3rd Sunday in Advent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
James 5:7-10 Sermon
December 11, 2004
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
328 "Hail To The Lord's Anointed"
12 "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People"
39 "Good Christian Men Rejoice"
29 "Break Forth, O Beautious Heavenly Light"
PATIENCE, MY CHILDREN
TEXT (vs. 7-8) “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Here’s a scene that most of you probably are familiar with. You make an appointment with a doctor for a specific time, say 2.00 in the afternoon. You arrive as scheduled, right on time. You check in with the receptionist, and she responds, “have a seat, and we’ll call your name.”
So you go over to where the chairs are in the waiting room. You rummage through the magazines, and the best thing you can find is a two-year-old copy of “Glamour.” 45 minutes later, the nurse comes out and calls your name.
She leads you back to an examining room, where she takes your blood pressure and does some other preliminary things. Then she hands you one of those hospital gowns which is open at the back, tells you to take off all your clothes and put the gown on. As she leaves the room, she tells you those famous last words, “the doctor will be with you shortly.”
Okay, fine. Now you’re sitting in the room, in the cold, wearing this flimsy gown, and you wait some more. To make matters worse, you forgot that two-year-old copy of “Glamour” out in the waiting room, so you have nothing to entertain yourself with except for what you can find posted on the walls. 15 minutes later, the doctor finally comes in.
At 3.30 pm, you are now in your car leaving the parking lot. That 2.00 pm appointment has now chewed about an hour and a half out of your day. The time with the doctor was only about 10 minutes; the other hour and twenty minutes was spent waiting.
This has happened to me, and I’m sure it has happened to you too. The old joke that goes along with this, is the reason they call those people waiting at the doctor’s office “patients.” It takes a lot of “patience” when you wait for the doctor. That’s also the reason I take my own reading material with me whenever I go to the doctor, or when I know I’m going to have to wait someplace for awhile.
Patience. That’s the general theme of our text for today, which is a rather small snippet at the end of the Epistle of James. “Be patient and stand firm” James says in verse 8.
Since Christmas is only about two weeks away, perhaps we all need a few reminders concerning patience. There are so many things that test our levels of patience, besides having to wait at the doctor’s office. For example, think about having to wait that extra 15 minutes or so for dinner, or having to wait for the pizza delivery guy when our stomach is growling. Perhaps we become anxious when we have to sit through three light changes during rush hour. Patience is required when we’re standing in a queue (that is, a line up of people).
And when Christmas comes around, patience is needed in even more areas. Parents need to find that little bit of extra patience when children dictate their Christmas list for the umpteenth time, to the point that mom and dad have it memorized backwards.
And what about the children? The Christmas tree is up, and the presents are underneath, tantalizing the kids every time they walk by, as they systematically pick each one up and shake it, trying to figure out what’s in them. Or we might find the kids searching the closets looking for suspicious looking boxes. And then comes the night before Christmas, trying to get the kids to sleep, and then trying to put together that “easy to assemble” gift or toy.
We have to agree that there are many things that take patience, and try our patience. Indeed we all need patience, and most of us could use more of it sometimes. So the message that is being brought forth in our text for today, is God looking at us and saying, “Patience, my children.”
The concept of patience in the Scriptures seems to be something quite common. The word “patience” is used 48 times in the Bible; “forbearance” (which has much the same meaning) is used another 31 times; plus there are other areas that allude to the concept of being patient.
Patience is, of course, a Christian virtue. I think that one of the things that continually points up that we are sinful human beings, is that we lose our patience. Patience comes in greater or lesser degrees in everybody, but we all have that breaking point where our patience can take no more. We break. We lose our cool. And many times, we just can’t help it.
James comes up with several good examples of patience. Look at the farmer, he says. A farmer plants a seed, and then he waits. He waits for the rains to water it. But regardless of how patient or impatient a farmer is, the seed must take its own good time to sprout, to grow, and for the plant to bear forth the crop. Certainly irrigation and fertilizer can help the process, but being impatient for a seed to grow does absolutely no good. The seed isn’t going to grow any faster because the farmer is impatient. Impatience doesn’t make the rain fall or the sun shine. The only thing that impatience will yield for the farmer is ulcers and misery.
And likewise for the rest of us, impatience generally doesn’t do anybody any good. In fact, a demonstration of impatience can have a reverse affect. Don’t we all balk a little when we’re pushed? Don’t we have the tendency to react negatively when dealing with an impatient individual? And when we ourselves are impatient or start to get a bit agitated, then the only person that we’re really harming is ourselves, and perhaps those around us. Impatience generally breeds misery.
But again our text for today is very clear. “Be patient and stand firm.” These are good words to live by and perhaps remember at those times when we are tempted to lose our cool and get upset.
And why should we do this? “Because the Lord is near,” says James. “The Lord is coming soon! The judge is standing at the door!” And why should this make a difference in how patient we are?
I believe that as Christians, we are to always be looking ahead to the future. We live our lives with the hope of heaven always before us. And when life’s little problems seem to grow ever larger and increase, then we wish for that hope of heaven to come to us all the sooner. But we are to be patient for that time.
We see many people who, when faced with difficulties of this life, and they can see no way out, will choose suicide. They choose to take matters into their own hands, and end it all before the Lord decides their life is over. Suicide would be the ultimate form of impatience with this life. People don’t wish to allow the Lord to work things out for them, and so they invite death for themselves.
But of course the Christian knows that this sort of impatience is wrong. It is a sin to take one’s own life. Judas Iscariot is the good Biblical example of this, where he chose to reject the grace of God, and take his own life instead. Judas’s impatience landed him into hell, where he sits as a result of his own decision.
But impatience is something that’s always with us, isn’t it? It seems that no matter how hard we try to control ourselves, we become impatient, and probably every day! Teachers lose patience with children that act up in class or who don’t seem to want to learn. It seems that you can’t even jump in the car and go somewhere without another driver somewhere along the line trying our patience. Oh yes, we are to have patience in all areas!
But now, let’s take this idea and apply it to ourselves. Sure, we can have heaps of patience. But how many times have we, through our own sinful neglect, made others lose their patience? How many times has it been our fault for somebody else losing their temper? We may be full well ready to try to control our own temper, but are we willing to look at our behavior in such a way that we don’t cause others to lose their cool? Are we the person causing someone else to sin by our neglect or willful misconduct?
This idea of patience is a two-way street! Paul illustrates this fact in Ephesians chapter 6 when he writes, “Children, obey your parents.” This is clearly a command that, among other things, children are not to willfully try the patience of their parents. But then Paul immediately throws a responsibility right back on the parents when he writes, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Parents are not to try the patience of their children either. Instead, children are to be brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord; or as the King James Bible says, the fear and admonition of the Lord.
It would do us well to take our instructions in patience using the Lord himself as an example. In Psalm 103, 8-13 we find out just how patient God is. We read, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him.”
So if we want to find out what patience really is, then all we need to do is to look at the Lord, who has lots of it. When we look at ourselves, and look at the Lord, don’t you think the Lord would have every right to be upset with us all the time? How in the world should this holy and perfect God tolerate and be so patient with the likes of us?
Yes, God is indeed patient, beyond what we deserve. The Psalmist says that God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins. And how does that happen? It’s that way for all true believers in Jesus Christ. We see God dealing with Jesus according to our sins. God, in his righteous and just way, uses Jesus as our scapegoat. And since he does this, then God promises not to deal with us according to our sins. He promises to be patient with us and give us that salvation in Jesus’ name that we don’t deserve.
It’s in Jesus’ name then, with that idea of forgiveness and new life that we take a new look at everything. We see a patient and loving and forgiving God who is dealing with us. And when we deal with others, it’s with this thought in mind. We then are motivated to deal with other people in the same way that God deals with us—patiently and lovingly. The patience of God is the patience we pray for.
Our text from James today is a good reminder that we are to do just that—deal with others the way God deals with us. James writes, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” And it’s always so easy, isn’t it? When we lose our patience with someone else, then we tend to grumble against them. We are tempted, even though we may say that we forgive them, to kind of go into a slow burn, ready to pop off at any moment.
But as redeemed children of God, we are not to do that. God doesn’t do that with us. God doesn’t sit there and go into a slow burn when we do wrong; rather he keeps on being patient, forgiving us and loving us. He keeps patiently leading us time after time to the cross every time we have sinned, and keeps reassuring us that we are forgiven for all of our wrongs.
But what about when things really go wrong? James hastens to remind us about the example of the prophets. Here was a group of people who had every right to be impatient. They were persecuted, jailed, beaten, tortured, and mocked because of the words they were speaking. They had every right to be discouraged and impatient. But they kept on doing what they had to do. They kept on in a spirit of patience. Even when the going got rough, they kept true to the Word of God.
So how is our patience holding out? Sometimes it’s going to be easier than other times to display patience. People often lose their patience, as Moses did with the Israelites, as Jonah did with the Ninevites, as the disciples did with the Canaanite woman, and as Martha did with Mary. Like it was with these great figures of Scripture, so we also know that as sinful human beings, our patience is going to wear thin. But knowing that we can lose our patience is no excuse to lose it.
As the days of Christmas get closer and closer, I believe that we all need this little reminder of patience. Christmas can be overshadowed with tempers and impatience. But as we look at the celebration, let’s see beyond the earthly things that would cause us to be upset. Let’s look and see that very patient and loving God behind the whole scene. Let’s look at God, who has been so patient with us, that he lovingly placed his son in a stable in Bethlehem, so that we would not be condemned by our impatience and sin, but saved through that baby Jesus Christ by God’s patient and loving grace, through that faith he continually gives each of us.
As we seek to live our lives patterned after God’s patience, let’s always remember to be patient with others, not grumble about others, and not be the cause of others losing patience.
May God grant us a happy, peaceful, and patient Christmas season for Jesus’ sake.