The Reward Of Patience
A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping. She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present. She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card. She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers. Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full. “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.
As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up and shot!” A few others shook their head or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.” It seems this woman was short on patients. Would you agree?
A young man, a Christian, went to an older believer to ask for prayer. "Will you please pray that I may be more patient?" he asked. The aged saint agreed. They knelt together and the elderly saint began to pray, "Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man...." At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience." "Ah," responded the wise Christian, "it’s through tribulation that we learn patience."
By a show of hands, tell me how many of you have a problem with a
lack of patience. Now, how many of you are willing to pay the price that is required in order to gain patience? Don’t answer that yet.
Most of us when we recognize the need for patience, we pray a prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!” Patience, like most Christian characteristics, is one of those character traits that grows over time rather than being given to us overnight.
When Jesus left this world, He promised his disciples that he would soon return. They failed to understand that “soon” did not mean the same thing to Jesus as it meant to them. To the people of Jesus’ day, “soon” meant within the next few days. So some of them quit their jobs, sold all their goods, and gathered on a hillside waiting for the soon return of Jesus.
None of us know the date of His return, but we do know that He will return! Until that time though, we must wait for the return and allow God to use the intervening time to shape us the way that He wants. That requires patience. The verses that we are going to look at this morning remind us that we need patience while we live in this world and anticipate the Lord’s return to the earth. Let’s read James 5: 7-12.
1. The reward of patience is maturity/strength.
James uses the farmer to illustrate the necessity and reward for patience. When the farmer goes out in the early fall to plant his seeds, he knows that he is going to have a long wait before he will get to see the fruit of his labor. He begins by tilling the ground. Then he plants the seed. Then he prays for rain.
Actually, the farmer doesn’t have to wait very long to see something coming up through the ground. That will happen in just a few days. What would you think of the farmer who harvested his crop after just a few days growth? Would he have anything worth eating or selling? NO! What he wants is for that seed to sprout into a plant, and then he wants that plant to reach its full maturity.
He doesn’t want a weak seedling; he wants a strong, mature crop. That takes time. He has to wait until the process is complete. If he harvests his crop too early, then he will ruin it. Farmers must be patient.
Parents must be patient too. I remember when we were waiting on our first and only child to be born. It seemed like those nine months would never be over. I know that the wait was a lot harder for Donna than it was for me. Now, let me ask you this: at the moment of birth of our son, would I have been safe to say that I now have a strong, mature child who is able to survive on his own? NO! If I had said that, I would no longer have a child. Parenting takes years of work caring for that child and instilling in them the training and encouragement that they need in order for them to mature enough to make it on their own.
As parents, we want trees, not flowers. Flowers spring up overnight and are destroyed with the first frost. Trees take decades to grow, but then they can withstand the winds of a hurricane. It takes patience.
A couple of chapters earlier in James, in chapter 1 verse 4, James says, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” In that verse, “perfect” does not mean “sinless.” It means “mature, strong, having everything necessary to withstand the storms of life”. Patience produces strength within us.
2. The motivation for patience is the return of Jesus.
As Christians, it is not a fudgsickle that we look forward to at the end of our work. It is being in the presence of the Lord that we are anticipating. James says that the coming of the Lord “is at hand”. In I Cor. 1:7, Paul says that we “eagerly wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”. Do you know why we look forward to Jesus’ return?
Because of the reward that He is going to give to all those who have faithfully served Him.
Because he is going to remove all the results of the curse on sin.
There will be no more cancer, no more dying, no more crying, no more separation. Some words will have to be removed from our dictionaries then. The word “goodbye” will be absent, because we will never be separated again. we can look forward to His return because He will remove all sin. We will never be tempted ever again. We will never sin ever again. Jesus return will also mean that we will get to enjoy His presence for all eternity. All those things that seemed so unfair to us during our life here on earth will finally be set right because He is a just God. His coming is near.
In Matt. 24:33, Jesus said that when you see the signs of the end, watch for his coming is “near, right at the door.” Regardless of when Jesus is coming, I can say what Paul did in Romans 13:11 “salvation [in other words, the coming of the Lord] is nearer than when we first believed.” However you want to look at it, Jesus’ return is closer today than it was yesterday.
Based on our belief that Jesus is coming, and that when He does come, He will set everything to the way that it should be, we can wait patiently and at peace. we can endure whatever happens in our life or in our world. We can have a stable heart. James says that we need to “establish our hearts”. We need to settle down and not let situations and events fluster us and get us all upset. Nor should we allow the sufferings that we go through to cause us to give up.
Sometimes it gets very discouraging trying to see people saved and trying to see saved people become committed. Just when you think that you are getting somewhere, the bottom drops out, and it looks like all your work accomplished nothing. I heard a story about a preacher who after 20 years in the ministry quit his job at the church and became a mortician. When asked about why he did this, he said, “I spent 2 years trying to straighten out Don and Sue’s marriage, and they ended up getting a divorce. I spent 6 years trying to straighten out Joe’s life, and now he is in prison. I spent 10 years trying to straighten out the music minister, and he’s still just as ornery as ever. Now, when I straighten people out, they stay straight.”
When you live for Jesus and work toward bringing others along with you, there are going to be times that all your efforts don’t produce the results that you intended. It is in those times that it is so tempting to quit – to lose your patience and just give up. Paul faced times like that, times when he loved on people and they responded with anger, times when he taught people, and they responded by ignoring him, times when he sacrificed for people, and they turned and hurt him. How did he deal with that. Look at verses 1, 8-10, 13-14, and 16-18 of II Cor. 4.
There are not a whole lot of things that I know for sure. But I know for sure that God loves us, and that Jesus is coming. When the ground is shaking all around us and we’re about to fall into the pit of despair, we can find solid, stable ground in the realization that Jesus is coming. We can deal with anything when we remember that heaven is forever, and earth is temporary. We can be patient because we know that Jesus is coming.
3. The spirit of patience is peace.
But even though we know that Jesus is coming, we still have to deal with today. And sometimes, when we are waiting for something to happen in our lives, we allow our frustration to build. Since we can’t take out our frustration on whatever it is that we are waiting for, we take it out on whomever we are around at the time.
One day, three bikers walked into a diner along the side of the road. They were in a good mood and wanted to show how big they were, so they walked up to one guy’s table and started giving him a hard time. One of the bikers grabbed the guy’s sandwich and downed it in one bite. Another biker took his coke and drank it. The third biker started calling him all kinds of names. In response to this, the man picked up his check, walked to the counter and paid his bill. Then the three bikers sat down at his table. When the waitress came over to get their order, they said, “That guy sure wasn’t much of a man was he?” She replied, “I don’t know what kind of a man he was, but he sure wasn’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over 3 motorcycles that were parked outside.” The man appeared to be patient, but he was simply taking out his frustration on a different object than the true source of his problem.
Maybe you have been there too. You’re sitting down at the bus or airport terminal waiting for your transportation. The attendant comes on the P.A. system and says, “ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that due to construction delays, your bus or airplane has been delayed”. Now who is at fault for the delay if anyone? [the people doing the construction] But you can’t get to the people doing the construction to vent your anger on them, so who do you yell at? [the attendant at the station or the person behind the counter at the restaurant where you go to grab a bite to eat while you wait]
Do you think that it is possible that we do that in the church too? We get frustrated when we see that things are not going in our world the way that we think that they should, and we wonder why God doesn’t just come down and set everything right. But we can’t get angry at God; that would not be good. So we turn our anger and frustration against the people that are around us.
Or maybe we look at other people’s lives and we get frustrated that they aren’t growing as fast as WE think they should. So we judge them. We get impatient with their level of growth. James says that that’s not a good idea. The Judge, Jesus, is standing at the door, ready to come in. It’s kind of like that thing that happens in your house every now and then.
You as a parent aren’t meaning to eavesdrop on your kids, but you just happen to catch your son or daughter saying or doing something that they should not have. Jesus is coming, and we really don’t want him to catch us doing something that we should not – namely fighting with the people that he has saved and that he is working on. He is the only one who has the right to judge another person’s life.
Probably all of us should have a big sign hanging around our neck that reads, “Be patient with me; God’s not finished with me yet.” As you wait for the Lord’s return, don’t allow your frustration to turn you against God’s people, and don’t allow yourself to judge the growth rate of those around you either.
4. The source of patience is suffering.
5. The justification for patience is the goodness of God.
Now, how many of you are willing to pay the price that is required in order to gain patience? The price being taking on more suffering or is the patience we have enough.
Let us be careful of what we ask for in our prayers. God is willing to answer.