Got Adversity? Be Patient.

June 12, 2016 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: James - A Portrait of Living Faith

Topic: Suffering Passage: James 5:7–12

The main point of this passage is something we are in desperate need of patience.  Specifically patience when we are contronted with adversity.  Have you ever been on a family road trip and before you get too far, the kids in the back seat start chirping, "When will we be there?  Are we there yet?  How much longer?"  When we face adversity; when we suffer trials, we tend to do the same thing.  We need patience.  We need patience for petty irritations and we need patience when facing massive evils.  

Many of the Psalmists cry out like we do "How long, O Lord."  The prophet Habakkuk did as well.  In Habakkuk 1:2, he says, "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?"  Patience hardly tops the list of the most exciting or desirable of virtues, yet the bible makes it clear that patience is essential to a good, happy, and blessed life.

Here's the big idea of our text: Be patient when facing adversity.  How Christians handle trials is a front-burner issue for James apparently.  James is bookended with instruction on how to face adversity.  Back in chapter 1, just after James introduces himself, he says:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Here in the final chapter, James says "when you are going through trials, be patient."  Are there two harder things to do when going through trials than counting it all joy and being patient?

Three words or phrases are used to describe this overarching approach to adversity and trials.

The first is patience. This is the most passive and it means to wait and to bear offenses without getting angry. It is where we get the word “longsuffering”. James gives us the example of a farmer who sows his seed and then waits for the Autumn and Spring rains to fall on the earth.  

The second is establish your hearts.  This is more active as it means to stand firm. This phrase communicates a steely resolve and is used of Jesus in Luke 9:51 whe it says, "he set his face toward Jerusalem".  A soldier stands firm when he is holding the line in battle.

The third word or phrase is remain steadrast which is the most active as it means to persevere, to keep going or to steadfastly continuing on the right path. The runner must persevere to finish the marathon. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”

So the main point is when you are suffering adversity, be patient, strengthen your heart, remain steadfast, and stay on the narrow road!

Patience Or Prayer?

It is interesting that our text essential says, "Are you suffering?  Be patient." But the very next verse that will be taken up next week, James 5:13 says, "Are you suffering?  Pray."  Which is it?  Should we be patient or should we pray?  Well, it is NOT either/or, but both/and.  So today we are taking up the patience while suffering and next week, prayer for the suffering.

Facing Trials Patiently

Here's the really big question though.  How do we actually do this?  How do I suffer with patience?  I want to leave you with five resources that will help you go through trials with great patience, strength, and perseverance.

1. Live in light of the Lord's return 

Be patient, therefore brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the later rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

Three times in our text, James points to the imminent return of Christ – twice in almost the exact same way. He says, “Be patient, therefore, until the coming of the Lord” in verse 7, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” in verse 8, and “The Judge is standing at the door” in verse 9.  

The Greek word for “coming” is “Parousia” and and is used to point us to the second coming of Christ, who will come and close out the present age. The two phrases, “the coming of the Lord” and “his coming is at hand”. What kind of emotion do these incite? Eagerness? Anticipation? I hope so! Because when the Lord comes, full and complete salvation is coming! So James says, “Be patient because the Lord is coming soon.”

We must remember that James is steeped in the words of the Lord Jesus. He’s echoing the words of this half-brother. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24-25 are very clear. Regarding his coming, Jesus said nobody knows the day or hour, he will come personally and visibly – so it will be unmistakable, his coming will end human history as we know it, and believers should be prepared for his return.

How can this be? This was written 2000 years ago, he’s taking a long time! You might think that God is delaying.  However, Peter helps us in 2 Peter 3:8-10: 

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Notice three things.  First, God’s scale is not the same as ours – 1 day equals one thousand years (children on a trip).  Second, any delay in our mind is God delaying in order to grant more time for sinners to repent. Third, he will come suddenly and without warning. Now, there has always been hysteria surrounding the coming of Christ – people trying to determine dates, etc. But the NT doesn’t encourage us to ask: exactly when will the Lord return? But am I ready to meet him?

What’s the point? When he comes, it’s all going to be over! All suffering, adversity, and persecution. Every petty irritation and massive evil will be removed forever!

2. Recognize the Lord's judgment

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9

Not only is the second coming to be looked for with hopeful anticipation, but it is also important to recognize that when Christ comes again, it is judgment time.  Sadly, when we are squeezed by trials, it can spill over in our relationships. So James says not to murmur – not to grumble at each other, because you will stand before the Judge – he is “at the door” and you will give an account of all you say and do. Matthew 12:34-37 says, 

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Listen, we will NOT face God’s wrath on judgment day, but we will face his assessment of every word and every action. This is a hard line to walk, but we must because the bible tells us this.  Of course, this is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10,

We make our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what idue for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul was motivated to please the Lord knowing that he would stand before him in judgment.  Do you believe this?

3. Follow godly examples of those who have persevered

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. James 5:10-11

The OT prophets had a really hard task! Consider Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Daniel (lions den).  Stephen in Acts 7:52 said, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?”  But they persevered. Hebrews 11 adds these to the hall of the heroes of faith. Check out Hebrews 11:36-38:

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

So James says to those going through adversity, “Look to their example”. But there is more! He says, “Look, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” It made me think about Amy Carmichael.  She was a missionary in India.  Her ministry included rescuing kids from Hindu sexual rituals.  At about the age of 60, she had a fall that left her crippled for the last 20 years of her life. What did she do?  Pout or complain? No! She remained steadfast, entering a new phase of her ministry in writing.  And we consider her blessed! Is there anything more invigorating that reading stories from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? We look back and say, “They are blessed! o You know how we know they were blessed? Because we talk about them. They have made an imprint on the world by God’s grace. o In fact, is there any person in the bible you can think of who did not walk through great adversity? “Through many tribulations we must enter…” – That is the road of blessing!

4. Realize the Lord's ultimate purpose.

You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11

The NIV says, “what the Lord finally brought about”.  The ESV says “the purpose of the Lord”. Both are true to the story of Job. God is up to something in your pain! He has purpose and it is wonderful! How did God show himself compassionate and merciful to Job? 1) Spiritual: Gave Job a sight of his glory and 2) Physical: Restored to Job all he that was lost (and then some). I think we should expect blessing in this life – I really do! But because of James’ emphasis on the Lord’s coming, I tend to think this primarily points to our experience of God’s rich compassion and mercy at Christ’s return. Think of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17. The pain and difficulties of this present life are not worth comparing with the glory God has in store for us in the future!

5. Remember that the Lord is with you

Where is God in our adversity?  He is with us. God says in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” Today, you are being called to be patient, determined, and steadfast in any and every trial you face. But you are NEVER called to do it alone! In fact, I think the Lord means to give us the sweetest fellowship of his presence in the middle of our greatest difficulty and pain. Listen to the words of missionary John Paton, being chased for his life by the very people he loved and brought the gospel to:

I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?

You are not facing prison or imminent death, but your adversity may seem like prison. It may seem like you’re dying. Do you have such a friend?  Jesus is such a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Be patient, stand firm, persevere! You are not alone!

More in James - A Portrait of Living Faith

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The Important Work of Turning a Wandering Brother Back to God

July 3, 2016

God's Pathway to Healing

June 26, 2016

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