Faith that Gets Its Hands Dirty part 13
Wait for It...
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 20, 2008


Main Passage: James 5:7-12


I just made you wait about 15 seconds. You didn’t like it much, did you? I mean, none of us likes to wait. But yet we spend so much of our lives doing just that.

Think about it. As a little kid, you couldn’t wait to start school, and then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school. You couldn’t wait until summer, and then you couldn’t wait until Christmas. You can’t wait for vacation, you can’t wait to go shopping, you can’t wait for the playoffs (or maybe you can) … maybe you couldn’t wait to fall in love, to get married, to have kids... we spend a lot of our lives waiting.

And there are many things in life that test our patience: driving in traffic, standing in grocery store lines, sitting in the doctor’s office, being around irritating people. Lots of things test our patience, and all too often it seems we fail the test.

Especially when you’re hungry. 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!

I’m a fan of the TV show NCIS. Maybe some of you are, too. And on that show, there’s a doctor called “Ducky” who performs all the autopsies and is known for talking with his… patients. Here’s a quote from one of the episodes…

“Only the dead know the true meaning of patience.”
~ Ducky on NCIS

Well, I don’t want that to be true for you and me. I think we can learn about patience while we’re still alive. In fact, I think James had some pretty good things to say about being patient in that passage that ____ read for us earlier.

In that passage, James used three different illustrations to teach us when to be patient, why to be patient, and how to be patient.

So let’s start with “When should I be patient?”

When Should I Be Patient?

Well, James isn’t saying we have to be patient all the time, but he is saying that there are three special times when you need an 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.

James 5:7 (NLT)
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.

I’ve known some farmers. I’ve even worked on their farms. And I know you don’t go into farming unless you’ve got patience. Because 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, waiting to harvest... there are a lot of factors in waiting. A farmer waits for the things he has to do, but even more than that is waiting for the factors that the farmer has no control over – weather, rain, heat, the economy... It takes patience to be a farmer. You deal with a lot of uncontrollable circumstances. It’s true today, and it was true when James was writing these words down. It was especially true then, because in the area he was talking about, it wasn’t the best of farming land. So they really needed extra patience, particularly when it came to things that were beyond their control.

But what is our tendency? When something is beyond our control, what do we tend to do? We tend to worry. Instead of showing patience, we worry. But understand this: To worry about something you can change is dumb, and to worry about something you can’t change is useless. So either way you shouldn’t worry. Instead of worrying, we need to have patience when it comes to uncontrollable circumstances.

Worry is natural, but patience is supernatural. And God specializes in the supernatural. He can help you learn patience.

PLAY SONG – HAVE PATIENCE, by The Music Machine
Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember, that God is patient too,
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you!

2.    When people are unchangeable

When people won’t change. James gives an example of the prophets…

James 5:10 (NLT)
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Think about this. What was the duty of prophets? What were they here to do? They were here to help people change, to bring them back to God, to make a difference in their behavior.

But most times, it took a lot of work over a lot of years before they saw any significant changes happening in the people. Why is that? Because people resist change.

Here, let me give you a little assignment. This week, go to the mall and just stop random people and tell them that you think they’d look better if they had a different hairstyle. See what kind of response you get. Or maybe give them some fashion advice. Or give some parents some unsolicited advice about how to raise their children.

What’s going to happen? When you make any little tiny suggestion, they’re going to resist you!

Now, just to clarify, I don’t really want you to do that. It could be hazardous to your health.

But people do resist change, don’t they? Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? It’s obvious at least to you that they need to change, but they’re resisting for all they’re worth? They refuse to think any differently and they refuse to live and differently. In fact, they may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says to have patience.

Here’s a little greek vocabulary lesson: The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos” -- “macro” meaning “long” and “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. So if you have patience, it literally means that 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.

Which I think is a great definition. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience. You don’t blow up over the least little thing. If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. You don’t get overheated. In fact, what’s the very first word Paul uses to define love? It’s in 1st Corinthians 13… “Love is…” what? Love is patient. You don’t have a short fuse, you don’t lose your cool, you’re patient. If you’re going to have healthy relationships, you’ve got to be patient.

So, James says we need to be patient when circumstances are beyond our control and when people are unchangeable and just won’t cooperate with us. And third, James says we need patience…

 3.    When problems are unexplainable

James 5:11 (NLT)
We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance.

Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. Listen to what happened to him… at the time he was the wealthiest man that ever lived. He had everything going for him. But then 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… And you think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially -- every kind of way. And then on top of all that, one day his wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” Now that’s a support system!

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. His problems were completely unexplainable. They simply weren’t fair.

But then, life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Some of them we’ll never understand on this side of Heaven. Job didn’t understand what was going on. But yet, even in the midst of all of those unexplained problems, Job maintained his faith.

Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. But James says that in those times, we have to have patience. We have to have faith.

So, James says to have patience when circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable. But why? What reasons do you and I have to be patient?

Why Should I Be Patient?

A.    Because God is in control

James 5:8 (NLT)
You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

Three times in this passage James reminds us, “The Lord’s coming is near, Jesus is coming back.” And really, that is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ second coming than it does about His first coming.” God is in control of how history will unfold – because all of history is “his story”. He’s got it all planned out, everything is on His schedule, nothing is late, it’s all moving toward a climax when He returns. God is in control.

I need to remember this: Even though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control. Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can. So I ought to trust Him. Because God is in control and working everything out. I just need to be patient.

B.    Because God rewards patience

Check out what James says…

James 5:11 (NLT)
We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.

We’ve already talked about the great turmoil Job experienced in his life. He had everything going for him… wealth, health, family… and then he lost it all. And he endured those terrible couple of days… worse than any two days that you and I have ever experienced. But then, things turned around again. And the second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had. He gave great honour to Job for enduring the suffering.

It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re more happy, you reach your goals. Even if there are no other tangible rewards, those in themselves are benefit enough. There are lots of benefits of being patient. God rewards it.

Not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side as well. James talks about patiently enduring suffering because Jesus is coming again. And Jesus Himself talked about this, too…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NLT)
“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.”

So when people put you down, when they criticize you, when they lie about you and spread false rumours about you because you are a follower of Jesus… when you have to endure suffering… be patient, because there’s going to be a reward in heaven. 

But what’s our natural tendency? When somebody hurts you or insults you, what do you want to do? You want revenge. You want to retaliate. You want to strike back. You want to get even and even get ahead. When you get criticized, you want to criticize back. If you get insulted, you want to insult back.

I remember when I was a kid and my brother and I were outside playing in the yard. Back in those days I had a bit of a temper, especially when it came to my brother. There were days I couldn’t stand him and I’m sure he felt the same about me. Anyway, we were outside and he threw some kind of an insult at me… I can’t even remember what he said… but whatever it was he just pushed the wrong button and I swung my jacket at him as hard as I could… and the zipper caught him right in the mouth. I had just chopped off a piece of his tooth! You know, it’s amazing how quickly anger can change to fear. I don’t know if I was more afraid of what he would do to me or what my parents would do to me. Anyway, he had to go to the dentist and get his tooth capped, and I learned a valuable lesson that day about retaliation.

You know, revenge is a natural reaction. Nobody had to prompt me to strike back at my brother. Revenge is natural, but it’s the opposite of patience. So the next time someone insults you or criticizes you or hurts you in some way, before you strike back at them, ask yourself, “Is it worth it? Is this worth giving up the reward I’m going to have in Heaven?”

You need to be patient because God is ultimately in control and He’s going to reward patience. And you need to be patient…

C.     Because God is working things out

Not only is He in control and not only is He going to reward you, but He’s going to work things out, too. But the problem is, this often happens behind the scenes. And we don’t even see what He’s doing. He’s at work but we don’t see Him at work. So maybe we start to doubt that He’s doing anything at all. We start to wonder if we should trust Him… if we should have faith in Him… if we should be patient.

James 5:11 (NLT)
…You know about Job… You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

The truth is, God was always working. All the time that Job was suffering and not knowing what was going on, God was working. Job couldn’t see it, but God’s hand was busy working everything out.

You see, a delay does not mean a denial. If you’ve been praying for an answer to prayer and you haven’t gotten it, then you might want to think God doesn’t want to give the answer to you. But a delay is not a denial. We have to learn the difference between “no” and “not yet”. Because there’s a big difference. We’re looking for God to work on our time table, but we have to be patient. God is at work, even when we don’t see what’s going on.

Phillip Brooks was a famous pastor of the 19th century. I heard a story about how one day he was in his office, pacing the floor, frustrated. Somebody walked in and saw him and asked, “What’s the matter, pastor?” And he responded, “I’m in a hurry and God isn’t!”

Sometimes we’re in a hurry, but God isn’t. That’s when we need to learn to trust Him and be patient. God says, “Be patient because I’m working things out.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Underline the word “everything”. In all things… in every circumstance in your life… God is working. So be patient. Trust Him. Listen, I don’t know what kinds of problems are represented here this morning. I know what some of you are going through, but I don’t know everything. But God does. And you need to know that regardless of the problem you’re going through… financial, relational, health… whatever it is… God is working in that problem. Be patient and trust Him.

So what do you do in the meantime? While you’re being patient, what can you do?

How Am I To Be Patient?

Well, let’s go back to James for the answer. James gives us three illustrations here, so let’s look at them and see what we’re supposed to do while we’re waiting on God…

First the farmer. What did the farmer do? Well, he waited expectantly.

1.     Wait expectantly

James 5:7 (NLT)
Consider the farmers… They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.

The farmers were eager… they were expectant… they knew that the harvest was going to be there so they were watching for it to ripen. So if a farmer’s expecting a harvest, what does he do? Does he sit inside all day and read Chatelaine?

What does a farmer do while he’s waiting on God? He’s preparing for the answer. He’s getting ready.

Derek, you’re a fisherman. When does fishing season open? What do you do before then? Sure, you get your boat ready, you get your nets ready, you finish up all the little things around the house that you’ve been working on through the winter… you do all of that even before the season begins because you’re expecting it to come. You’re preparing for it.

Preparation shows your expectation. So if you are expecting an answer from God, while you’re waiting patiently, you also need to be waiting expectantly by preparing for the answer to come.

Psalm 130:5 (AMP)
I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.

If you expect God to do something, then prove it! Get ready for it. What are you doing to get ready for it? Are you preparing for the answer? If the answer came today, would you be ready?

You know, a lot of times when I’m waiting on God, He’s really waiting on me. I think a lot of times He was ready to give the answer a long time ago but I wasn’t ready to receive it. I wasn’t prepared spiritually. I wasn’t prepared in my relationships. I wasn’t prepared in my financial habits. I wasn’t prepared in my character. So sometimes, when we seek an answer from God, I think He says to us, “Grow up! Get some spiritual depth in your life. I want to bless your life but you can’t handle the blessing I want to pour on you. When you’ve got some spiritual muscle in your life, I’ll bless you beyond what you can imagine.”

Isaiah 49:23 (MSG)
“No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.”

And you know what? When you wait expectantly… when you’re preparing for God to answer and you’re growing and you’re building up some spiritual muscle… then you can actually enjoy the process. Because you can see the changes that are happening in your life… in your heart, in your attitudes, in your habits, in your character… you can reap the benefits of patience even before the answer comes. This is how Augustine put it…

“No person loves what he endures, though he may love the act of enduring.”
~ Augustine
Waiting is a time to get ready. It’s a time to grow. It’s a time to prepare. Wait expectantly.

2.     Wait quietly

Oh, this one’s tough. Because as James points out, we have a tendency to run off at the mouth when we’re irritated, when we’re tense, when we’re under pressure, when things aren’t going our way and things aren’t under our control. So James warns us of this…

James 5:9 (NLT)
Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.

Now, it’s interesting that right in the middle of talking about being patient, James warns us about grumbling and complaining. Why? Why does he talk about grumbling right in the middle of talking about patience? Because if you’re grumbling then you’re not showing patience. You’re showing impatience and frustration and worry and anxiety and bitterness and anger… but you’re certainly not showing patience.

So let me ask you this: When you get up in the morning, do you rise and shine or do you rise and whine? Do you grumble and complain about everything?

James warns us not to grumble when we have to wait. Because if you’re grumbling, you’re not being patient.

You wait expectantly and you wait quietly. 

3.    Wait confidently

How can you wait confidently? Because you know the character of God. You know what He’s like, so you know you can trust Him.

James 5:11 (NLT)
…The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

He’s full of tenderness and mercy. And He wants to pour that tenderness and mercy out on you. So relax. Be confident in who He is and how He works. Trust that He will do what He says He will do. Believe in His faithfulness. In the Old Testament, this is what David wrote…

Psalm 37:7 (NLT)
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

Because you know that He will act. He’s dependable. He’s never failed, and He never will. David could tell us to wait for God to act because he had done that himself. And he wrote a Psalm about how God had come through for him…

Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

So let me ask you: Where do you need to have patience this morning? Do you have an uncontrollable circumstance in your life right now? Maybe you’re in a job situation and things are happening that are beyond your control. Or maybe you’ve encountered some financial problems that are beyond your control. Maybe you have an illness. Maybe you’ve got an unchangeable person who’s just complicating your life. Maybe you even live under the same roof as them. You need patience with an unchangeable person. You need patience with unexplainable problems. You need patience with things that are out of your control.

You need to know that you can have patience because God is in control. And He is at work in your life, even if you can’t see it right now. You can trust Him. You can depend on His tenderness and mercy. He will not abandon you. He’s there for you.

Let’s pray. Maybe you need to pray first. Just quietly where you are, perhaps you need to pray something like this…

“Jesus, I need patience. I tend to be impatient. I tend to grumble and worry and retaliate… but that’s not how I want to be. I want to live Your way. So teach me to be patient. Help me to wait expectantly, getting ready for Your answer to my prayer even before it comes. Help me to wait quietly and not to grumble and complain about my frustrations. Help me to wait confidently, to be still and trust that You’re working behind the scenes. Help me not to get nervous and anxious and worried. Help me with that unchangeable person. Help me with that uncontrollable circumstance. Help me to be patient with that unexplainable problem.”

Now let me pray for all of us…

Father, I thank You for Your Word. Thank You for what we’ve learned from it today. Help us to be patient people. Help us to be patient because we know we can trust You. You are faithful, and you have promised that You would work everything out for the good of those who love You. Thank you for that promise.

[Note: This message series uses a variety of source materials, primarily "A Faith that Worls" by Rick Warren, "Faith for Pedestrians" by Laurence Croswell, and "James: Hands-On Christianity" by Charles Swindoll.]



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