Comforting the Afflicted
Rubel Shelly   -  

Text for This Study: James 5:7-11

1. To his scattered and suffering friends, James counsels patience (vs.7-8,10), standing firm (v.8), and perseverance (v.11). What does each term mean? What nuances of difference do you see among the three terms?

2. What illustrations of the virtues named in Question #1 does James give? How appropriate do they seem to you?

3. The video cites Miroslav Volf (Against the Tide, p.108) and his tracing of a historian’s view of America’s history from the “holy God” of the Puritan founders, to the “great nation” era of the nineteenth-century patriots, to the “satisfied self” mood of today’s masses. Do you follow the point he made? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

4. Our culture seems to have lost the notion of a “common good” for the sake of personal happiness and pleasure. How has James already anticipated this sort of spiritual poverty in human beings? See 4:1-4. How is the church supposed to represent a counter-culture to selfish and trivial values for human lives?

5. How well do you think the contemporary church is doing in modeling a strong sense of community (i.e., people seeking the common good of its members) to the unbelieving world? How could we do better?

In a sermon titled “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis tried to imagine the ultimate prize for God’s people at the Last Day – Heaven’s ultimate “comfort for the afflicted.” He imagined hearing the voice of God speak these words over him: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. . . .

The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God … to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness … to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.