Main Idea: We are never promised an easy life. But we are promised that the Lord is coming, and that He is compassionate and merciful.
[Pastor Chris looks around grinning, being a little silly for a minute]
I know what you’re thinking. Whatcha waitin’ on, Pastor? Let’s get this sermon started!
Does anyone here like waiting?
I hate waiting in lines. When we eat dinner here on Wednesday nights, I rarely stand in line to get food. I’d much rather wait until everyone else has their food, and then go to get mine, because I loathe lines that much.
But sometimes that approach isn’t very ideal. My favorite breakfast food is biscuits and gravy, so I always get a little excited when someone brings biscuits and gravy when we eat breakfast together on the fourth Sunday of the month. But sometimes, after I go to get my food after everyone else has already gone through the line, I find that all the biscuits are gone! How dare you!
I know a lot of people don’t like the DMV, but one thing I really like about it is that you just take a number, sit down, and they call you back up. That seems like a good system to me. Maybe we can implement this on Wednesday nights. I can just take a number, get up, get my food, and sit back down. Because waiting in a line is just torture. But even taking a number forces me to have to wait, and I really don’t like waiting. Especially for food.
It’s hard to wait. When you want something to happen, or when you know something will happen with time, it’s hard to wait for it.
There’s an anonymous poem that goes like this.
Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman,
Never in a man.
I think it might have the genders confused, but the point is, waiting is hard!
I think there are many reasons why waiting is hard. One is that we tend to be very entitled. We think for some reason that we should have what we want exactly when we want it, and having to wait reminds us that we’re not quite as important as we think we are. Another is circumstances. It’s hard to wait when the circumstances of life aren’t ideal. And yet another reason waiting is hard is that we never know what the people in front of us will do. When you’re waiting in line for food, the people in front of you might not leave you any. When you’re waiting at the DMV, the people in front of you could take forever, and the people who work there might be slow to do their jobs. It can be so frustrating!
And yet, a lot of the Christian life, and life in general, is waiting. I don’t know how it is now, but when I was in high school, we had at least 5 to 10 minutes at the end of every school day when we just had to wait for the bell to ring so we could leave school and go home. And at home, I often had to wait for my favorite tv show to come on, or wait for the commercials to be over. Ane even today, we often have to wait for things we look forward to, like a vacation, or seeing someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
But I’m starting to see that waiting for any of these things is just practice for waiting for the most important thing. In this life, we have so many struggles and pains. But when Jesus returns, and especially when we go to be with Him forever, all our struggles and pains will be gone. But for now, we simply need to wait for that day. And it’s hard to wait.
But maybe we’re thinking about waiting all wrong. Maybe waiting isn’t a struggle, but an opportunity. Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow in our faith and hope so that we’re in a better place when we get what we’ve been waiting for. Because the more we patiently wait for what we anticipate, the more joyful we’ll be with when we receive what God has promised.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:7-12)
Father, help us to be patient. Help us to wait with steadfastness, and honor You as we do. And help us to rejoice in Your compassion and mercy, so that all the world may rejoice when Jesus returns. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
There was a pastor in England named Phillips Brooks who was known as a patient and quiet man. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day, a friend of his saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion. So he asked him, “What’s the trouble, Pastor Brooks?”
And Phillip Brooks responded, “The trouble is that today I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” Do you ever feel that way? That you’re in a hurry, but God isn’t?
The truth is, God is extremely patient. He’s righteous, and completely without sin, yet He puts up with us. When we sinned, God had every right to annihilate us right then and there. But God allows us to live. He even continues to show us His love and grace. James wrote in chapter 1 verse 17:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17a)
God doesn’t have to give us good gifts. But He does, even though we sin, because God is love. God is extremely patient.
The best picture of this is God’s plan in sending Jesus. The Bible is clear that not only did Jesus come to die for us, but He’s coming again to restore us and all of creation to sinless perfection. The first coming of Jesus displayed how God came to seek and save the lost, and His second coming will display His power in accomplishing what He sought to do. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
I probably don’t preach on the return of Jesus as much as I should. In all honesty, it’s probably because I just don’t have it all figured out, and I’d hope that you’d be very skeptical of me if I ever thought that I had it all figured out because the Bible instructs us not to believe people when they say, “Look, there He is!” So we’re to test everything and hold onto the good.
There was a book written by Edgar Whisenant published in January 1988 and titled, “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988.” When 1988 ended, and the rapture had not occurred, he released a new book of 89 reasons why the rapture would happen in 1989. He then released similar books in 1993, 1994, as well as smaller pamphlets making similar predictions through 1997.
I remember hearing a sermon during some sort of strange revival meeting once in which the preacher laid out exactly how he thought it would all come about. He preached on Revelation, and tied it together with Daniel, and named certain nations, and certain dates, and I just don’t buy it.
In fact, I’m so skeptical of it that pretty much anytime anyone says they know anything about how Jesus will certainly return, I tell myself, “Well, that’s not how it’s going to happen!” Because Jesus said we won’t know the day or the hour.
So we’re not told when the Lord will come again, but we are told to be patient until He does. And we’re given an illustration about it. Verse 7.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7)
Now, once again, I’m not a farmer, so correct me if I’m wrong. But from my extensive research, I’ve learned that farmers can’t cause crops to grow. Is that right? Farmers have to wait. They wait for the rain to come, and they wait for the earth to produce the crops, and then they still have to wait until the right time for them to be harvested. Farmers have no choice but to wait and be patient.
But this illustration also reminds us that patience is not idleness. Farmers don’t just do nothing while they wait. They continue to work the land. They keep the critters away. They clean their equipment. Even while they wait, they work. And we also have a work to do as we wait. Verse 8.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)
Usually when we think about working, we think about what we can accomplish with our hands. But this verse points out that the primary work that we need to do as we wait for the Lord isn’t with our hands, but with our hearts. It says that we’re to establish our hearts. Now, if we do that well, I think our hands will get to work also, but the primary work in waiting is with our hearts. So what does it mean to establish our hearts?
Well, keeping with the farmer’s illustration, it means to be firmly planted in the Lord. God is the Expert Farmer, so to be planted in the Lord means that our work has less to do with what we can accomplish, and more to do with trusting in the One who has accomplished everything by His grace. So in order for us to have patience, and grow in patience, our hearts need to know Jesus as Lord, and trust Him.
And when you do that, you become less and less worried about your circumstances and what others may do. Verse 9.
Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:9)
When you know that there’s a Judge, and that you’re not it, it’s a little easier to be patient. That means that even if the person in front of you in line takes the last of the biscuits, you can forgive them. Even if the DMV is taking forever, you can rest in the knowledge that God is in control, and that means you don’t have to be.
Leonardo da Vinci said it like this:
Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind. – Leonardo da Vinci
When your heart is established in the Lord, and you know that He is the Judge, and He’s coming back soon, you’re far less likely to grumble about what others are doing. Grumbling just doesn’t do much good. Even grumbling about important things doesn’t do much good. Instead of grumbling, love and pray for the people that you want to grumble about. It’s much more productive!
I always find it a little funny when people come to me with a complaint in church, whether it’s about me or someone else. Even when the complaint is dressed up in spiritual sounding language, it still almost always neglects to remember that only God is the Judge, and that He’s at hand, and that all the things we take so seriously in this life don’t matter a whole lot in eternity. What matters is that we patiently trust in the Lord, and love one another.
James tells us to look at the prophets as our example in this. Verse 10.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-11)
The prophets in the Old Testament are a great example of patience because of all that they endured.
Concerning them, Jesus said in Matthew 13:17:
For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
The prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, who would rescue Israel and all the nations from their sins. They knew He was coming, but all they saw in their lifetimes was suffering. They were abused by their own people. They saw the nations around them conquer them over and over again. They knew the Savior was coming, but they had no choice but to suffer patiently. And yet they remained faithful to the calling that God put on their lives. They remained steadfast, and they spoke in the name of the Lord.
And think about Job. He had no idea what was going on! He didn’t know that it was Satan who had taken away all his possessions, and took away his health, and killed all his family except a nagging wife who told him to curse God and die. Job didn’t know any of that! And yet, after all that, Job declared, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What an awesome example of suffering patiently!
Maybe you’ve hesitated to pray for patience because you’re afraid God will give you more opportunities to practice patience. But you don’t really want opportunities to practice patience, you just want the patience! Because opportunities to practice patience just feel like suffering.
But even when that’s the case, it’s not God’s ultimate purpose for you to suffer. It can feel that way, and yet, after all that Job went through, God abundantly blessed him with even more than he lost. God’s ultimate purpose isn’t for you to suffer. It’s to show us His compassion and mercy.
You know, we’re never promised an easy life. But we are promised that the Lord is coming, and that He’s compassionate and merciful. Sometimes God calls us to endure suffering with patience for a time so that we can see Him deliver us. In fact, I think that’s exactly what this world is. The whole life is to show us the awesome deliverance of God. This life isn’t about what we can accomplish, but about what God has accomplished by His mercy and grace.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
This might seem like a strange verse to end on this morning, but I actually think it’s the perfect reminder of how and why we practice patience. You see, when we swear an oath, it’s like we’re taking credit for what happens. We’re boasting in what we can do. Instead, God calls us to patiently suffer, waiting for Him to do what only He can do.
So it’s kind of silly for us to act like we’re in control. The best we can do is be honest. Let your “yes” mean yes, and your “no” mean no. When you say anything to anyone, be honest. Don’t seek to deceive, or tell half-truths, because this just further demonstrates how guilty we are of sin, and deserving of condemnation.
And yet, our greatest example of patiently suffering is God Himself. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God patiently enacted His plan to save them and mankind. He waited for just the right time in history to send His Son to live among us. And Jesus suffered patiently. He was called the Friend of Sinners. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save the world. And even though He committed no offense, He was mocked, beaten, and crucified on a cross. He suffered with patience for our sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, showing us His compassion and mercy.
So I really don’t have any incredibly wise words about how to have more patience except to say, “Follow Jesus.” Trust in Him, and allow Him to mold you. He will surely do it, both in this life, and when He comes again. He’s the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Scripture says that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.
So trust Jesus not just for salvation, but for today.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)
James is one of the most simple and practical letters in the New Testament written to encourage and instruct believers. The fact that this letter is in the Bible is interesting, though, because it actually almost didn’t make the cut. Some well-known Christians throughout history didn’t like it or think that it measured up to… (read more)