Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance! Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Prince of Peace, dear patient people of God;
Long lines, delays, waiting – these are generally things that we do not like so much. Struggles, crosses, illness, difficulty – again things we do not like so much. Yet, we know that “we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” So this day finds many of us just plain wore out. Too much drama, too much trouble, too much sorrow, too much worry, too many hardships find us feeling frustrated and irritable. We are in desperate need of encouragement. Our dear Lord gives us what we need as he shares with us some judgment day therapy to keep our thinking straight. Yes, the encouragement from the God of our salvation today is: Patiently wait for Jesus!
Wow! Probably not what any of us really wanted to hear this morning. Patience does not tend to be much of a strong suite for 21st century Christians. We tend to have a hard time waiting for anything. We tend to get grumpy if things are not done sooner than possible. We get fidgety when church goes a few minutes long. We get upset when things we send for don’t arrive on time. It seems that people have really short fuses especially in all the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas. So how does the Lord propose that we stay patient in our wait for Jesus and the heaven he has won for us? He instructs us to patiently wait for Jesus focused on the harvest like a farmer.
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!
Farmers are some of the most optimistic people in the world. They plant a crop each spring confident that it will grow and produce a harvest. Christians are like farmers in this regard – as farmers plan for the harvest even before the plants sprout out of the ground; Christians plan for Christ’s return even though we do not see Christ right now. All of this encourages us to take a long-term view at life. We know that Christ will return because he has said so. We just don’t know when he will return, so we must be ready at all times. In the meantime we need to sift through the short-term difficulties we face. We know that in the end everything will turn out just fine as we follow our dear Savior. We know that all these heartaches and trials are only temporary and not worth comparing to the glory that we will experience one day in heaven. It also helps us to be reminded that our dear Lord walks with us. He is with us. We have the same promise that God made to Joshua: Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
So when the Lord instructs us through James: 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! He is saying don’t become undone over set-backs. Instead, stand firm on God’s sure promises. Take God seriously when he says he will never leave you or forsake you. Be absolutely sure of his commitment to you to be with you always. Find strength in the love he has demonstrated in sacrificing his Son for your salvation. Find comfort in his invitation to come to him for rest. Don’t avoid God when things are difficult take him up on his invitation to call on him in the day of trouble, knowing full well that he will hear and help.
One of the temptations we face when the set-backs of life get under our skin and start really troubling us is to take it out on each other. When things don’t go well in my life there is something that makes me lash out at those around me and hurt them also. This is not really something that makes sense – but it is something that happens to us more often than we would like to admit. James warns us that this is a sinful attitude and a sinful way of life. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to build each other up and help each other, not grumble against each other. Once we start this grumbling we unwittingly stand in the way of the good news of the gospel, we cause pain, and we rip apart a bond worked in us by the Holy Spirit himself. Please, for your own good and for the good of all your brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t take trouble out on each other! Instead stay focused on Christ. Work through your troubles, ask for help, ask for forgiveness, show love. Take Christ up on his invitation to those who are weary and burdened by sin and its consequences – come to him for rest. We have a Savior who forgives us, who is perfectly patient with us and all our weakness and failure. Jesus forgives. Jesus loves. Jesus strengthens. Jesus unifies. Jesus truly does make it all better! May he give us the patience of a farmer waiting for the harvest as we wait for him to return and take us to his Father’s house.
Maybe we are beginning to contemplate this whole patience thing a little more. But is there something more to help us in our struggle to wait for Jesus patiently? Absolutely! Through James our Lord instructs – Patiently wait for Jesus, persevering in problems like the prophets.
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.
Consider the patience of the prophets. The prophets of the Old Testament in no way had an easy life. They were ridiculed, mocked, threatened, mistreated, dismissed as foolish, and put to death. Yet, these prophets kept on going – kept on speaking God’s Word to his people, whether they listened or failed to listen. Isaiah patiently put up with a people who continued to grow in their indifference to God’s Word for his entire ministry. It would have been easy for him to quit and justify quitting by saying the people didn’t listen to him anyway. But Isaiah strengthened by the Lord kept on proclaiming the message. Reading the prophet Jeremiah is like entering the cavernous darkness of another person’s frustration and despair. Even the Lord calls Jeremiah – the “iron” prophet. Even though the majority of the people came to despise him – Jeremiah kept on preaching harsh law and soothing gospel. When God called Ezekiel he said, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” Ezekiel kept proclaiming the message in the face of fierce opposition. The same can be said of all the prophets. They all persevered because they knew God was with them and they knew that the God of all grace loved them.
Contemplate Job’s perseverance. He lost everything, that is, everything except God. Yet, in the end the Lord blessed him beyond all imagination. May the Lord give us the same long-term vision of faith that he gave to Job. May the Lord direct us to what is most important in life and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus our Savior.
Remain mindful of the simple fact that James shares with us, The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Never lose sight of these important words. As you face heartache and heart-break, illness and disease, debt and unemployment, loss and grief, ridicule and temptation, frustration and accusation – all the troubles of life; keeps these words always in mind. The words are true – the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. So we can say with the Scriptures, “Your mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” Take your troubles to Jesus – he will give you rest for your souls. In fact, he is doing that right now. Let me repeat what is probably obvious and well known: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we still sinners, Christ died for us. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Yes, pay close attention for your spiritual welfare and to encourage you to persevere to the end – Jesus loves you! Jesus forgives you! Jesus is with you!
It is true, our impatience gets the best of us often. Especially as we wait for our Lord Jesus to return we grow frustrated and impatient. Yes, Lord we need your encouragement to wait for Christ patiently! Thank you for such encouragement! Keep us patiently persevering in faith and love. So today we pray: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Yet grant us patience as we wait for you! Amen.