Summary: While we are suffering, James says that there is one thing we must do, and two things we must not do.
A. Dr. Robert Lightner, a long-time faculty member of the theology department at Dallas Theological Seminary was involved in a terrible plane crash.
1. He was in a single-engine plane that flipped over during takeoff.
2. He was badly injured and bruised beyond recognition. His wife, Pearl, said when she first saw him, “I looked at this black mass of flesh, and I didn’t even know who he was.”
3. Thankfully, Dr. Lightner did recover, and today he is a living testimony of the grace of God.
4. Lightner said of the ordeal, “I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn.” (From Hope Again, by Charles Swindoll)
B. That’s what suffering can do. That’s how God can use suffering in our lives – to mold us and shape us and teach us.
1. Famous talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael, who lost her daughter just three weeks after her son nearly died in a car accident said, “You learn more in 10 days of agony than from 10 years of content.” (Selling Magazine, June 1995)
C. I like the illustration told by M.R. Dehaan in the book, Broken Things.
1. A little piece of wood once complained bitterly because its owner kept whittling away at it, cutting it and filling it with holes.
2. But the one doing the cutting paid no attention to its complaining.
3. He was making a flute out of the piece of ebony, and he was too wise to desist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly.
4. He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever – just a useless piece of ebony.
5. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you, for only thus can you be a blessing in the world."
D. One of the amazing things about the Bible is its realism.
1. The Bible presents things as they really are, without a candy coating, or idealism.
2. When we read in the Bible about the people who have gone before us, we see that even the most saintly of biblical characters still had some warts. They had their challenges, either emotionally, physically or spiritually.
3. Every person in Scripture is portrayed in all of his or her humanity.
4. We see them struggle with temptation and some fall into sin.
5. We see them suffer sometimes being betrayed by loved ones, lied to or cheated on.
6. Sometimes we observe their experience of long spells when God seems so silent and absent.
7. Sounds an awful lot like our experience, wouldn’t you say?
E. It is the Bible that speaks so realistically about the reality of suffering.
1. Job 5:7 says, “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”
2. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (Jn. 16:33)
3. And as we have noticed from our study of James, he addresses this reality so directly and yet so hopefully, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:3).
4. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor’s crown…”
5. And in our text for today, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” (5:7)
F. As we have said from the beginning of this series, James is writing to people who are experiencing suffering.
1. They were experiencing things like famine, poverty and persecution.
2. But James had a very important Word from the Lord to help them stand up under these things.
3. And the Word from the Lord that he gave them can be so helpful to us as we face our suffering.
4. So, what did James say that was so helpful? He gave them and us one primary thing to do, and two things to avoid.
I. What should we do when we are suffering? BE PATIENT!
A. I realize that that is probably the last thing we want to hear. Am I right about that?
1. Turn to your neighbor and say, “I don’t want to be patient!”
2. In his book, Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns, Swindoll writes, “Those late take-offs, those grocery lines, those busy restaurants, those trains! What fertilizer for the thorns of impatience!…Your waitress will not likely be impressed that you can prove the authorship of the Pentateuch. Nor will the gal at the check-out stand stare in awe as you inform her of the distinct characteristics of biblical infallibility…one quality, however – a single, rare virtue scare as diamonds and twice as precious – will immediately attract them to you and soften their spirits. That quality? The ability to accept delay graciously. Calmly. Quietly. Understandingly. With a smile. If the robe of purity is far above rubies, the garment of patience is even beyond that…But, alas, the garment seldom clothes us!”