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I may have told this story before. When I was candidating for my first senior pastor position, which would be the last one, this is number two, I was asked to explain my philosophy of ministry on one of the candidating visits and I’m sure this wasn’t original to me, I had picked it up from somewhere or somebody in seminary, but I explained that my whole philosophy of ministry 3 P’s: Preaching, praying, being with people.
And that basic philosophy of ministry served me well, still my philosophy of ministry. In fact, many times during my years there an elder or someone would come and say, “Now, Pastor, how are you doing? You told us you wanted to preach and to pray and to be with people. Are you keeping to those priorities?”
So it served me well. Got me out of a meeting here or there, but it served me well, and it’s still my philosophy of ministry. I want to be with people, and the bigger the church, oftentimes it has to be maybe the pastors, the elders, other leaders, but I like all of you, and if I don’t, then I haven’t met you yet, so don’t ruin it. But I want to be with people, want to have prayer, I want to set an example in prayer, prayer be something that would take time away from the rest of the work to do, and of course, the work that you can probably see most obviously is preaching, and the time spent.
So that served me very well, and I was feeling good about those three P’s. Years later, however, I admitted to the church that I should have added another P. I was 26 years old when they called me to be their senior pastor. I know, what were they thinking? And I knew some things but like 26-year-olds, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and there were initiatives I wanted to get done that I thought would get done in six months. I remember saying to the elders, “I think six months and we’ll be over the hill on that, and we’ll be cresting, we’ll be doing great,” and then later it was six more months and then it was I think six years and then it was, well, maybe in heaven it’ll get sorted out.
One of the areas that I had to grow in is in a fourth P – patience. Now don’t say, “Physician, heal thyself.” I won’t ask you for a performance review on how far I’ve grown or have to grow on that. I think there’s been growth, but if you know me well, you know that’s probably still a weakness. Or as their called today, a “growth edge,” a learning curve. When I see a traffic jam up ahead, I would rather turn around and go in the opposite direction so long as I’m moving somewhere than sit here and wait. So patience is still at times a premium.
And I bet there are a lot of us here, when it comes to life in ministry, need to add that sometimes forgotten P, patience. Things take longer than we would like, and isn’t that part of the message from this morning – do not despite the days of small things. We live in such a way that mitigates against patience. How many of us now, if we’re looking for something on our phone, and it’s beaming back and forth to satellites in the sky, one, two, ain’t nobody got time for this, I don’t have three seconds to wait for the answer to this question.
Or if you text someone and you see the little ghost bubbles. They got it, they’re writing, what’s taking you so long? I texted 20 seconds ago. I don’t have an answer. The very speed of our lives and speed of technology mitigates against patience.
And of course it’s not just those little things. We have an even harder time with the very big things, victory over sin, patience for answered prayer, for an end to suffering or injustice. Let’s be honest. If there was a beauty pageant for the fruit of the Spirit, patience is not taking home first place. Love, give me love. Joy, I’d like to have a lot of joy. Maybe even kindness. Self-control would be helpful in my life. But if we had to rank all the fruit of the Spirit, we wish we could just have like that, patience is sometimes forgotten.
James, here, emphasizes the importance, the essential importance, not merely of a kind of patience that just waits around because you have no other choice, but a Christian patience, which is a hopeful waiting, a hopeful waiting.
Here’s what James says, chapter 5, reading verses 7 through 12: “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 late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 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. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
As we’ve seen in James already, some in the community were being oppressed by outsiders. You turn back and you see in chapter 2, verse 6, “You have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”
And we saw last week that the rich, in James’ mind, is not as simple as an economic category, that once you have so much money in the bank you fall under condemnation as a rich, but the rich here were the wicked rich, the outsiders who were oppressing, cheating, swindling, lying about the poor. We saw again last week the condemnation upon the rich, chapter 5 verse 6: “You have condemned,” speaking to the rich, “and murdered the righteous person.”
So James is now transitioning back to speak to God’s people. And given this context, he understands that some of them are certainly suffering. We come full circle, from the very first chapter, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” So they are facing trials. Some of them are suffering. Perhaps run of the mill, garden variety suffering, and some of them facing this sort of oppression and injustice from outsiders, and they have to wait for God to avenge them. They must not compromise and they must not seek revenge. Instead, they must wait upon the Lord and hope in the day of the Lord.
There are there basic commands in this section. There’s nothing revolutionary here. On the one hand, it’s easier to preach passages like this. It’s all straightforward. Here’s three commands, you’ve thought about them before, here they are again. Simple.
And yet it’s passages like this, at least from this preacher, that I find harder to preach. This morning, Zechariah 4, there’s lots of weird things going on, and what are the olive trees, and what are the lamps, and what’s this about and who’s Zerubbabel? Here, it’s pretty well on the face of it three things, and God means to give them to us by way of reminder. So I encourage you, whether you think you’ve heard all of this before, there’s something here that God has for you for the first time, or to remind you of what you’ve forgotten.
Look at the three commands. Verse 7: Be patient. Verse 9: Do not grumble. Verse 12: Do not swear.
We can see how the first two commands might be connected, that when you’re impatient it often leads to grumbling. And then the third, some of the commentaries say, well, this third, verse 12, is just sort of an add-on, just an extra bit of proverbial wisdom. But I think there’s a connection here, that integrity of speech goes together with integrity of life. As you suffer, don’t grumble, and as you suffer, tell the truth, don’t exaggerate about what you’re experiencing. Don’t lie. Set a godly example of endurance in every area of your life: In your attitude, in your heart, in your speech.
Three commands then. Here’s the first one, back up at verse 7: Be patient.
Now I want you to notice this is not just good advice. Hardly anyone in the world would be advocating for less than patience. But this is a specifically Christian exhortation: “Be patient therefore, brothers,” so he’s addressing them as part of the covenant community, “until the coming of the Lord.” This is not a generic exercise in mindfulness or letting go or just a generic bit of common sense advice to just accept things in life. This is a specific Christian virtue addressed to Christians who wait according to their hope in the coming of the Lord. The Parousia.
We wait, he says, gives an example. Look at the farmer. He waits for the early rain, which would be October/November, and then for the later rain, in March/April, and the result that he’s hoping for is precious fruit of the earth. He’s waiting for a harvest. So as you wait for the coming of the Lord, for this precious harvest, be like the farmer who waits in just due season for the rain to fall upon the earth that the harvest may yield an increase.
Now, many of us have thought of these things before. We’ve heard of them, we’ve maybe listened to sermons before. We’ve maybe found ourselves just in the past days telling our children or telling ourselves, be patient. But somehow it doesn’t register. And this motivation, if we’re honest, be patient until the coming of the Lord, isn’t it hard to make the coming of the Lord really register for us in our day-to-day life?
Now maybe you’re of such an age that you’re on the last lap of life, maybe, and you’re thinking more and more about eternity and the promise and the hope of heaven seems closer at hand, but it’s amazing how often I’ve talked to people even as they get to what will obviously be the last years of their lives and yet heaven still can seem very distant. This is not, first of all, about heaven, it’s about the return of the Lord, but putting the two things together, there is the promise of our inheritance, which we enjoy at first in part upon death and then fully and finally in the new heavens and the new earth when Christ returns.
Part of the reason that I think the return of Christ makes so little difference in our lives, one, I’m not sure that we always believe it’s actually going to happen. Do you believe that? There will be a moment, maybe in my lifetime, maybe in yours, perhaps not, but there will be a moment, there will be real human beings, there will be either us or some of our descendants will be on this planet and they will look up and just as Scripture says, the earth will be torn in two and Christ will descend. It will happen. Imagine all those years in Israel, celebrating the Passover, celebrating the Exodus, waiting for the Messiah. It must have seemed like just a bit of religious instruction to pass on: Yes, the Messiah’s coming, of course, of course, the Messiah. But He came.
And so He will come again. Some of us, I’m not sure we really believe that this happens. The other reason it doesn’t make much a difference in our lives, it does seem so far away, but it’s really not as far as you think. Or at least heaven is not as far as we think. Almost all of us can think of loved ones who have gone ahead to be with the Lord, maybe someone we only knew a little bit, maybe a great-grandparent, or maybe a spouse. Maybe just this past year. I know that some of you just this past year have lost your best friend, your family.
Think what they, enjoying all the bliss of heaven, you think what they would probably say to you here on earth. They would probably say, “Believe me, the wait is worth it. The wait is worth it. It’s better than you think. And the years unending, stretching into eternity, make this life with all of its toil and suffering, pale in comparison, this light and momentary affliction, Paul calls it.
It’s true, isn’t it? The years can feel interminably long, but the older you are, the more you realize how fast they really are. And so those who have gone ahead in heaven, I think would want us to hear, believe me, friend, brother, husband, wife, child, parent, believe me, it’s worth it. And when you get here, look back, it was a blink of an eye on earth for the eternity that we have here in heaven.
You know how sometimes older parents will say to younger parents, and I’ve had some say this to me and I guess I’m, well, we have so many kids, I can always be an older parent and a younger parent at the same time. But they’ll say to you, “Enjoy these little years, these little years don’t last forever, and before you know it, they’re out of the house and they’re gone. Just enjoy these years.”
And of course the years do go by very quickly. The days, mmm, they’re eternal sometimes, but the years go by very quickly, and it is the case, as I now have, a junior in high school that I can look and say, “Yeah, where did that go?” and you get nostalgic and you remember the diapers, and if someone plays for you The Cat’s in the Cradle, that song, you’re just a puddle of tears. Don’t ever play that song, okay? I’ll play catch with you. You understand having lived more of life, it goes by very quickly.
Think about as a parent your perspective versus a child. When you try to explain to a young child something big in the distance, maybe you say, “Next year, 2022, we got a big summer vacation planned.” Oh, that means nothing. That’s over a year away. That is like 50 years in elementary school years. That’s nothing. Well, you understand as a parent that if you were planning a big trip in 2022, well, now is a good time to do it, and that’s going to be here before you know it. The days, the weeks, the months go by quickly.
So we must call to mind that though this promise of the coming of the Lord can feel to us as sort of spiritual children, “yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s sometime long in the future, when do we ever get there?” When we have something of God’s perspective on time, we realize no, this is not far off. This ought to motivate our patience in the presence for our expectation of the future.
Look at what he says in verse 8. This is interesting: “You also, be patient,” okay, second time he said this, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord.” Establish your hearts. Patience is not passivity. You have to establish your hearts. Patience takes work. You have to set your heart to be patient. You have to remind yourself of what this true. So you don’t compromise, you don’t complain, you don’t come at your enemies for vengeance.
Isn’t it true many of us, we think of patience as just passively sort of bearing with life’s inconveniences or suffering. But you have to do that whether you like it or not. That’s not the Christian virtue of patience. How many times have I been standing in line at a grocery store, you have been, too, and you see the line and you’re so used to things just moving, and “There’s three people in front of me. Why don’t they hire more people? Three people? I gotta wait for three people? Well, I can catch up on my e-mail on my phone, and I can do some work here while I’m waiting because I can’t look at the magazines. Three people I have to wait? This is going to be minutes.”
That’s me. That’s not patience. You have to wait there whether you like it or not. Patience is not mere passivity with life’s inconveniences. Patience is a state of heart. That’s why James says, “Establish your heart” to be patient. In other words, you set your heart to an attitude of patience.
I had a friend, he was a good friend, he could say this to me, but he said to me one time, “Kevin, you know what? You can be very compliant and very complaining.” I thought ooohhh, yeah, okay. That wasn’t my wife, but she could have said that, too. In other words, you go with it, but I could tell you’re not happy about it. That’s not patience. Patience is not mere passivity.
James gives two examples here. One, he says to think about the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, verse 10. They were doing the right thing, often they were the only ones doing the right thing, and yet they suffered. Sometimes they suffered on account of doing the right thing. He says by mentioning the prophets, count it a privilege to be among their number.
You think about in Acts, where it says that the Church would count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of the name? We don’t think about that. Do you ever think about that when your life is inconvenienced? And you’re, you have to wait in patience? Or perhaps with a serious injustice in your life and someone mistreating you because you’re a Christian. Do you think, “This is the privilege I have. I can be counted among the apostles and prophets.” God means for us to think that way, to find encouragement, privilege in it.
Consider the prophets. Look at his second example. Consider Job. Now, if you know the story of Job, you know he wasn’t a stoic. He didn’t sit there quietly and just say, “Thank you, Lord. May I have more disasters in my life?” That’s not what we mean by patience. He lamented before God, and on occasion he went too far and he had to be rebuked, but on the whole, he was an example of steadfastness.
Why? Well, he didn’t take the advice of his wife. Remember? She told him, “Curse God and die. Give God the middle finger for what He’s doing to you.” He never did that. He didn’t like what was happening. He lamented what was happening. But here was the key with Job: He moved toward God in pain, not away from God in pain. He moved toward God with his questions and his suffering rather than stepping back and running from God, and so he became for us an example of steadfastness.
Look at verse 11. Look at these three words toward the end of verse 11, and they help orient us. You say, “Okay, how do I establish my heart? I want my heart to be patient. I want patience to be more than passivity. How do I establish my heart?” Well, these three words will help you. Notice the word “purpose,” “and you have seen the purpose of the Lord.” The Greek is telos, your telos, your end, your goal, your aim, your purpose, this is what makes suffering bearable or unbearable.
A woman can endure the pain of childbirth because she knows something’s happening. There is a goal. There is a purpose. People endure the suffering of chemotherapy because there is a purpose. They believe that this is accomplishing something. Suffering is worst when we stop believing that God has a purpose in it.
We don’t just experience life, we interpret our experiences. We’re meant as Christians to interpret the experience of suffering, not suddenly that it feels good to suffer, there’s no suffering in heaven, we want to be free from the curse that leads to suffering, but as we interpret it, God has a purpose in this. It is when you come to believe in the purposelessness of suffering that suffering becomes unbearable. “God, there’s no reason. There’s no rhyme or reason why this is happening in my life.” We forget that God has a telos. He means to refine you in it, to use you as an instrument for others, to bring glory to His name. There was a purpose for Job.
Then look at those other two words at the end: “How the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” See, this is the other thing that makes suffering unbearable. Not only we lose sight of a purpose, but we lose sight of God. He’s not capricious, He’s not toying with you, He’s not in heaven and He has just a collection of seven billion sort of voodoo dolls and He just decides that today some bad things need to happen in your life. He did not accidently leave you in the oven of suffering past the timer. You ever screamed, “Oh, I left the rolls in the oven and they’re all burned to a crisp.” You think God’s like that? “Oh, I meant just a little suffering and I forgot.”
He’s merciful. He’s compassionate. He hears you, He loves you. He’s not done with you. He has a reason for whatever you’re going through.
So we can be patient.
Second. We’ll move more quickly through these last two. Verse 9: “Do not grumble.”
Suffering often wears down our defenses. It removes our polite exterior, even in the South. Eventually reveals what’s going on in our hearts. Grumbling is one of those close cousins of suffering. See, you can be suffering and still sin as a sufferer. Our world tends to put people into distinct categories: You are either a sinner or you are a sufferer, when the Bible realizes every human being falls into both categories.
Now some will be almost all one or all the other, but in our life, we are both, so that means we may have sympathy for the worst sinner without excusing their sin, yet because we realize that that sinner is also a sufferer. It doesn’t excuse the way that they’re acting, but there’s things that have happened to them, there’s pain that they’ve encountered, and to some degree it gives us sympathy, even for the worst sinners.
On the other hand, it means that we can correct the sufferer without failing to sympathize with their pain because suffering is often a breeding ground for sinning. See, sometimes we just think if you’re a sufferer, especially like they were here in James, some of them were victims, think if you’re a sufferer, then you can’t be a sinner. James says, “No, actually when you’re suffering worst is when the temptations to sin can grow most.”
As it often happens, hurting people hurt other people. When we’re tired, when we’re having a bad day, a bad month, a bad year, what happens? We often take it out on those around us, even when they’re not responsible for our circumstances.
Do you see this in verse 9? “Do not grumble.” Now you might expect for it to say, “Do no grumble against the rich, who are oppressing you” or “Do not grumble against your persecutors.” But that’s not what it says. “Do not grumble against one another.”
See, this is what happens. Suffering wears us down and from what we know of James, it wasn’t the other Christians in their covenant community who was causing the suffering; it was people outside. It was the pressures of life. But as so often happens, when we get beat down by suffering, when we get little sleep, when we are frayed around the edges, who do we take it out on? We take it out on the people who are right next to us, the people closest to us.
I think that’s the connection here. As they’re suffering and enduring this suffering, even though the suffering’s not from you and you and you and the Church, it’s produced towards one another a grumbling spirit. It says, “Do not grumble.”
All of us, all of us, know that this is the case. You’ve, every one of you, including everyone on this side of the pulpit and on that side of the pulpit, you’ve had those days, you think, “Why did I just treat my wife like that? She didn’t do anything to me. Why did I speak that way to my kids? Why did I lash out at my parents? Why did I just explode at my friend or my sibling? They’re not the ones who are giving me the bad day or the bad week.” But they’re there, and as you suffer, you grumble.
You see the rationale for not grumbling in verse 9: “So that you may not be judged; the Judge is standing at the door.” The rationale is this: Don’t be like bickering children when the Judge, your heavenly Father, can hear you right outside the door.
Here’s a little parent trick. You put the kids to bed, you close the door, no more talking, no more complaining, and they don’t know that when the door closes, you’re still there and you can still hear them with your supersonic parent hearing, and then you surprise them and open the door, “I’m still here! Stop it!”
It says the Judge is at the door. The Judge hears you. Don’t think that your grumbling is going unnoticed before the Judge of the universe.
Now I know that people can sin against us in profound ways and we don’t want to make light of it, and sometimes to overcome those sins is not as easy, it’s just getting in the same room for 30 minutes and ironing out your differences. That’s not the way everything gets better. My kids hate it when my solution to their problems is, “All right, come together, hug it out.” They don’t like that one. Just hug it out until you’re done.
So God understands that our issues are bigger than that. But let’s be candid about our own hearts. Not everything you have grumbled about in the last month has been a life-altering offense. Has it? Have you let difficulties in other areas of your life, bad circumstances at work, bad circumstances from other people, health issues, crowd out your joy and some really important relationships? Has the experience of COVID or mask wearing or the political polarities made you a grumbler? Have you turned molehills into mountains?
If God were standing outside the door to hear how you’re talking to your former friend, or fellow church member, would God be likely to say, as many parents have said before, “Hey, knock it off. Grow up. Be patient.”
Here’s the hard reality. If everyone finds it hard to be around you, there’s one common denominator in that situation, and that’s you. Often we are the last to know: Are we putting forth an attitude that’s one of cantankerousness, grumbling?
Finally he says, “Do not swear.” He says in verse 12, “Above all,” that probably doesn’t mean now here’s the most important thing, but really a way of wrapping up. “Okay, now in conclusion.” The connection may seem thin, but if you think about it, you can understand suffering leads to grumbling, which can lead to cutting corners with our speech. God never means for your suffering to be an excuse for being lax about your personal integrity.
This saying in verse 12 is very similar to the one that Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount. The problem, as Jesus and His brother James highlighted, is not with the swearing of all kinds of oaths. Leviticus 19:20: You shall not swear by My name falsely. Numbers 30:2: If a man swears to the Lord or makes an oath, he shall not break His Word. Psalm 15:4: Swear to your hurt.
So there’s plenty of examples in the Old Testament of people swearing oaths. The problem was that some of God’s people had devised elaborate ways to get around the basic command to tell the truth.
D.A. Carson puts it like this: A sophisticated casuistry judged how binding an oath really was by examining how closely it was related to Yahweh’s name… So swearing by heaven and earth was not binding, nor swearing by Jerusalem, but if you were swearing toward Jerusalem, it was.
Jesus cuts right through this kind of sophistry. Matthew 23: As some of them were swearing, well, I swear by the gift of the altar, and I swear by the altar. If I swear by the gift of the altar, it counts; if I swear by the altar, it doesn’t. Or if I swear by the temple, that’s not a big deal, but if swear by the gold of the temple, then I really have to keep my promise.
It’s like little kids saying, “No, no, I triple dog dare you.” “Wait, wait, wait. Did you pinky swear?” “Cross my heart and hope to die.” “No, no, no, we did a regular handshake. We didn’t do the secret handshake.” “No, I had my fingers crossed behind my back.” God is just saying, “Enough with all of that nonsense.”
It’s not that every kind of oath is wrong. God Himself swears oaths in the Old Testament. He swore an oath to Abraham. Paul, several times, takes an oath. He says in many of his epistles, as God is my witness. Jesus even in His trial in Matthew 26, testifies under oath.
So it’s not an absolute prohibition against signing documents or a sworn affidavit or in a courtroom taking an oath. It’s against the frivolous taking of oaths. Jesus and James clearly do not want us to think by our oaths that there’s a time for telling the truth, a time for maybe telling the truth, and a time for kind of telling the truth. He said you shouldn’t need an oath, your yes should be yes, your no should be no.
So it’s as if, now I don’t know if you can do this, if you’re in a courtroom and you have to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, put your hand on a Bible, you might say, “Your Honor, I just want to make clear that I’m a Christian and I don’t need to do this because I tell the truth all the time, but in order for Your Honor to see that I’m really serious now, I will take this oath before you.” That’s the heart attitude.
We shouldn’t have to say, “You know? To tell you the truth.” Now that’s an expression which means buckle up, I’m about to tell you something you don’t want to hear. But if you say “to tell the truth,” it shouldn’t mean, well, “What do you tell me the rest of the time?” Or “I swear on my mother’s grave,” whatever that means. Or, “You know what? Let me be completely honest right now.”
No, you should be completely honest. Oaths should be unnecessary. Our word should be our bond at all times, even when we’re suffering, it’s no excuse to be lacking in the integrity of our speech.
Sometime, if you haven’t read the play or seen the movie before, you should see A Man for All Seasons. It’s very well done. It has a few a digs against Luther because Thomas More was a Catholic, but you can be discerning about that. The story is about Thomas More who will not give consent for the king to divorce his wife. At one point in the movie, Thomas More’s wife is upset because he won’t confide in her what he thinks about the king’s marriage. Thomas More refuses to give consent but he also has not expressed that he’s against it. He says, “You don’t know my mind. I simply haven’t spoken it” and his wife is saying, “Would you at least tell me? Could you please just tell me what you think about the king’s marriage?” and Thomas More says this: Now imagine you are on the stand, and someone asks you, “Has your husband ever told you what he thinks of the king’s marriage?”
He goes on to explain, “That’s why I will not speak to you my mind on this matter, because I do not want you ever to be in a position where you would have to perjure yourself.” He did not want her to be tempted by being a false witness.
Really, the whole play or the movie is about the importance of being people of our word. Our words matter.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, and James here in chapter 5, say, “Look, all your fancy oaths, all your swearing by this hair on your head and this loose tooth, it’s all nonsense. Let your yes be yes, your no be no.”
Or as a theologian of lesser note once said, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”
Our word ought to be faithful, 100%. Are you that reliable? Are you a person that people know, well, okay, I guess it’s not a lie, but are you known to exaggerate? To speak in hyperbole? Are you known to be someone who doesn’t really follow through on your promise? Or you can’t be trusted unless you absolutely, super-duper, pinky swear with a cherry on top? Do people know you shade things? You tell stories in ways to make yourself look better and others look worse. You leave out important information. Is your word a rock or is it Play-Doh?
We ought to be men and women of our words. When pastors and elders take ordination vows, submit themselves to creeds and confessions under the authority of the Word of God, they ought not to make those statements lightly. When you, at a baptism, make a vow, a promise before God, to assist the parents in the godly nurture of their children, do you take that seriously? Your membership vows that you promise before God and this congregation, to seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. Do you believe it? Did you mean it?
In your marriage. Now it’s true the Bible does allow in certain extreme circumstances, desertion by an unbelieving spouse, sexual immorality, that divorce though not desirable can be permissible, yet we all know that many marriages have dissolved for far less than those extreme exceptions. When you stood before friends, before family, before God Himself, with your word you promised to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to be faithful to him, to be faithful to her, as long as you both shall live. You promised to forsake all others. You promised to be with him, or with her, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts you. That was your word, if you’re married.
We live in a day when words are cheap. They’re everywhere and they’re devalued. But God invented words. He communicates by words. He hallowed the whole sphere of language. In a way it is an extension of His being. The Word became flesh. To reflect the character of God, we must speak true words and take great pains to say what we mean, and mean what we say.
In each one of these examples here in James chapter 5, we see Christ. Christ, the true and faithful witness. Christ, the One who suffered unjustly but never with sin. Christ, the One who did not revile, did not grumble, when others reviled against Him. The One who entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. Jesus, who despised the shame for the joy and the glory set before Him.
Jesus is our example. Jesus is our power. Jesus is our Savior when we fail.
Friends, the hardest thing God may be calling you to at this moment is to wait, and for some of us, there’s almost nothing harder. God could come down from heaven and give you a 45-point plan of what you have to do and we would like that better than His Word to you, which is wait. Wait without grumbling, wait without exaggeration, wait in hope, wait for the One who is coming again to judge the living and the dead.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we are so often faithless, but You are faithful. Give us grace to walk in Your ways and build us up in our most holy faith. Give us patient endurance in the midst of whatever trials we’re facing, small or catastrophic, and may You receive glory as we strive to be faithful as You are faithful to us. In Jesus we pray. Amen.