Remember the Basics, Remember the Resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Remember the Basics, Remember the Resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 28, 2020

Today, we wanted to focus on the resurrection. Unfortunately, on resurrection Sunday we could not be together physically, so we wanted to celebrate resurrection Sunday the last Sunday of June. Now, here we are and it still is not safe for the choir to sing. It also is not safe for everyone to join us. Still, it is a day to celebrate the resurrection in a special way. We actually should celebrate the resurrection year-round, but I think it is good to focus on the resurrection on special days. Today, I want to talk about a passage in which Paul brought the people of Ephesus back to the basics of the faith.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a reminder of why I am doing something. Sometimes I get discouraged and I feel like just checking out. I feel like quitting. It might be helpful to see the finish line, but sometimes it is rough because we can’t.

In 1952, a very brave and strong young lady waded into the Pacific Ocean. Florence Chadwick was determined to break another record. To date, no woman had ever crossed the channel between Catelina Island and the California coast.

Long-distance swimming wasn’t new to Florence. She was a seasoned long distance competitor. In fact, she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

But this was a twenty-six-mile stretch. And the conditions that July morning were not optimal. Not only was the water incredibly cold, but a thick blanket of fog had settled in. And to make matters worse, there were sharks who trailed her course and had to be driven off several times!

Florence’s coach and family followed along in a small boat, cheering her on. “Go for it, Florence! You can do it!”

But it was foggy. Real foggy. And even when she’d been swimming for fifteen hours, Florence still couldn’t see the shore line.

A bit discouraged and very tired, she finally took her last stroke, telling her family she just couldn’t go on.

She quit.

They all consoled Florence as they pulled her aboard, and she collapsed with exhaustion. Well, as it turned out, Florence quit much too soon that cold July morning. She swam twenty-five and a half miles, but because she couldn’t see the end—couldn’t see the coast—Florence fell short of her goal by just half-a-mile. Had she only known! One half a mile!

By the way, Florence didn’t give up. She gave it another try. Just two months after her first attempt, she became the first woman in history to swim the twenty-six-mile channel. She set a new speed record, as well.[1]

In our Christian life we can get discouraged as well. We cannot literally see the finish line, though God may give us glimpses of the finish line and the reward. Sometimes we need a reminder. In 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Paul gives Timothy a reminder of the reason for persevering. The reason is the Gospel. Let’s look at this nice outline of the importance of the Gospel. Read with me 2 Timothy 2:8-13:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. 10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 11 It is a trustworthy statement:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

As I begin, I think it would be so very wrong for me to think that everyone comes to the church happy and ready to face another week. No, I realize that some come here discouraged. You may be discouraged in your Christian life. You may be discouraged in your life in general. You may be tired as you have been fighting illness. You may be tired of dealing with a nagging knee problem. You may be tired of trying to get a good job. You may be tired of bill collectors. You may be tired of caring for a loved one. You may be tired of rooting for the Browns. You may be tired, tired, and just tired. You may wonder where God is. Well, I hope that as we talk about this passage it will be a helpful reminder of the Gospel. This may not help you in direct ways, but I hope at least indirectly this will help you. God is Faithful to the end.

  • Reminders (2:8-10)
    • Here Paul gives a reminder of the gospel worth suffering for.
    • In verse 8, Paul begins by reminding Timothy of Jesus. Notice Paul even tells Timothy “Remember.” He is very straightforward. Remember who: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t raise from the dead we would be worshipping a dead Lord. No, He conquered the grave. But more than that, Paul says that Jesus is a descendant of David. The Jewish Messiah, the Jewish anointed King, was to be a descendant of David. Now, what this verse is stating is that Jesus is God as He conquered the grave and rose from the dead. This verse is also stating that Jesus is man, as He is a descendant of David.
    • So, our hope is in Jesus. We’ll get discouraged but just remember that our hope is in Jesus. Our hope is in the One who conquered the grave. Our hope is in the One who is fully man, and so He could take care of our sins. Our hope is in the One who is fully God, so He could take the wrath of God because of our sins. Our hope is in the One who reigns intermediating for us right now.
    • God’s messenger is chained but His message is never chained. (2:8-10): Now Paul is chained. Paul is in prison. But I love this verse because Paul says that the Word of God is not in prison.
    • Sometimes we take the Bible too lightly, but the Bible is God’s Word declaring God’s good news of salvation. Isaiah 55 says that the Word of God will go out and it will not come back void. It will accomplish its message.
    • Then Paul says that he will endure all things so that people can receive the Gospel. Paul says “those who are chosen” which pretty much means those that will receive salvation and trust in Christ. Why do we do this? Why not be discouraged? The answer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for you and for me and everyone else and Paul says that he is willing to endure hardship for the Gospel. Are you?

Billy Graham said: The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear the full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.[2]

I also read someone said: It is my opinion that the best evangelistic center in the greater metropolitan Boston area is not a church. It is a filling station in Arlington. It was owned and operated by a man named Bob who caught the vision early in his life that his vocation and his calling were to be welded together. As time passed, his station became known as the place to go for gas, new tires or, other car services. I have seen a half dozen cars lined up bumper to bumper near two pumps in front of that little station just waiting to be served by that man. He has no banners out, no “Jesus Saves” flags, no signs, no “ichthuses,” nothing plastered all over the station or in the windows, no sign, “Bring your car to Bob and take your soul to Jesus.” He simply did his job! He did it well and people knew he was in partnership with the Lord. He led dozens of people to faith in Jesus Christ.[3]

You are an evangelist wherever you go. Billy Graham shared the importance and the other illustration showed our vocation.

  • The results (2:11-13)

Remember how we need reminders and encouragement. When I was in eighth grade I committed to strip wall paper. I made a deal with my dad that for a certain amount of money I would take care of this job. Well, I got home from school and began the job. By 6:00 I made little progress. I was stripping the wallpaper and the glue in a downstairs hallway, up the stairway and the upstairs hallway. The glue was on real thick and it didn’t come off easy.  I decided I was going to quit. I told my dad that I didn’t care about the money. But my dad said that I had to do the job. I had committed to do the job and I needed to follow through. Well I finished, but it wasn’t easy. But the money was my return for my labor.

In the Christian life we have a return as well.

  • For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him (2:11). This is pretty straightforward. But Paul is not talking about literal death. He is talking about baptism. When we give our life to Christ we die to ourselves and our ways. We now live with Him instead.
  • If we endure, we will also reign with Him (2:12a) Why endure? I know we get discouraged and frustrated, but we will reign with Him. We will have eternal life with Him. This is eternity. Our life might be 80-90-100 years but eternity is a long time.
  • If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2:12b). This is talking about a total absolute denial. If we deny Christ, He will deny us. In Matthew 10:33 Jesus said that whoever denies Him, he will also deny before His Father in Heaven.
  • If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2:13)
    • This is likely referring to our momentary lapses in faith. Even though we lose faith at times, God is still faithful. This is not a total falling away.
    • God doesn’t change and cannot deny Himself. God is what we call immutable. This means that He doesn’t change.
  • This is critical in the Christian life. What if God could change? That would mean that He wouldn’t be that great, right? That would also mean that He could change His mind on our salvation. One minute we are saved and another minute God decides not to save us. That wouldn’t be good at all.


So, persistence paid off for Florence Chadwick and her 26 mile swim. Maybe you can think of a time you were persistent and it paid off. One day, I was trying to go for a long run. I was running and my legs just wanted to give out. Usually, I can tell my legs to keep going and they will. I know I should take the advice of the comedian who said, “Sometimes I feel like exercising, but then I go back to sleep until that feeling goes away.” But anyways, I couldn’t sleep, I was in the middle of Alliance and my legs just stopped. I stopped looked around and then started going again. Somehow I was able to be persistent and finish.

The devil was training three of his assistants how to get Christians to doubt their faith and to turn away from God.  He opened his tool box and told each one to pick the tool they thought would work best.  One picked persecution.  The devil said, “No, that one is the least effective.”  Another picked temptation.  The devil said, “No, that won’t work.”  The third one picked the smallest tool in the box and handed it to the devil.  The devil smiled as he looked at the tool of discouragement and said,  “Yes, while this one is small, it will do the job better than all the rest. Discouragement is the most useful tool. Discouragement has caused the fall of more Christians than any other tool.  Keep it handy at all times.

Sometimes in our lives as Christ followers we will feel like quitting but this passage is our reminder.

So, this is a different resurrection message. This is a reminder of the basics of the faith.

Our finish line is with God in Heaven and the Gospel of Christ. This is great news to share with all people.


[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 212. Exerted from Leadership Journal.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Billy Graham. Quoted from Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote. Page 183.

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 184.

(Father’s Day) God’s instructions to Fathers

(Father’s Day) God’s instructions to Fathers

Scripture: Ephesians 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Prepared and preached by Rev Steve Rhodes for the First Baptist Church of Alliance


Let me once again say Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. I also want to recognize others who serve as paternal influences. A while back, I was listening to a Christian radio program titled: “Unshackled.” This is a Christian radio program about The Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois. This is an older radio program that shares about people who encounter Christ at the Pacific Garden Mission. The show shares about their life prior to Christ and after Christ. It is always interesting to hear these testimonies. In this case I heard about a man who was abused and neglected by an alcoholic father. This father did not only abuse and neglect one child but others as well. Eventually, one of the sons, now an adult, becomes a Christian. He is eager to share the Gospel with others and he wants to become a missionary. But there was a problem. His wife didn’t feel called to be a missionary’s wife. So, he decided he was called to be a missionary to his local area. First and foremost, he would share the gospel with his father. He prayed and discussed the gospel with his father. Guess what, his father gave his life to Christ! The point is, without Christ, we have nothing! We need Christ. This man did the most caring thing for his father. He was the messenger of eternal life. Praise God! How much does Christ mean to you! Boldly share Christ with your family.

As part of Father’s day I wish to talk about the command to care for your parents. But, I also want to talk about one of the Scriptural exhortations to parents.

William Franklin writes, “If he’s wealthy and prominent, and you stand in awe of him, call him ‘Father.’ If he sits in shirt sleeves and suspenders at a ball game and picnic, call him ‘Pop.’ If he wheels the baby carriage and carries bundles meekly, call him ‘Papa; (with the accent on the first syllable). If he belongs to a literary circle and writes cultured papers, call him ‘Papa’ (with the accent on the last syllable). If, however, he makes a pal of you when you’re good, and is too wise to let you pull the wool over his loving eyes when you’re not; if, moreover, you’re quite sure no other fellow you know has quite so fine a father, you may call him ‘Dad.’”[1]

Let me read the Scripture and then share some things with you.

Exodus 20:12:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

Again: I wish to talk about the command to care for your parents. But I also want to talk about one of the Scriptural exhortations to parents.

  1. Honor your father… Let’s briefly look at the passage itself.
    1. One of my sources says: Although this word/commandment requires children to honor their parents in all sorts of ways large and small, there can be little doubt that its most basic insistence from the point of view of establishing a responsibility that might otherwise be shirked is to demand that children take care of their parents in their parents’ old age, when they are no longer able to work for themselves, as well as to honor whatever their parents have prescribed by way of inheritance for their children. Thus the commandment is followed by the promise of living long in the promised land. Just as parents who have lived long in their own personal lives need to be cared for at the end of those long lives, so Israel as a nation (not every individual therein) would be able to enjoy a long life in the land God was giving them.
    2. So, that is an application to us all, isn’t it? We must never neglect our parents and it is something that I am encouraged by as I see my parents and many of you care for your parents. God has given many caregivers.
    3. The ESV Study Bible says: The word “honor” means to treat someone with the proper respect due to the person and their role. With regard to parents, this means (1) treating them with deference (cf.21:15, 17); (2) providing for them and looking after them in their old age (for this sense of honor, see 3:9). Both Jesus and Paul underline the importance of this command (Mark 7:1–13Eph. 6:1–31 Tim. 5:4). This is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a specific promise attached to it: that your days may be long—meaning not just a long life, but one that is filled with God’s presence and favor.
    4. We are always supposed to honor our parents. Children, hear this now. God has set up an order and we are to honor our parents.

Now, I would like to transition in order to talk about a responsibility that God has given parents. But I would like to also talk about other paternal influences.

  • Being a paternal influence even if you are not a biological father.
  • Think about the relationships God has used:
    • Fishing: what a great way to build up children.
    • Golfing: another opportunity.
  • Hunting
  • Riding
  • Reading: My uncle was a teacher and told the parents to read with their kids for 10 minutes a night, it can even be comic books, just read with them. They will not do it. Reading with children is critical. Let me add, it is critical to let them see you read as well.
  • Scouts
  • Coaching: how many coaches have been great influences on children.

One of George Barna’s books shares: Research suggests that there are 3 tiers of influence on our children.  Tier 1 represents influences that have the greatest impact on our children, while Tier 3 represents influences which affect our children but are less effective.

Tier 1

Contemporary music


Television programming

The Internet

Publications (books, magazines, and newspapers)

Laws and public figures



Tier 2 Churches

Faith Communities

Adult education


Therapy experiences

Extended families.


Tier 3 Peers




Colleges and Universities


  • Father’s nurture your children spiritually:
    1. The well-known “Prayer for His Son” by General Douglas MacArthur includes these words: “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid . . . Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. Let him learn to stand in the storm; let him learn compassion for those who fall.”[2]
    2. Research regarding all facets of moral and spiritual development whether related to worldview, beliefs or behaviors – shows that such development starts as early as age two. The process then progresses rather quickly.  Social scientists have known for years that the moral foundations of children are generally determined by the time the individual reaches age nine.  Research confirms a parallel outcome in the spiritual dimension:  By age nine, most children have their spiritual morals in place.  The implication of this finding is clear: Anyone who wishes to have significant influence on the development of a person’s moral and spiritual foundations had better exert that influence while the person is still open-minded and impressionable – in other words, while the person is still young. 47 – Barna
    3. In multiple places in the Old Testament the Bible exhorts to teach your children the spiritual things.

Gen 18:19

For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

Deut 11:19:

You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Psalm 78:4:

We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

2 Tim 3:15:

15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

  1. Listen, if your children don’t have Christ, they don’t have anything. It doesn’t matter how much money they have or how educated they are.
  2. Many times, we place more priority in their physical education than their spiritual education.
  3. I have a great illustration from Mark Driscoll:

From Mark Driscoll:

11 Practical Ways for Men to Lead a Family

As men, we bear a greater burden before God for the well-being of our families and our church. Our wives and children should flourish under our loving leadership.

By the grace of God, you can be who God has called you to be, do what God has called you to do, and love as God has loved you.

As men, we will never in this life experience perfection, but by the grace of God we can experience progress every day until we enter perfection in the life to come. So don’t sulk, don’t sin, and don’t settle, but instead strive.

Here are 11 practical tips for husbands to strive to lead their family well:

  1. As the family leader, model humility, honesty, repentance, service, study, and worship. Your life preaches at least as loudly as your words, so teach and model humble godliness by the grace of God.
  2. Make sure everyone in your familyhas a good, age-appropriate Bible that they regularly read. Read the Bible yourself and with them so they are encouraged to read on their own.
  3. Make sure you have some basic Bible study toolsavailable for your family in either print or digital form and that everyone learns to use them. If you do not know where to begin, ask your pastor or a godly student of Scripture in your church about things like a good Bible commentary, concordance, dictionary, and atlas.
  4. Buy good Christian books for everyone in your family to read. Include Christian biographies among those books.
  5. Choose good books that you and your wife can be reading together, including books of the Bible, and discuss what you are learning.
  6. If there are Bible-based classes offered in your church, attend with your family.
  7. Redeem your commute by listening to good sermons and classes, many of which you can download for free.
  8. Have dinner together with your family most nights, and use that time to pray together, keep a journal log of prayer requests for other people, and read a portion of the Bible and talk about it together.
  9. Pray for each member of your family every day and let them know you are praying for them.
  10. Place a hand on the head of each of your children every day and pray over them. Then kiss them on the head and make sure they often get a loving hug.
  11. While either snuggling or holding hands, pray with and for your wife every day and remember to include the reasons you are thankful to God for her that day. If these things have not been common in your home, it is very likely that your family has been aching for them and will be thankful for your loving leadership as the head of your home.

A Father’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven

I am a father on earth

You have given me this gift and responsibility

Grant me the wisdom to carry it out.

Let my fatherhood be one of encouragement and support, not of expectations and control.

Let me protect my children, but not too much; advise them, but just a little.

Let me be honest about my feelings toward them – including my anger, disappointment, hurt,

excitement, joy and love.

Let me be firm without dominating them.

Let me be sensitive to their feelings without trying to change them.

Let me be there for them when they need me and get out of their way when they don’t.

Let me offer them the roots of belonging and the wings of freedom.

Help me, Father in heaven, to be a father on earth.


So, praise God for Fathers. Fathers you have had a challenge and children, so have you.


God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 204 quoted from Peter S. Seymour, “A Father’s Love,” Hallmark card.

[2] (Today in the Word, April 1, 2013)

Be Patient and Wait on the Lord for Your Reward (James 5:1-11)

James 5:1-11

Be Patient and Wait on the Lord for Your Reward

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 14, 2020

I find waiting quite difficult and having patience while waiting is more challenging.

Waiting can be difficult. It is hard to wait with patience. You see, we can wait without being patient. Many times, we don’t have a choice but to wait:

I was on my way to seminary one day. I was making the two-hour commute in great time. Then all of a sudden, the traffic stopped. I sat there for three hours. I was in the hills of Kentucky and there was no way to cut over to the other side of the highway, plus that is illegal. I had no choice but to wait and wait and wait.

One waits so long and then grows impatient. Impatience can lead to complaining, grumbling and an overall bad Christian testimony.

In today’s Scripture passage found in James 5:1-11 James gives some serious instructions to the rich who have everything and then he gives a loving exhortation to the poorer people. As we look at this passage you will see that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near. Let me repeat: As we look at this passage you will see that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near.

Open your Bibles and let’s read James 5:1-11:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

  • Let’s first look at verses 1-6. In these verses James warns the rich to repent and then describes why they must repent.
    • James once again starts with the phrase, “Come now,” or in the NIV, “Now listen.”
    • James simply gets their attention.
    • Now look at verse 1. James says, “Weep and howl.” This is not simply crying, or mourning.
    • This carried the idea of loud cries. This is a public sign of mourning.
    • Verse 1 is very much reminiscent of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are places where the prophet Jeremiah or Ezekiel would tell people they need to repent. They need to weep and howl.
    • James says they must weep and howl because of the misery that is coming upon them.
    • What misery? I believe James is referring to a final judgment. Again, like an Old Testament prophet James affirms a final judgment and James is about to describe why they will be judged.
    • Verse 2 is in the past tense, but I believe this is only because James is looking at it from the judgment seat. I don’t think their riches had already rotted.
    • But James’ point is that they will. They have stored up for themselves treasures on earth.
    • In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus exhorted his followers to store up treasures in Heaven that last for eternity.
    • But, you know what? You have to wait on heavenly treasures. You have to wait. Most people want their treasure now.
      • Where’s your treasure?
      • This is a good place for me to share a short story I read the other day:

A woman in West Palm Beach, Florida, died alone at the age of 71. The coroner’s report was tragic. “Causes of death: Malnutrition.” The dear old lady wasted away to 50 pounds. Investigators who found her said the place where she lived was a veritable pigpen, the biggest mess you can imagine. One seasoned inspector declared he’d never seen a residence in greater disarray.

         The woman had begged food at her neighbor’s back doors and gotten what clothes she had from the Salvation Army. From all outward appearances she was a penniless recluse, a pitiful and forgotten widow. But such was not the case.

         Amid the jumble of her unclean, disheveled belongings, two keys were found which led the officials to safe-deposit boxes at two different local banks. What they found was absolutely unbelievable.

         The first contained over seven hundred AT&T stock certificates, plus hundreds of other valuable certificates, bonds, and solid financial securities, not to mention a stack of cash amounting to nearly $200,000. The second box had no certificates, only more currency—lots of it—$600,000 to be exact. Adding the net worth of both boxes, they found that the woman had in her possession well over A MILLION DOLLARS. Charles Osgood, reporting on CBS radio, announced that the estate would probably fall into the hands of a distant niece and nephew, neither of whom dreamed she had a thin dime to her name. She was, however, a millionaire who died a stark victim of starvation in a humble hovel many miles away. [1]

  • Sometimes we hoard things and we end up harming ourselves and those around us. Store up treasures in Heaven.
  • Verse 3 continues the theme about the material possessions that are falling apart. But these material possessions talk. Okay, they don’t literally talk, but what we have and what we do with our life testifies to who we are.
  • The gold and silver, the possessions will be a testimony to the way these rich people get their possessions. That is described in the next few verses.
  • In verse 4, we find out what is going on: Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.[2]
    • Lord of the Sabaoth just means Lord of Hosts.
    • You see, these lower class, poor people worked for the rich. They worked and they haven’t been paid. That is the situation James describes.
      • The ESV Study Bible says: These landowners have cheated their field workers and harvesters to support their own lavish lifestyle, and now the cries of the defrauded have reached the ears of the final Judge, who will soon act in response. The Lord of hosts, or “Lord of heaven’s armies,” pictures God as a warrior going into battle against his enemies (1 Sam. 17:45; 17:14; 19:14).
      • The IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary says: The law of Moses forbade withholding wages, even overnight; if the injured worker cried out to God, God would avenge him (Deut 24:14–15; cf., e.g., Lev 19:13; Prov 11:24; Jer 22:13; Mal 3:5). That the wrong done the oppressed would itself cry out to God against the oppressor was also an Old Testament image (Gen 4:10). In first-century Palestine, many day laborers depended on their daily wages to purchase food for themselves and their families; withholding money could mean that they would go hungry.
      • And as far as the rich and their profit: The income absentee landlords received from agriculture was such that the wages they paid workers could not even begin to reflect the profits they accumulated. Although the rich supported public building projects (in return for attached inscriptions honoring them), they were far less inclined to pay sufficient wages to their workers. At least as early as the second century, Jewish teachers suggested that even failing to leave gleanings for the poor was robbing them (based on Lev 19:9–10; 23:22; Deut 24:19).
    • Verse 5 affirms that they are living in plenty. If you look you can see where James says they are living in “wanton pleasure” or “self indulgence.” The Greek word where we get “wanton pleasure” or “self-indulgence” can carry the idea of unrestrained pleasure, even sexual pleasure.
    • Then verse 6 is the strongest: “You” notice how James continuously uses the second person pronoun “you” to accuse them. I count ten times that James writes with “you” or “your.”
      • James accuses them of murder.
        • This could be in one of a few ways.
          • Either they are guilty of murder by not paying their workers. This means their workers go hungry which could kill them, so they are guilty of murder.
          • Or, they used the courts to condemn innocent people to death.
        • Remember James 2:6-7: James said the rich were dragging them into courts.
      • It is clear that James makes a strong case of why the rich need to repent. Now, these rich may be non-Christians. Or, they may claim Christianity, but they clearly are not living like Christ.
        • Analyze where you stand.
          • Are you oppressing anyone who works for you?
            • Sure, it may not be withholding money, but it could be withholding respect. I worked as a McDonald’s manager for 5 years, prior to that I was at Tractor Supply Company, prior to that I was at Lowe’s, prior to that I was at a pet store.
            • I saw many times when a franchise owner, district superintendent, or supervisor would work the salary managers 6-7 long days a week. I was cussed at many times by my supervisor in front of my employees.
            • Evaluate your conduct at work.
          • I’ll ask again, Are your treasures on earth? If you say no, does your life reflect that your treasure is in Heaven?
          • Verse 5 is particularly applicable to us. We live in a country of self indulgence and wanton pleasure. Is your entertainment and enjoyment pure and holy?
          • Do you put entertainment and enjoyment in front of your relationship with God? Do you value entertainment over devotional time with God? Do you value entertainment over your commitment to the church?
            • Please know, I battle these things too. So, I don’t mean to talk down to you. I must ask myself these questions as well.
          • Okay, in verses 7-11 James exhorts the poor to be patient in their suffering.
            • The verb we get “Be patient” from carries the idea that they are waiting for something. What are they waiting for? The Lord’s return. And you know what? He will come someday. Jesus has not come yet, but we have the promise that He will come.
            • James says in verse 8 that His coming is near. In verse 9 He says that the Judge, that is Jesus, is standing at the door. This carries the idea that He is near and that He is watching.
            • Before you say, “That was 2000 years ago.” Let me remind you that 2 Peter 3:8 says that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years is to us. Why is God waiting? 2 Peter 3:9 says that the Lord is patiently waiting so more can be saved.
              • Who is God patiently waiting on? Let me answer that.
              • He is waiting on me and you. He is waiting on us to get the gospel out. He is waiting on more people to have repeated opportunities to receive or reject the Gospel and we are His instruments.
  • How much does the gospel mean to you? Are you sharing the gospel?
  • James then gives the people the example of the prophets. You see they were persecuted for serving the Lord. Acts 5:41 has a group of people rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be persecuted for Christ’s sake. Matthew 5:10 has Jesus saying blessed are you when persecuted for my sake.
  • You may ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” We can’t answer for sure, but sometimes God is preparing us. God is building us up.

A young man desired to go to India as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. Mr. Wilks was appointed to consider the young man’s fitness for such a post. He wrote to the young man, and told him to call on him at six o’clock the next morning.

         Although the applicant lived many miles off, he was at the house punctually at six o’clock and was ushered into the drawing room. He waited—- and waited—- and waited wonderingly, but patiently. Finally Mr. Wilks entered the room about mid-morning.

         Without apology, Mr. Wilks began, “Well, young man, so you want to be a missionary?”

         “Yes, sir, I do.”

         “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?”

         “Yes, sir, I certainly do.”

         “And have you any education?”

         “Yes, sir, a little.”

         “Well, now, we’ll try you; can you spell “cat’?”

         The young man looked confused, and hardly knew how to answer so preposterous a question. His mind evidently halted between indignation and submission, but in a moment he replied steadily, “C, a, t, cat.”

         “Very good,” said Mr. Wilks. “Now can you spell ‘dog’?”

         The youthful Job was stunned but replied, “D, o, g, dog.”

         “Well, that is right; I see you will do in your spelling, and now for your arithmetic; how much is two times two?”

         The patient youth gave the right reply and was dismissed.

         Mr. Wilks gave his report at the committee meeting. He said, “I cordially recommend that young man; his testimony and character have duly examined. I tried his self-denial, he was in the morning early; I tried his patience by keeping him waiting; I tried his humility and temper by insulting his intelligence. He will do just fine.”[3]

You know what, that young man would need that humility, and patience in India.

So, James exhorts them to be patient in their persecution, in their struggles. They have their reward. Verse 11 says the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 As I said, waiting is particularly difficult for me. I have a story that may help. As you listen to the story see who you identify with:

There was once a fellow who, with his dad, farmed a little piece of land. Several times a year they would load up the old ox-drawn cart with vegetables and go into the nearest city to sell their produce. Except for their name and the patch of ground, father and son had little in common. The old man believed in taking it easy. The boy was usually in a hurry— the go-getter type.

One morning, bright and early, they hitched up the ox to the loaded cart and started on the long journey. The son figured that if they walked faster, kept going all day and night, they’d make market by early the next morning. So he kept prodding the ox with a stick, urging the beast to get a move on.

“Take it easy, son,” said the old man. “You’ll last longer.”

“But if we get to market ahead of the others, we’ll have a better chance of getting good prices,” argued the son.

No reply. Dad just pulled his hat down over his eyes and fell asleep on the seat. Itchy and irritated, the young man kept goading the ox to walk faster. His stubborn pace refused to change.

Four hours and four miles later down the road, they came to a little house. The father woke up, smiled, and said, “Here’s your uncle’s place. Let’s stop in and say hello.”

“But we’ve lost an hour already,” complained the hot shot.

“Then a few more minutes won’t matter. My brother and I live so close, yet we see each other so seldom,” The father answered slowly.

The boy fidgeted and fumed while the two old men laughed and talked away almost an hour. On the move again, the man took his turn leading the ox. As they approached a fork in the road, the farmer led the ox to the right.

“The left is the shorter way,” said the son.

“I know it,” replied the old man, “but this way is much prettier.”

“Have you no respect for time?” The young man asked impatiently.

“Oh, I respect it very much! That’s why I like to use it to look at beauty and enjoy each moment to the fullest.”

The winding path led through graceful meadows, wildflowers, and along a rippling stream— all of which the young man missed as he churned within, preoccupied and boiling with anxiety. He didn’t even notice how lovely the sunset was that day.

Twilight found them in what looked like a huge, colorful garden. The old man breathed in the aroma, listened to the bubbling brook, and pulled the ox to a halt. “Let’s sleep here,” he sighed.

“This is the last trip I’m taking with you,” snapped the son. “You’re more interested in watching sunsets and smelling flowers than in making money!”

“Why, that’s the nicest thing you’ve said in a long time,” smiled the dad. A couple of minutes later he was snoring— as his boy glared back at the stars. The night dragged slowly, the son was restless.

Before sunrise the young man hurriedly shook his father awake. They hitched up and went on. About a mile down the road they happened upon another farmer—- a total stranger—– trying to pull his cart out of a ditch.

“Let’s give him a hand,” Whispered the old man.

“And lose more time!” the boy exploded.

“Relax son. You might be in a ditch sometime yourself. We need to help others in need— don’t forget that.” The boy looked away in anger.

It was almost eight o’clock that morning by the time the other cart was back on the road. Suddenly a great flash split the sky. What sounded like thunder followed. Beyond the hills, the sky grew dark.

“Looks like a big rain in the city,” said the old man.

“If we hurried, we’d be almost sold out by now,” grumbled his son.

“Take it easy, you’ll last longer. And you’ll enjoy life so much more,” counseled the kind old gentleman.

It was late afternoon by the time they got to the hill overlooking the city. They stopped and stared down at it for a long, long time. Neither of them said a word, Finally, the young man put his hand on his father’s shoulder and said, “I see what you mean, Dad.”

They turned their cart around and began to roll slowly away from what had once been the city of Hiroshima.[4]

I admit, I am most like the young man. I schedule myself and go quickly. This is something I must admit the Lord is working on in me.

But one thing is for sure: we must all understand that we are better to store up treasure in Heaven, repent of treating coworkers, or employees unjustly, and be patient waiting until the Lord comes again or calls us home. At that time Jesus will make things right and we will have our reward. We must heed James warning that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near.

A passage quite similar is Phil 4:4-8:

In this passage Paul exhorts the persecuted Philippians, listen as I read:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [Even in persecution, rejoice] 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. [Even in persecution, let your gentleness be known to all] The Lord is near. [And now a pattern for thinking—] 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.[5]


[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 611. (from his book, Improving Your Serve)

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jas 5:4.

Old Testament *Old Testament. The common modern term for the Hebrew Bible (including Aramaic portions) as defined by the Jewish and Protestant Christian canons; Jewish readers generally call this the Tenach.

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 429. (from Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students.)

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 427. (from his book, Come Before Winter.)

[5]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed., Php 4:4-8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).

If the Lord Wills… (James 4:13-17)

If the Lord Wills… (James 4:13-17)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 7, 2020

The past few weeks we have been continuing our journey through James. In chapter three, and the first part of chapter four, James has been writing about the wisdom of God as opposed to the wisdom of the world. Our wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life. In James 4:4 James said that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God. There is a dichotomy between Christ and the world’s culture. James says in chapter 4:7 “submit to God.”

The Scripture passage we are going to look at today is written about submitting to God’s will rather than our own. We don’t talk much about God’s will anymore. I have the feeling that a long time ago Christians focused on God’s will more.

You may ask, “How do I know God’s will?” Well, there are several ways to know God’s will, but one way that I don’t recommend is the open window method. I read an example of the Open Window Method just the other day.

There’s the example of Christians who use the open window method in seeking God’s will. You put your Bible by a window and (Whew!) the pages blow and you put your finger on a verse. One man did that and pointed to the verse, “Judas went and hanged himself.” Not a very good life verse, and he did it again. This time he put his finger on the verse that said, “Go and do thou likewise.” The third verse he found said, “Whatever thou doest, do quickly.”[1]

The open window method is not the best method.

What you do need to know is that God does have a will, and as we plan, our plans must submit to God’s will. We are going to look at James 4:13-17 and that is exactly what I intend to show. Our plans must submit to God’s will. We must be dependent on God day-by-day.

Let’s read James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

  • First you will see that planning without God is condemned in verse 13.
    • You may look at verse 13 and think James is condemning planning. But I really don’t think that is the case.
    • If that were the case, I would have a large problem.
    • I am very planned. I am spontaneous…. As long as it is planned.
    • I am a planner. You may be this way too. I don’t think James is condemning planning or planners. I don’t think you need to go home and throw away your calendars or delete your Google calendar.
    • Look at the verse. James is getting their attention. “Come now…” James is the only one in the New Testament to use that phrase and he will use it again in chapter 5:1. It is just a matter of getting their attention. James seems to like these expressions.
    • James gives an illustration of the way they do business, the way they plan. “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.
    • James is describing business planning, but business planning according to the way of the world. The way of the world may give you money and maybe fame but when we miss God’s will we miss something. “Young film star Shia Labeouf has made millions in the past few years….yet he has achieved the American dream. He has everything—- except peace. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m living a meaningless life and I get frightened,’ he said in a 2009 PARADE Magazine interview. I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it, and I’d be on my way.’[2]
    • The way of the world can lead to this God sized hole. We need God’s way.
    • Now let’s get back to James 4:13. James is describing business planning. But James is describing business planning without God. You need to understand, James doesn’t condemn planning. James gives us a different order for planning. Let me repeat that: James doesn’t condemn planning. James gives us a different order for planning. The Christian way is to consult God with our plans. The Christian way is to recognize and seek God’s will daily.
    • Do you see the difference? We consult God and His will in our planning. Remember last week James 4:7: submit, be subject to, God.
    • When our planning is only based off of profit we trump God. We get into idolatry. It is idolatry because we are putting our business transactions and our own interest in front of God.
    • And we must know that when our planning puts our self-interest above God, we are using the wisdom of the world. Remember what the wisdom of the world is about? In James 3:16 the wisdom of the world is about selfish ambition and jealousy and produces disorder and evil.
    • I have a wonderful illustration of someone who intentionally placed God’s interest in front of the world. In the book First Time Dad by John Fuller, he writes: Arthur Gordon, a former editor and bestselling author, once recalled a cherished memory of childhood:
    • When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for the disappointment. Then we heard him say, “No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.”
    • When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. “The circus keeps coming back, you know.”
    • “I know,” said Father. “But childhood doesn’t.” [3]
    • This father could’ve helped his income, but he thought it was a time to focus on his family. I believe that he saw that the better option was to spend time with his family on this day and some sixty plus years later the thirteen-year-old son remembered it.
    • The point is that James was condemning their arrogant, presumptuous attitude to leave God out. They were traveling merchants who likely claimed to be Christians but lived as atheist.

Now let’s look closer at verses 14-15

  • Verses 14-15 show us that our life is temporary so we must focus on God’s will.
    • James continues to be very straightforward. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
    • What is life? You are a mist. James basically says that our life is a puff of smoke. How long does it take for a little bit of smoke to dissipate in the air? When it is winter and it is cold outside, how long does it take for your visible breath to become invisible? It doesn’t take long. James compares our life to a quick puff of smoke, a quick visible exhale.
    • But I wonder do you think of life that way? Do you realize that we must think of eternity?
    • I think many people think more about planning their business transactions than their eternity. I have known many people who claim to be agnostic. This means they don’t know whether or not God exists; or they think we cannot know whether or not God exists. Yet, they are not trying to find out.
    • But this is eternity. Our life might be 80-90-100 years so don’t we want to be sure that our eternity is with God in Heaven? I read something that is fitting:

There are two fixed points in our lives: birth and death. Death is especially unbendable. One astute writer used these words to describe what we’ve all felt.

This frustrates us, especially in a time of scientific breakthrough and exploding knowledge, that we should be able to break out of earth’s environment and yet be stopped cold by death’s unyielding mystery.

An electroencephalogram may replace a mirror held before the mouth, autopsies may become more sophisticated, cosmetic embalming may take the place of pennies on the eyelids and canvas shrouds, but death continues to confront us with its black wall. Everything changes; death is changeless.

We may postpone it, we may tame its violence, but death is still there waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed.

Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death’s shadow, with Nobel Prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen and old man. The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares none.[4]

  • But as Christians we can know that we will meet God in Heaven and we must view things from an eternal perspective, rather than a temporal perspective. Still ask yourself some questions:
    • How often do I think about eternity?
    • Do I recognize that a 1/1 ratio of people will die?
    • Do I view my life as if I will live forever?
    • Do I recognize that God is in control?
  • Now look at verse 15: instead of planning without God we should think, “If the Lord wills…” We don’t talk that way, do we? But the Bible talks that way. Acts 18:21 has Paul with an example of saying, “I will come back if it is God’s will.”
  • John MacArthur notes that the true Christian submits his plans to the Lordship of Christ.
    • Proverbs 19:21: Many plans are on a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.
    • In Acts 21:14 the people say “the will of the Lord be done.”
  • Romans 1:10 Paul says “by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.”
  • I really think it is time that we, in Biblical Wisdom, seek God’s will first.
  • How do you know God’s will?
    • The question of how to know God’s will relates to spiritual disciplines. First, let me tell you how you will not know God’s will.
      • You will not know God’s will if you are not spending time with God.
      • You will not know God’s will if you are not reading the Bible.
  • You will not know God’s will if you don’t pray.
  • You will not know God’s will without the body of Christ.

God speaks through His Word, His church, the Holy Spirit.

  • God’s Word: God’s Word is the Bible and God speaks through the Bible. Many times God’s will will be common Biblical knowledge. You may say, “I don’t know whether God’s will is for me to rob a bank to pay off my debt.” Well, read the Bible, Ex 20:15: “You shall not steal.”
    • You may say, “Is it God’s will that I buy a really nice house that will require a large loan.” Read the Proverbs. Proverbs 22:7: the borrower is servant to the lender.
    • Sometimes God will be very specific to give you a certain verse at a certain time that is very applicable, so it is important to be reading and memorizing the Scriptures.
  • God’s church: The Christian life is not meant for “I” and “me.” The Christian life is not for individual pronouns. This means the Christian life is meant for “us,” “we,” and “our.” We are a church and God speaks through the church. God’s will may be determined by getting pastoral advice. But God’s will is also determined through a Christian brother or sister.
  • We need strong Christian friends that we confide in. You can call it a prayer partner, an accountability partner, or whatever you want. But you need, just as I need, a Christian friend that you meet with about once a week and pray with. This is someone that you confess your struggles to and receive godly support and advice from.
  • As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens his brother or a sister her sister (Proverbs 27:17).
  • God, the Holy Spirit, is another way God speaks. You may have this intuition type of feeling and that is the Holy Spirit speaking to you.
  • Now, let me add. We have human error and we have a sin nature that messes us up. God’s will, whether God has spoken to you through the church, being a Christian brother or sister, or through what you believe is the Holy Spirit, must be confirmed by His Word. God’s will, will not contradict His Word. God will not tell you to rob a bank.
  • Lastly, sins of omission are sins (verses 16-17).
    • James says that they are boasting and bragging and that is evil. It sounds like their boasting and bragging is about their selfish achievements.
    • Then James says that when you know what you are to do and don’t do, that is a sin. This is called a sin of omission. These are sins too. We must do what we know is right.


The other day I read a wonderful story from Charles Swindoll:

My wife and I had the pleasure of spending an evening with former astronaut, General Charles M. Duke. All of us in the room sat in rapt fascination as the man told of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon, including some interesting tidbits related to driving the “Rover,” the lunar vehicle, and his actually walking on the surface. We were full of questions which General Duke patiently and carefully answered one after another.

I asked, “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments… you know, sort of do as you pleased — maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” He smiled back, “Sure, Chuck, if we didn’t want to return to earth!”

He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline, the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second. By the way, he said they had landed somewhat “heavy” when they touched down on the moon. He was referring to their fuel supply. They had plenty left. Guess how much. One minute. They landed with sixty seconds of fuel remaining. Talk about being exact! I got the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. Whoever represents the United States in the space program must have an unconditional respect for authority. [5]

God is the authority in a Christian’s life. We must be subject to God’s authority and we must seek His will. In our planning, in your planning, seek God’s will and submit to God’s will.


[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 247. (quoting Leslie and Bernice Flynn, God’s Will: You Can Know It.)

[2] Bill Brown, PhD; President of Ceadrville University. Torch. Cedarville University magazine spring-summer 2011 edition. Page 3. Article Sabbath Rest.

[3] John Fuller; First Time Dad. Moody Publishers; Chicago, ILL. 2011. page 38

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 139-140. (this comes from Joseph Bayly, The Last Thing We Talk About).

[5] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 414-415.