What’re You Waiting For?

(Please read James 5:7-11 in your Bible.  I cite the NIV below.)

Patience makes all relationships better.

  1. We must be patient with God (5:7+8).

It may sound odd to say it this way, but there are a couple circumstances that require all followers of Jesus to be patient with God.

One is prayer.  We wait on the Lord for a “yes” answer to prayer.  Luke 18 instructs us that we do not stop praying, but continue to call on the Lord.

Another is Jesus’ Second Coming.  The Bible concludes on a promise that Jesus is coming again.  This time, His coming will signal a series of events that will bring this reality to an end, replacing it with a perfected and glorified reality, creation restored to the way it was before sin corrupted it.

This is what James meant when he wrote BE PATIENT…UNTIL THE LORD’S COMING (v. 7).  Our hope, whether we are currently enduring suffering or not, is that at the LORD’S COMING, our faith will be vindicated, all wrongs made right, and all losses replaced with rewards.

Patience with God is defined in the expression STAND FIRM (v. 8).  To STAND FIRM means to keep the faith.  It is to trust in God, confident that His promises will be kept.

James offers the illustration of a FARMER demonstrating patience as he waits for nature to follow its customary process.  SPRING RAINS were important for germination.  AUTUMN RAINS were important for maturation of the crop.  (Both of these rains were specifically promised in Deuteronomy 11:14.)  The FARMER can do nothing to hurry the process or change weather conditions.  He must be patient and so must every believer.

Whether we’re maturing crops or disciples, the periods of waiting are not wasted time.  Instead they are periods of development & growth.

Why should we STAND FIRM until the Second Coming? BECAUSE THE LORD’S COMING IS NEAR.  Paul expected the Second Coming in his lifetime.  It didn’t happen.  Does that mean he was wrong to have that expectation?  No, we’re all supposed to think that way and allow it to affect our decisions.  Is it right for us to think about the Second Coming as NEAR?  Of course it’s right.  One of the things that motivate our patience is the expectation that Jesus’ return is right around the corner.

In the Bible, true faith is distinguished retrospectively.  When we see that person remained true – stood firm in the faith – all the way to their end, we know they possessed true faith.

  1. We must be patient with each other (5:9-11).

One of the events connected with the Second Coming is Judgment Day.  Logically, it also is near; THE JUDGE IS STANDING AT THE DOOR (v. 9).

One of the aspects of judgment will be the way we have treated one another.  So James commands DON’T GRUMBLE (v. 9).  Though the word patience is not in this verse, we can easily see that choosing not to grumble is one way patience manifests itself in our relationships.  This echoes Jesus’ teaching about judgmentalism – if we are judgmental about each other, we can expect to face that same standard exercised against us on Judgment Day.

Another aspect of Judgment Day will be how we handled SUFFERING.  Was it with PATIENCE or not?  Being patient in SUFFERING means we don’t abandon our faith.  We stick with what we believe.

This kind of patience can be called perseverance and we have biblical examples of perseverance we can follow.  The PROPHETS (v. 10) spoke God’s messages in Old Testament times.  Their devotion to the truth put them at odds with their countrymen and made them the target of hideous acts of persecution.

Hebrews 11:35-37 summarizes their sufferings.

Job (v. 11) is, of course, the oft-used example of patience.  When you read the account of Job in the Bible, you note that he struggled with what he suffered and maintained his faith with a great deal of difficulty.  We are human, after all.  James mentioned JOB’S PERSEVERANCE.  This is attested to in Job 1:22 where we read, IN ALL THIS JOB DID NOT SIN BY CHARGING GOD WITH WRONGDOING.  James also mentioned JOB’S OUTCOME.  In Job 42:12 we read about God’s approval of Job in these words: THE LORD BLESSED THE LATTER PART OF JOB’S LIFE MORE THAN THE FIRST.

Our patience in suffering will inevitably result in our being blessed by God: WE CONSIDER BLESSED THOSE WHO HAVE PERSEVERED.  BLESSED means “happy.”  Life is a happier, better experience for those who wait on the Lord.

If we are patient, our patience in suffering will inevitably reveal that THE LORD IS FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY (V. 11).  At the end of our suffering we should be more convinced than ever of the loving character of God.

  1. How we can be patient with each other (1:19-21).

Patience is our first defense against ungodly anger as it allows us to slow down our reaction to offenses.  James writes to the BROTHERS, but EVERYONE should exercise the virtue of patience by setting a guard at their lips.

Verse nineteen is the thesis statement of the book of James.  His letter is organized around this proverb.  Here he outlined a 3-fold strategy for godly communication.

One, BE QUICK TO LISTEN to each other, but also to the Holy Spirit, who helps us understand the word of God.  Read the Gospels and you will be impressed by Jesus’ ability to LISTEN: He heard everything!  You will enjoy other people more if you spend more time listening to them and less time talking.

Two, be SLOW TO SPEAK: that means to guard our speech.  Maturing believers do not “let off steam” or use any other excuse for unguarded speech.  Instead, we take time to consider our words before we say them and keep from sins of the tongue.  In 3:2, James says that the follower who controls their tongue is PERFECT!  This gives us some sense of the import of sins of the tongue.

Third, SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY refers to misdirected wrath or selfish vengefulness.  Modern science has shown that anger is one of the emotions that takes the shortest pathway from brain to mouth.  In order to have a more considered response, we must involve more of our brain and that takes time.  Counting to 20 is as good a step to take as any.  When we are angry without a godly reason, we do more harm than good.

Why is anger a problem as regards the virtue of patience?  Anger is typically the opposite of patience; it is reacting quickly and overreacting.  It is reacting for the wrong reasons.  As a result, anger almost always impairs our spiritual maturity: MAN’S ANGER DOES NOT BRING ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE THAT GOD DESIRES (v. 20).  When anger compels us to say or do the wrong thing, unrighteous results follow.  Harm comes to relationships, causing strains that can last a lifetime.  It is no good to God or man.

Ungodly anger is a sin; it is one aspect of the MORAL FILTH and EVIL that is PREVALENT in the world around us (v. 21).  It is PREVALENT because most people try to get through life without God.  Remember, Jesus said that it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

What makes a true follower of Jesus different from merely worldly folk is their decision to HUMBLY ACCEPT THE WORD PLANTED in them, to the effect that they are saved.  The word HUMBLY is of key importance because it is pride and self-centeredness that causes us to behave in ways opposite God’s will.  The sacrifice of self in order to love God and others will build relationships and increase happiness.  That seems backwards from a worldly point of view, but it is God’s honest truth.

One scale by which we can assess our spiritual maturity is the degree to which virtues are evident and sins are absent.  Another scale is the degree to which our words are helpful or hurtful.  On a personal scale, this means we must be more concerned about what comes out of us.  Our words and deeds are public revelations of our character; what are people finding out about us?  On a church-wide scale, it means that we value the unity God gives us above self-interests and work hard to guard it against deliberate attempts to create division.

How to Keep James 1:19 = A Serving of “P’s”

  1. Agree on the situation.

P = Paraphrase. “This is what I hear you saying.” (Relate your version of their words.)  “Is that what you want me to hear?”

P = Personalize. “When I hear you say that, this is how I feel.  Is that what you want me to feel?”

  1. Agree on the solution.

P = Partner. “What do you think we should do to resolve this situation?”  (Share ideas.  Negotiate a compromise.)

P = Perform. Work together to enact the solution you’ve agreed upon.

How to Recognize Sins of the Tongue

  1. If you are talking about a situation to anyone outside the group of those who are directly involved, that is gossip.
  2. If your desire is to make another person look bad or yourself look good in comparison, that is slander.
  3. If you are deliberately withholding any portion of the truth or including any portion of an untruth, that is a lie.
  4. If you are listing reasons someone is guilty of something you have not observed them doing, that is false accusation.
  5. If you find yourself talking more about things that are less important or trying to be funny without considering others, that is idle patter.
  6. If you are using words that you would not say in the presence of God, that is obscenity or swearing.
  7. If you are quietly muttering words that you would be embarrassed to speak aloud, those are evil whispers.
  8. If you are speaking out of anger or trying to “win” an argument, that is quarreling.
  9. If you are finding fault without working out a solution, you are complaining.

Notice that honesty does not figure in this list.  We can’t use honesty as an excuse for sins of the tongue.  We cannot justify any sin by claiming a virtue.

Notice that being “right” does not figure in this list.  No matter how accurate our words may seem, God is the final Judge of our words.  Being right does not give us the right to speak them.  So decide for yourself whether it is easier to be careful what you say or to just talk less.

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