These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Today we continue going through James. We are in a section where James is addressing various things in our lives that battle against being satisfied. One of the enemies of satisfaction is impatience. Before the Christmas break we saw where James answered the question, “When should I be patient?” We learned that our patience is going to be challenged…
- When circumstances are uncontrollable.
- When people are unchangeable.
- When problems are unexplainable.
We unpacked all that from James 5:7-11. I want us to return to James 5:7 and look at this again because there were some very important things that we didn’t have time to look at, but we desperately need to consider as we enter a new year.
James 5:7-11 says, Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. (NLT)
James has been writing to believers who were suffering, going through difficult times, some were persecuted, and going through various trials. These things can create a lot of pressure and stress in their life and ours. When things are not going the way we want them we often forget the big picture and some basic truths. James tells us how we should react during those days of pressure by reminding us to be patient during difficult times in light of the Lord’s returns.
James starts this section off by saying “Dear brothers and sisters.” That is a statement of sympathy and identification. James is writing with tenderness and affection. He feels personally involved in their sufferings and trials. He wants to stand with them, comfort them and encourage them. He feels their anguish as if it were his own. For me, this is a subtle reminder for me to identify with your hurt, your pain, and your suffering. You are my “brothers and sisters.” We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the same heavenly Father. We are a part of the family of God. When you hurt, I hurt. When I hurt, you hurt. We all may not like each other, but we need each other. We may not always agree, but we can agree that we have the same Heavenly Father, we are on the same mission to make disciples for Christ, and we will end up in the same wonderful place called heaven.
James specifically refers to the Lord’s return twice and from those two statements we see two things to remember when the pressures of life are on us and we want God to hurry up in answering our prayers or fixing our problems or removing our pain. Two things about Jesus’ return we need to remember.
We can be patient because the Lord’s return is certain
Number one, we can be patient because the Lord’s return is certain. It will happen. God does not tell us when, but He does tell us that the Lord’s return is going to happen. James says verse 7, “Be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return” (NLT). This is James’ first reference to the Second Coming and it is simple, concise, straightforward and uncluttered. He could hardly have put as great a truth in fewer words. No long explanation was needed because the Christians to whom he was writing already knew and believed it.
There are three main Greek words used in the Bible to describe the second coming of Christ. The one used here (parousia) refers to the arrival of an emperor or king. It speaks of authority and power. Perhaps the best English translation would be the word “arrival.” The church’s great hope is the arrival of Jesus Christ when He comes to bless His people with His presence. That glorious truth appears in more than 500 verses throughout the Bible.
- It was the word used by Jesus when He spoke of “the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27).
- It was the word Paul used when he said “May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again” (1 Thess. 5:23).
- It was the word Peter used when he spoke of “the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:16).
- It was the word John used when he said that we should live in such a way that when Christ returns to the earth “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
Jesus Christ will come again. He will return. For believers that is not a day to dread, but a day to look forward. It brings hope. It brings healing. It brings an end to all the pain and suffering of God’s people.
Jesus said much about His return. He taught that His return would be preceded by definite signs (Matt. 24:5-26). He portrayed his coming as a dramatic, climactic event, as striking and unmistakable as the flash of lightning across the sky (Matt. 24:27-30).
Every Christian is to live in the hope of the certainty of Christ’s return. Let me give you a small taste of what God’s Word says about this.
- 1 Peter 4:7 says, “The end of the world is coming soon [talking about the return of Jesus]. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other…” (vs. 7-8, NLT). As you eagerly wait for the Lord’s return keep praying and keep loving. Keep praying for those who don’t know Jesus. Keep loving those who are in your life. Keep praying for other believers to stay strong, endure, and to be patient. Keep loving your enemies, blessing those who persecute you and don’t understand you. Keep lifting others up before God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Let Jesus’ return motivate to prayer and loving others.
- 2 Timothy 4:6 says, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (vs. 6-8, NLT). Are you eagerly looking forward to Jesus’ return? Let His return inspire you to fight the good fight, to finish your race, and to remain faithful to Him. The Bible tells us that our real battles are not with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual forces of the evil one. Fight the good fight until Jesus returns. Each of us has a race to run. Some of you have just started your race, while some of us are nearing the end. So don’t quit, don’t give up and don’t give in. Keep running and stay faithful to the end. Be patient. Your race is a marathon, not a sprint.
- 1 Peter 1:6 says, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (vs. 6-7, NLT). That is referring to Jesus’ return. Some of you are going through difficult times and trials right now. For some of you 2020 will be your best year and for others it may be the most difficult year of your life. Whatever trials you face, be patient for these trials last only “a little while.” It is an opportunity for you to display that your faith is real and when you display that your faith is real it also demonstrates your God is real. Jesus is coming again. Be patient. Endure. Be faithful.
- 1 John 3:1 says, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation [His return] will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure” (NLT). When we study and focus our thoughts on the return of Jesus it should motivate us and encourage us to live godly lives. Listen, if you are studying end time stuff in the Bible and it turns you into an eschatological egghead without life transformation then you have studied his return and the end times wrong. Having an eager expectation of the Lord’s return creates a drive to live for Him.
The ultimate proof that God is in control is the second coming. God has been working out everything throughout history to get the world in position for the second coming. He’s got it all planned out, everything is on schedule, everything is moving toward God’s ultimate purpose. God is in control. Be patient until the Lord returns. God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you are facing or will face. God is in control. Even though a situation may be out of your control, it is not out of God’s control. Be patient. The prophets hung in there. Job made it through it and so can you.
We can be patient because the Lord’s return is imminent
Number two, we can be patient because the Lord’s return is imminent. Verse 8 says, You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
We are given an example of patience with the farmer who patiently waits for the rains to fall. You might get the picture of someone who is waiting and doing nothing while patiently waiting for the rain to fall. However, this is not what God’s Word is telling us. The Bible says to “take courage” while being patient. This refers to an active waiting, an active patience. To “take courage” (sterizo) means to “stand firm” or “strengthen your hearts” or to “establish” or to “fix firmly in place.” It was used to describe the process in establishing a city. It has the idea of preparing yourself for battle. It speaks of a strong person in terms of one who is resolute, set on a fixed path or firmly committed to a goal. The “courage” comes from a life firmly committed to God and set on the path God has established.
We are told to “take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” Some people joke about the closeness of the Lord’s return. I get it. It’s been about 2000 years since this was said. At the time there were some believers who believed that Jesus was going to return within their life time. However, when you look closely at what Jesus said and taught you discover that Jesus knew it would be a long time before He returned.
But what is crucial to understand about phrases like “the Lord is near” in connection to His return is the idea of imminence. Imminence means that it is likely and can occur at any moment. Imminence means you know that it is going to happen, but you don’t know when. For example, death is imminent. You know it will happen, but you don’t know when.
We are to live our lives with the expectation of his soon return. His return is likely to occur at any moment. His return will happen. His return and our rapture will happen. We don’t know when, but it is imminent.
Here again, let us remember the context. Some of these Christians were going through horrible trials and difficult days and they must have wondered if there would ever be an end to the difficult days they were in. James’ answer to their unasked question was to point out that the return was not only getting closer all the time but could actually be described as being “near” or “at hand.”
This reminder would have been a great comfort to them? They were not to know exactly when Christ would return, but they could be sure that each day brought it closer. The practical implications of this were that the time of their suffering was getting shorter, not longer; it was moving towards an end. The day of their release was getting nearer, and even the worst of their pain should be seen in the light of the glory that was to come. This was exactly the attitude that Paul had when he wrote, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Cor. 4:17-18, NLT).
The obvious idea of this exhortation was that believers should realize that their trouble is temporary. It will end when Jesus returns. Though Jesus would not return in the lifetime of the recipients of this letter, nor in the lifetimes of millions of other believers who have lived and died since – no one has known when He will – all may live in the anticipation that He may come at any moment. This argues for immanency, the idea that the next event on God’s schedule for Christ is the deliverance of believers from this world with all its troubles. God’s schedule for Jesus was be born of a virgin (done), live a sinless life (done), be crucified on a cross for our sins (done), die for our sins (done), arise from the grave conquering death, hell, and the grave (done). Ascend to the Father (done). Now, there is one more thing to do… return. This is a comforting hope for believers in all ages. Jesus’ return is certain and imminent.
Martin Luther once said, “I preach as though Christ died yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back tomorrow.” And that is how we should live. Be patient. The Lord will return and make all things right.