James

James 5:7-12 – Patience under Pressure

Patience under Pressure.

 

James 5:7-12.

 

Introduction.

 

The people to whom James is writing were living in a time and a place and under condition the we, at the end of the 20th C find difficult to enter into. Our society is very different – it is democratic, the right of the individual is protected, we have religious freedom even if we are a minority. We might not like the huge salaries of the Fat-cat bosses but we are not slaves to the rich and powerful – many of James’ readers would have been, as we saw in verses 1-6. There was no Dept. of Social Services – no National Health Service – no special rights for Christians – if fact Christians were a target for persecution and exploitation.

 

For many Christians in the 1st C life was difficult – as it is for many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world today – e.g. “If a Saudi becomes a Christian he likely to have his head cut off.”

 

It is easy to see how James’ readers – 1st C Christians in general were far more conscious of Christ’s second coming than we are. They knew their suffering was only temporary – they were living for something beyond this earthly life!

 

James urges them to be patience and to persevere in the midst of their trials and difficulties – the pressures of life can sometimes seem overwhelming.

– There are times when we feel like giving up and walking away in despair –

– There are times when we want to turn away from God and just do our own thing.

– There are times when children are a heart-ache to the parents and we wonder          where God is in all this.

– When your budget is stretch beyond the limits, does God really care

– When your health fails and life itself is threatened

– When you are depressed and lonely

– When you are hurt by family and friends

 

What is it that James is saying when these crowd into our lives and make us want to give up!!

 

We saw last week that we need to look up and live in the light of Christ’s coming!

 

Today we are going to look at the three examples that James gives of those who persevered in the face of difficulty and trouble and waited patiently for God to work –

– the Farmer

– the prophets

– Job

 

He gives these examples not so that we can admire and compliment them but so that we can copy their patience and emulate their perseverance

 

  1. Farmer – working while waiting. [v.7-9]

James 5:7-9

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 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! (NIV)

 

The imagery of a farmer is often used in scripture to convey a spiritual truth.

 

Two things James is highlighting

1) in the light of Christ’s coming we need to wait

 

2) In the light of Christ’s coming we need to work.

 

Many of you are gardeners – many have allotments where you grow your vegetables – you prepare the beds, plant the seeds and then wait – there is watering and weeding to do – BUT you can’t make the plants grows. If you are going to be a good gardener then you have to be patient.

 

The Middle Easter farmer was very dependent on the rains – lit. ‘..early and latter ..’ and not autumn and spring – but the point is clear he had to wait.

In our instant, on-demand society, we are not good at waiting – Foreigners are baffled by the fuss made about the possibility of water being cut off in Yorkshire during the long, hot summer of last year- to have water piped into your home in unending supply is a luxury most of the world hasn’t even dreamed of.

 

Most of the world is depended on the seasonal rains – this was certainly the case in NT days. The farmer had to be very patient as they waited for the rain. He has done his work and now he patiently waited for God to fulfil his promise of rain.

 

Waiting did not mean the farmer was passive.

 

Anyone who has ever had anything to do with farming knows that a farmer is never idle – not if he is a good farmer.

He doesn’t plant and then put his feet up and wait for the harvest – he works until the harvest is gathered in.

 

The trouble with many Christians is that having received the Word of God they have put their spiritual feet up. Become spiritually idle.

 

The farmer works and waits because there is the promise of a harvest at the end – and all the effort and patience is towards that end.

James warns that when we loose sight of the goal – the harvest – we are in danger of becoming impatient — of giving up — of turning on each other — when the focus of the harvest is lost and the vision for evangelism is gone — when there is nothing to aim for, no goal, then the grumbling and whinging starts.

 

Jesus is looking for hearts that are fixed on the harvest – looking for his coming – hearts that are steadfast and consistent as they work and wait for his coming.

 

James uses two words to describe this quality:

1) patience [NIV] – ‘to be long tempered’ – it is a strong word – it carries with it the quality of restraining anger and resentment regardless of the provocation. When we are injured or insulted are our lives marked by calm restraint. It is easy to be patient and long-tempered when there is no problem – when life is easy –     BUT when you have been hurt and are under pressure that is when it is difficult not to grumble and snap at each other. It is then that true patience is put to the test

 

2) steadfastness [NIV- stand firm] – same word used in   Luke 9:51

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (NIV)

 

Jesus knew what lay ahead – he knew what pressure were mounting – he knew the antagonism against him – he knew there would be betrayal, trial, blood, sweat, tears, torture and death BUT he knew something else – he knew there was resurrection, ascension and eternal glory with His Father. He resolutely set out …

 

It is having patience and perseverance in spite of circumstances – having a long-term view   – being patient and not giving up, knowing that the early and latter rains will come.

Galatians 6:9. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)

 

  1. Prophets – steadfast in the face of opposition. [v.10]

 

James 5:10

10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (NIV)

 

Who were these prophets James is referring to?

We could go through the OT and list them and the sufferings that they endured.

Hebrews 11:35-37 35 ….. Others [prophets] were tortured and refused to be released…. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated — (NIV)

 

James goes on in v.11 to say that ‘..we consider these blessed..’ because in spite of persecution and opposition they remained steadfast. They are an example to us of those who in spite of the opposition they faced, followed God – being in God’s will does not guarantee an easy life – comfort is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing.

 

Many of the prophets had to endure great trials and opposition not only at the hands of believers but at the hands of professed believers also.

 

We are so carnal in the way we think – we judge the success of a preacher but the number of people who come to hear him.

 

ILLUS.: Back in SA in Feb. ‘96 – Question 1 “How is your Church going?” — Question 2 “How big is it?”

 

Are we to judge the success or the spirituality of the church by numbers?

If we have a good program –If the giving goes up — if everyone is happy and there are no problems – then God is blessing us!!   Is He?

 

When I read my Bible I see a different picture

 

Matthew 5:11-12

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)

 

2 Timothy 3:12 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (NIV)

 

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

 

If you are a Christian then difficulties and opposition are to be expected — BUT let me add that not all difficulty and opposition is therefore a mark of spirituality – very often our difficulties are because of our own stupidity.

 

Are we in this difficulty because God is testing us or because we are standing for the truth OR is it because of our own stubborn self-will.

 

ILLUS.: If you have gone out and blown £1000 on something that is non-essential and as a consequence are now in financial difficulty don’t blame God or put it down to persecution – that was a dumb move!!

 

  1. Job – perseverance in the midst of suffering [v.11]

 

James 5:11 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. (NIV)

 

I don’t know any Christians who don’t want a life of blessing from God – but I know many who are not willing to travel the road to get there!

 

We want victorious Christian lives!

We want mountain top experiences!

Listen! there are no victories without battles!

– there are no mountain tops without valleys!

 

God balances privileges with responsibilities – blessings with his discipline – we are like children and if we have no discipline we will become spoilt pampered brats!

 

Job is a long and involved book to read

– chs. 1-3 Job is in distress – he looses his family, his wealth and his health.

– chs. 4-31 we read of Job’s defence as he debates with his friends

– chs. 38 – 42 Job’s deliverance – first God humbles Job and then he honours him with more than he ever had before!

 

We know that behind the scene God was allowing Satan to test Job – but Job did not know that at the time – he was accused of many things by his friends even though he protested his innocence.

There is no greater example of suffering than Job

– circumstances were against him [ lost everything

– his wife was against him {“Curse God and die!” she said – 2v9}

– his friends were against him – accused him of being a hypocrite and deserving God’s judgement.

– IT SEEMED like God was also against him – when Job cried out there was no reply from heaven.

 

David knew this

Psalm 13:1-6

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

 

Job, like David questioned God, but he never forsook God Job 13:15

15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;

I will surely defend my ways to his face. (NIV)

 

Job was so sure that God was true that he persisted in arguing with him even when he did not understand – that’s endurance!!

 

When Jesus said it was difficult for a rich man to enter heaven his disciples were shocked “ Who then can be saved?” – they equated riches with God’s blessing!!

 

The book of Job throws that idea out the window – Job was a righteous man yet he suffered – a picture of Jesus the perfect man who suffered for the sin of the world!!

 

What was the outcome of Job’s endurance through suffering – we know that God restored his wealth and his health and made him richer than before BUT there was a greater blessing.

Job 42:5

5 My ears had heard of you

but now my eyes have seen you. (NIV)

It is so easy to get impatient with God – to say ‘Well if that is the way God treats me then why should I trust him and follow him. If he is not going to sort out my money problems – or my marriage problems – or my health problems – or my relationships with family — then I am not going to obey him!”

 

When we are impatient and run off and do our own thing we only ever end up in trouble!

 

ILLUS.: Abraham’s impatience led to the birth of Ishmael – [ he became the father of Israel’s enemies – the consequences of which are with us to this day]

Peter’s impatience almost made him into a murderer.

 

What is the answer? Like Paul who suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” what ever that was – the answer from God to us is the same     2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (NIV)

 

Like Paul or Job or 1000’s of other Christians – God tests us – he puts us through the fire – that will mean different things for each of us – and those suffering may not be relieved in this life BUT what Job came to know and what James tells his readers is that God . The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

Remember that when you go through the fire God graciously keeps his hand on the thermostat – he will not allow you to go through anything that you cannot bear.

 

Sometimes you are in the pot and the heat is turned up – you think “This has got to be it I can’t take anymore!” And then God turn the heat up -WHY?

Job 23:10

10 But he knows the way that I take;

when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. (NIV)

 

It is not easy when the heat is turned up — but remember you are not a victim of Fate but a child of a loving and compassionate Father who has a wonderful plan for your life and a glorious future waiting for you!

 

I do not know what particular thing you are struggling with at the moment – maybe it is something that you can share with others OR maybe it is a deep hurt that only God knows about.

 

Don’t become impatient and bitter towards God – don’t allow your circumstances to make you into a grumpy, miserable and bitter person – Like the farmer and the prophets and Job learn to be steadfast and patient under pressure.

Allow the pressure of life to draw you closer to God and not to drive you away – he has a loving purpose for you and he wants to be like gold.

 

One day you will be able to look back and see how God has led you!

 

A poem –

A M Overton while going through a particularly difficult period of life wrote these words:

My Father’s way may twist and turn

My heart may throb and ache

But in my soul I’m glad I know

He maketh no mistake.

 

My cherished plans may go astray

My hopes may fade away

But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead

For he doth know the way

 

Though night be dark and it may seem

That day will never break

I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him

He maketh no mistake

 

There’s so much now I cannot see

My eyesight’s far too dim

But come what may I’ll simply trust

And leave it all to Him

 

For by and by the mist will lift

And plain it all he’ll make

Through all the way though dark to me

He made not one mistake

 

 

PATIENCE UNDER PRESSURE!

 

James 5:7-11

 

Three examples –

     not to compliment but to copy!

 

 

  1. The Farmer [v.7-9]

     working while waiting

 

  1. The Prophets [v.10]

     steadfast in the face of opposition

 

  1. Job [v.11]

     persevering in the midst of suffering

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