Sunday, March 1, 2020

Lord Build Me in Patience

7 “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as 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.

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”

After reading this last night I felt as though the words were speaking directly to me. As if I had been cornered in a room and spoken directly to by the voice of God himself. This is a perfect time to talk about patience! We’re right on the edge of winter. It seems like there’s no escape from it. I’ve had a cough for like 2 months. There’s just a lot of waiting going on in my life. And I’m sure with all of us!

Be patient. That’s easier said than done isn’t it? Our first instinct is to complain along the way, isn’t it? That’s what happened when Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness. The people began to complain against God and against Moses. I think of the times that I’ve complained to God, about God, about the situations in my life that just won’t seem to change.

Do you ever feel stuck in life? Sometimes it feels like things just won’t change. We dream of them changing, we try to do work that will make them change, we try to force events to bring about change, we even pray, and pray everyday begging for change. But the months pass, and the years pass, and we wonder, when will something change?

How long have you been waiting my friends? What are you waiting for? What have you been praying for and fighting for, for years, and it hasn’t come yet? Maybe you’ve been praying for a family member to come to Christ, and it still hasn’t happened. Or have you been praying to meet that special someone, and it still hasn’t happened? Maybe you’re praying for children, or praying for the right job, or praying for your anxiety to finally disappear, or you’re praying to own a home, or a buy a car, or break free from depression, or come clean from cigarettes or alcohol, or maybe you’re just hoping that you would change.

I can tell you in my life… I’ve been praying for years for depression to go away. I’ve struggled for years with sleep apnea, serious sleep problems. I’ve prayed for over 7 years to meet the woman of my dreams, still waiting. I’ve prayed for years to lose weight, still kinda stuck. Still battling with lust in my life, and fighting to be free from that. Struggled with depression all my life, God has never taken it away. And on top of all that, I’ve had nagging sciatic nerve pain for over 3 weeks now. So I wait.

And we wait. And we wait. And wait and wait and wait. Be patient our scripture says. Until the Lord’s coming. And we get this excellent example of how to wait. Consider the farmer. Anyone in here ever been a farmer or work on a farm? The scripture says “. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” The farmer plants, in the Spring, and then they wait. And wait and wait, until August, September, October, and November, to finally harvest. I would not make a great farmer. I can’t wait that long to see the results of my work. I need to see it sooner than that.

So we should consider that example of waiting. Wait patiently, day after day, and week after week, month after month that farmer patiently waits for the crop. And first he plants and sees only dirt mounds. Then after weeks he sees buds popping up. And slowly, so slowly, over months he sees the crops begin to grow, until finally the harvest comes.

God calls us to be patiently waiting for the consummation of history as well. It’s been a long time since Jesus Christ walked on the Earth. Before Jesus Christ we had the Old Testament times, the times of Israel, when the goal was to follow the law, the ten commandments. And then Jesus came, and now we under the grace of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We are in the “church age” for the last two thousand years. The growth and expansion of the church across the Earth, to today, where the church is about 2 billion people strong.

And the whole church worldwide, expressed in many denominations and groups, and buildings and differing theologicals points, is awaiting one event: The return of Jesus Christ. That’s right. Jesus Christ is alive right now, and we believe that he will return to rule over the entire Earth. So we are awaiting his return. And we are doing so with a great deal of patience. And it’s hard to wait. Waiting is very difficult. I know, I’m in several seasons of waiting in my life. I’m waiting on many prayers, and many blessings, waiting on healing, waiting on growth, waiting on transformation, waiting on deliverance from sin, from sleep problems, waiting for companionship. It is not easy to wait.

But take heart brothers and sisters, and stand firm. I love that phrase. It brings to mind an image of a soldier standing at his post, he’s got his uniform on. He’s clean shaved, he’s showered. He’s ready, and waiting, out there everyday at his guard position. And his eyes are always watching the horizon. He’s always watching for enemies, he’s always watching for changes. He’s standing firm. He’s not slumped over, getting drunk, or getting fat and passing out in the night. He’s up, alert, watching for the return of Jesus, and standing firm in the faith.

The Lord’s coming is near. I really believe we are in the end times of Revelation right now. And I fully expect to see the return of Jesus Christ with my own eyes. I’m watching for it everyday. And that goes to an observation of something we call “the signs of the times.” The fact that the Jews wandered the nations for two thousand years but after WWII they’ve been a nation again in the middle east. That was a huge fulfillment of prophecy. We see telecommunication, internet access, the uniting of nations, world commerce, all these things point us to the final days, to the time when Christ will return.

No one knows the exact date of Christ’s return, only god the Father knows that. But we should live as if it could be any day, today, tomorrow. Because we are not ignorant of the times we live in, we see the signs being fulfilled.

So we are waiting. And what does waiting bring about? It can bring about boredom. We start to grumble and complain. That’s why our scripture today said, “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

And this is a call for us to recognize that if we are complaining to one another, and gossiping and hurting one another, God sees that it, and yes, if we live in those foolish ways, instead of in holiness, we will be judged by God for that. So we ought to live rightly, in reverence of God.

God is standing at the door. His return is immiment. So how then should we live?

So then we see in verse 10, James references our situation. We are waiting patiently in what? In suffering. And then it says “we count those blessed who persevered.” Do you know what that reminds me of? Benedict Arnold. Anyone know who I’m talking about? Most would know Benedict Arnold as a traitor. A traitor of the American revolution. But did you know he started off as a successful General under George Washington? He won some important victories. He was on doing very well. Had he made different choices we might’ve considered him a great hero of the revolutionary war. But he did not persevere. He became annoyed by his treatment by the other generals, and so he hatched a plan to betray the colonial forces. We regard those who persevered, not those who gave up along the way. We’ve got to have the long game in view, when we practice our Christian faith. Live it out, year after year.

And James gives us a fascinating example. The example of Job. You know when I was 20 years old and ended up in jail all I had was a Bible in solitary. And I read from Job. Job is a book about someone who suffered a great deal. And Job suffered patiently. He talked to God a lot in that book, speaking, arguing, wrestling with God in his situation. Job was patient. He waited. And eventually God restored all he had lost.

It says the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. That’s a very good and beautiful thing. God has mercy on us and great loving compassion for us. He is guiding us on the way we should go. But yes he does require us to wait for stuff. Wait for everything really. Waiting is really hard. I don’t enjoy waiting. I really don’t. It seems like a waste of time to me. But God is adjusting us through waiting. He’s building us. He’s building us in, patience.

Let’s pray.