Summary: Sermon starts focused on our patience built on our faith, but changes focus to God’s goodness, compassion and mercy upon which our faith rests.
Be Patient – Have Faith
A couple of years ago, I heard Patrick Mead, a missionary to Africa and many other places, describe a very real picture of faith. He told of a family in Africa who had stored up a year’s harvest of grain. Each day, the mother and father would ration out just enough grain to sustain their children, and the children would beg for more. All through the winter months, the children would have just enough to nourish them, but never enough to fill them. The parents explained that there would not be enough to last the year if they didn’t ration out a small portion each day, but the children cried for more. One day, one of the sons went to a storage area outside the house and found an extra bag of grain. He came running back to the house ecstatic that he had found more grain. He jumped up and down with joy as he told his parents and siblings about the extra grain he had found. His father had to calm the boy down and explain to the children that they could not eat that bag of grain, for it was for seed. The children didn’t understand. They cried and begged for more food today, but the father knew that more food today meant no food in the following year. He had to deny his children what they wanted so he could provide them with what they needed.
So he went and planted the grain, scattering it about on the turned soil. In the eyes of his children, he was throwing away their food, but by faith, he knew that God was providing their food at the harvest time.
I imagine that the father had to remind the children that the food would come. I can just see a hungry child looking at an empty field, knowing that what could have been his food was instead thrown on the ground. And surely there were some birds that came and ate some of the seed from the ground. The child doesn’t have the experience to know that you have to sacrifice today to enjoy the harvest tomorrow. But the father understands. He can be patient for the harvest, because he has faith that God will provide. He has that faith because he has experience. He knows that God has always provided in the past, and He is faithful to provide today and from now on.
Please turn with me to the book of James, chapter 5. This will be our last lesson from James in this series, but we have certainly not taken everything there is to learn from James. Let me encourage you once again to go back and read James from start to finish. It is only a few pages long, and it should be read as you would read a letter.
There was a period of time when Nancy and I were hundreds of miles apart, and I can remember receiving her letters. I would read them from start to finish, then go back and re-read them. Sometimes I would dwell on one or two sentences, particularly if they were flattering! We should read our Bibles in the same way. Read a book or epistle from start to finish in one sitting if you have the time. Then go back over the next several days and re-read the scriptures, slowing down to study sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, theme by theme.
James 5:7-11 (NIV)
7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
When I write notes for a sermon, I usually come up with some sort of title for the sermon. This is primarily for my benefit because it helps me as I try to stay focused on one main idea for a sermon. I don’t always tell you the title of my sermons, and you may be puzzled right now to think that I try to focus on one main idea, but today’s sermon title is “Be Patient – Have Faith”.
In this short passage, James uses the words “patient”, “patience”, “persevered”, and “perseverance” six times in five verses. He doesn’t use the word “faith” at all. So you may be wondering why I went with the title “Be Patient – Have Faith”.