Summary: Through patient endurance, we can hang on until Jesus returns.
James 5:7-11 Sept. 26, 1999
Living in Expectation of Jesus’ return (Part 2) – Patient Endurance
A young man, a Christian, went to an older believer to ask for prayer. "Will you please pray that I may be more patient?" he asked. The aged saint agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, "Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man...." At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience." "Ah," responded the wise Christian, "it’s through tribulation that we learn patience."
By a show of hands, tell me how many of you have a problem with a lack of patience. Now, how many of you are willing to pay the price that is required in order to gain patience? Most of us when we recognize the need for patience, we pray a prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!” Patience, like most Christian characteristics, is one of those character traits that grows over time rather than being given to us overnight.
When Jesus left this world, He promised his disciples that he would soon return. They failed to understand that “soon” did not mean the same thing to Jesus as it meant to them. We have told Benjamin and Victoria that we will soon be going to see grandma. We are planning to go to Georgia around Thanksgiving. To Tammy and me, that is soon. But to Ben and Victoria, “soon” is tomorrow. To the people of Jesus’ day, “soon” meant within the next few days. So some of them quit their jobs, sold all their goods, and gathered on a hillside waiting for the soon return of Jesus. It’s kind of like what many people are now doing. Have you heard about all the people who have quit their jobs and moved to Jerusalem to await the return of Jesus on January 1, 2000? They believe that their patience is finally going to be rewarded and that they will be there to greet Jesus when He comes down to the Mount of Olives there in Jerusalem. Though I do not know for sure that Jesus will not return on that date, I sincerely doubt it. But though I do not know the date of His return, I do know that He will return! Until that time though, I must wait for the return and allow God to use the intervening time to shape me the way that He wants. That requires patience. The verses that we are going to look at this morning remind us that we need patience while we live in this world and anticipate the Lord’s return to the earth. Let’s read verses 7-11 of James 5.
1. The reward of patience is maturity/strength. (5:7 see 1:4)
James uses the farmer to illustrate the necessity and reward for patience. [read the verse] When the farmer goes out in the early fall to plant his seeds, he knows that he is going to have a long wait before he will get to see the fruit of his labor. He begins by tilling the ground. Then he plants the seed. Then he prays for rain. In the climate of Canaan, there were two rainy seasons – the spring and the fall. That’s what it means here when it talks about the early and the latter rains. Actually, the farmer doesn’t have to wait very long to see something coming up through the ground. That will happen in just a few days. What would you think of the farmer who harvested his crop after just a few days growth? Would he have anything worth eating or selling? NO! What he wants is for that seed to sprout into a plant, and then he wants that plant to reach its full maturity. He doesn’t want a weak seedling; he wants a strong, mature crop. That takes time. He has to wait until the process is complete. If he harvests his crop too early, then he will ruin it. Farmers must be patient.
Parents must be patient too. I remember when we were waiting on our first child to be born. It seemed like those nine months would never be over. I know that the wait was a lot harder for Tammy than it was for me. Actually, we only had to wait 8 months and 2 weeks. Victoria came a little early. Now, let me ask you this: after that 9 months was over, would I have been safe to say that I now have a strong, mature child who is able to survive on her own? If I had said that, I would now have a dead child. Parenting takes years of work caring for that child and instilling in them the training and encouragement that they need in order for them to mature enough to make it on their own. As parents, we want trees, not flowers. Flowers spring up overnight and are destroyed with the first frost. Trees take decades to grow, but then they can withstand the winds of a hurricane. It takes patience.