1. Patience has natural evidences
2. Patience has eternal consequences
3. Patience has a cloud of witnesses
The coming of the Lord. What a great and wonderful day it will be when our Lord Jesus returns. We just finished celebrating the first coming of Jesus when He came as a tiny, helpless Baby in a manger. He was born into the most humble circumstances imaginable. And things didn’t exactly get better for Him, did they? He was raised as a simple carpenter. He preached a message that wasn’t listened to. He lived a life that wasn’t followed. And He died a death that wasn’t deserved. Jesus’ first coming wasn’t exactly what the Jews expected. It wasn’t what they were expecting, because they were expecting a king. They were expecting a king who would come in all His glory and splendor. As Isaiah said, He would rule and reign with a rod of iron. But that’s not how He came the first time. He didn’t come that way the first time, because God’s plan was for Him to come as a suffering servant. His plan was for Him to come as a Lamb to the slaughter. His plan was for Jesus to provide the only perfect sacrifice by willingly offering Himself on the cross of Calvary. But that wasn’t where it ended. Because after three days He emerged from the tomb alive. And He lives today. Jesus was resurrected that we might be resurrected. Because He lives, we have the hope that though we were dead in our trespasses and sins, we might be made to live again—victoriously and eternally. And we also have the hope that one day Jesus will return for us. Before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words. The apostle John records Jesus’ words in John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Jesus said, “I will come again.” But this time, it’ll be a whole lot different when He comes. This time He will come as a victor. This time He will come as the conquering Bridegroom, ready to victoriously claim His bride. Paul tells us of this wonderful time to come in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, he wrote, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Oh how we should long for that day! Lord, when is it going to come? How long do we have to wait for Your return? No matter how many ways we ask the Lord that question His answer is always the same—be patient. Patience goes completely against our human nature, doesn’t it? I think it does especially in our society. We can’t stand to wait on anything. I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that jokingly said they were developing a new kind of pop. They said this new pop was going to be so convenient that when you went to the convenience store to buy it, you would actually be able to walk out of the store 30 seconds before you walked in. We are an impatient people, aren’t we? I read a poem about patience this week. I’m not a poet, but this one struck home for me. “Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman. Never in a man.” Well, by the grace of God, I want us to change that this morning. I want us to pass this seventh test of our faith this morning. I want us to walk out of this place passing the patience test. In order to do that, we’re going to look at three reasons we are to have patience. The first reason is that patience has natural evidences. Look with me at all of verse 7:
Patience has natural evidences. Isn’t God’s creation amazing? Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” God reveals Himself in His creation. Not completely or fully like He does in His Word. But He does reveal Himself enough to let people know He is there. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul tells us that revelation alone is enough to condemn us. Because of that revelation alone, all people stand without excuse before God. But not only does God show us that He is there through His creation. He gives us some wonderful illustrations about life. James uses one of those illustrations to teach us about patience. He uses the example of the farmer. Now, I have told y’all several times that by no stretch of the imagination am I a farmer. If weeds ever become a cash crop, I’ll be rich. But one thing I know about farming—it takes patience. I remember one time CJ had to do an experiment for his science class. The assignment was for him to make a self-sustaining terrarium. He potted a plant in the bottom of a Mason jar and put a little water in it. Then he screwed the lid down tight. It was supposed to sustain itself and grow without adding any water or anything to it. Well, I guess he gets his green thumb from his mother—because the plant died. But it wasn’t from lack of looking at it. I remember him checking that thing four or five times a day to see if it had grown any. He’d pick it up and look—and then put it down. And then a couple of hours later, he’d pick it up and look again. I don’t know why the thing didn’t grow. But I do know that there wasn’t a whole lot of patience happening. James uses the illustration of a farmer here as a good example of patience. But think about what a farmer does. Many times we think of patience as just sitting back with our hands peacefully folded waiting for something to happen. Does the farmer do that? First, the farmer has to prepare the soil. He tills it and plows it and takes out the rocks. It takes a lot of work to get the soil just right, doesn’t it? Then he plants his seeds. He makes sure and selects the right type of seeds for the soil and the climate. He plants them at the right spacing and at the right depth. He makes sure everything is planted to the best of his ability. And then he’s done, right? Not hardly. Then he has to water and fertilize and keep out the weeds. Some plants he has to prune or thin. He has to keep out the deer and squirrels and rabbits and birds. He has to do the hard work of keeping things up. If he doesn’t, then all of his hard work planting has gone to waste. Then he’s done, right? He does all of that one time and then he’s done. No, he has to do it continually, or the crop is lost. The farmer works his field every day. How? With patience. He is active. He is working. All the while, he is patiently waiting for the harvest. He is patiently waiting for the fruit of his field to be ripe unto harvest. James tells us at the beginning of this verse what we are patiently waiting for. We are patiently waiting to see Jesus. Whether we see him when He calls us home or He calls us to meet Him in the air—He is coming back for His children. If you know Him as your Lord and Savior, that’s what you are patiently waiting for. But how are you to patiently wait? Just like the farmer waits for his crop. You patiently wait by working. Ephesians 6:13 tells us to take up the full armor of God that we might be able to stand in the evil day. The picture of standing in the evil day is a good one. Unless you think that Paul is talking about just standing there doing nothing. He closes that verse by saying, “and having done all—to stand.” That is the same thing the farmer does with his crop. Having done all the work he can, he stands. He stands and patiently waits for God to provide the increase. That is what you are called to do until the day you get to see Jesus. Patiently work like the farmer does. And having done all you can do, patiently stand in the assurance that if you’ve trusted Jesus, He’s coming for you. God has provided examples of that kind of patience all around us because patience has natural evidences. But not only does patience have natural evidences, it has eternal consequences. Look at verses 8-9:
Patience has eternal consequences. James gets downright bossy here. There are two verbs right next to each other in verse 8 and both of them are imperatives. Imperatives are those kinds of words that your wife uses when she wants you to turn off the ballgame and get something done. Take out the trash. Clean out the garage. Those are imperatives—bossy words. Well, James uses two bossy words here. First, he says, “be patient.” That’s a command. He doesn’t give any loopholes or wiggle room. With all the force of inspired Scripture, you are commanded to be patient. Then in a parallel statement, James commands us to “stablish” our hearts. That word “stablish” comes from a word that means “to strengthen” or “establish” or “to make solid”. It literally means “to prop up to prevent collapse.” When James commands us to establish our hearts, he’s telling us to courageously stand firm. He’s telling us to stubbornly purpose in our hearts to patiently wait on the Lord. Patiently work hard to prop up your heart to keep it from collapsing. In Psalm 40:1-3, David says “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” We don’t know what tomorrow holds, do we? Other than the prophesies contained in the Bible, we don’t know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. In Revelation 22:12-13, Jesus Himself says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” The fact that Jesus is coming again is the rock we hook our anchor to. The fact of Jesus’ imminent return is the hope we prop up our lives and our hearts on to keep them from collapsing. You can patiently establish your heart in the fact that Jesus is coming again and He’s coming again soon. Think about it. His return is over 1900 years closer than it was when James wrote that His coming was drawing near. But like most things in life, you have a choice to make. Either you can patiently establish your heart in the fact that Jesus is coming again soon…. Or you can take your eyes off Jesus and put them on yourself. So how do you do that? You do that by removing Jesus as the only standard of judgment and make yourself the standard of judgment. Instead of seeing yourself and others judged by God as sinners either in need of a savior or sinners saved by grace, you elevate yourself as judge. You unhook your anchor from the Rock and try to make yourself the rock everyone else needs to anchor to. When you do that, you will face eternal consequences. There is only One righteous Judge. And we are all held to His perfectly holy standard. That’s why we so desperately need His grace. One of these days when you face Him, what do you think He will say if you impatiently set yourself up as the judge instead of Jesus? Verse 9 says that He will condemn. Jesus is coming soon. Are you patiently establishing your heart in that fact? Or are you impatiently judging one person against another? Your answer has eternal consequences. One will result in your singing of a new song of praise. The other will result in condemnation. Patience has natural evidences and eternal consequences. It also has a cloud of witnesses. Look at verses 10-11:
Patience has a cloud of witnesses. Phillips Brooks was a great preacher in New England in the 19th century. He was nationally known for his sermons against slavery and for the Union during the Civil War. His sermon on the death of Abraham Lincoln moved the nation at that time. His Yale lectures on preaching are still widely read and taught today. You might know him best for a simple Christmas song he wrote. He wrote “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Even though he was very well known and had a huge physical presence, he was a very quiet person. But even people like him who seem to have it all together can get frustrated. One day a friend saw him pacing back and forth in his study like a caged lion. His friend asked him what the trouble was. His reply was classic. This great man of God who seemed to have it all together said, “The trouble is, I am in a hurry. But God isn’t.” We always have to remember that the best of men are just men at best. But even recognizing that, God has given us wonderful examples of people who have passed the patience test. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord hasn’t put us here to figure it all out on our own? He has given us His Word—His living Word and His written Word—as His complete and perfect revelation of who He is. And in that Word, He has given us the faithful testimony of men and women who were godly examples of patience for us. Men like Abraham who patiently waited for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Hebrews 6:13-15 says, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” The kind of patience James is highlighting here is patience in the face of suffering. That’s why he uses the biblical example of Job. Job, who patiently waited on God, even though he had lost everything. When verse 11 says “and have seen the end of the Lord” it is talking about the conclusion that the Lord brought about. In other words, the end of the story. Job was patient and steadfast despite his tremendous sufferings. But look at the end result. Yes, God blessed him with renewed health, new children and possessions. But the real blessing was that Job saw God with his very own eyes, just like he knew he would. But you know, God’s great cloud of witnesses didn’t end in Bible times. He has given us the faithful testimony of Christians throughout history as examples. Men and women who have throughout history patiently suffered and bled and died for the cause of Christ serve as witnesses and examples to us. But, we don’t even have to go into the history books to find examples of godly patience in the face of suffering. All we have to do is look around. The Lord has given us the faithful testimony of patient Christians in our church as examples to each and every one of us. People who have endured tremendous trials and tribulations and will still testify with James, “The Lord is full of pity and tender mercy.” So, where is your patience this morning? Is it like Phillips Brooks? Are you always in a hurry—even when God isn’t? Have you learned to wait on God? Not waiting by sitting on your hands doing nothing. But waiting on God by working in the light He’s given you? Are you displaying patience like a farmer does? Do all the work you can for the coming harvest. Do all the work you can, the best way you can—and trust God for the results. That’s patience. Many people who have gone before us have passed much harder patience tests than God is asking you to. Hold on to Him as your eternal hope. Anchor your life to His Rock and you will pass too. Jesus is coming back. How will He find you when He returns? Will you be patiently trusting in Him? Patiently trust the Lord this morning.