Here’s a saying I found that helps describe today’s scripture: “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” Last week the scripture was about having a good attitude when you have too much money (rich), and how easy it is to rely on yourself rather than God when you have no immediate needs. False trust in yourself erodes trust in God.
This week, James turns to patience. Patience is needed when you have nothing, when you are feeling defeated, spiritually bankrupt. The Lord wants us to grow in our faith in times of plenty and in times of want. When we have abundance we need to not lose sight of our need to depend on God. But then when we lose it all, when our world falls apart, we need patience.
Our daily walk with the Lord takes patience when our world is falling apart. The book of James is a survival manual of the Christian life. 3 ways to be patient…
- the first is the most noble ~ see the big picture and don’t get caught up in the overwhelming immediate details.
- Many of you can related to the second way ~ when you have to wait stay busy, keep active, keep doing the right thing even if it is hard.
- The third way it’s like James is saying, noble may be too big, practical may be out of reach, then try going for this functional goal: HOLD ON.
One of the wonderful roles of the church family is to simply love people, giving them a place to be, a place to buy time, while they wait for sanity to return… learn a new normal….James 5:11 is for people who are barely holding on….READ James 5:11.
PERSEVERANCE….I am so glad this phrase is in the Bible: we count as blessed those who have persevered. Job is one of the Old Testment books of the Bible: the 42 chapters are one story of the man Job as he wrestles with an out of control life. Sometimes he wrestles with his friends, sometimes himself and other times with God. Satan challenges God to bring affliction into Jobs life because Satan is sure Job is only faithful because life is so easy and abundant. God allows Satan to inflict tragedy upon tragedy, loss of family, disease and sickness, and Job is commended because he PERSEVERES. He makes it through. And in the end he still puts his faith in God. Sometimes the highest goal you can muster is to make it through the night. The storm of life is raging, and your calling is to persevere.
James commends Job because he made it through tragedy without doing something stupid. There are times Job is ready to snap, he’s faced the death of family and personal life changing illness, but he never snaps. It sounds good to say being patient means perfect peace when facing extreme situations, but I think there are times patience means barely holding on. Somehow that mustard seed size faith keeps you from doing something nutty…PERSEVERANCE.
One of the great memories my brother and I have with our father was the time we were hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail (I think you were on that portion, Jim?) We came to a place high in the mountains called Pear Lake. It was Summer, but it was bitter cold. Extremely bitterly cold. It was early. There was a lot of day left to keep hiking, but instinctively we knew that all we could do was set up the tent, roll out the sleeping bag, and climb inside to get warm. So we did. Now what? Wide awake and nothing to do all day. There we sat. Nothing great happened that day. Nothing noble but not freezing to death. I remember getting out a packet of peanuts and reading the fine print to my father. My father was always busy helping people, I rarely had trivia time with him….The only thing we did that day at Pear Lake was survive. And we were together trying to pronounce the list of ingredients on a granola package. What an awesome day.
“As you know,” James says, “we count as blessed those who have persevered.” Some days, some seasons of life, what a great accomplishment just to survive. Nothing great. Nothing noble. But you are alive.
I got a note this week from a women who read a sermon on our website: “Thank you for your words on restoring relationships. I had a friend and we had a really bad falling out due to an email. I was surprised that we could not talk it out face to face. We are both Christians and attend the same church. We are both strong in our faith.....Father Frederick told me to continue to pray and never give up!! I pray everyday that our hearts be healed that we continue to serve our Lord. I believe that one day our friendship will be healed.” That’s a prayer for perseverance: “I pray everyday that our hearts be healed…I believe that one day our friendship will be healed.”
I love the way the Bible describes the perseverance of Job: “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord FINALLY brought about.” FINALLY. If you are barely holding on, the day will FINALLY come when you will find peace.
James gives the reason why we are able to persevere with faith. The last phrase: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” This is a bedrock truth that has given many people of faith comfort in the middle of a raging storm. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. God cares (compassion). The temptation is to convince yourself he doesn’t care. And he will do something about it (mercy). You may not understand the storm, but patience allows you to persevere, make it through, because the bedrock unchangeable truth that goes beyond the storm is that God is compassionate and merciful.
Let’s go up to a greater form of patience, an active patience. First something to not do then something to do: READ James 5:9-10.
First look at James 5:9 first. When disappointments happen, when your plans are thwarted, how common to grumble against the world, complain. Complaining is like yeast: start complaining it grows to more complaints. No habitual complainer grows in their faith. The old joke is worth repeating:
A man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the head monk. The head monk said, "You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years." The man agreed. After 3 years, the head monk said, "What are your two words?" "Food cold!" the man replied. 3 more years went by, the head monk said "What are your two words?" "Robe dirty!" the man exclaimed. 3 more years went by and the head monk said, "What are your two words?" "I quit!" said the man. "Well," the head monk replied, "I am not surprised. You have done nothing but complain ever since you got here!"
To patiently wait means to not spend your time complaining, not looking for everything that is wrong, to not pile up negative thinking… grumbling so easily becomes a way of life and crushes our spirit. The alternative is James 5:10 READ. Often our lives are filled with things we would not choose. James is speaking of the old testament prophets that God sent to people who rejected them…. To be patient well, not only means to NOT endlessly complain about your situation, but to actively speak the truth of God. Keep being faithful. Keep looking for God things. Keep sharing with others. Actively wait.
Perseverance is good and right, as you barely hold on. But actively serving God is even better. Patience helps you to see, live and speak God in the midst of the storm.
The most noble form of patience that will cause you to thrive is to be able to see the big picture. Vision is a gift of God. READ James 5:7-8. What an amazing gift to be able to praise the Lord Jesus Christ while your life is falling apart. Twice in these two verses the scripture speaks of the soon return of Christ. Trouble may be upon you at the moment, but take heart, it is only temporary, the greatest day is coming because Jesus is coming again. This is no abstract future truth, but the coming of Jesus Christ is a HOPE that has the power to transform our present world.
I love the illustration of the farmer. The farmer patiently waits for the Autumn and Spring rains. In Israel, the Autumn rain was necessary to soften the ground to plant the crops, to begin the growth…then comes the later rains to swell the heads of grain and yield an abundance. The farmer cannot hasten or ignore the patterns in order to gain the greatest harvest. And while he patiently waits, he is busy with other chores. The farmer watches. The farmer waits. As surely as the rain will fall at the appointed time, it is just patience. This is noble patience as we face tragedy, death, loss, changed plans, and out of control world. Jesus will soon return at the appointed time.
When we get lost in the details of life and get overwhelmed because we don’t know how everything will turn out, how good it is to step back and see the big picture knowing that God has a plan. He is good and faithful. As certain as the Early and later rains, the Lord is coming back and will redeem his people.
Where are you? Is your world overwhelming right now. God does not want you to be overwhelmed with depression. He does not want you to be lost and sucked into apathy without hope. The answer is patience. The answer is godly thriving supernatural Holy Spirit given patience. Patience means the answer to your prayer may be wait.
The best kind of patience is to keep that healthy perspective alive that God has a plan, this world is temporary, and everything will be changed because Jesus is coming again. Is that kind of patience too much for you to grasp right now? then try this: as you face the loss and emptiness, don’t complain pulling yourself into a death spiral of negativey and instead speak the truth of God. Testify of his character. Is that still too hard? Then try this, like Job, Hold On. Persevere. God cares about you and he will do something. Hold On. Persevere.
When you lose control, God has given us the capacity to be patient. This is not a gift for a few, but a God given tool for everyone. When your world seem empty, patience is needed in order to thrive and grow as a Christian. Amen