Summary: James teaches us how to Practice Pre-Christmas Patience by: I. Patiently remembering that the Lord is in control, and II. Patiently remembering that the Lord wishes to bless us.
Do you know what two of the most dreaded words a teacher can hear from one of their students are? What two little words can a student say that will drive a teacher up the wall? I think they are words that we all have said to a teacher, a spouse, or an employer at one time or another. The two little words being the short sentence, “I forgot.” “I forgot to do my assignment. I forgot that needed to be handed in today.” What makes these words “I forgot” so hurtful to hear is that they always betray a lack of love, and a lack of devotion on the part of the person saying them. “Sorry hunny, I just forgot it was your birthday today. Sorry dear, I forgot to pick up that milk you asked for on the way home from work.” “I forgot” is really saying, “you weren’t the main thing I was thinking about. I had more important matters to attend to, so I forgot you.”
Sometimes you might get the impression that God has more important things to do than to think about you. He has to control the planets, comets, stars, tides, and weather. He has to feed every creature and nourish every plant. And as God is busy doing all these things, do you fall through the cracks? You might look at the things you are struggling with and think that God has forgotten you. And then you begin to question his love for you, and if he really understands what you’re going through, and if he cares or if he even notices. King David felt this way as he wrote in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”
James was worried that some of his readers might think that God was forgetting about them. In the verses preceding our text, he talks about poor people being mistreated, taken advantage of, and even murdered by the powerful. And to some of these downtrodden, it looked like God had forgotten them. God forgot to take care of them. Of course he hadn’t. God is not slow as some people understand slowness, but he is patient. And in case you ever feel as if God has forgotten you, let James teach you this morning how to Practice Pre-Christmas Patience. 1) Patiently Remember that the Lord is in Control. 2) Patiently Remember that the Lord Brings Blessings.
Someone once said that you know you are in a rural congregation when it’s Sunday morning, it’s pouring and lightning and thundering outside, and everyone is in a great mood. For most people, thunderstorms and dark rain clouds have a tendency to get us down, put us in a melancholy mood, but not farmers. They have invested thousands of dollars out in the fields, and the rain means that they will have a return on their investment. But do you know how much work a farmer contributes to the weather to make it rain? Absolutely none! Our text says, “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.” A farmer has zero control over if it is going to rain or not. He can go out into the field and do rain dances until his legs fall off, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to rain. A farmer realizes he has no control, and instead he must be patient as he waits for rain.
Prior to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s execution, he gave away a note which contained his last words to the world. As you might imagine, these were some sad words. Sad, because they did not show a hint of remorse or sympathy for the killing of 80-plus innocent people. But sad in another way as well. This note ended with the words, “I am the Master of my Fate. I am the Captain of my Soul.” Though McVeigh was going to be killed, he wanted to give the impression that he still was in charge. Even in death, this terrorist did not want to give up control of his life. How sad that he died as he had lived: trusting in himself!
There’s a big lie going around these days. That lie says that if you can control every situation, that’s the road to happiness. If you can control your finances, if you can control your health, if you can control your future, you’ve got it made. Sounds good, but it’s a lie! For we cannot control these things anymore than we can control the rain. We would like to think like McVeigh that WE are the Master of OUR Fate, the Captain of OUR Souls, and if WE just work hard enough, and if WE just do the right things, WE will control the outcome of OUR lives. And if we run into a bump along the road to that perfect existence, a bump in the form of someone else who we cannot control the way we’d like, maybe it’s the spouse not on the same page as you, someone else in our family who’s giving you grief, someone at church or work giving you problems. When we can’t control things, we have a tendency to lash out at those closest to us. How backwards it is that we may be so polite to complete strangers, while those dearest to us are the problem, and we gripe about them. And we probably gripe to them. That was the problem with the people that James addressed, as he wrote, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.”