A lot of your life is spent waiting. As a little kid, you wait to start school, then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school, then you couldn’t wait to fall in love, then couldn’t wait to get married, then couldn’t wait to get a job, then couldn’t wait to have kids….. we spend a lot of our lives waiting. There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctors’ offices, irritating people. We hate to wait.
We’re going to look at what James has to say on How do you develop patience? You need patience in every area of your life. In this passage, James uses the word “patience” or “perseverance” 6 times. He uses 3 illustrations to teach us when, why, and how to be patient.
WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT? James says there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:
1. When circumstances are uncontrollable: a lot of life is beyond your control? You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.”
Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, to plant, to prune. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over-weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices. You too deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors-circumstances-in life.
Have you noticed that even when we realize a situation is beyond our control, we still try to control it? We do that by worrying. We think that worry will control a situation. To worry about something you can change is dumb, to worry about something you can’t change is useless. Either way you shouldn’t worry. We need patience in uncontrollable circumstances.
2. When people are unchangeable. When people won’t change. He gives an example of the prophets. Look at v. 10: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.” What was the duty of prophets? To help people change, bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change?
Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? You know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person? We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people”-they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says, have patience.
The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos”-“macro” meaning “long” & “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”. You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience. If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. Spouse. Christian. In your service.
3. When problems are unexplainable. The classic example is in v. 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance.” Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that had lived to then-had everything going for him. In a 2 day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, disease that was very painful. You think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially. His wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” And that was his support system!
God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”
Life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this of heaven. Job didn’t understand. In all of that unexplained problem, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. When circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable you really need patience. WHY BE PATIENT?
1. Because God is in control. “Be patient & stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” v. 8. 3 times in this passage, James says, the Lord’s coming is near. That is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ 2nd coming-when He comes back to judge the world-than it does about His 1st coming.
God is in control of history. God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re facing right now. God is in control. Though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control. Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can, so I ought to trust Him.
And because God is in control and everything is working out, be patient. Job persevered. God’s timing is perfect, He’s never late. Some of you are experiencing a real delay right now but God’s delays never thwart His purpose.
2. God rewards patience. v. 11a “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.” The second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had. It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re happier, you reach your goals. There are lots of benefits of being patient. God rewards it. But not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side you’re going to be rewarded.