Sermon on James 5:7-11
Text: Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting 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 one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as 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.
“Well, I’m waiting!” We’ve all heard words like that during our lifetime. Often there is an impatient tone to those words. Waiting patiently is not something that we do by nature. We find ourselves becoming impatient when we wait at a stoplight. We become annoyed when our check-out line isn’t moving as swiftly as we would like. We even have trouble waiting patiently for our food, so we have drive-throughs and microwave dinners. Our lives are much about waiting. This is also true as Christians. There is a great deal of waiting involved. We especially talk about waiting for our Lord’s return on the Last Day. James, in his epistle, teaches us about waiting using two pictures. With that then, we see that WE ARE WAITING FOR THE LORD 1. Like Farmers Who Depend On The Weather and 2. Like Prophets Who Face Tribulation.
The epistle that James was inspired to write was not written to a specific group of Christians in a particular location. Instead, it was a letter that was to be read and then passed on. As you read the letter, you note, rather quickly, that it was written as the Church faced persecution for her faith. Throughout the letter James encourages his readers to put their hope in the Lord. He also encourages them in their daily walk of faith. Sometimes, though, it must have seemed almost too much to bear.
For that reason, James begins our text with the words, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” (Verse 1) ‘Yes, it seems like a lot is going on. Yes, life is difficult for you.’ But “be patient,” he wrote, “until the Lord’s coming.” To further emphasize the idea of waiting, James adds in verse 8, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” James gave them the reason to be patient and that is because the Lord’s coming is near.
Just a note about the word “near.” The Lord’s soon’s and quickly’s are not to be measured by our impatient arithmetic. God has his own time schedule. What to us seems like taking forever is all part of God’s plan. Rather than telling us the exact time and date, God gave us certain signs of the end. He speaks of famines and earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, the spread of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. We note that all these things have already taken place. Rather than being filled with lethargy, because things go as they always have gone, we are filled with an eager anticipation, as we wait for the Lord to return.
Obviously, James is speaking to Christians, for the unbeliever cannot look to the Last Day with joy and anticipation. For them it will be a day of great terror and sadness because they will see too late that they have lost it all. They will be sentenced to spend an eternity in hell because of their sins.
However, we look forward to the Last Day. It certainly is not because of any merits of our own. We, too, realize that we deserve to spend an eternity in hell because of our sins. Our sins against those around us, the hurtful words, the lack of charity, the hatred of others, are enough to condemn us, as well. We realize that we do nothing to earn our salvation. We would be lost for all eternity if God had not stepped into the world’s history.
That’s really the point of the Advent season. We prepare ourselves to celebrate our Lord’s first coming as we wait patiently for his second. Because he came as our Savior the first time, we can look forward to his second. Jesus came to the earth as a human being to be subject to the law, and so that he could die. He also had to be true God, so that he could keep the law perfectly, and so that his death would count for all people. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again so that we would be saved. We will finally experience all that Jesus has won for us when we see him in all his glory on the Last Day. We wait for his return, but we must wait patiently because we don’t know when that glorious return will occur.
James gives us a picture of patient waiting in verse 7, “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” Anyone who has ever grown anything knows that patience must be involved. You don’t just plant the seed one day and expect to see a full-grown plant standing there the next day. Patience is required but look at the benefits at the end. You have something worthwhile. The parallel here to the Christian is quite clear. We patiently wait for our Lord’s return. Sometimes, it might seem as if it will never get here. However, look at the valuable benefit at the end of time as we are welcomed into heaven.
James also mentions waiting patiently for the autumn and spring rains. These two rains were essential for the growing of crops in Palestine. The autumn rains occurred in late October or early November. These rains were eagerly awaited because they marked the time when the sower could sow his seed. The moisture would be there for the seed to germinate. The spring rains, occurring in April or May, were also essential because, without them, even the heavy rains of autumn would not be enough to sustain the crops.
Again, there is a parallel between us and the farmer James speaks of. Just as the farmer cannot schedule the rain, but must simply wait, we do not know when Jesus will return. We simply wait, pray and trust. Also, the farmer anticipated the rains with joy because of the blessings they would bring. We, too, anticipate Jesus’ return with joy because of the blessings we will enjoy in his presence.
As we wait, we know that it will not always be an easy task. This is especially true as we strive to live for God. There are going to be people who do not appreciate what we tell them or what we stand for. To encourage us to stand firm for the Lord, James wrote in verse 10, “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” If you think back over the Old Testament and New Testament, it doesn’t take long to come up with a list of people who suffered for speaking for the Lord. People that come quickly to mind are people like Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul. They are examples of patience in the face of suffering. In the face of suffering, they continued to speak.
We, too, may be tempted to keep quiet in the face of possible suffering. Here, we are encouraged to be patient in the face of suffering. We are not to be afraid to speak up. Indeed, when we think of all that God has done for us, we cannot help but speak of what we have heard. This doesn’t mean we go out of our way to be obnoxious or seek persecution. However, we also don’t shrink from it, if that is the path that lies in front of us.
As another example of patience in the face of suffering, James brings to our attention another Old Testament figure. He wrote, “As you know, we count as 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.” (Verse 11) As you might recall, Job appeared to have had it made. But, in one way or another, he lost everything, even his children. Yet, in his trust in the Lord, Job said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) He didn’t waver in his trust in the Lord. He persevered with the Lord’s help. At the end of the account of Job, we see that he received from God double what had been taken from him.
What comfort this holds for us. Because we are Christians, we might have to give up some things that the world considers to be necessities. We conduct business honestly, not trying to cheat the people we’re doing business with. We might lose some things as others take advantage of us. But, for everything that we might give up for the Lord or lose for the Lord, even our lives, if it came to that, yet we have no doubt that the Lord is more than able to replace all these things. When we are experiencing the joys of heaven, joys even beyond our wildest dreams, then those things that others might consider to be necessities will be seen for how meaningless they are. As we face trials and tribulations in our lifetime because of our faith, we know that God will bless us beyond what we can imagine in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the book of Romans, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
Yes, the return of our Savior is off in the future. When exactly it will be, we do not know. Sometimes it might even seem to be so far off that it seems that it will never get here. However, we are always to be ready. How are we ready? By faith in Jesus. Since we believe in Jesus, we are ready. As we wait, we want to do so patiently, not growing bored or angry or impatient. We wait for the Lord, even if it means facing tribulation for our faith. In the meantime, we pray that the Lord keep and strengthen us in our faith so that we are always ready as we wait for him. Amen.
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