Summary: A sermon about perseverance in the face of suffering.
“What is Threatening to Choke You?”
BY: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Take a moment and think about what lays heavy on your heart.
For many of us, this won’t even take a moment.
For many of us, it’s all we can think about.
Perhaps a loved one is dealing with a serious illness.
Or maybe you-yourself are carrying around a sickness in your body.
And it is sapping the joy from your days.
Perhaps there are family troubles which are entangling you and threatening to choke you.
Maybe you are going through an extremely difficult time of financial struggle.
Maybe things at work at eating at you.
What crisis is weighing heavily on your heart?
What is causing you to suffer?
What is making you anxious?
It could just be the thought of doing all that needs to be done for the Christmas Season.
Whatever it is that you may be struggling with, it is always a comfort to know that others have gone through what you are going through.
We really are “all in the same boat” are we not?
In our Scripture passage for this morning, James is talking about patience in the midst or in the face of suffering.
And that is a hard thing to deal with!
When we are going through a tough situation, it can be awfully hard to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” or to really believe that anything good can come out of the circumstance.
James reminds us that the prophets and the other saints of God who have gone before us could never have done their work and left us with such a great witness and legacy if they had not patiently endured the trials of life.
He writes, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance…”
How many of you have heard someone exclaim: “I wish I had the patience of Job!” or “That person has the patience of Job.” ?
There really was something about Job that was anything but patient.
If we look back on the tremendous drama of his life we see him passionately resenting what had come upon him.
He questioned the conventional arguments of his so-called friends, and he agonized horribly over the terrible thought that God might have forsaken him.
Few people have spoken with the kind of passion that he did; but the great fact about Job is that in his heart, he never lost his faith in God.
He wasn’t some passive robot; he struggled and questioned, but the flame of his faith never died!
James uses Job as an “example of patience in the face of suffering…,” but then he switches it up a bit and talks about “Job’s perseverance.”
And perseverance infers the kind of spirit and fortitude that can be slammed by the tides of doubt, sorrow and disaster and then come out with a faith which is even stronger on the other side.
William Barclay is quoted as saying, “There may be a faith which never complained or questioned; but still greater is the faith that was tortured by questions and still believed.”
Job 42:12 says, “the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.”
One of the things about the Christian faith is that, when we persevere, our spiritual lives mature and we become stronger.
And we come closer to God, and better able to help others in their times of need.
We also gain a wisdom…
…a wisdom that says, “Put all your troubles, all your cares and all your difficulties at the foot of the Cross of Christ…
…trust in Him and Him alone, and He will bring you through.”
And that gives us something to look forward to, and a reason to keep going…
…even when the going gets rough!!!
And it makes sense.
Just look at Jesus, the Author and Perfector our faith!!!
When the religious rulers did not take kindly to Jesus’ ministry with the poor and the outcast, Jesus kept going with the same vitality, mission and purpose.
When the crowds finally turned against Him, Jesus did not cave.
When the insults were hurled at Him He did not give up.
And in the Garden, before His arrest and Crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Then, “An angel from heaven appeared to strengthen him.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
And after His Crucifixion, Jesus rose triumphantly, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.
But, what if He had “caved in”?