A lot of your life you spend waiting. As a little kid, I waited all my life to start school, then I couldn’t wait until I got out of school, then I couldn’t wait to fall in love, then I couldn’t wait to get married, then I couldn’t wait to have kids, … we spend a lot of our lives waiting. There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctor’s offices, irritating people. We hate to wait. We are the Now Generation. We do not like to wait. I am a very patient except when I’m hungry. Then I lose my character. Have you noticed that the more expensive the restaurant the longer you wait? There are actually five different waits when you go to a restaurant. You wait to get a seat, then you wait to get the menu, then you wait to order, then you wait to get the food back, then you wait for the bill. And they have the audacity to call that guy the waiter! Today we’re going to look at what James has to say on “How to Develop Patience.”
James 5:7-12 (NIV) “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”
WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT?James isn’t saying we have to be patient all the time but there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:
#1.When circumstances are uncontrollable. Have you figured out that a lot of life is beyond your control? You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “Be patient then brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is …” Don’t go into farming unless you’ve got patience. Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, waiting to plant, waiting to prune… there are a lot of factors in waiting. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over — weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices… If you have a lot of faith you can be a farmer but if you don’t have a lot of faith don’t be a farmer, because it takes patience. You deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors — circumstances — in life. Even in Palestine, where James is talking about, it wasn’t the best of farming land, so they needed extra patience.
#2. When people are unchangeable. When people won’t change. When they won’t make a difference. He gives an example of the prophets. “As an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” What was the duty of prophets? To help people change, bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change? When you make any little tiny suggestion, they resist you!
Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? Do you know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person? We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people” — they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says to have patience.
The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos” — “macro” meaning “long” and “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”. You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up, you don’t get overheated with people. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience. If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. You don’t get overheated. James says you need to be patient when circumstances are uncontrollable and when people are unchangeable and won’t cooperate with us
#3. When problems are unexplainable. The classic example he gives is in verse 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance …” Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that ever lived. He had everything going for him. In a two-day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, deadly disease that was very painful. You think you’ve got problems, had a rough day! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially — every kind of way. One day his wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” Now that’s a support system! God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. For 37 chapters in the book of Job, God doesn’t even talk to him and tell him why it’s happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”
Life is not fair! That is true. God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this side of heaven. Job didn’t understand. In all of those unexplained problems, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about why we need patience.