Summary: In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the persecuted Jewish villagers of Anatevka are forced to flee the Russian pogroms. Someone asked the Rabbi, “Wouldn’t this be a good time for the Messiah to come?” The Rabbi answered, “Yes, my son; meanwhile, let’s get packing!”
In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the persecuted Jewish villagers of Anatevka are forced to flee the Russian pogroms. Someone asked the Rabbi, “Wouldn’t this be a good time for the Messiah to come?” The Rabbi answered, “Yes, my son; meanwhile, let’s get packing!” In the Lord’s Prayer we pray: “Thy will be done.” Patience reveals our trust in God’s timing, power, providence, and love. It’s a virtue that carries a lot of wait!
James urges us to be patient as we wait for Christ’s return, in verse 7. Some preachers act like Jesus is coming next week, a presumptuous dogma I’ve heard since the 1960’s. One confidently said we won’t see the 1970’s. We don’t know when He’s coming back. We’re not on the planning committee; we’re on the welcoming committee! God is in control of history. Our job is to be watching, patiently waiting, and ready for whatever happens.
James gives the example of farmers. If you’re impatient, you probably shouldn’t be a farmer! A farmer’s life is governed by a rhythm of working and waiting. However, patience doesn’t mean inaction. While waiting, there’s work to be done. Farmers can be patient because their crop is valuable. Farming takes faith, because in spite of all human effort, there is much that is out of a farmer’s control. To cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit we need be like farmers. We need to grow the gospel way of life. However healthy the crop, it has to be looked after. We do our part and God does His. He is producing a harvest in us; He will satisfy our needs, and our lives will be fruitful--in His time--and often through trials and temptations.
The return of our Lord promises reward. We’ve planted and prayed. The harvest will come when Jesus comes…then we will receive the fruit of our labor. Back when James wrote, if you wanted corn for dinner, you had to plant it and wait. In this day of instant gratification, we stop by the supermarket and pick some up. But for some things in life we have to wait…and they’re worth waiting for.
It’s been said, “Don’t judge God by His unfinished work” (F.B. Meyer). God’s not done with us. His way is seldom the quick way, but it is always the complete way. God may seem slow, yet He’s never late. Patience involves “living with the unexplained, trusting in the fact that God is love, not in our ability to figure out why--in the midst of smashed hopes, reversal, tragedy” (Pamela Reeve). “True patience is waiting without worrying” (Swindoll).
There are two Greek words for patience in the New Testament. Both are military terms that deal with the battles we face in life. The King James Version translates one of them as “long-suffering.” The word means to keep our impulses in check. The other word means to “bear up under burdens and stand firm.” Both involve waiting and enduring while afflicted--grace under fire.
The Hebrew word for patience means “slow to anger.” We persevere through the frustrations of life, something difficult to do and precious when attained. Impatient people tend to be angry people. While patient people may be tempted to rant and rave, they are able to control their temper and wait upon God in silence and peace. They are patient with the faults of others, knowing that others have to be patient with them. We can’t control what people say or do, but we can control how we react to them. Patience helps us to more effectively communicate--to go beyond what is said to what is meant--which goes a long way in resolving conflict.
James assures us that the coming of the Lord is “near,” verse 8. Maybe not as quickly as we’d like, but it is approaching. Jesus is right outside the door; His imminent arrival could occur at any time. In the meantime, we’re to “stand firm”; a more exact translation is “strengthen your hearts” (NASB). When we’re established in our faith we will persevere with resolute firmness. But perseverance is never instantaneous. It requires the ability to be calm amid adversity. Some people have trained their dogs to stand patiently, with a doggie treat balanced on their nose, waiting for the go-ahead to eat it. I like how they get it before it hits the ground! These dogs have more patience and self-control than most of us.
We’re told to wait till Jesus returns. Every day needs to be lived as if it were the last day, with courage and conviction and devotion to biblical truth. We’re to be patient even if it takes to the very last day! Many messy things in this life don’t get neatly resolved, but God never wastes suffering; He will use our trials for our good and His glory. At the End of Days Jesus will right every wrong. We anticipate the blessed hope of His return; we’re ready to go, ready to wait. Meanwhile, it is often through adversity that Jesus is shaping our character and preparing us for that Day.