didn't believe in God. He saves his ire for those who believed in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. But, please remember that God is supreme over all and Jesus Christ has gaimed the victory!
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