IF WE ARE TO BE PATIENT AT HIS COMING…
- We must admit and believe that Christ’s return is the ONLY CERTAIN future.
- We must accept that suffering detaches us from the world and attaches us to Christ!
- We must do so together.
- We must focus on the promises of God, not the product of our work for Him.
Well, good morning, Saylorville Church! I’m honored to be bringing the word of God to you this Super Bowl Sunday as we continue in our sermon series, Keeping It Real, a study of the Book of James. And so if you have a copy of Scripture, I would invite you to find James, chapter 5, verse 7.
Luckily for you and for me, today we’re covering a topic that comes pretty naturally to 21st century Americans… Patience. No, I’m serious! In fact, in a 2015 poll, 80% of the respondents, (that is, Americans) describe themselves as being very patient, and, I mean, that was 2015. It’s probably better now, right? No. In fact, that same poll also reported a few other statistics. Check these out. More than half of those polled reported they hang up the phone after being on hold for one minute. 71% reported that they frequently exceed the speed limit to get to their destination faster, especially if they’re late. And here’s my favorite! According to the poll, 96% of Americans will knowingly consume extremely hot food and drink just knowing it’s going to burn their mouth. In fact, 63% do so frequently! (Who takes these polls, right?) If, as I already said, patience is a virtue, then it seems to be a virtue that is lacking in our age of instant gratification. Would you agree? And yet, as the famous pastor Charles Spurgeon once said,
“The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.”
And so my question for you this morning is simple. What are you waiting for? I’ve entitled this message Patient at His Coming, and James has a strong exhortation for us waiting people this morning. Let’s hear what the Lord has to say to our impatient hearts,
James 5:7-11 (NASB), 7“Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too, be patient. Strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near.
9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another so that you yourselves may not be judged. Behold, the judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” This is the word of the Lord.
And so, as we near the end of James’s letter, we find in these final verses of chapter 5 a grand exhortation and encouragement to James’ beleaguered audience, and I hope an encouragement to you this morning, as well.
If you’ve been with us throughout the series, you would know that James is most likely writing to both extremely poor Christians as well as extremely persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. In fact, James’ exhortation here in context is directly related to the persecution faced by his audience. Notice that our passage starts with the word, “Therefore.” Whenever you see that word in the Bible, we should always ask… what is it there for. (Very good!) It shows that our passage today is directly linked to the passage above it. And if you were with us last week, you heard Pastor’s strong word concerning the first six verses of chapter five, a word made for those who trust in their material wealth. Check out this verse from that passage. Here’s what it says.
James 5:4-5, “4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you. And the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
So, if last week’s message was all about condemnation of those who fleeced the poor, the destitute, for their own gain, what is this week’s passage about? Not condemnation, but exhortation from God through James to the people actually getting fleeced, that is the laborers, those who do the harvesting. Yet, as we will see this morning, though, that’s the immediate context, I think that James’ exhortation is meant to be taken in light of the whole book of James to this point. And what does James say to his suffering audience? How does he, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, encourage them? First, be patient. Now is this like, you know, when a kid is in the back of the car? You’re going on a family vacation. ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’ Dad turns around. ‘Be patient!’ No. It’s not just a flippant call to grin and bear it. Be patient! No. Instead, the word in Greek “be patient,” denotes the idea of not avenging oneself. To patiently endure the hard things and the hard people in our lives. It’s a call to have a long fuse. In fact, some Bibles actually translate this same word as “long-suffering.” It’s a great translation! It’s kind of like what Rachel and I have been feeling lately at about 1.30 a.m. (Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. Take the pacifier, put it in Winry’s mouth, she spits it out. Put it back in… spits it out. Put it back in… spits it out. Phew! Sure is good, she’s cute!)
And since it’s Super Bowl Sunday, it’s also what every Detroit Lions fan has felt their entire life. Long-suffering! (congregation laughing) — but it’s also what you feel when you graciously share the gospel with someone who could care less. It’s the same thing you feel when you just sit and listen to someone who’s hurting even though you’re busy. And it’s the same thing you feel when you’re kind to someone even though they’ve personally attacked you. Long-suffering.
James (and so the Lord) is not calling us to patience without pain. No, he’s calling us to be long-suffering saints within the pain. Jesus once said,
[Matthew 5:6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Paul wrote to the Romans,
[Romans 8:23] “…we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves.”
That’s the idea here. The Christian is called to a groaning patience, a hungry patience, a sorrowful patience even, but patience nonetheless. And what does James say is the only relief, the only antidote for the Christian’s patience? — the coming of the Lord, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, the Savior. Friends, listen, just in case you didn’t know. Jesus Christ is coming again! Do you believe that this morning? James did. And it was the central hope through which he encouraged his suffering, persecuted audience, and it is the same central hope through which God hopes to encourage you today, 2000 years later. You see technologically, culturally, we’re worlds apart from James’s audience, but if I’m honest, I have the same inpatient, anxious, fearful heart that James’ audience had. What does God say to me and say to you today?
[James 5:7] “… be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.“
But what does that actually look like, to wait on the Lord? Luckily for me, (and it’s not gonna happen all the time) God gives us a built-in illustration right in the text. Check out the bottom of verse seven. James paints this picture of waiting on the Lord as being similar to the work of an ancient Mediterranean farmer. They simply plant the seeds, and they wait for the rains to come. Being patient, (it’s actually the same word there) long-suffering in the process, yet it’s no accident that James uses an agricultural illustration. Why? — because the last time I checked, farmers can’t just make it rain on command. Ancient farming was a slow, arduous, long- suffering process, waiting for one seasonal rain to the next. In fact, you could say that the farmer’s entire life was utterly dependent on those rains, that is, on God showing up. The farmer has no safety net. No insulation apart from faith in God. And what does James exhort us to do? — you too, be patient! Basically, be like the farmer. Then he continues,
[James 5:8], “…strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near.”
Now that word “strengthen,” it can mean a variety of different things. Some of your Bibles might have translated it as “take courage (NLT).” Other Bibles translate it as “establish your heart (ESV).“ I think “established” is probably the better translation, as the word really denotes the idea of setting something up into a position, of fixing something to something else. So what’s going on here? What is James exhorting his audience to do in order to mimic the long suffering farmer? He wants them to strengthen or fix their hearts on something. And what is it? — on the grand, incredible reality that the coming of the Lord is near.
In 1952, a young Florence Chadwick, a successful long-distance swimmer at the time, stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean right off the coast of Catalina Island. It was her mission to swim from Catalina to the shore of mainland California. Now, Chadwick had already been the first woman to swim the English channel both ways, so this is just the obvious next step. However, the morning that she got prepared for her swim, there were much more difficult conditions than what she had faced in the past. It was both extremely cold and extremely foggy. In fact, she could barely even see the boats that were next to her as she swam. Still, (now watch this) Chadwick swam for 15 hours! (I can barely swim for 15 minutes!) — 15 hours towards the golden coast. Eventually due to the onslaught of the elements, she begged to take her out of the water. In fact, her mother was actually in the boat next to her and she said, “Come on, you can do it! You’re so close! Don’t give up!” But after just a few more strokes, Chadwick, physically and emotionally exhausted, stopped swimming. She was lifted into the nearby boat. It wasn’t until she was on that boat that, to her dismay, she discovered that the shore was less than half a mile away!
I wonder, can you see the golden coast? — that is, eternity with Christ in heaven forever, free of pain, free of guilt, free of anxiety, free of sin and full of worship? — or is there fog in the way? Why does James want us to be like an ancient farmer? — because an ancient farmer has no safety net, no insulation.
Friends, I gotta be honest with you. This was an exceedingly difficult sermon for me to write. You know why? — ’cause I don’t live like this. I wish I woke up and meditated on Christ’s return. I wish I could completely be sold out for the gospel in urgency and long-suffering patience. My how it would change my family and my school and my church and this nation and the world. But often, if I’m honest, I get lost in the fog of American comfort, my own false perception that I have security and control over my life, my cozy safety net. Listen, if we are to be patient at His coming, then first and foremost, we must admit and believe that Christ’s return is the only certain future.
Can I ask you something? What are your plans for the Super Bowl? —…and have some nice dips and buffalo wings? You going to a friend’s house? You having some family over? Or are you just not watching it? I only watch it for the commercials. I’m that guy. Friends, listen… are your Super Bowl plans written in Holy Scripture? — inspired by the very Spirit of God, derived from the Divine Mind that created all space, and time and matter? James’ call to patience is in response to everything he’s already said in James… and what did he say in chapter four? Pastor spoke on this a couple weeks ago. Here’s what he says.
James 4:14-15, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” (Or tonight.) “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
Friends, no one plans to get in a car accident. No one plans to have a heart attack. No one plans to have terrible medical news or to lose a child or to lose their savings. But it happens.
The title of our series is Keeping It Real. Why must the Christian saint fix their heart on the fact that Jesus Christ is coming soon? — because the Second Coming of King Jesus is more real than any future plan you currently have! Just look at that… Saylorville Church, if we let that capture us, if we let that sink deep into our hearts, if we rehearse that to ourselves daily, we would be mighty for His kingdom! How do I know? — because the Second Coming of Christ is the heart fuel that drove the first century church. I mean, you don’t have to read the New Testament very long to see that they were utterly obsessed with it! It’s a common thread throughout the entire narrative. Check out a couple of these verses that are gonna go across the slides. I’m not gonna read them, but…
[1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”]
[Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”]
The Second Coming of Christ is literally everywhere in the New Testament! Knowing that the Coming of the Lord was near is what got these guys up in the morning. It’s what pushed them to preach the gospel no matter what. It’s what comforted them when they faced hunger, when they faced homelessness, persecution, and yes, even martyrdom. And perhaps that’s the problem.
Why do I struggle so much… to appreciate the coming of the Lord? If I’m honest, it’s probably because sometimes, I don’t actually want it. Friends, when King Jesus comes back to the world He created, the world as we know it will cease to exist! You see, I can’t see the golden coast of heaven when this world still seems really inviting, really comfortable, really safe. But you know what dissipates the fog in the morning? — the scorching heat of the rising sun. Why were the first century saints so focused on the Second Coming of the Lord? —because they were constantly tried and refined in the fire of suffering, just like James’ audience. What did James say, the very first thing right out the gate, to his audience? Here it is.
James 1:2 (NASB), “Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
Just a few days ago, this week actually, my wife had the pleasure of chatting with one of the members of our church. And this member had recently been diagnosed with cancer and has been fighting it for the last year or so. She’s gone through chemotherapy. She’s had radiation treatments, and it was touch-and-go there for a while. She could have died! Praise the Lord, she’s clear, but I wanna read you what she said the experience taught her. And I share this with her permission. She says this.
“In my immense suffering, God stripped me of worry and control. Before my suffering, I was insensitive and I lacked compassion. My life was all about my schedule. Now I’m better at seeing people where they’re at and I genuinely love them, and I want them to know Jesus.”
Friends, mark it down. I am convinced that our worldly suffering, that is the suffering that you currently are experiencing right now, I know that there’re people out there, your worldly suffering is inseparably linked with a desire for Christ’s return. Frankly, I don’t know if I can will myself to hope for Christ more. My heart is just too earthbound, too comfortable, but our Savior is not content to allow us to settle for anything else than His eternal, loving, everlasting presence. Jesus once said,
[John 15:2 (NASB)], ”Every branch that bears fruit,” (he what?) “He prunes so that it will bear more fruit.”
As the commentator, David Nystrom puts it,
“Our destiny is to be with Christ, but it is often in the crucible of difficulty that God prepares us for that day.” David Nystrom
Friends, if we are to be patient at His coming, we must accept that suffering detaches us from the world and attaches us to Jesus. In fact, it might be the only thing that can.
But going back to the text. We’re talking about the Second Coming of Christ, and then suddenly in verse nine, James takes like a tangent. It’s like ‘Where did that come from?’ He says,
[James 5:9 (NASB)], “Do not complain, brethren, against one another.”
Why this sudden change of direction? Like, why does this come out of no where? Once again, I think James is trying to get his audience to examine where their heart truly lies. Is it fogged over by the cares of the world? — or is it fixed on Jesus? But what does a complaining Christian have to do with the Second Coming of Christ? Mark this down. The level to which you complain about your fellow Christians and your church is the litmus test as to how in love with the world you are. How do I know that? Well, check out the rest of the verse. What is the thing that’s meant to keep us from complaining? The Judge is standing at the door!
I’m always obligated to give a school illustration, so here it comes. As many of you may know, I’m a middle school teacher in a local middle school here in the area. And I think I can illustrate pretty well what James is talking about here. You see, before the start of each class period, I almost always stand outside my door welcoming the kids in. ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ ‘How was your weekend?’ ‘Nice game last night…’ stuff like that. However, occasionally, (I’m human) I gotta step away. Maybe I’m making copies or doing something. I teach middle school. What do you think is happening in that classroom when I’m not there? Take a wild guess. Yeah, when I walk in, my students aren’t always being little angels. They’re shouting across the room! They’re playing music on the Chromebooks! Middle school boys are wrestling in the middle of a classroom… you know, middle school stuff. Strangely enough though. As soon as I enter that room, the shenanigans cease! Why? — because the judge is standing at the door! Why do the shenanigans start? — well, because my students don’t think I’m going to see.
Why does the Christian complain and grumble about their fellow co-laborers? — because they don’t appreciate the urgency of Christ’s return. They’re still earthbound in their thinking, caring more about their own personal preferences than the collective mission of the Church to make Christ’s name known until He returns.
Just in case you want some more proof, check out James chapter three, verse 14 through 15. Here’s what it says.
James 3:14-15, “ If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.”
Why does James bring up complaining about our fellow Christians or the Church in reference to Christ’s second coming? —because if we are to be patient at His coming, we’ve gotta do it together. Christian, listen, you are a soldier in Christ’s army, if indeed you are a Christian this morning. You’re on mission with your Christian brothers and sisters to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. And we are at war against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. We need each other. Perhaps the author of Hebrews puts it best. Here’s what he says.
[Hebrews 10:25 (NASB)] “Do not forsake our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
What kind of soldier fires on their own troops? — one that either forgot the mission or one that’s actually fighting for the enemy. The Lord Jesus once said to His disciples,
[John 13:35 (NASB)], “By this, all people will know that you are My disciples; if you have love for one another. “
I already asked you what you’re waiting for this morning. What are you known for? Are you known as someone who loves their church and loves their Christian brothers and sisters? — or are you a complainer, a pot stirrer? Are you someone that’s always seeing something wrong with the church or the people in it? Listen, those who truly await the Coming of the Lord wait in loving community with each other. Do you have something against your brother or sister in Christ? Maybe they’re in this room. Confess to the Lord, be reconciled to your brother and sister, and continue to be patient for His Coming.
So if verse nine is an example of what not to do,
[James 5:9 (NASB), “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”]
… the rest of the passage is an example of what long suffering patience actually looks like, mainly through the immensely challenging lives of the Old Testament prophets and Job. Notice again at verse 10, it says,
James 5:10 (NASB), “… as an example, brethren, of suffering and patience…”
Remember those two things are together. Why were the Old Testament prophets such a great example of long-suffering patience? — mainly because most of them suffered horrendously and yet never actually saw what they were prophesying for. And indeed, few prophets suffered more than Jeremiah. We actually call Jeremiah “the weeping prophet.” Very briefly, check out this table of Jeremiah’s life.
It’s a lot. We’re going to run through it real quick. At the very beginning of Jeremiah, God comes to Jeremiah and He calls him. He says, ‘My people have forgotten Me. They’re worshiping idols. They’re fleecing the poor. Go, and tell them to repent.’ And then He says this.
[Jeremiah 1:8] “Do not be afraid of them. I will deliver you.” It’s God’s word of Jeremiah.
Yet as some of you probably are aware, as the book goes on, we notice something. Jeremiah is for the most part, utterly unsuccessful in calling the Jews to repentance! In fact, in chapter 7, God all but tells Jeremiah, ‘Hey, by the way, they’re not gonna listen to ya.’ How’s that for a pep talk? Fast forward… Jeremiah is frustrated. He’s done with it all! He actually says this to the Lord.
[Jeremiah 20:7], “O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived. You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughing stock all day long. Everyone mocks me.”
…and fast forward even more, in chapter 38 of Jeremiah, the Jews are so fed up with him that they literally throw him in a hole, a cistern! Why does this matter? You see, by American standards, Jeremiah’s ministry is a colossal failure. He didn’t start a great revival. He wasn’t an extremely popular preacher. He definitely didn’t sign any book deals. Why are the prophets such a grand example of long-suffering patience? —because they focused on the promises and characteristics of God as the drive for their ministry, not the product of the ministry itself.
Friends, if we are to be patient at His coming, we must focus on the promises of God, not the product of our work for Him. It’s very easy in our consumer-based, product-driven culture to believe that the Lord’s blessing is only found in successful ministry. Yet check out what the author of Hebrews concludes of the prophets. He says
[Hebrews 11:39-40], “…all the prophets were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…. God had something better planned.”
But look at the table from Jeremiah’s life again, the very back part. Did Jeremiah’s prophecy come true? In chapter 23, he talks about the “Branch of David” will rise up and save His people. You know who that is? — the Lord Jesus Christ! — and yet Jeremiah never got to see it. Jeremiah was not a successful follower because of the success of his ministry. He was a successful follower because he saw the Person and promises of God and he believed in them despite everything in his life saying the complete opposite. In Lamentations, Jeremiah pens,
[Lamentations 3:23b, (NIV)] …”Great is Your faithfulness.”
And what of Job? I mean, Job is the epitome of human suffering, right? Did he not do the same thing? — though the prophets, they were willing to lay down their life when the Lord called them. Job, in his case, everything was taken from him without his consent. In fact, at the very end, he still doesn’t get an answer for why the things happened to him, and yet, what does Job say? I mean, this guy lost his family, his house, all his possessions… and then he says this.
[Job 1:21(NASB)], ”Naked, I came from my mother’s womb and naked, I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.“
Does Job suffer? — of course he does. Does he doubt and wrestle with God? — of course he does, but in the end, after all his sufferings, you know what he gets? He gets a front row seat to who God is, that He is both utterly in control of everything, not to mention exceedingly merciful and overwhelmingly compassionate! Job gets back everything he lost and more.
Yet there’s one glaring issue as we tackle this passage this morning. You see, James wrote down these words, encouraged us to be patient 2,000 years ago. I know that many of you are sitting here right now and some of you are eagerly awaiting the Coming of the Lord. You’re waiting for that moment when King Jesus will return in glory. Why are you waiting? You’re waiting because you’re hurting because you’ve had enough of your sin and the impact that has in your life. You’re waiting because the curse of this world and the brokenness seems to be just bubbling up recently, and perhaps you’re asking the same question that James’ audience was probably asking. Where is He? Where is He? Where is God? Doesn’t He see where our country’s going? Doesn’t He see the pain that I have at the loss of my family or my friends? Doesn’t He see the absolute suffering that I’m going through? And yet the Lord of Hosts, just like with Job, can handle our doubts. Check out this verse written by the Apostle Peter, here it is.
[2 Peter 3:9, (NASB)], “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any of you to perish, but for all of you to come to repentance.”
That word patient is the exact same word as used in James. What am I saying? Are you suffering? Are you weighed down by the effects of your sin? — the brokenness of this world by the persecution and the hatred rising towards Christ and His church? James has a word for all of us. The Lord is not aloof to our suffering. In fact, He actually suffers with us! The Lord of Host is enraged by the effects of sin on the perfect world that He created. He weeps as He did for Lazarus when He sees the brokenness that sin causes in our lives. He yearns to save and justify His saints in their persecution to bring them home ’cause He loves them! — but He holds back. He holds back. He’s long-suffering. Why? So that more people might know and experience His incredible love, His enduring mercy, His long-suffering patience. You know when God was the most silent? (Maybe you’re feeling like He’s silent right now.) God was most silent at the cross towards His Son, the Lord Jesus. Nowhere was the Lord Jesus, more patient, more long-suffering… than at the cross! — As the writer of Hebrews put it. Here it is.
[Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)] “[looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who] for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In patience, the Lord Jesus came to earth as a baby to save sinners. In patience, He lived and taught among sinners, asking them to come to repentance. In patience, He was mocked and beaten and scourged by the Romans that He came to save, and yes, in patience He took the nails in His hands. Why? Why did the Lord Jesus suffer? — for the joy that was set before Him. — and what is that joy? If you know Him, You! — His Bride… if indeed you believe on Him. He suffered for you!
Yet for some of you this morning, you can’t see the golden coast of heaven because you don’t know the way. Jesus once said,
[John 14:6 (NASB)], ”I am the way and the truth and the life.No one comes the Father (that is heaven) but through Me.”
Are you still lost in the fog of your sin? Are you still trusting on anything else besides Jesus as your way to heaven? Friends, Jesus is coming again. The Judge is standing at the door. Are you prepared when He opens it? Listen, there is a greater Super Bowl than the one going on tonight. It’s the Super Bowl of souls. Are you on the winning team? Are you a child of the victorious King? Believe on the Lord Jesus today. Believe that He died on the cross for you, paying the full penalty of your sins through His blood, believe that He rose from the dead conquering death, and that if you believe on Him this morning, He will raise you from death as well. Friends, the Judge is standing at the door, but Jesus once said,
[Revelation 3:20 (NASB)] “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.”
What are you waiting for? Let’s pray.
Father God, Lord Jesus, Father make us a waiting people. Lord, I pray for all the souls in this room this morning. Lord, for the Christian, help them realize that their suffering is not for nothing, but God, that You are long-suffering with them, desiring that You would use their suffering to call more to Your name. Lord, I also pray for the saint who’s lost in the fog. Lord, help them trust in the reality, God, that Your second coming is more certain than anything else. And Lord, I pray for those in this room that don’t know You, that they would admit that they’re lost in the fog of their sin. But Lord, what dissipates the fog but the rising sun, the Son of God. Lord Jesus, may You come into their hearts now and save them. Thank You for this time. We worship and bless Your name in Jesus’ name. Amen. [Music]