Patience At Christmas
December 12, 2010
The text for today's sermon, meditation is the epistle lesson that we heard a little bit ago. I'll read the verses again from James 5: 7-11, Patience in Suffering:
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
Does anyone have patience at this time of year during the Christmas season? There are long lines at stores. There are long lists of things to do with no time to get them done. There are people and especially children telling you what they want for Christmas while the answer to the question “What’s in your wallet?” is “nothing”. And to top it off, here we have James 5:7 telling us “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” By “the Lord’s coming”, does the writer mean Christmas Day? Was the writer of these verses ever at Willowbrook Mall on Christmas Eve? I don’t think so.
continues with more words that don’t seem to apply to people in this part of
Because the Bible was written so long ago, you have to think about what it means in connection with today’s world. God speaks directly to us that you should have patience also. In Verse 8 we hear “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near”. The verse does not say “Aunt so and so needs to be more patient”. The verse also doesn’t say “Uncle so and so needs to be more patient”. It doesn’t say my wife, or husband, or brother or sister be more patient. It says “You too be patient”.
How patient are you? How do you handle the tough situations when something goes wrong? How close does your answer come to what God tells us in Verse 9 which reads “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge [God] is standing at the door”. Uh oh! Well, that isn’t good news is it? The judge is right outside the door.
I don’t take bad times with the most patience. For example, many of you know that I’ve had nine different eye operations, some minor, some major, all annoying. For the major ones, the retina repairs, I had to be confined on my stomach for about two weeks with my face locked in a brace. I wasn’t happy. The discomfort of laying on my stomach wasn’t in the eye, the eye didn’t really hurt, but in the lower back, shoulders, neck and face from lying on an incline on my stomach. I wasn’t that patient. On the last night of being in my brace following my 9th operation, I “removed” the brace off the bed in the middle of the night and told my wife that if 6 hours between now and when I was to go to the doctor’s made that big a difference, then let me go blind. Then I thought, I am already getting a taste of what that blindness might mean. From the time of the operation for a period of approximately 5 weeks the operated eye was blind. I wouldn’t know if I’d see in the eye again. I had to have faith that what I was told by the doctors was true and that in time, I would be healed. Faith was what kept me going through the tough times.
Who can you look up to as a role model for patience? It’s not me. The ones we can look up to as role models for faith and patience are the prophets. Verse 10 tells us “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Think about some of them for a minute.
Think of Moses for a moment. Can you imagine the criticism thrown his way for wandering around the desert for 40 years? How would you handle that trip?
Verse 11 tells us exactly how to handle it. We read
“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
We need to put this “full of compassion and mercy” in perspective, because what God thinks as compassion and mercy, might not be what we think of as “compassion and mercy”. Let’s review what happened to Job straight from the first chapter of the book of Job itself. In Job 1:1-3 we read:
Job was rich. He was a good and decent guy. It was his custom to make sacrifices in case his sons and daughters had cursed God in their hearts. What does he get in return? He gets tested by God through Satan. After God finds out that Satan has been moving about the earth looking for trouble, God points Satan in the direction of Job.
In Job 1:8 we read “ 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Satan says in Job 1:9 “ 9 Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Satan is challenging God that the only reason the Job is faithful is because he was blessed with great wealth. God calls him on that point and says, no, Job’s faith is real and you can test him to find out. Here’s the limit though.
Verse 12 “The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Basically God tells Satan that no matter what you throw Job’s way without killing him, he’ll still remain faithful and full of praise. You may have heard that things got bad for Job, but let’s have the words of the Bible itself tell us exactly how bad it got.
In Job 1:13. One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Ok, Strike one. The work animals, the oxen and donkeys were stolen and the servants killed. At least the children are safe.
In Job 1:16. While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Strike two. The sheep and those tending them were burned to death. Still the family is doing ok.
In Job 1:17. While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Strike three. Now our riding stock, the transportation of the day has been taken from you, but at least the kids are safe. Now it gets serious.
In Job 1:18. While he [the third messenger] was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Now how does Job handle this situation? To try to put this in today’s terms, Job just endured the loss of the tools of his trade, the oxen and donkeys that worked the fields. He endured the loss of production, that is, the burning of the sheep. He lost his workforce because marauders came through and killed them. He lost transportation, when his camels were stolen. Yet Job takes all of these setbacks in stride and with great faith. His kids were still ok. But then Satan takes out all of the stops to test Job’s faith and see if Job would turn away from God. Satan kills Job’s children in a building collapse. All ten of Job’s children, 7 sons and 3 daughters, were crushed to death when a big wind blew the building down. It wasn’t even some non-descript building. Something built maybe in the middle of town with shoddy construction. No. This was the house of the oldest son, the oldest son of the richest man who probably had the finest house except for his dad, Job, himself. But that fine house blew down and killed all 10 children in an instance. I can’t even imagine that pain. Not only one child killed, not just two, all ten were gone.
Job’s reaction wasn’t what many today do when tested. He didn’t blame God for the trouble because he knows that trouble comes from Satan. Instead of blaming God, Job in Job 1:20 – 21 does the following:
At this [the news of his children’s death], Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came
from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[c]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Many people ask at times like these, “how can God let this happen?”, but God’s purposes are not our purposes. And it’s Satan doing his dirty work that causes our pain. God tells us how to handle these tests of faith in the final verse of today’s text from James 5:12.
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
These words have convicted me of the way I act when adversity strikes. Do they ring true with you, also? I need more patience. I ask God to help me with my lack of patience. I ask that in this harried time just before Christmas, that we are granted Job-like patience and not lose sight of the blessings that God has given to us through His loving gift of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered because of our sins. He suffered in patience on the cross to die for you and for me. After three long days, Jesus rose on that first Easter Sunday to declare victory over death and sin for all time so that we can join Him in heaven when our days are finished here. We wait for your return with patience, Lord Jesus.
May the Lord God through His son Jesus Christ keep you and preserve you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.
After Sermon Prayer
Lord, we are so blessed that even in the most difficult times you guide us how to act. Even though our efforts towards patience fall far short of Job’s endurance, we take solace that you are with us through all of our troubles and all of our emotions. Renew our spirit with the certainty that even though patience may not be ours, our living faith in Jesus Christ lets us endure. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
After Offering Prayer
Lord, God, our heavenly father. We ask that you instill in us a patient heart set on enduring all the trials of this life. Encourage us to continue in faith even when we feel discouraged or angry. Remind us that regardless of what life brings us you are there to stand with us and guide us. You love us so much that you gave your only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for all of our sins, past, present, and future.
We remember those who travel during this holiday season. Guide the travelers with patience that they might enjoy those we they visit and safely return them to their homes.
We are grateful for those who serve our great country in the military. Shield all who serve in harm’s way and protect them as they keep our country free.
The holidays can feel like a lonely time if do not have family or friends with which to share the occasion. It is especially hard when illness and injuries prevent us from attending the gatherings. Remind us that we are never alone because you are always with us. We especially pray for those on our sick list.