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.
One of the reasons why people are so dissatisfied in life is because they are impatient. They are in a hurry for things to happen. Beginning in James 4, God has been teaching us about why we struggle with satisfaction in life. So far, we have learned that dissatisfaction comes from the evil and selfish desires within us. This is why we argue, this is why we are prideful, this is why we judge others to quickly and to harshly, this is why we make plans without God, and this is why we focus to much on the material and temporary things of life too much.
But now we come to James 5:7 where we are told to slow down and be patient. Don’t get in a hurry and let God do His thing and work behind the scenes of your life and your situation. Be faithful and be patient while you are waiting on God.
Take a look at James 5:7, 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). After the holidays we are going to come back to this. But today, I want us to answer the question, “When should I be patient?” James mentions three specific times to be patient. When these three things occur you are going to want to take control, get ahead of God, and rush through it. Don’t do that. You will only end more frustrated, angry, and worn out. So when are you to be patient?
When circumstances are uncontrollable
First, you should be patient when circumstance are uncontrollable. There are some things you can control in your life and there are some things you cannot control. To help us with this James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. Look at verse 7 where James says, “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” (NLT). Don’t go into farming unless you have got a lot of patience. Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting. Even though the farmer is busy doing other things, he is also doing a lot of waiting. He waits till a certain time to plant, he wants for the crop to grow, he waits for God to bring the rain, he waits to until the right time to harvest the crops. The farmer does a lot of waiting while he is working. The farmer has no control over things like weather, rain, heat, and the economy.
The example of the farmer reminds you to be patient in circumstances that are beyond your control. There are some things in your life you have no control over and you just will need to wait through it.
When you have bad health, you have to wait until you get better. It takes patience to pay off bills and get out of debt. You will need to be patient as you wait for that promotion. You will need to wait while God is working behind the scenes to bring you the right person for you to marry. If you are young, there are some things you will have to wait for because you are not old enough. There is a lot of waiting that goes on through life and once you learn how to wait patiently life will be a lot less frustrating and lot more enjoyable. You will need to learn to work while you wait. Be busy doing whatever God wants you to do while waiting.
When people are unchangeable
We need to be patient when circumstances are uncontrollable and number two, you need to be patient when people are unchangeable. If you decide to live for Jesus and to live out your convictions and beliefs as a follower of Jesus then eventually you will have people oppose you, ridicule you, mistreat you or say things about you that are not true. Their life’s calling seems to be to cause suffering in your life. You are going to need patience with these people. They seem unchangeable and unteachable.
God gives us an example of this kind of patience in verse 10 when it says, “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (NLT). The job of the prophet was to help people change, to bring them back to God, to deliver a message, to encourage them to repent of wrong behavior. They would be speaking on behalf of God, they “spoke in the name of the Lord.” But the people often would reject the message and the prophet. They would ridicule them and create unnecessary suffering in the prophets’ lives. Some prophets did this for years before they saw any change, if any.
God is saying be patient like the prophets who tried to minister to others. You have this person or this group of people you are trying to reach for Jesus. You are praying for them, loving them, forgiving them, blessing them, and sharing God’s Word and God’s love with them the best you know how. They don’t seem to care and they don’t seem to be listening. Some of them may be saying and doing unkind things toward you and making your life more difficult. They seem unchangeable and they seem unteachable and unreachable. God says to you, “Be patient with them. Remember the prophets. Speak on My behalf. Be faithful.”
When you feel devalued and underappreciated by those you are loving it will not be easy to be patient. So think about the patience of people like Elijah, Moses, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, and Noah. They were not perfect people, but they are examples of how to wait patiently when you are suffering for God and people are not changing.
When problems are unexplainable
You need to be patient when circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable and when problems are unexplainable. God gives us the classic example of patience in verse 11 when the Bible says, “We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance” (NLT). In case you don’t know the story of Job, let me run through it real quick. The story of Job actually begins with a conversation between God and the Devil. Job does not know anything about this conversation. God asked Satan, “What have you been up to?” and Satan says, “I’ve been watching what’s happening on the earth?” Then God brings up Job asking, “Have you noticed my servant Job?” Satan says, “Oh yes, but the only reason he is one of Your servants and worships You is because he has everything going for him. A successful business where he has made a boat load of money, a large and healthy family, his own health, a wife, servants, and a bunch of livestock. He is on top of the world. He’s got it all.”
So, Satan says, “God, if you let me take away all those wonderful things, Job will turn his back on you, doubt you, and curse you.” In God’s own wisdom, God allows Satan to tear apart Job’s life. God gives Satan permission to do anything he wants to do to Job except take his life. Satan wasted no time. In four swift strokes, Job is devastated.
- Stroke 1: A messenger arrives and tells Job that some people have taken all his oxen, donkeys and killed his servants who were taking care of them (1:15).
- Stroke 2: A second messenger comes in and tells Job that fire from the sky has consumed all of his sheep and the servants who were watching them (1:16).
- Stroke 3: Another messenger arrives and tells Job that some people have taken all of his camels and executed his servants who were watching them (1:17).
- Stroke 4: A fourth messenger shows up and tells Job that all of his children are dead… they were killed when the house they were in fell on them (1:18-19).
Job lost his business, his livestock, and his children. He would eventually lose his health and be covered with boils from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. In his grief and mourning he would end up sitting in an ash heap on a dunghill in misery and agony. His wife told him to curse God and commit suicide. His friends accused him of committing some sin that brought all this own him and his family.
The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. From Job’s perspective, these problems were unexplainable. For 37 chapters in the book of Job, God doesn’t even talk to Job and tell him why all this is happening. Job doesn’t have a clue. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the right to say, “Why me?”
A lot of things happen both good and bad in our lives. Sometimes they don’t make sense. Maybe we will never understand what we go through on this side of heaven. Some questions about life will never be answered. In all of the unexplained problems Job went through, Job maintained his faith and waited on God. Even in all the unexplained problems in your life, sometimes all you can do is trust God and wait.
- When you lose someone you love for some unexplained reason all you can do is trust God and wait.
- When you lose your job and you are not sure why all you can do is trust God and wait.
- When problems happen that don’t make sense sometimes all you can do is what Job did, trust God and wait.
Sometimes I’m asked, “Why do you think God allowed this to happen? Why hasn’t God done something about this?” Sometimes my answer is, “I don’t know.” There are somethings that are unexplainable from our perspective. This is where patience and faith in God come in.
When are you to be patient?
- When circumstances are uncontrollable
- When people are unchangeable
- When problems are unexplainable
Do you recognize any of these in your life right now? Maybe you recognize all three in life right now. God says to you be patient. Be faithful to do what God wants you to do and be faithful. Work while you are waiting. Grow while you are waiting.
Before we end our time together I want you to hear Isaiah 40:31 which says, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV). As you wait, as you are being patient God is going to give you strength and you will be able to continue. Don’t give up. Keep waiting. Keep praying. Keep trusting.