“Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” – James 5:8
Two things are for certain: #1: Patience is a virtue, and #2: You and I don’t have enough of it.
There’s an old Hebrew story that goes like this: One evening the great patriarch Abraham was sitting outside his tent when he saw an old man slowly walking toward him. This traveler was obviously weary from his age and his long journey. Abraham rushed out, greeted him and invited him into his tent. He washed the old man's feet and gave him food and something to drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So, Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?” The old traveler replied, "No. I only worship fire. I don’t pay attention to any other god."
When he heard this, Abraham was furious. He grabbed the old man by the shoulders and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air. After the man staggered into the darkness, God called to Abraham and asked where the stranger was. The patriarch replied, "I kicked him out because he didn’t worship you." God calmly responded, "Abraham, this man has rejected Me and dishonored Me his entire life. For 80 long years I have patiently put up with him. Couldn’t you endure him for one night?"
Great question! It’s a shame that Father Abraham didn’t have the Book of James, because it could have done him a whole lot of good. In chapter 5, James addresses two different kinds of patience that God is grooming inside every Christian: patience with people (also called “long-suffering) and patience with crummy circumstances (also called “endurance”).
Let’s focus on the first of these critical kinds of patience: patience with people. In verses 7-9, James shines the spotlight on a very patient role model—the farmer. James writes, “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains” (v. 7). Honestly, some of us would never make it as farmers. A farmer has to wait for the right time to plant. Then he has to wait for the little seedlings to sprout. Then he has to wait for the sprouts to mature. Then he has to wait for the right time to harvest. That’s too much waiting for some of us. Shoot…some of us can hardly stand to wait at a red light for more than 30 seconds!
There’s no denying: Farmers exhibit a lot of patience. But so too do men and women in many other professions. So, why did James choose to single out farmers? Because their patience is active, not idle. Think about it. Farmers don’t sit on their hands while they’re waiting for harvest time. They’re always working: up before the crack of dawn, routinely laboring 10-12 hour days, constantly preparing for the harvest even if it’s months away.
George Matheson, a Scottish pastor who lived in the late 1800s, was blind most of his life, but God taught him patience in the midst of his trials. Matheson wrote: "We commonly associate patience with lying down….Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder -- the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief… implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: it is the power to work under stress; to have a great weight at your heart and still run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks.”
What an amazing insight! When your neighbor is trying your patience, what should you do? You shouldn’t just sit in your house and patiently wait for him to put his house up for sale. Instead, you should patiently keep working--doing what God has called you to do: Be kind to him; pray for him, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you’ve asked your boss for a raise, and your boss keeps dragging his feet and not giving it to you, you shouldn’t slack off in retaliation. You should keep doing your best work, because you are really working for the Lord, not for man.
So, Christians, Jesus calls you and me to live out this greater kind of patience. Don’t settle for PASSIVE patience. Like the farmer, practice ACTIVE patience.
And do you want to know something remarkable? The lessons God teaches us while we’re patiently waiting are, oftentimes, more valuable than the blessings we’re waiting for. While you’re patiently waiting for your neighbor to change, God is changing you. While you’re patiently praying for your spouse to be transformed, God is transforming you. While you’re waiting for your boss to realize your true worth, God is helping your to live out your true worth.
Ultimately, God is more concerned with your CHARACTER than He is with your COMFORT. He is more focused on your growth than He is on your gold medals. He is more focused on your BECOMING than He is on your ARRIVING.
I believe that Jesus Christ wants us to enter Patience Boot Camp this week. Here are two training exercises that we need to participate in. TRAINING EXERCISE #1: Read Hebrews 11-12. Every day we are surrounded by impatient people. But as we read and meditate on Hebrews 11-12, we’ll be influenced and inspired by these good, patient followers of God. TRAINING EXERCISE #2: Instead of grumbling about annoying people, pray and work for their good. Grumbling doesn’t help us or anyone else. Like the farmer, you and I must patiently work for the good of those who get on our last nerve. It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth the effort. After all, Jesus is coming soon, and he WILL reward you for your active patience.
Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact
Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at
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