At times we become so excited about an upcoming event that we have trouble waiting. It may be a holiday we are looking forward to, a vacation, or a party, and we wonder every day – "how many more days?" We have this with our boys with going to DC in a few weeks!
Sometimes, while on a long car ride, we become tired and bored. We ask, "Are we there yet?" We may ask it over and over and the answer may sound like this: "Be patient!"
The Bible teaches us that learning to be patient is a good thing. Here is an example that may help us understand why we should learn to be patient. I've brought along a handmade quilt. The quilt is made up of many pieces of fabric which have been carefully sewn together to make a lovely pattern. If you look closely we will see that the quilt is held together with very tiny stitches. Expert quilters like to make 10 to 12 stitches within each inch. That takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience.
Someone had a great deal of patience to make this quilt. Hours and hours were spent choosing the right material, cutting the pieces, joining the pieces and then quilting the layers of the quilt together. A beautiful quilt has been created because the quilter was patient. This quilt is used on my bed to keep me warm. Quilters are patient and generous people. They often give the quilts they make to others. I know of quilters who make quilts for people who are sick and need to be comforted.
From Lectionary.org: http://www.lectionary.org/ChildSermons/NT/20-James/James.5.07-10.Patience-Edstrom.htm
Before these verses James is denouncing the rich who treat the poor unjustly. Probably few of these rich were going to read this letter (many of them non Christians) so really talking to the Christians who were suffering from their oppression and giving them encouragement to stand firm. In these verses James comes back to talking directly to the church. In this context James talks about the Lord’s Second Coming. While this would cause the doom of the wicked rich, this would also deliver God’s people. This same event, which the wicked rich should think about with weeping and wailing (James 5:1), would be to the righteous a joyful and eternal relief.
Thesis: The exhortation, the example, and the encouragement
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” “You too, be patient”
From the day of our baptism until our death or the Lord’s return, we wait patiently. Like many of us, the apostle Paul did not enjoy delays. He was passionate about evangelizing, mentoring young Christians, and shepherding whole congregations all at the same time. Yet he was also a man who knew and trusted God enough to know how to trust God’s schedule. As he wrote letters from prison, we might expect him to be fuming against the obstacles that hindered all the things he wanted to do for God. What we find is just the opposite. He wrote his friends at Philippi, ““I am in chains for Christ.” Philippians 1:13, NIV. He told how he was able to share the gospel with the palace guard, and how many had grown bolder in their faith because of what was happening to hi. A letter of anguish for anyone else becomes a letter of joy for Paul.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives us the greatest paragraphs on love that were ever written, and patience finds it ways into the mix. Right off the bat, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV. Then, when we look at the fruit of the Spirit we find: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” Galatians 5:22, NIV. Paul had a high regard for this quality. If patience is so important, why is it so difficult? Lord, give me patience and give it to me now.
Patience is only learned through pain, troubles and tribulation. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3, 4, NIV. When I begin a new day, tribulation is not only my lists of requests to God: “Lord, can you hit me with something nerve racking today? My character needs a good test!” Silly but if Christian maturity is our goal, then need to start praying this way. Really no need to pray for troubles, they seem to come our way naturally. This world is fallen and God wants us to grow. James stands with Paul in telling us to embrace the qualities of patience; to cultivate it during tough times, and to depend upon it to inspire us.
If the Lord delays his return it is for good reason. “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20, NIV. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 3/4 of American Christians believe in the Second Coming, and 20% feel certain He will return in their lifetime (Apr. 2009). We have to be pleased that many understand that Christ will come back, and that this sorry world is not all that we have. Still, we can’t get into the business of backseat driving with God. James understand that, and reminds us to be patient and let Him take the wheel. Have we ever gotten frustrated on the freeway, when traffic came to a standstill? Seems to happen when we need to be somewhere. We think, What’s the big delay here? It is ridiculous! Often we reach the point of the bottleneck and spot the ambulance and the stretchers. We know something tragic has happened here, and we’d have waited more patiently if only we could have seen the big picture. Delays don’t occur because someone is trying to irritate us personally. There are very good reasons in most cases; as far as heaven goes, in all cases.
The Example (James 5:7 about the farmer)
James and his brother Jude probably had some background in farming. In those days, if one did not farm well, he did not eat, so important to know farming.
The early rain started the growth cycle; the latter rain provided moisture to mature the harvest. Water, lots of water, is needed to be absorbed to start the process of growth. As the seed grows larger it eventually bursts from its confining walls. The tip of the root emerges, the seed is anchored, and the new plant absorbs water and nutrients directly from the soil.
Today and even more so in the 1st century, nothing happens unless water comes from the clouds. Patience is needed for farmers since they can’t bring the rain they need from the clouds. As we await the return of Jesus, the analogy is clear. Our job is to till the soil, to nurture each other, to make good use of the “early rain” (when Christ came to earth the first time), and to prepare for the “latter rain” when He will come to bring the harvest.
We can see that our waiting in not just sitting around. Farmer must prepare and work. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9, NIV. No harvest if no preparing, no work.
The Encouragement (James 5:8- the Lord’s Coming is near)
We might smile when we think of those in the 1st century impatient for the Lord’s return. By the time of this letter, they might have been waiting 3 decades. We have been waiting for 2,000 years. If we were farmers, we would say that the clouds have closed up forever, and that the rain will never fall again. It’s been a while. So what is the evidence of His return? Think about this
How long did people wait for the first coming of Christ? From Genesis 3:15 until the birth of Jesus Christ. How long between the two? Well, if the earth is 6,000 years old (some debate on this but not billions of years old), and 2,000 years have passed, then 4,000 years between Adam and Jesus. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,” Galatians 4:4, NIV. Only God knew the perfect time for the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. Everything was in place for the rapid spreading of the gospel and the prophecies were ripe. Is there any reason to believe that the time of His second coming will be any less precise?
Started our series on Stand firm this morning with 1 Corinthians 16:13.
NIV translates this as stand firm but the Greek word is different. KJV and English Standard- Establish your hearts; NASB- strengthen your hearts. What does this mean? Means “make your heart firm.” One paraphrase says, “You must put iron into your hearts.” James is talking about taking the initiative to strengthen ourselves from the inside- to gird up the soul. In other words, we are to develop confidence as we wait. The imagery is all about bracing some object of support so that it will not give away, like checking the load bearing pillars to make sure they’ll support the roof. When faith is challenged, it needs to be buttressed. In essence James is saying, “Don’t just sit there- pump up your faith, so that you can stand firm.”
It has been said that patience is “doing something else in the meantime.” And that “something else” we do is to find how to profit from the very trials we’re waiting through.
Novelist Herman Wouk has written of a meeting he had with David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first president. Ben Gurion urged him to move to the newly established nation. This was 1955, and terrorists were still bringing regular bloodshed to the citizens. Ben Gurion had left office and had begun his memoirs by this time. He invited Wouk and his wife for a visit to his home, where they talked for hours. At the end of the visit, he renewed his invitation to come live in Israel. “Here you will be free,” he said. The Wouks had arrived with an escort operating a mounted machine gun, watching for terrorists. “Free?” Wouk asked. “With your road impassable after sundown?” “I did not say safe,” replied Ben Gurion. “I said free.” What we want is courage dependent on earthly security; what we need is courage based on heavenly security. We want comfort, but God gives us something better: freedom. Because our eternal destiny is settled, because this world is in the hands of God, we can be free from anxiety if we only have the faith.