“You witness to others every time you respond graciously to an ungracious act.” —Charles R. Swindoll
Encouragement is often used in Christian circles to describe a kindness shown or a well-timed word. In cultures where Christianity is not threatened or perceived as threatening, the word may even lose a bit of its edge—a pity, when the crux of the word rooted in courage. In the context of James 5:7–12 (NASB), “encouragement” was exactly that: James, with his words, rallied his original audience to develop the grit—specifically the “strength of heart”—to patiently persevere in righteousness despite unjust and harsh circumstances. The question for us today is, what does it mean to be a courageous Christian?
Waiting...suffering. These two topics can be challenging to teach, especially in cultures that value do-it-yourself comfort, convenience, and immediacy. People growing up in a right-now culture are most prone to instants: instant fame, instant wealth, instant answers. How would you communicate the message of James 5:7–12 to a group of teenagers? How would you define suffering? What would you emphasize as their biggest challenges? What encouragement could you offer this generation?
Some encouragement might be:
- The interconnectedness of this generation creates new opportunities to support persecuted and suffering Christians and to pray for both local and global challenges to the church
- This generation is passionate about justice and compassion. They can follow the example of the prophets by speaking out against those who have “condemned and put to death the righteous” (James 5:6) and by demonstrating the compassion and mercy of God (5:11) to those in need
- While cyberbullying and social media revenge are popular responses to mistreatment, a Christian stands out as godly when he or she shows restraint online
When you’ve been wronged, don’t ruminate endlessly on the situation or you’ll stay angry. Don’t focus on yourself, or you’ll be filled with self-pity. Don’t focus on someone to blame, or you’ll complain. Don’t focus solely on the present circumstances.
Instead, practice patience. Be strong and stay objective, as much as you’re able, by realizing that God’s purposes in present circumstances may not be immediately clear. Insight doesn’t usually come until later.