When you read through the book of James you understand that the author wrote to a church that was in trouble. The letter is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, so probably James wrote this book in the earlier days of the New Testament church when the members were still primarily Jewish. The Christians faced persecution from traditional Jews who had not accepted Jesus, but James’ focus is on persecution from gentiles who embraced the pagan religions. Some of this paganism had surfaced inside the church in the form of heresies being taught by some of their teachers. There was also a general discouragement among the faithful because some of the people, in the church, were living like pagans. Aren’t you glad that the church doesn’t have any of these problems today?
In his writing James focuses on some key themes. You are blessed when you have to endure tribulation because of your faith in Jesus Christ. Christians are able to endure when we seek God’s wisdom and put our faith into action. He also emphasizes the absolute necessity for prayer. We pray for ourselves and we pray for each other in order that we may endure the obstacles to our faith.
In our passage this morning James calls for patience among the saints as we wait for the Lord’s second coming. At this point it is important for you to understand that when I first start my study of a new passage, I print out the scripture on a piece of paper and leave lots of space to make notes. I write down initial thoughts and impressions and consult reference materials until I feel like I have a handle on the text. From those notes, I develop the sermon. When I settled on this passage of scripture I turned on my office computer and waited for it to boot up. It seemed particularly slow that morning, but eventually it came up and displayed a message, which said please wait while updates are being uploaded. So I waited until the screen displayed something like loading one of twenty-seven updates. I knew from experience that once loaded, I would have to reboot in order for the updates to be installed.
I didn’t have time for that, so while the desktop computer was going through all of its motions, I pulled out my laptop, booted it up, and went to a program where I could copy and past the biblical text, but that program wasn’t cooperating and said that I needed to install critical updates, so in my frustration, I closed down that program and just went to Microsoft Word and had to type out the entire passage by hand, both verses.
Finally I had my starting place ready so I hit the print key on my word document. On my laptop I use the office printer at Joanne’s desk through a wi-fi connection. I jumped out of my seat and was in Joanne’s office waiting for the document to emerge from her printer. Sometimes that printer can be a little slow, because of the antiquated wi-fi modem we use in the office, so I sat, and waited, and waited. It didn’t print.
Joanne reminded me that I sometimes have to reconnect to the local wi-fi in my settings in order to send a copy to her printer, so I went back in to my office, made the necessary corrections to my settings, sent another print, went back to her office and got two copies of my two verses.
You can imagine how frustrated I was because I must have wasted somewhere between three and five minutes. At that moment it was if the Lord spiritually tapped me on the shoulder and said, Greg, you’re preparing a sermon on patience. That was a humbling experience, but it reminded me how quickly we can loose our patience. If you sometimes struggle with impatience, join with me as we read, James 5:7-8.
The command of verse 7 is direct. Be patient. I think it is all right to be impatient with sin. Impatience can also be a powerful motivation to complete a task. But a general impatient attitude towards the circumstances of everyday life is a symptom of the sin nature. The problem is that for most of us patience is something that has to be learned. By nature we are impatient. In our culture we are trained to be impatient. I think it all started with instant coffee. Then we had microwave ovens that we could quickly reheat our instant coffee. When I was a child we ate a lot of TV dinners because they were so quick an easy to prepare. I never cared for instant mashed potatoes, but we had them because they were instant.
A few years ago I got a new office computer and I loved it because it was so much faster than the old one that crashed. But when I bought my Macintosh notebook, it is so much faster that accept for certain applications, I don’t ever use the desktop in my office. I used to agonize over how slow my inkjet printer was at the house, so I bought a new laser printer. The two printers are worlds apart in speed, but now after a few months, I’m thinking that laser could be faster.
And the scriptures cry out, be patient. Obviously I still have some room to grow, but I am getting better. In the earlier years of our marriage when our children were young, when we went on a trip, I wanted to get into the car and drive non-stop to our destination and I would get impatient when Debby or one of the kids needed a bathroom break. I could hold it. Why couldn’t they?
A week ago Thursday we took our grandchildren back to their parents. Debby and Elle had it all planned out so that we could leave at the same time and meet up half way. When you are leaving early in the morning and you have three kids ages four, six and seven to get ready, chances are you are going to run a little late. At twenty minutes past the time of our departure, everyone was finally in their seats and buckled in. That is when I heard a wee small voice from the back of the van. “I have to go to the bathroom.” Me too, me too came the response from the siblings. We were still in the driveway at the house. You would be so proud of me. What once would have sent me up the wall didn’t faze me at all. It was like water off a ducks back.
About half way into our trip, I had to use the bathroom so we stopped. I asked the kids do you need to go to the bathroom? No was the reply of all three of them. I went to the restroom, filled up the gas tank, and got back out on the interstate. Two exits later I hear that wee small voice again, “I have to go to the bathroom. Me too, me too.
These are my grandchildren. I love them. I want them to have whatever they need. For the most part, so long as it wouldn’t be harmful to them, I want them to have whatever they want. So it is no problem for me to be patient with them. I know that in a marriage relationship there all kinds of stresses, but if two people really love each other, showing patience towards one another can go a long way in resolving problems. The same can be said of our relationships with our children. The point I hope to make is that when we truly love someone, it should be easier to be patient with them and if we have the love of Christ, it should become easier for us to have patience with one another. If we have a love for the lost, the way that Christ loves the lost, it should become easier for us to show patience to them as well. Patience takes away stress and it makes you a nicer person. It sets you apart from the crowd and it will have a positive effect on your witness.
Colossians 3:12 says that as God’s chosen people, we are to clothe ourselves patience. Galatians 5:22 lists some of the fruits of the Spirit and patience, is right in the middle of the list. Patience is a Christian virtue so we have to discipline ourselves to be patient with our children, patient with our spouses, patient in our jobs, patient in our vehicles and patient in all the challenges we face in this life. Our problem is that patience has to be learned, and in order to learn, patience has to be tried.
One of the places I have learned patience is the four way stop at the intersection of Hamilton Bridge Road and Glover Lane. I drive through that intersection to and from work every day and at various other times through the week. About once every six weeks I stop there and each car goes in turn. The rest of the time it’s every man for himself, and if you insist on going when it’s your turn, you are probably going to be involved in a wreck. I don’t get upset anymore. It saves me a lot of stress and it doesn’t cost me five seconds in my day, instead that intersection has become an almost constant source of amusement for me.
Another place I have learned patience is coming across the fills from Pensacola to Pace on Hwy 90. More times than not there will be a car that comes flying past me on the causeway, recklessly weaving in and out of traffic. That used to upset me. Now I just pray for the driver and anyone who might be in their path and I keep on praying for them until I catch up with them at the first traffic light.
These are relatively simple daily situations that can try our patience, but the context of our passage is that as Christians we have to be patient until the Lord’s coming. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is coming again, don’t you? Bro. Carl is in Dallas this weekend preaching at a prophecy conference and don’t you know that somewhere in his sermon he is going to say something about how prophecy of the end times is being fulfilled before our very eyes.
We are the generation to see Israel back in the land. The nations are conspiring. The threat of all out war is in the headlines. We see an increase in knowledge and technology unlike anything in human history. It seems, as Bro. Carl has said, “the trumpets are blowing.” As we try to process prophecy of scripture with all that is going on in the world today it seems like Jesus is probably coming sooner rather than later, maybe really soon, and this is a great hope that sustains us in times of tribulation.
But until He comes, the trials and troubles of this life can really weigh us down. We try to do what is right, to live right, but there is always something going on in our lives, in our families or at work that causes tension and stress and we wish we didn’t have to deal with it. The hope of the gospel is that all of that will disappear for born again Christians when Jesus returns.
This was the situation in the early church for Jewish Christians living in a pagan gentile world. They were being rejected and persecuted because they were trying to live for Jesus in a lost world. They were living in tribulation because of their faith. Many I believe were saying, I just wish Jesus would hurry up and come.
But James told the church of that day, as the scripture informs the church today, be patient while you endure hardship. Jesus is coming again, but some things have to happen first and he uses the example of how a farmer has to wait before he can harvest his valuable crops. The crops need the seasonal rains in order for them to grow, mature and bare fruit.
The bible says that the Lord is not slow in coming as some have imagined, but He is patient, wishing that none should perish. Patience is a quality of God that has allowed us to have life and in that life to come to know Him through faith. If God did not have patience, the world would have been destroyed long ago. But God is patient. He was patient with me when I was living in sin. He continues to be patient with me as I struggle with my sin nature and I have to deal with the trials of life. In his patience you and I have opportunity to grow, mature and bare fruit.
The illustration of the farmer reminds us that some things have to happen before the Lord’s return. We are encouraged and even excited when we see that so much of prophecy seems to be being fulfilled in our lifetime; and what born again believer does not look forward to the Lord’s return? We long for paradise and to be free from this world of sin and to be free of our own sinful flesh. But we must remember that God is in sovereign control and He alone knows the date and the hour. Jesus will return, but not until God has accomplished all that He has in His heart to do.
You may not agree with my views on the end times, and that is all right, but my understanding of scripture is that the church will have to endure at least a part of the tribulation of the last days. Jesus will come again before God pours out His wrath, but there will be troubles and trials for the church that will lead up to the Lord’s return.
This is why James wrote that we must be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near. Jesus said that in the last days false prophets would arise to deceive even the saints if that were possible. Before the Lord returns there is a day coming when the whole world will seem to turn away from the Lord. We see that movement today, but I fear it is only going to get worse before Jesus returns. There will not be anything like it, not since the days of Noah when God destroyed the world by a flood. If you and I are alive in that day, we are going to have to have patience and stand firm. As our theme this year tells us that we will need to put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, we can take our stand.
I know it is not a popular idea, and I wish that the scriptures did not seem so clear to me on this subject, but the tribulation I believe is about what the church will go through before the return of Christ. Already our brothers in sisters in other countries are experiencing the kind of tribulation spoken of in the bible, but my fear is will we be able to stand when that kind of tribulation comes to our shores?
Of all the nations of the world we are the most blessed. But our nation is on a course of self-destruction because we the people have turned our backs on God. In so doing, we invite His judgment. Life goes on, but the life we love is very fragile. Our political system is in trouble. Our economy is a house of cards. Our leaders are relying on worldly wisdom driven by their own self-interests. Our culture promotes sin and denies God and unless somehow we as a nation can turn back to faith in Him, we will bring the great tribulation down upon ourselves.
I fear the United States of America is without hope, unless the church is willing to be patient and to stand firm. We have to stand firm on the truth of God’s word and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to stand firm as we face the challenges before us with a biblical worldview. We have to stand firm in every area of life lest the enemy wins the victory and we loose the blessings that God has poured out on this country. If Christians in the United States would unite as a single voice, standing on the truth of God’s word, we could change the world.
If Christians would resolve to put a man of God in the white house and put Spirit filled Christian men and women in places of leadership in every level of government, things would be different. You know that the powers that be are already planning for the next national election, are we? If all professing Christians could prayerfully get behind one person, we could have whoever we wanted leading the nation. But many do not even vote. Many how do vote, vote as though they do not have a biblical worldview. We as a group have become complacent. It is easier to go along with the crowd than it is to take a stand.
If we cannot take a stand in day-to-day life, how will we ever be able to stand in the tribulation of the last days? We need to think about these things because the bible says that the Lord’s coming is near. That phrase is absolutely true, but it was written 2000 years ago. The first generation church looked for the soon return of Jesus Christ, and so has every generation since. But Jesus return has never been closer than it is today. The signs are everywhere. We are running out of time. We need to develop our patience and we need to be prepared to stand firm for the trials that lay ahead whether Jesus returns next week or if he returns after our earthly lives are over.
As I mentioned earlier, patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual patience will not only help us in our daily lives, but it will be absolutely essential for us to take our stand and to endure the opposition from the world because of our stand. If you are a born again Christian, you have the Holy Spirit and the potential to do whatever God calls you to do in order to take your stand. But if you have never surrendered your life in faith, you’re not ready and time is running out. Jesus is coming again. Things could get rough for all of us. But you can have the grace of God to take your stand if you surrender your life in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel tells us that Jesus was God in the flesh who came for the purpose of becoming the sacrifice for our sins. If you trust God, if you trust Jesus and His promises, if you believe He died for your sins, and His sacrifice was made for you. If you believe he won victory over sin by his life and victory over death by His resurrection, if you will confess and repent of your sins and receive Jesus into your heart as Savior and Lord, you will be saved. Once you are saved, you will have the hope of eternal life no matter what happens in this old world in the future. You will become my brother or my sister in faith. We will be all right, because we are the children of the living God, and God Himself will give us patience and equip us to take our stand.