The “Yes” and “No” of Patience

James 5:7-12

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.

James is practical.  Being biblically practical rarely means getting what you want, right now.   Well, unless you want a measure of injury, discipline, forced patience right now, then your wish may very well be granted.  The fact is, Christ is being formed in those who are His.  This doesn’t mean we are acquiring more of Jesus along the way.  Actually we already have Him in full.  But our life is essentially about His fullness forming and shaping us from the inside out so that we more readily show His glory in our flesh.  Sculpting takes time…especially when it’s an inside job.

When’s the payoff?  When will all this patience pay off and I just start the euphoria of being all-Christlike.  Ummm, when Jesus comes back?  Wait! That’s the Sunday School answer!  Yep.  We are to be patient until Jesus comes.

For the believer, the growing believer, we become increasingly convinced that there is no “payoff” short of Jesus Himself.  This means that with every injury, discipline, even consequence of sin, we are losing our taste for this world and, through His Word, finding that the only “taste” that brings a smile to the face and causes us to want more, is Christ Himself.

How do we acquire this kind of patience?  Well, first of all, James says to “establish the heart, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  This means that we are to be resolute that our understood affection is squarely set on Jesus alone.  So, to have our heart’s set in this direction means that we will NOT be satisfied until we see Christ AND we will only be satisfied doing the will of Christ in the mean time.

Next, we are commanded not to grumble.  At first glance this may appear to be a bit abrupt and “light” in the sin category.  However, when we consider the children of Israel grumbling on the back side of the Red Sea, as well as the fact that grumbling declares with the lips that we are dissatisfied with our lot, we then begin to feel the vile nature of complaint and the heart of discontent behind it.  The direction of this grumbling is toward others, and the judgment that is inevitable if grumbling goes unchecked.  It shows that grumbling leads to putting ourselves in the seat of “judge” over others, which is really idolatry.

Thirdly, we are to know the Word.  We are to know the whole counsel of God’s Word and how it points to God’s redemptive work in and through Jesus Christ.  Prophets?  Normal people?  Job?  Read them to know their steadfastness and God’s mercy, which is ultimately experienced only in Christ.

Now, “above all” we are to be definitively people of our word.  Really?  Is this just an integrity issue?  Well, yes it is.  The integrity is Christ faithfully displayed in community.  The beauty of word and deed, nature and work, put gloriously on display in action and simple words.  Our words do not need extra emphasis to prove the veracity of our faith.  Instead, we should live in such a way that God’s Word is dwelling richly in our lives, that we are people who simply “hear” and “do” the Word (James 1:22).

All of this is in the context of suffering, some type of trial.  As I think about the suffering of a church member with an unbelieving spouse, or John Mueller’s extended stay in the hospital and eventual long recovery period, I’m reminded that this gritty, real-life, gospel living is how God has designed our telling of Good News.  In suffering, when we simply say “yes” or “no” in declaring Gospel truth in our living, there is at the least a backdrop of reality for believers to be challenged and unbelievers to pay attention that hope is beyond circumstance.

Let’s pray gospel-rich prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ as they suffer so that the gospel is seen and heard simply in their enduring living.  While we pray for miraculous healing, we should be hopeful and have faith, yet we should know that even earthly healing is temporal and all these things point to the ultimate healing to be realized by those in Christ at His coming!

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