James 5.7-11 Suffering and Waiting
December 27, 2009 Series: James | Retro-Faith
Topic: New Testament Passage: James 5:7–5:11
James 5.7-11 Suffering and Waiting
December 27, 2009
James 5.7-11 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.
Stir One Another
Last week, James brought some hard words. He warned the “rich” about the coming judgment of God who had heard the cries of those they hurt or ignored in their greed. And we ended that uplifting “Pre-Christmas” sermon with a comparison to Judas—the man who betrayed the eternal Son of God for a few months wages and change. And I know many of us left challenged, maybe even disturbed a little, as we considered whether or not we were one of the “rich” that James spoke of. And as God reveals how short we fall in various areas of our lives, our tongue, our judgments, our anger, or our wealth, we must never forget that Jesus died and that there is no condemnation for those who believe He died for their sin. I want, I need, the hard words of wrath from the Father, but I also desperately need the words of praise from the Father. And those words often come from the children to the children, from a brother to a brother or sister—the writer of Hebrews encourages us: Hebrews 10.24-25 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
James has spent the middle chapters of this book describing the negative aspects of behavior—what we must not do. He now, he returns to encourage his “brothers” about what to do about difficult circumstances out of their control. Instead of addressing those who are NOT BEING LOVING, he turns to those not BEING LOVED, from those CAUSING TRIALS to those EXPERIENCING THEM. In doing this, he echoes the words that began his letter.. And just like the beginning of the book where he said, “TAKE JOY” in those trials, we’ll be tempted to misunderstand, abuse, or dismiss his charge to BE PATIENT in trials.
In trial, in times of suffering, in situations when things are not going the way you want them to—“BE PATIENT” is difficult to hear—it feels flippant. I’ve been patient? I’ve waited a long time and nothing has changed. I KNOW that some of us here, perhaps many of us, are suffering today. Some have been in a trial for days and weeks, others for years. You may have come here with burdens, struggles, pains, and frustrations. And many of you feel like you have exasperated every ounce of patience you have, only to feel like God isn’t listening, has forgotten, or doesn’t care. And you don’t know if you can make it. I think God wants to do more than have us “make it”. Making it seems to carry the idea of arriving somewhere—hopefully in a different place than where you’re at. This view of being patient means you’re ignoring the moment, as you “wait on the Lord” for what YOU want or THINK needs to change. And as you wait, you DO NOTHING but grin and bear it. James does more than just tell us to sit, wait, and do nothing. We have a part to play...
V.7 PATIENT LIKE A FARMER
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.
A world of impatience
I am a very impatient person. I do not like surprises. I like to know the end of movies before I watch them. I like to fast forward through movies, with subtitles on, so I can get through them faster. I like to know what I’m getting for a present before I open it. I like to know the gender of the babies we had before they were born. I like to open the microwave when there are two seconds left on the timer. I like to find shortcuts with the car. And my condition isn’t helped by the fact that we live in an impatient world. The culture is convinced that they can “speed everything up.” We live in a fast paced, click of the button, microwavable, get ordained on the internet, instant messenger, society of impatience. We have instant oatmeal, instant credit, instant messaging, instant coffee, instant news updates, instant communication, instant relationships, WE ARE NOT ASKED TO WAIT for MUCH—or when we are, it is TORTURE! As a result, we look for instant solutions to our problems and ignore anything that isn’t a quick-fix because it will take too much time. And when we encounter trials, instead of enduring through the trial, THE WORLD, in the form of friends, bosses, books, TV, tell us to give up; give up on the marriage, find a new job, abandon the family, take the easiest way even if it is unethical, to escape from the pain that YOU DON’T DESERVE. You deserve, no, you have the right to happiness and comfort ALL THE TIME…you’ve earned it.
So when James uses the image of a farmer in describing how we are to be patient for harvest, it is hard for us to relate. Farming is all day, calloused hand, dirty, back-breaking, job of jobs. Today, many of us are cubicle sitting computer zombies suffering from carpal tunnel, maybe developing a small callous on our index finger from clicking the mouse or cancer from our blue tooth. But farming is not only TOUGH it is largely dependent on God in very REAL ways. Dare I say,that it is easier to connect spiritually with God than it is in most other professions.
Why? Because the Farmer works and then waits. The Jewish farmers would plow and sow in what to us are the autumn months. The “early rain” would soften the soil. The “latter rain” would come in the early spring (our February-March) and help to mature the harvest. The farmer had to wait many weeks for his seed to produce fruit. And as the farmer patiently waits, the rains to turn his muddy field of nothing into a fruitful harvest…or not. Though he has responsibilities, he has very little control over very few things in producing a harvest. And he can in fact work with the same plow, the same seed, and the same effort but a DIFFERENT (better or worse) crop can be produced every year, good or bad. He still does his same work, but the result is ultimately up to the Lord.
V 8. Faith and Farming
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
James says, be patient like the farmer, in your trial which, he has already said, is part of your journey of maturing faith. Like the farmer, we are dependent upon God to bring the rains that soften, the sun that warms, and any growth that takes the seed to a seedling to a plant. And we are patient to see what kind of harvest God is going to bring this year. EACH SEASON IS DIFFERENT. When it is a season of extreme temperatures, or a bug gets into our harvest, we don’t REACT hastily (opposite of patience), but trust that the process is largely dependent on God. Some seasons we experience tremendous fruit. Other seasons we experience famine. In ALL seasons of our faith, patience is essential, and in ALL seasons of life God is in control.
Establish your hearts
The farmer is dependent on the seasons, but he still has some WORK to do. Previously, James warned his readers not to “FATTEN their HEARTS”. Here, James charges them to ESTABLISH or STRENGTHEN their heart. In other words, we do not succumb to the trial or the difficulty or the oppression. We know that most growth comes through pain, emotionally, intellectually, even spiritually. SO we remain FIRM, working the seed (James calls the Word of God), praying, serving, using all that God has given us to use. We DO NOT STAND doing nothing, but, like the farmer, we are constantly at work like a farmer looking toward the harvest. Establishing our hearts is part do the work AND part wait for the harvest.
Part of establishing our heart is developing a trust in God. Our test of faith often doesn’t begin when you’re plowing the field, it begins AFTER you have plowed the field and the HARVEST hasn’t produced as fast as had hoped. And the temptation is to 1) hate farming 2) move to another field or 3) quit farming all together. Sound familiar? (Quit marriage, family, find another “calling”, find another church) Things are not growing fast enough, people are not changing quick enough, situations are not improving soon enough—I’m done. James says, don’t just sit and WAIT…establish your hearts. Faith is ACTIVE volitional choice to govern your life by a belief that God is working in your field right now!
V. 9 PATIENT IN COMMUNITY
9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
First mistake is that we don’t WORK, we just WAIT. We should be motivated to work, to use the field and tools God has given us, because we know the owner of the field is returning. Will he find working, squandering, or not using what he has given us? God has given us many things, and I am not talking about “stuff”. Every Christian has been given salvation, the indwelling Spirit, the Scriptures, the gospel of Jesus, a church family, spiritual gifts…what have we done since those came into your possession? He will judge and it will either be with PRAISE of a FATHER or with CONDEMNATION as a JUDGE. (The 2nd coming is reference some 300 times in the N.T. That is 1 for every 13 verses from Matthew to Revelation.) If we wish to think like James, as a simple Christian with biblical priorities, perhaps we need to be more expectant of the return of Christ, and in order to not feel ashamed before him at his coming, let it be governing our thoughts. We often ask ourselves, “If you were going to die to morrow, what would you do or do differently? What if Jesus were to return tomorrow? Would you WORK more?
Second mistake is we don’t wait, we just WORK. When we are NOT SATISFIED with the HARVEST, and because most of us don’t think with an eternal perspective, we grumble. Our relationship with God impacts our relationship with others. We become TOO dependent on our WORK. Instead of working hard AND patiently waiting for God to grow, we work hard AND pride fully pat ourselves on the back when we succeed, or despairingly beat ourselves up when we don’t. It reveals a faith, but not in the work of Jesus, rather in OUR hard work and OUR progress.
Impatience and Community
Our disappointment OR pride in ourselves then gets vented. James said in 3.18 that a, “…a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In other words, our hearts play themselves out in community (marriage, family, church.). When we become so focused on our OWN behaviors and outward fruits, we miss the harvest that is to grow in our hearts. THEN we vent and grumble against our brothers in the church who, in our estimation, may not have as much “fruit” as they should. We become impatient with their growth—wanting them to serve, lead, or just change. We become focused on what every other person is doing to the extent that we don’t do anything ourselves. Nearly every person that complains about what someone in our church does, I can respond with—what are you doing? The antidote to grumbling is being stewards of what God has given you to the glory of God. 1Peter 4.7-11 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
V. 10-11 PATIENT PROPHETS & JOB
10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.
Example of Prophets
As we work our field, trust God, and live community, we endure the brokenness of ourselves, our relationship, and the world not because it is easy, fair, or pleasant, but because we trust God. And James uses the lives of the prophets which encourage us by reminding us that God cares for us when we go through sufferings for His sake—often as an example to others around us. James says we consider the prophets BLESSED. These guys who hade a relationship with God that we admire…who hasn’t said, “Oh that God would talk with me directly…or that God would write on the wall.” What we fail to recognize is that a life of that kind of KNOWING God, a life where they DID ALL THE WORK God asked them too, resulted in trials and sufferings, not only at the hands of unbelievers, but at the hands of professed believers. THE GUYS THAT DID IT ALL RIGHT— Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Amos all saw the people of God ignore them, even attack them. Yet, they bore that hostility with patience…doing what God asked them to do…though it was difficult and though the HARVEST didn’t’ come as they, or we, might have hoped. They worked and waited trusting that God was producing though they did not see it. We see growth often, if not always comes through pain. We must let the fruit grow.
It is difficult to find a greater example of patient suffering than Job. Job was the godliest man on the earth. He loved his bride and his family. He was a respected citizen in the city, one who made a covenant with his eyes over lust, and one who prayed daily for his children IN CASE they sinned. He was a spiritual farmer who WORKED what God gave him to the fullest. Then, Satan attacked and a test of faith like no other occurred. He lost his wealth , his children, his health, and then the support of his bride who told him to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). His friends were against him and it felt like God was against him because he cried out and God didn’t answer. God made him wait and Job complained. He cursed the day of his birth, he cursed the not-so-helpful lectures of his friends, and his wife tempted him to curse God, but he said: “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2.10).
Job was not silent, but he patiently waiting on God to be God. Job was like a farmer who worked hard and lost it ALL in a HURRICAN that he could not control. And when he was tempted to say God doesn’t love me, God doesn’t know how much it hurts, God doesn’t know how hard this is, God how could anything good come out of this. Job 23.8-10 “Behold I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
9 on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
He lost his wealth, but he did not desert the Lord. He lost his family, but he did not desert the Lord. He lost his friends, his health, even his supportive bride. He lost everything precious to him, he never deserted the Lord. And when it was done, the Lord blessed Job with more children and more wealth. But in the trial, Job himself expressed the “gold” that he had come out as: 42.5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; What if, the most important thing to God is that you know Him? What if that is the goal of the harvest or your work and your waiting? What if John 17.3 is true that says eternal life is this, to KNOW God. What if the most effective way to know him, to depend on him, to need him, to want him and love him is through trials. Your faith is being tried right now. He knows exactly where you are. And he has you. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Be Patient. Remain steadfast. Endure. Stay the Course. Stand firm. Everything worth anything demands we endure through pain, and God wants do to more than have you just “make it” if making it means you don’t get Him.