Summary: The fifth and final sermon in a series through the book of James
In one of his books, James Emery White tells of the Russian-American comic, Yakov Smirnoff’s, initial response to the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He said, "On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk--you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice--you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, what a country!"
Wouldn’t it be great if conception and childbirth were that easy? Maybe not. Wouldn’t it be great to just add water to our spiritual births and voila instant spiritual maturity! However, it isn’t that easy, is it?
The spiritual growth and maturity that we have heard from the pages of James the past two months comes from a long-term dedicated commitment to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow out of spiritual infancy into mature spiritual adulthood.
Two weeks ago, I concluded with a question, ‘What kind of a Christian do you think you would be called at the end of your life?’ and I shared from L. Durham’s sermon, ‘What Punctuation Mark Best Describes Your Life?’ five types of Christians. They were (Overhead 1):
A QUESTION MARK Christian
A PERIOD Christian
A HYPHENATED Christian
A COMMA Christian,
Or an EXCLAMATION POINT Christian
I want us to keep that question in mind today as we conclude our series in the book of James. Pastor Travis Moore’s sermon theme of ‘Show Me Your Faith’ from his sermon ‘Jet Tour through James’ has served us as a thematic guide in our walk through this important book. Today, as the bulletin indicates, the challenge and encouragement to us is to Show me your faith… by your spiritual maturity.
Pastor Jim Mooney, in a sermon entitled, ‘Marks of a Mature Person’ has echoed several of the same themes that we have heard presented over the past four sermons and, when it comes to this segment of James, he makes an important observation: (Overhead 2)
A MATURE PERSON IS PATIENT AND PRAYERFUL
He says, ‘[James is] saying, ‘Be patient and be prayerful.’ He gives the illustration of the farmer. If anybody has to have patience, it’s a farmer.
He does a lot of waiting. He plants a seed, waits, prays, hopes, expects ... he waits. There are no overnight crops. Just like a farmer has to wait, sometimes we have to wait.
Mooney goes on to say, ‘We have to wait on God in answer to prayer. We have to wait on God for a miracle. We have to wait on God to work in our lives. We have to wait. Patience is a mark of maturity. The only way you learn patience is by waiting.’
He concludes with, ‘We must be patient and prayerful toward one another. My children are finally learning the difference between "No" and "Not yet". For a long time they thought that "not yet" meant "we’re not going to get to do it". They thought it meant No -- it just means Not yet. Many times God will say to you, "Not yet." He doesn’t mean "No". He doesn’t mean He’s not going to answer your prayer. He just saying, you’ve got to wait, I want you to develop, to grow.’
Easier said than done, right?
I believe, and you have heard me say in the past, God wants to help us develop patience because it is a critical characteristic of spiritual maturity.
I also believe that as we review the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and 23, the placement of ‘patience’ (which is one of the fruits) is very important to notice. ‘But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives,’ writes Paul, ‘he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’
I would suggest to us this morning that when we allow the Spirit to build love, joy, and peace into our character and lives that patience becomes more of a reality in us. Now by love, joy, and peace, I mean God’s love, God’s joy, and God’s peace.
God’s love, Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 13, is ‘patient.’ God’s joy comes out of heart full of God’s love because the joy of God is rooted in the character of God and not the circumstances of life. ‘The joy of Lord,’ we have sung, ‘is my strength.’
Then there is God’s peace. It is a peace rooted in the character and nature of God. It is peace that ‘passes all understanding.’ It is a peace that transcends circumstances and brings a steadiness to our hearts and souls that stabilizes us in the midst of our storms.
I recall the time when my father suddenly died of probably a second heart attack. It came at the end of a week when my supervisor fired me from my part-time job for ‘lack of loyalty.’