Living Out the Light Pt 7: Patience
Pastor Terry Inman
Patience, the capacity to wait, is a fruit of the Spirit. However we live in an impatient culture. We eat fast food and demand higher speed Internet. We expect quick turnarounds, instant success and want immediate rewards. The Lord has ways of slowing us down.
We were headed off for six weeks of rest and re-creation, when our Toyota 4runner broke down in Elko NV. I rushed into a local mechanic just before closing time hoping it was minor and we would be out of dodge early the next morning. Wrong, we were there three nights!
It was very hot and we had nothing to do and no wheels. We had to walk to bad fast food near the hotel.
However by third day we learned there was a mountain oasis just a few miles out of town. We rented a car and had a wonderful day hiking in some natural beauty. Some of our kids actually beat us to Montana but we arrived a little more rested and ready to host thirty-three of the clan! Talk about patience!
According to James, impatience concerning God’s plans, promises and purposes can lead to arrogant independence. The theme verse for this next section of James’ letter is found in chapter 5.
“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. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” James 5:7-8 (NIV).
The last few weeks we have been watching the farm. Our cabin is perched on a foothill development right in the middle of a 30K acre cattle ranch.
We have a gorgeous valley view of green pastures divided by the Yellowstone River and flanked by the peaks of the Absoroka range. Below us, the fields were being harvested, and stored for the long cold winter ahead. These ranchers know a lot about hard work and patience.
The Apostle Peter said Christ’s return would get ridicule by people unwilling to wait for God’s promise. “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” 2 Pet. 3:3, 4 (NIV).
As God’s people wandered in the wilderness, they became impatient with Moses’ delay on the mountain. When he finally delivered the law from Mt Sinai, they had rejected their God and were dancing around a golden cow.
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy about this impatient independence in the last days. “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” 2 Tim. 3:1-5 (NIV).
Living out the Light in these last days requires patience. Here in chapters 4 and 5 James the brother of Jesus expresses similar concerns. James addresses three manifestations of impatience.
- Impatient people become Critical James 4:11-12
- Impatient people become Conceited James 4:13-17
- Impatient people become Crooked James 5:1-10
One of the first manifestations that we have lost our patience with God’s promises is that we become critical. (vs. 8-9) “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”
Impatience can lead to irritation and intolerance. Let’s back up to the beginning of this section in chapter 4:11-12 (NIV).
"Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12 (NIV).
Slander here is simply speaking anything against another. It’s criticizing someone. Criticizing is like downsizing. We don’t feel very good about ourselves so we try to cut someone else down to our size.
Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Luke 6:37, 42 (NIV).
When we downsize people to make ourselves feel better we are revealing our own obstructions. James says it’s against the law. “Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.”
The law he is talking about is probably the command of Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Criticizing is actually, loving your neighbor less than yourself.
Impatience also leads to conceit. When we lose confidence in God’s plans and purposes we start running our own life and planning our own future. We live for the temporal instead of the eternal!
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” James 4:13-14 (NIV).
So is this a prohibition against planning? No it’s a warning against designing our own success apart from God’s plans and purposes. It’s self-governing arrogance. It’s the result of impatience.
Notice the well-developed business plan: (1) “go to this or that city,”(2) “spend a year there,”(3)“carry on business,” and (4) “make money.” Even the starting time is arranged—“today or tomorrow.” Even the city “that city” has been selected. But God has no place in any of these plans.
We get impatient and take our future into our own hands. We become arrogant and independent. Our values become temporal and material. James says our plan is to “carry on business, and make money”. As believers we are do not make decisions based on perceived promotion or business success. We make decisions based on God’s will.
James offers a better plan. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” James 4:15-17 (NIV).
Impatience leads to arrogant independence. This kind of self-confidence is actually conceit. We have effectively abandoned God and we are worshiping the golden calf of money, power and success! When we choose what we think is good, vs. what God thinks is good, we sin. If we make business decisions on our own we can’t expect God’s best!
Here’s a verse I memorized as a child, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” Prov. 3:5-6 (NIV).
Godless self-reliance eventually leads to injustice and corruption. Impatient people eventually become crooked.
Now James turns his attention probably to the arrogant rich oppressors. He doesn’t want these struggling scattered followers of Christ to envy their wealthy persecutors. He warns that judgment is coming.
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days” James 5:1-3 (NIV).
James is calling these affluent bullies, “hoarders”. They had accumulated so much stuff like gold, oil, grain, and expensive garments, that it was rotting and being consumed by pests. Their barns were full, their closets were crowded but their lives were empty.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”Matt. 6:19-21 (NIV).
Does that mean we shouldn’t have a retirement or rainy day fund? No it simply means that our heart needs to be fully invested in the Kingdom. What we value we will worship. Jesus told us not to worry about food and clothing. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”Matt. 6:33 (NIV).
When wealth becomes our God we find it easy to oppress others. James says these hoarders were getting rich by taking advantage of others.
“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you” James 5:4-6 (NIV).
It’s easy to blame the big guys like the government, the banks, the health insurance industry and big oil corporations, but we all can be guilty of getting fat at someone else’s expense. We are a nation of consumers.
Paul gave Timothy some good advice on wealth management. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” 1 Tim. 6:17-19 (NIV).
Here’s James solution to these manifestations of impatience. “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. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” James 5:7-9 (NIV).
Notice Jesus is the only Judge (not me) and He is standing at the door. He is coming to judge the earth. So many Christians are all wound up with current politics. My Facebook account is full of frustrated people who think our troubles would end if we sent a u-hall trailer to the white house.
Jesus is the judge and he is standing in the entryway. Are you ready or have you become impatient? Are you critical, conceited or crooked? Are you trusting him, following him and honoring him?
James’ final word calls for patience down the stretch. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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” James 5:10-11 (NIV).
In the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” Rev. 3:20 (NIV).
We may be impatient but God is not. He is full of compassion and mercy. He is standing at the door. The door is our heart. We can welcome him in or shut Him out. We can choose His judgment or compassion and mercy!