We’ve all heard the saying good things come to those who wait. It’s particularly hard for sinful humans to do well when it comes to waiting, particularly around Christmas and especially for children.
You look around and can’t help feeling sorry for them. Christmas trees, decorations, and lights have been up for weeks. Just look at the mail box; bills, junk mail, and Christmas cards have taken over.
Christmas carols are blaring, and Christmas movies are on TV. It’s no wonder kids grow restless; they are surrounded by signs that point to their upcoming Christmas and want it to be now. We wait for Christmas regardless of whether we are waiting for presents or not. We’re always waiting for something. We’re always waiting for something.
We wait to hear test results, we wait for the end of the work week, we hate waiting for oil changes and car repairs, and we hate waiting for fast food. We’re waiting for a cure, a raise, and for our children to grow up and mature.
We have a rare opportunity to find patience this morning that James helps us find with perspective, patience, and tenacity. Good things come to those who patiently endure, James teaches.
The question is, do you believe that waiting for Christmas becomes simpler with age? Is it because as we grow older, we receive socks rather than toys, or because we’re too occupied to consider it?
Or because after a few years we realise that Christmas will never live up to the hoopla surrounding it, or is it because we gain a new perspective on what Christmas signifies in the larger scope of life after a few years? The way we wait is influenced by our perspective and expectations.
Be patient, brothers, until our Lord comes, says James. We should take a long-term view, because we anticipate the day we will meet our Lord… So let’s fast-forward and see what it will look like. If you look at the end of life—yours or anyone else’s—and you see a dead, lifeless corpse, the list of what matters most becomes very limited.
For example, a soul either lived or died in that corpse, whether a saved child of God or a filthy, unrepentant unbeliever who will be thrown into the darkness to suffer forever in hell. When a soul appears before its Judge and only one thing is important, the presence or absence of saving faith in Jesus Christ matters a lot.
All the things that consume our time and attention now will be put in their proper place: wealth, possessions, prestige, power, pleasure, and presents either supported our faith or detracted from it. This is the end we are all anticipating: the end of life that no one will be able to escape.
When we view all of life in the light of that significant moment, we will be able to keep our priorities in perspective.
The farmer waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains in James’ example. There are no shortcuts in farming. A farmer cannot quicken the development of his plants. A Palestinian farmer in ancient times waited for the rain to soften the soil at the end of October so he could begin ploughing and planting.
The spring rains would come in March or April, providing the moisture that would fill the heads with fruit. If either rain missed, both the crop and the farmer were doomed. As a consequence, a farmer learned patience. The farmer learned to accept that the timing was beyond his control.
He worked hard, but when he was finished, he put it in the Lord’s hands. He knew that worrying and questioning God’s care and control wouldn’t make one drop of rain fall, so he was patient and waited on the Lord for his important crop.
The author of this passage, James, urges you to be patient and steadfast because the Lord’s return is imminent. The Lord has promised us that he will return, and we believe him because he has kept his other promises.
We know that God is going to come because he has promised to do so. We anticipate his arrival more than anything else, particularly Christmas parties and presents. However, worrying or questioning God’s intelligence and benevolence will not accelerate his arrival. We must adopt the proper perspective.
All must allow God to determine when things happen in our lives, like the farmer did in his almanac. We must think of our lives in the same way as our Lord does, as he knows that those who wait for good things are rewarded.
Have you ever noticed how people get irritated when they are forced to wait in line at the customer service desk? When children are forced to wait for Christmas Day, they begin to pick on each other and whine and complain. Everyone has to wait for the second coming of Jesus, but not everyone experiences it in the same way. James has not, and neither have we.
We know the Lord is coming, but we do not know when. We need to be busy doing his work, but we do not always agree on how to do it. There are lots of pressures that we experience when anticipating something that most of the world considers as a ridiculous myth.
We become impatient and frustrated all day long at work. We hold our fellow believers to an impossible standard in terms of patience and understanding when we sin, but we express our impatience and frustration when facing trouble in life.
We should build one another up and encourage each other when we face trouble in life, but we tear each other down or (as in Job’s case) wonder what dark sin we must have committed to deserve punishment.
In view of human nature, James cautions that if we fight among ourselves as brothers, we will be condemned. The Judge is standing at the door! Even if we grumble or complain about small matters, we will be judged. Grumbling and bellyaching is the opposite of joyful and eager anticipation.
When we grumble at other believers, we push Jesus out of his position as Judge—which is what we should all be awaiting together. We are not paying attention to Christ when we are judging others. James urges us to be patient, particularly with one another. Jesus is returning soon and bringing us big surprises.
If he arrives, will he be unhappy seeing his children fighting with each other when they should work together as body parts in his church? Be patient, folks.
Patience is difficult, particularly with other sinners, isn’t it? We like to think of ourselves as patient people, but our closest family, our parents, spouses, and children, might have a very different impression. Is patience such a rare quality that we must know its secrets?
The first step is to get our perspective right: The judge will right all wrongs; he will repay evil with evil and reward the righteous with justice. Patience begins with unwavering faith and healthy fear of the judge. It is the result of God’s grace, not a talent we are born with, and therefore patience must be produced by the Holy Spirit.
It is important to know that patience is one of the fruits only the Spirit can produce. In other words, you must be filled with the Gospel if you want the gift of patience. You will find out how patient God has been with this world of sinners as well as with you, a sinner. The LORD is compassionate and forgiving, patient, and overflowing with love…He does not punish us for our sins or repay us in accordance with our iniquities.
As far as east is from west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. If our holy God is willing to put up with our faults and graciously wait to forgive us when we repent (2 Peter 3:9), then why are we impatient with the shortcomings of others?
Jesus has not yet come, not because he is testing our patience, but because he is being extremely patient with us. Let us be patient with each other while we wait for him, not tearing each other down, but rather building each other up – for good things come to those who wait.
Finally, waiting in a sinful world requires endurance. James provides us with assistance here as well: Brothers, we can learn patience from the prophets who spoke on the Lord’s behalf. As you are aware, we value those who persist.
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and seen what the Lord accomplished as a result. It is hard to imagine that the OT prophets did not suffer or experience persecution, but God gave them strength. Elijah, for example, was hunted down by Jezebel and Ahab even after the Lord had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.
In response to Jeremiah’s warning, the people of Jerusalem were told to surrender to the Babylonians or face death under a siege or hide in a cistern. (1 Kings 19:1) Daniel was thrown to the lions for refusing to worship King Darius instead of the Lord. (Daniel 6) As an example of Job, James emphasises his perseverance.
Even as Satan unleashed all his might, Job remained faithful to God. Job lost his properties, health, and family as a result of Satan’s mischief. (Job 2:9) Job’s friends and wife urged him to curse God and die, but he did not die. Job believed God to be wise and loving and entrusted his troubles to God. (Job 1:21)
There is a challenge for us as Christians living in the 21st century in America in defining the suffering we actually experience. We may worship our Lord and Savior without fear of being chased out of town.
We may discuss Jesus with our family and friends without fearing that they will send us to jail. We may speak openly about our faith without fearing that we will be imprisoned. We are not blacklisted from employment or denied services because we believe that Jesus will come back for us.
Job’s confession, “But the Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” is still applicable for today’s problems. We endure setbacks when the Lord does not give us what we need. The Lord gives us problems, such as an unethical boss or backstabbing co-workers, a rebellious child, or financial hardship.
Sometimes, he takes away our ease. The Lord takes away our desires, jobs, family members, sight and hearing, and wealth, among other things. The belief of those in the Old Testament and the early New Testament was that Jesus would return quickly. We must wait thousands of years, as Jesus has not yet returned. Is it really soon?
Are we in a world where quick gratification is imperative, we are told that we are suckers if we are patient and persevere. To suffer and endure silently, waiting for Jesus to rescue us from this world, seems to be utter foolishness. Although Satan throws doubt at us, Jesus will come soon. We stand firm.
It is not because we have super-human faith or completely understand God’s hand in our existence. We stand firm because we know that God has provided for the saints in the past. We wait and we stand firm because we believe God has good things in store for us.
We wait and stand firm because we know that the Lord is kind and generous. The Lord provides us with perspective and gives us the strength to endure. It’s because of who he is that we do this. He gives us perspective. He sows patience in our hearts and gives us the ability to persevere. That is because good things come to those who wait.
Waiting isn’t simple, as James notes. Begin with a vantage point. When you look back on life, you’ll know what’s important. Keep your cool and be patient with each other, because our merciful Daddy has been patient with you.
Endure to the finish. God has never neglected his children, and he will not start now. May we receive this combination of vision, patience, and perseverance from Jesus so that we may eagerly anticipate the blessings he will bring when he returns. Amen.