The book of James is about growing up. It’s a great book that challenges us to understand the connection between faith and actions. If we have faith, if we have been impacted by God’s grace, then it should show up practically in our daily lives. That process is called, ‘growing up in Christ.’ James is so practical, we can use it to be our manual for Spiritual Growth.
Probably the central verse in this whole letter is James 2:17
Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? MSG
That should be obvious. You can say you have faith but if it doesn’t show up in your behaviors, that’s not right. You can say you do the right things but with no faith, it’s useless. You can say you are a Christian business person but if it doesn’t show up in how you treat people and pay your bills, it’s useless. You can say you attend church and think you are mature but if your love for your spouse isn’t growing, it’s useless. Do you see the connection? Isn’t that obvious?
So how do you know you are growing up? That means, how do you know your faith growing and it is changing your life? Let’s review.
How do you deal with hard times? How do you respond when someone passes away? How do you respond when you lose your job? How do you respond when you kid is cut in sports?
How do you treat others? How do you treat your husband/wife? How do you treat your parents? How do you treat people at work?
Look at what comes out of your mouth. What comes out? Nasty and vulgar things? Negative, critical, judgmental words? Gossipy? Or encouraging words?
Last week, “Are you having an affair?” We said being in love with what the world has to offer is having an affair with God, it’s adultery. We talked about how to hit the spiritual reset button in our lives.
Today we are going to talk about a subject we hate. Patience. I have never met anyone who has said, “Dad, I am so glad we are making me wait a couple more years to date, thank you Dad!” “Mom, dad, thank you for making me wait to get the new iphone! I am so thankful that you are instilling patience in me, let’s go to church and sing, I’m so happy!”
We hate being patient. We live in a world of instant gratification and if anyone tells us: be patient, we are at least frustrated, maybe even angry. Be patient? For what? Why be patient when I can get whatever I want today, right now?
With technology, we can know in less than a second, what is happening across the world. Remember the days we needed a dime to may a call on a pay phone? Do you remember when we had phones with extra long cords and we thought that was freedom? Not anymore.
With morals, we wait for nothing. We can get what we want, when we want it, at any time and if anyone says differently, they hate us.
With banking, we can deposit and get money and move money and never leave home.
Generation X’ers like me, I’m an older Gen Xer, wanted everything our parents had but didn’t want to wait 30 years for it, so we went into massive debt to get it. We don’t want to wait, we want to short cut work and time, we want it all now.
Millennials expect to have the corner office with a huge salary and all the perks of life handed to them on the first day they work. Why? We don’t want to wait, we want to short cut work and time, we want it all now.
In marriages, if you don’t like it, dump it. We treat marriage like a contract not a covenant. We don’t work on ourselves and think, what’s going on in me? We don’t give marriage years and years to learn how to love someone who is completely different than you. We don’t want to pray for them and show them sacrificial love them. We want instant gratification, a short cut from work and adversity that is needed create character in a marriage.
In dating, our culture expects sex by the second date. We want instant gratification, a short cut from everything that God made holy. God made marriage between a man and a woman for life and placed sex in that context. What have we done with sex? We have pulled it out of that context and it has wounded us badly.
In business, we have to succeed immediately. We are willing to ruin our marriage to build the business. We are willing to run over our family to succeed. Why? We don’t want to wait, we want to short cut work and time, we want it all now.
Specific to the things of God, James writes us the following.
7 Dear brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who eagerly look for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They patiently wait for the precious harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
9 Don’t grumble about each other, my brothers and sisters, or God will judge you. For look! The great Judge is coming. He is standing at the door! NLT James 5:7-9
God’s ways are in complete conflict with how we live.
I think this is one of the reasons people are very disappointed with God. God is actually God. Let that sink in for a second. He’s God. By definition, that means we are not God. And we hate that. We constantly act like we are God and He is our magic genie. We tend to ignore Him and the when we need Him, we pull out the oil lamp, rub it and expect our genie to answer our demands. And if our genie doesn’t come through for us immediately, the way we wish, he is a bad God who hates us.
God says, be patient. We hate that. We don’t want to get on God’s agenda, we expect that God would get on our agenda.
When James wrote this letter, some historians believe that he was writing to the Christians who were scattered after Stephen was stoned to death. This is what was recorded.
Paul was in complete agreement with the killing of Stephen. And a great wave of persecution of the believers began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. TLB Acts 8:1-2
So when James was writing the Jewish Christians, he was saying I know there is persecution. I know you are scattered. I know you are living in fear for your life. And I know things aren’t working out the way you had hoped. So here is what you need to hear: Be patient and focus on God coming back.
As you wait, if there is adversity, face it without complaining. If there is hurt, walk through it without wanting to get revenge. If you don’t feel like you are hearing from God, continue to be patient.
As you wait, watch out how you live with others. Don’t go negative. Don’t allow today’s troubles to lead to complaints. Don’t allow tomorrow’s fears to paralyze you today and complain. Be patient.
I can’t even imagine what it was like to be a Christian and hear that someone from your church was just stoned to death and the town is now coming for you. Then someone says, be patient.
I was putting this talk together I have to admit that Karen and I have faced hard times that I can’t explain.
I remember when I started in 100% commission sales and nothing seemed to work.
I remember when the doctor told Karen and I that the baby wasn’t developing properly and we would have a miscarriage.
I remember the City of Harrisburg giving us a $10,000 bill to fix a water leak in front of house.
I remember sitting across from my boss, and human resources, and they said, “We are letting you go.”
I remember when the emergency room doctor told Karen, “The reason you can’t see properly is because you now have level 1, insulin dependent, diabetes.”
Where is God? Be patient for what?
When I was fired, I remember Karen giving me this verse.
I waited and waited and waited for GOD. At last he looked; finally he listened. 2 He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. 3 He taught me how to sing the latest God – song. MSG
I hated that verse because I wanted everything fixed instantly. How do words written years ago pay my bills today!?! I was so frustrated and angry. I wasn’t patient. I was completely out of step with God and I didn’t want to get on His agenda, I was angry because He wasn’t on my agenda.
FYI: out of that moment, God redirected my life to start MRC. I couldn’t be happier today.
This is what I want to share with you today. Something happens in being patient that can never happen with instant gratification. When you are patient, you are getting on God’s agenda. When you take short cuts, when you grab instant gratification, you try to take control and it leaves you are worse off. Every time. Scripture tells us what is developed in us when we are patient.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to be patient. 4 And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. 5 Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. TLB
Did you read that? Being patient develops stuff in our lives. It actually produces character, confidence in God and this ability to feel God’s love. That’s what happens when you are patient and wait to get on God’s agenda. That is what David wrote in Psalms 40, I waited and waited and waited and God taught me how to sing the latest God – song. By the way, when you aren’t patient, you don’t get on God’s page. You try to take control and it leaves you worse off. You don’t develop character, don’t develop a confidence in God, don’t have the ability to feel God’s love as you walk through hard times.
Something happens in being patient that can never happen with instant gratification. When you are patient, you are getting on God’s agenda.
What is it that you are dealing with? What is it that is driving you crazy? What is it that is taking all your energy? What is it that taking your heart out?
What you don’t want to hear is maybe exactly what God wants for you. Be patient.
6 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. 7 Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. MSG
Are you patient? Are you waiting to get on God’s agenda? Are you angry and demanding instant gratification? Is God a disappointment to you?