************ Sermon on James 5:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 20, 2007
"In the Light of Eternity"
Connie Harper, in "Christian Parenting Today," talks about impatience. She writes:
Title: Humor: Sign of the Time
We sit in the first pew at church. On one particular Sunday, my son had a hard time sitting still, so I gave him a pencil and paper to keep him busy. Instead of drawing, he wrote, "How much longer?"
I wrote back, "A few minutes."
He again shoved a note my way, this time asking, "How long is a few minutes?"
I patiently wrote back, "Maybe five more minutes."
Finally my son was quiet. Proud that he was behaving, I glanced down at him, only to notice he was holding a sign in front of him that read, "How much longer, Pastor?"
-- Connie Harper, Durham, CA. Christian Parenting Today, Vol 10, no. 6.
James talks to us today about patience. He talks about "patience in the face of suffering" (James 5:10).
James is writing as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1) to fellow servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (he calls them "brothers" in James 5:7). These Christian brothers and sisters have been persecuted for their faith and have been scattered throughout the Roman empire (James 1:1). They continue to face trials – persecution, loss of jobs and businesses, death, hunger, confiscation of homes and property (James 1:2). And, it doesn't look like the pain and suffering will be ending anytime soon.
What does James advise? In chapter 1 James tells them to "Consider it pure joy ... whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). He tells them to pray for wisdom (James 1:5). He tells them to remember "the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12). He tells them to "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). And, in our Bible reading for today, he says, "Be patient ... until the Lord's coming ... be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near" (James 5:7-8).
I Be Patient
A James uses the word "patience" three times in our Bible reading. What is this patience he is talking about? Patience means to "calmly tolerate delay." Tolerate delay rather than give up faith and hope. Tolerate delay rather than get angry. Tolerate delay rather than do something foolish.
We have all heard of road rage because someone is cut off on the freeway, or because an accident brings traffic to a stop, or because someone is too slow to get moving at a traffic light. Those who get road rage are not willing to tolerate delays. So they respond with violence – they pull out a gun, or they ram the car in front of them, or they force a car onto the median or against the guard rail. "Be patient," says James. Calmly tolerate delay.
Be patient when you get a flat tire on the way to an appointment. Be patient when the curling iron or hair dryer breaks down just before an important date. Be patient when bad weather delays your flight. Be patient when a piece of equipment breaks down on the dairy just before Sunday worship. Be patient when the security line at the airport is unbelievably slow and long. Be patient when you hit every light red rather than green. Be patient when you have to wait 28 weeks rather than 8 weeks for your rebate. Be patient when you wait in line at the DMV. Be patient when you deal with city hall or immigration authorities. Calmly tolerate delays.
One of the things that shocked me when I moved here was the number of people who run red lights. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, those who run a red light save an average of 50 seconds each. And, the annual cost of running red lights in medical bills and car repairs is seven billion dollars. Be patient. Calmly tolerate delays.
B The last time we looked at James we looked at worldly people with wealth (James 5:1-6). These worldly people obtained their wealth by ungodly means. They failed to pay wages to their workmen, including Christian brothers and sisters. Some of the workmen became very impatient with the treatment they were receiving and appeared ready to rebel. They wanted justice and were tired of waiting for their wages. "Be patient," says James. "Be patient under trial."
We also tend to become impatient under trial. When we or a loved one are struggling with a disease and there is set-back after set-back, it is so easy to become impatient. When we feel overwhelmed by one trial after another – money problems and marital problems and business problems and problems with the children – it is so easy to become impatient. When we go from one controversy to another – and become the subject of accusations, doubts, questions, and gossip – we tend to become impatient.
In verse 9 James mentions Christians who "grumble against each other" (James 5:9). They got tired of waiting for fellow believers to change their attitude or their viewpoint. They got tired of waiting for fellow believers to admit they were wrong. They got tried of waiting for fellow believers to become mature in the faith. So they grumbled and complained and murmured against each other. Instead, they were to be patient. They were to calmly tolerate brothers and sisters who took a long time to mature or to have a change of heart and mind.
C Permit me an observation. We believe the universe is ruled by God. We believe God's providence and Spirit is at work. So why do we become so upset and frustrated and unhappy when delays happen? Aren't we being unhappy with God, with His timetable, with His plan? To us any delay seems senseless or useless or wasteful. But God – Who is sovereign, Who remains in control – has a purpose for all the delays He allows in our lives. We must always remember what James wrote at the start of his letter:
(James 1:2-4) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (4) Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.Faith grows under trial. Faith becomes mature under trial. Faith that endures trials shows itself to be real. So, one of God's purposes in delays is growth. Rejoice that you are being given the opportunity to grow. So, be patient. Expect and tolerate delays.
II Examples of Patience
A James gives us three examples of patience. The first example of patience is the farmer. James writes:
(James 5:7) See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.In the Middle East, farmers need a fall rain to soften the soil for planting (grain crops are planted in the fall) and a spring rain to fill out the crops for harvest. But rain rarely or never comes just at the moment you are ready for it to come. All that the farmer can do is wait patiently. Every farmer also knows that the time for harvest cannot be hastened. There are physical laws that govern the growing and ripening of crops and all that the farmer can do is wait patiently. In other words, they can usually expect delays.
Topic: PatienceDo you want an oak or do you want a squash? If you want an oak, you have to be patient.
Subtopic: In Waiting for God
When James A. Garfield was president of Hiram College, a man brought for admission as a student, his son, for whom he wished a shorter course than the regular. "The boy can never take all that in," said the father. "He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?"
Mr. Garfield, a minister-educator said, "Oh yes. He can take a short course; it all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but He takes only two months to make a squash."
- Pulpit Helps, Jan. 1992, p. 10.
B In verse 10 James holds before us the picture of a martyr as the second example of patience:
(James 5:10) Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Moses' authority was questioned and opposed. Elijah often had to flee for his life. Jeremiah was imprisoned for declaring God's Word. Hosea was ordered to marry a prostitute. How many times didn't they ask, "How long, Lord? How long must I endure this? How long must I suffer?" To suffer for Jesus, to suffer for doing good, to suffer because you seek God rather than men, requires patience, great patience. James urges us to have that kind of patience and endurance and perseverance.
C In verse 11 James holds before us the picture of Job as the third example of patience:
(James 5:11) As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.We all know about Job's patience. In a test from Satan Job lost his wealth, his servants, his crops and camels, his home, his precious children. Job did not know, he did not understand, what was happening to him. Those around him urged him to curse God and die. But Job refused their counsel. He was patient before God.
D One last example, Jesus went to Jerusalem one Passover holiday and met a man who had waited thirty-eight years at Bethesda pool for a healing (cf John 5:1-9). Some less important Greek manuscripts tell us that from time to time an angel of the Lord would stir the waters and whoever stepped in first would be cured. For thirty-eight years, this man had reached out for a healing, but no matter how hard he tried, no matter how fast he crawled, someone else always beat him into the pool.
It takes great patience to stay there, year after year, waiting for the waters to be stirred. It takes great patience, believing that your turn will finally come. It takes great patience, trusting that God will get around to making things right in His perfect time. For thirty-eight years this man calmly tolerated delay.
III The Lord's Coming
A Two times in our Bible reading James ties patience in with the Lord's coming:
(James 5:7-8) Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming ... (8) You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.We are being told to live our lives in the light of eternity. And, when we do that we are able to be patient with delays in this life.
How long do our irritations last? Some of them may last a few hours or a few days; others may stretch on for a number of years. Even so, how can a few hours or days or years begin to compare with eternity? Our present life and its troubles and delays are but temporary. They are sort of like a single grain of sand on a highly polished floor – an irritation but certainly not a disaster. So be patient.
Our present life is filled with death and mourning and crying and pain. But when Jesus comes again, there will be no more tears of frustration. At that time there will be no need to wait patiently for healing. At that time all will be perfect. In the light of such a bright and glorious future, why should we get so worked up and make ourselves so miserable when something we dislike happens during our short time here on earth? So be patient.
Our present life is filled with injustice. The rich take advantage of the poor. There is prejudice and racial tensions. But when Jesus comes again, all wrongs will be made right, the wicked will be punished, and the righteous will be rewarded. So be patient.
Presently, many Christians are oppressed and hated by the world. But we can be obedient to God and endure suffering because some day Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.
Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and the other prophets preached repentance. Unlike us, they did not see God's full revelation in Jesus. Yet, with their eyes on eternity, they kept preaching even though the people's hearts were hardened and the people stubbornly refused to repent.
Be patient. Keep your eyes fixed on eternity. Someday there will be a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. You should be able to put up with a bit of inconvenience on this earth when eternity is coming. I like how the Apostle Paul puts it:
(2 Cor 4:16-17) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (17) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.Our present troubles are "light and momentary." Our future life is an "eternal glory." So, be patient.
B Listen again to what James says in our text for this evening. He says:
(James 5:7-8) Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming ... (8) You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.Be patient. But it has been almost two thousand years since Jesus returned to heaven, and He still hasn't come back. How can the Lord tell us to be patient when He so severely tests our patience? Of all the delays we have to put up with, isn't the delay of His return the worst one?
Be patient not only with the world. Be patient not only with one another. Be patient also with the Lord – because He certainly is patient with us. He wants us to perfectly love Him and serve Him – that won't happen in this life. He wants us to have a perfect knowledge of Him – that won't happen in this life. He wants us to be completely sanctified – that won't happen in this life. He wants us to perfectly love and forgive one another – that won't happen in this life. He wants us to fully grow in grace – that won't happen in this life. He wants us to have perfect trust and hope in Him – that won't happen in this life. Though we do not deserve it, God is patient with us and forgiving.
There are two things we need to keep in mind when it comes to the Lord and eternity. First, in God's eternal plan of salvation that began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, there is only one final event that remains – the return of Jesus. And that event could happen at any moment. The history of salvation is a history of continual progress. God has not stood still. His plan has not stood still. And, it doesn't stand still today either.
Second, we count time in solar years. What seems long to us is not long to God for with God one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (Ps 90:4; 2 Pet 3:8). In other words, from God's point-of-view it has only been a couple of days since Jesus returned to heaven.
Let's learn to live our lives with the expectation that Jesus could return at any moment. And, when He does return all the things we fuss about from day to day will be incredibly trivial.
"Be patient ... until the Lord's coming ... be patient ... because the Lord's coming is near." In the light of eternity, be patient. Be patient with the world. Be patient with one another. Be patient with God.
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