Christianity For Dummies: The Power of Patience
A. A woman saw a father shopping with a fussy two-year old in his grocery cart. "Be patient, Billy," he whispers. "You can handle this, Billy. It's okay, Billy." The woman said to him, "I don't mean to interrupt your shopping, but I just had to tell you how wonderfully loving and patient you are with little Billy." The man simply said, "Ma'am my son's name is Patrick. I'M BILLY!!!"
B. How many of you can identify with Billy? I know my wife does. They say patience is a virtue but it's just not one that she happens to have. Me neither on many a day! Does that describe you as well? When you look up impatient in the dictionary there's a GREAT big ole picture of yourself? How about during hard times, times of suffering? Even worse?! I think if we're honest, we ALL struggle with patience, particularly during times of suffering! Thus this AM's sermon is one from which we ALL can learn a thing or two or three!
C. Last week, James wrote to us how a group of rich unbelievers were using their wealth for selfish purposes and in the process were persecuting the poor. In fact, they were dragging them into court, withholding daily wages from them, all the while living in luxury and self-indulgence and seemingly getting away with it. In the midst of this tremendous suffering, what words of encouragement did James offer to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to us today? BE PATIENT!
D. This AM as we continue to dive into the Book of James and our study "Christianity for Dummies" James is going to comfort the afflicted with a great, timeless message on the Power of Patience in suffering. As we dissect that message, we will find an Exhortation to Patience, a Motivation for Patience, Illustrations of Patience and Instructions on Patience.
II. Scripture Reading & Prayer
A. Read James 5:7-11.
B. Pray - Father, we can't thank you enough for putting up with our lack of patience. We pray you would forgive us for past failures and prepare us for future challenges by teaching us through your Word the Power of Patience.
III. Exhortation to Patience (Read and explain James 5:7a, 8a)
A. Therefore What is it therefore? This links 5:7-11 to 5:1-6. James tells his readers in light of the coming Judgment and the horrifying, miserable end of the rich, BE PATIENT! Since God will punish them and right all wrongs, wait patiently for the coming of the Lord. These folks will get their come uppance...don't take matters into your hands...
B. Be patient...brothers You also be patient This is an imperative. James uses the word four times in just four verses (twice in 7, once each in 8 & 10). The word in Greek is "makrothumeo," properly "long-tempered" and meaning refusing to retaliate with anger. It's one of the nine characteristics that embody the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).
C. Illustration: Why all the fuss? Why must James urge us to be patient? Because brothers and sisters WE AIN'T PATIENT! A survey of 1003 adults done in 2006 by the Associated Press and Ipsos discovered the following:
- While waiting in line at an office or store, most people take an average of seventeen minutes to lose their patience.
- On hold on the phone most people lose their patience in 9 minutes.
- Women lost their patience after waiting in line for about 18 minutes. Men lose it after 15 minutes.
- People with lower incomes and less education and living in the suburbs are more patient than those with a college education, a high income and who live in the city.
Discuss patient stories - new year and paperwork, 5 minutes late in room.
D. Application: This is NOT what Christ has exemplified towards us nor what he expects from us! Read 1 Timothy 1:16. How patient Christ has been with us and is with us DAILY!!! He is our Supreme Example and we are to model our lives after Him. In fact... Read Colossians 3; 9, 12. We are a NEW creation and as such Scripture calls us to clothe ourselves with patience!!!
Exhortation to Patience
IV. Motivation for Patience (Read and explain James 5:7a, 8b)
A. Having strongly encouraged us to be patient, James tells us what should motivate us to be patient.
B. Until the coming of the Lord For the coming of the Lord is at hand Our motivation for patience is the coming of the Lord...the Parousia
- "Parousia" is a technical term, literally meaning "the being beside," "the personal presence"; it was used to describe the visit of a king to a city or province of his kingdom, "a royal visit." It was used in the early church for the expected return of Jesus in glory to judge the wicked and deliver the saints.
- Since it's been 2000 years and Jesus has yet to return and James said the Parousia was at hand, then did James, did the early church, do we err in our conviction? NO! Saying and believing something is near/imminent means it COULD transpire within a short period of time - not that it HAD TO! Further, James' language teaches us the CERTAINTY of Jesus' return.
- Draweth nigh (is at hand) = perfect indicative = perfect (already complete) + indicative (asssertion of fact) Jesus IS coming back and "That's a fact Jack!" He's as good as already here!! Hodges: "Anything that MUST happen, and COULD happen TODAY, is in a very legitimate sense AT HAND." Dr. Moo: "They, like Jesus, knew neither 'the day nor the hour' but they acted, and taught others to act, as if their generation could be the last. Almost twenty centuries later, we live in exactly the same situation: our own decade could be the last in human history."
- So, what is our motivation to be patient in suffering? At any minute, the King of Kings could pay the world "a royal visit." 1st Coming = non-military, non-judicial, Suffering Servant, Lamb of God, meak and mild rider on colt of a donkey; 2nd Coming = Lord of hosts, commander of heaven's army, strong victorious warrior, Judge of the quick and dead, Lion of the Tribe of Judah on a white horse - read Revelation 19:11-16. And He's coming to set it all straight! God's purposes and promises WILL NOT, CANNOT fail!!
C. Illustration: We live in a world FULL of Pop Psychology and Motivational Speakers. Even in Christian circles! Discuss "Your Best Life Now" and "Have a New You By Friday." Our motivational speaker is God speaking through His Word to us today and the certain, unfailing promises contained therein!
D. Application: Want some motivation for patience in suffering? Break out the scales of God's justice - read 2 Cor. 4:17. Light momentary affliction on one side vs. Eternal weight of glory (massive weight) on the other! Paul understood that the greater the suffering, the greater would be his eternal glory. Suffering - light, momentary; Glory at 2nd Coming - HUGE (Pretty Woman), eternal. Does that motivate you to be patient in suffering? It should!
Exhortation to Patience
Motivation for Patience
V. Illustrations of Patience
A. Illustration #1: The farmer (Read and explain James 5:7b)
- The first illustration of patience in suffering that James gives us is that of the farmer. It's been said "If a man is impatient then he had better not become a farmer!" Think of all that goes into a healthy, bountiful harvest...No crop appears overnight (lot of waiting and watching, lot of blood, sweat and tears); No farmer has control over the weather - too wet = rot, too much sun = burns up, early frost = kills crops; No farmer can fully control the seed and crop - pestilence, pests (birds, locusts, bugs, deer), disease. HOW LONGSUFFERING MUST HE BE!?!?
- This is exactly what James points out. waits for = "ekdechomai" - ek "out" + dechomai "welcome" thus, literally "out-come" With what attitude? Being patient about it Until what? It receives the early and late rains Early rains = Oct/Nov, just after sowing, critical for germination Late rains = March/April, just before harvest, critical for maturation. Not to mention that 3/4 of Palestine's rain fell Dec-Feb; these two were THE most critical & crucial.
- How did the farmer get these rains? Rain dance? Irrigation system? Read Deut. 11:13-14. Obeyed commandment to love the Lord and serve Him, believed His promise, and waited for the rains. Why did he willingly wait so long? For the precious fruit of the earth Knowing that "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9) Keep in mind though that the farmer doesn't just stand around doing nothing during this time; he is constantly at work as he looks toward the harvest.
- Application: As Christians we are spiritual farmers with a spiritual harvest. We too like the farmer spend most of our time in this life primarily sowing and cultivating not mainly reaping rewards. We too must exhibit patient as we look to the harvest - "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). So are we to put on white robes, climb a hill, and wait for Jesus to return?! NO! Read Titus 2:14. Just like the farmer we KEEP WORKING! "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Luke 12:43)
B. Illustration #2: The prophets (Read and explain James 5:10)
- The second illustration of patience in suffering that James gives us is that of the prophets. Their lives were far from easy and safe and one could use just about any one of the Hebrew prophets as an example of patient endurance in suffering. This word suffering is Greek "kakopatheia," meaning an affliction that seems bad from an earthly perspective but is sent by God to accomplish His greater purpose. Read Hebrews 11:32-38. That doesn't seem bad, that IS bad! Yet..."And these men of faith, though they trusted God and won his approval, none of them received all that God had promised them; for God wanted them to wait and share the even better rewards that were prepared for us." God used their suffering to accomplish a greater purpose. How then did they endure such suffering? With patience! Jesus said what happened to them may just happen to us - read Matthew 5:10-12. Thus the reason that Peter says in his 1st letter - hey, don't be surprised if it does, don't count it strange - read 1 Peter 4:12-17, 19.
- What other encouragements can we receive from the prophet's example?
#1. They were in the will of God, yet they suffered! Satan who is a liar, in fact the father of lies, tells the Christian his suffering is the result of sin or unfaithfulness yet his suffering might very well be because of his faithfulness! 2 Timothy 3:12 (NLT) says "Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." Dr. Wiersbe: "We must never think that obedience automatically produces ease and pleasure. Our Lord was obedient, and it led to a cross!"
#2. God cares for us when we go through suffering for His sake. Elijah announced to the wicked King Ahab a drought for 3 1/2 years. Guess what? Elijah himself suffered in that drought. But God cared for him. Jeremiah was beaten and imprisoned, being arrested as a traitor and later thrown into an abandoned well to die. Yet God fed him during that terrible siege of Jerusalem and protected and rescued him from the well. Or how about Daniel's three friends - Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego - thrown into a fiery furnace...Jesus got in the furnace Himself! And to Nebuchadnezzar's astonishment they didn't so much as smell of smoke! Or what about Daniel himself? Thrown into the lion's den! Yet God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths! As it has been said, "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you."
#3. A faithful, godly life is a powerful testimony! I mean why is it that those who spoke in the name of the Lord often must endure difficult trials? So their lives might back up their message! Dr. Wiersbe: "We need to remind ourselves that our patience in times of suffering is a testimony to others around us." I am EVERY time I share the many testimonies from our Africa trip with the countless people who have asked me over the past few weeks how our trip was!! Especially those moments that were at the time seemingly unbearable!!
#4. They should encourage us to spend more time in the Bible! Why? To get acquainted with these Heroes of the Faith contained in God's Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). Romans 15:4 (LB): "These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death."
- If the farmer reminds us to KEEP WORKING, the prophets remind us to KEEP WITNESSING! Discuss Peter and John in Acts 4 before the Council - proclaiming the Gospel, charged to speak no more to anyone in Jesus' name, they said "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Like the prophets, no matter how painful it might be or get - KEEP WITNESSING!
C. Illustration #3: Job (Read and explain James 5:11)
- The third illustration of patience in suffering that James gives us is that of Job. You would be hard pressed to find a greater example of suffering than Job! In a single day, he lost his beloved children and all his wealth and property! Bad enough? He then was struck with loathsome sores from his head to his feet. His wife was against him, telling him to curse God and die. Look at how great his grief was at that moment - read Job 2:13. And yet his suffering wasn't over - read chart on pg 696 of my Bible. Later his friends who initially "made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him" accused him of being a hypocrite, deserving God's judgment! Even God seemed against him! When Job cried out to God for answers to his questions, there was no reply from heaven.
- Yet, Job endured. James calls it steadfastness. Greek = "hupomeno," hupo (under) + meno (to stay). It means voluntary, steadfast endurance with an emphasis on "remaining under a load." Was he constantly patient though? Didn't he grumble about his circumstances, self-righteously proclaim his innocence and question God? Yes. Yet he remained steadfast, he endured - he never sinned, he never abandonded his faith, he clung to God and hoped in Him. Barclay: "Job's is no groveling, passive, unquestioning submission; Job struggled and questioned, and sometimes even defied, but the flame of faith was never extinguished in his heart."
- And hey, HE (Job) got to have a one on one talk with God...more like a Schipol Airport interrogation but nonetheless I've never and I doubt you never have had such a blessing! I think it's very telling that during that time of God's interrogation of Job that God doesn't tell him why he's suffering but how he should suffer by revealing His character to Job. Read commentary on page732.
- What is one of the greatest comforts in times of suffering? Remember the Lord's character! James says taste and see that the Lord is good - how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. Literally "many-boweled" (discuss) Job's end reminds us that the Lord is indeed compassionate and merciful. "And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning." (Job 42:12) Does that mean for us that suffering always = material prosperity? No!
- Application: What does Job's story mean to us today? If the farmer reminds us to KEEP WORKING, and the prophets remind us to KEEP WITNESSING, then Job reminds us to Be patient! KEEP WAITING! Waiting on the promises and purposes of the Lord even if at times those purposes are a mystery to us. Remember Job had NO CLUE what was going on "behind the scenes" between God and Satan. God permits Satan to try His children and our present suffering may indeed be due in part or whole to satanic opposition. Or this side of heaven, we may NEVER know! You see, Satan wants us to get impatient with God, for an impatient Christian is a powerful weapon in the devil's hands. Moses' = robbed him of a trip to the Holy Land; Abraham's = led to the birth of Ishmael, the enemy of the Jews; Peter's = almost made him a murderer! When Satan attacks us, it is easy to grow impatient and run ahead of God and lose God's blessing as a result. Mention Kiisi and 13 hours in Land Rover. What then is the answer? "My grace is sufficient for thee." Dr. Wiersbe: "When you find yourself in the fire, remember that God keeps His gracious hand on the thermostat!"
Exhortation to Patience
Motivation for Patience
Illustrations of Patience
VI. Instruction on Patience (Read and explain James 5:8b-9)
#1 AVOID Discouragement: establish your hearts Greek = "sterizo" meaning to set fast, turn resolutely in a certain direction. It's a call to resolute, firm courage and commitment. "James exhorts those about to collapse under the weight of persecution to shore up their hearts with the hope of the second coming." (MacArthur)
#2 AVOID Complaining: Do not grumble against one another Greek = "stenazo" properly, to groan because of pressure of being exerted forward (like the forward pressure of childbirth); (figuratively) to feel pressure from what is coming on – which can be intensely pleasant or anguishing (depending on the context). J. Mayor - This term "denotes feeling which is internal and unexpressed" (i.e. to sigh, moan (groan) with frustration.) Impatience with God often leads to impatience with God's people and is a sin we MUST avoid! Dr. Wiersbe: "If we start using the sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest!" Yet all too often during painful times, particularly times of suffering, we come out guns ablazing and the recipients of our bullets are own beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.
A. Walter Mischel in 1970 did an experiment on patience with four-year-olds. He would leave one child in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. If the child rang the bell, Mischel would come back and the child could eat the marshmallow. If the child waited for Mischel to come back on his own, the child could have two marshmallows. Show video.
B. Questions have raged since that time - What does the marshallow test actually test? Celeste Kidd, 2012, University of Rochester, did an updated version. Two groups - reliable and unreliable - one group had a promise fulfilled and one group did not directly before they were subjected to the marshmallow test. The results were dramatic: Nine out of the 14 kids in the reliable condition held out 15 minutes for a second marshmallow, while only one of the 14 in the unreliable condition did. If kids were unsure they were going to get a second marshmallow, they didn’t bother to wait. Her work suggests that getting kids to be better at waiting—in the lab and in life—is a matter of persuading them that there’s something worth waiting for.
C. Have you personally experienced God fulfill at least one promise? Then don't you think He's faithful and able to fulfill others, particularly the return of His Son, even if it seems like forever? Even if it requires us to be patient when it's most difficult, during times of suffering??
D. James exhorts us Be patient! Why? There's something worth wating for - the coming of the Lord. How? See...as an example...the farmer, the prophets, Job. In the meantime? Don't lose heart; love, encourage and edify one another. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
VIII. Invitation and Benediction
- Discuss the greatest suffering ever - excrutiating, Christ crucified? Why? For you, for me, for us! Have you received His gift of forgiveness & eternal life?