Patience in Work -tmp(James 5:7-20)

Last time I touched the book of James I was taking a small
look at personal patience (or perseverance) and the joy a believer can have in
trials. Today I’d like to look at corporate patience in the work of
the Lord and what that has to do with the individual.

Of course, before we touch on James we must consider some of
our own preconceptions. Very often when we think of the “work of the Lord” we focus
on the whitened ear of corn as portrayed so beautifully in {{John 4}}. You know
where Jesus was speaking to his disciples about food and the recent encounter
with the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well? As he spoke he told them to lift up
their eyes and to look at the fields white for the harvest—ready for the
reaping. That field was the Samaritan heads swaying back and forth coming
towards Jesus upon the woman’s testimony.

So we say “ah, the work of the Lord is that work before the
world! The preaching of the gospel! Saving souls!”

Don’t get me wrong, this is an important work and one
mandated by the resurrected Lord for every believer. We are to go out into the
world and make disciples of men baptizing them in the name of the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit ({{Matt 28:19}}). That is our mandated duty!

But we often overlook that whole “make disciples” bit and
what that all implies. As if the gospel is to fill up the halls of heaven
without bothering to train these spiritual babes. There is a great work to be
done, an internal strengthening, of making spiritual infants mature Sons in the
household of God.

Thank God then that James decides to focus on the maturity of
the believer ({{James 1:4}}). This is neither a maturity to be attained on this
planet nor even a maturity that will be finalized in this lifetime. But it will
surely be developed here. In this effort, James makes it a (repeated) point to
properly adjust the believers thinking.

James puts the believer in remembrance of the future judgment
of all things. For instance {{James 1:12}}, the crown of life promised by the
Lord; {{James 2:13}} Judgment will be merciless to one who shows no mercy; {{James
3:1}} …knowing that [teachers] will receive the stricter judgment; {{James
4:11-12}} Don’t judge the Law for there is only one Lawgiver and judge; I mean,
James, why not just exhort us to live as Christ lived? Why all this talk of
coming before a Judge?

I once was driving behind this moving school bus with
flashing red lights. As a young driver, I waffled at the proper protocol (stop
if it’s not stopping?) even while noticing a cop passing me on the opposite
side of the road. He pulled a U-Turn and came after me meriting me a ticket and
a day in court. Let me tell you, when I went to court I didn’t go in my
school-wear, no way. I went in my Sunday best…a two piece suit with a sober tie
and a clean ironed shirt. This judge sat behind the bench, fraternized with the
cop (who told a nice story very unlike what had happened that day) and
brusquely sent me off on my way with a two hundred dollar ticket and four
points on my license. That’s one of our worldly, temporal, imperfect judges…how
much more important is our standing before the perfect, eternal, judge of
hearts and minds?

So when we get to {{James 5:7}} and James exhorts us to be
patient until the coming of the Lord, he’s not saying “take it easy” or “relax
a bit”.  Notice the illustration. The
farmer waits for precious produce of the soil being patient about the needed
rain and the precious crop. It will surely come and his life is banking on the
produce of the field…in that same way the mature believer is to be patient
until the coming of the Lord!

What does the farmer do? Bite his nails and cry? Takes it
easy?  No, rather he continues to
work. He gets the wagons ready for picking up the harvest, he prepares the
oxen. We are to strengthen our hearts, says James, for the coming of the Lord
is near ({{James 5:8}}). These words put our thinking in the proper perspective
for it is not a fearful expectation but an eagerly anticipated hope…while
simultaneously resolutely focusing hearts.

What of the naysayer? “Get your head out of the clouds, man!
Why focus on the possible return of the Lord…you’re being so heavenly minded to
be of no earthly good—forget all that stuff and be practical”. Oh James has no
problem with being practical but he makes sure that our practicality is
grounded. Don’t complain about one another—very practical. Why? So that you
yourselves may not be judged for behold, the Judge is standing right at the
door ({{James 5:9}}).

I’ll tell you, when guests arrive at my front door I’m of
the mindset that they are here. Once that doorbell rings, my door has to open.
No vacuum cleaners going, no bickering or fighting in the background, food on
the stove—everything has to be set. What of our action towards each other in
light of the Ruler of the Universe ready to make his glorious appearance?

James directs our eyes to the prophets who spoke in the name
of the Lord…noting their patience and suffering and endurance. And to Job going
through so many trials and hardships and in the end realizing that the Lord is
full of compassion and mercy…did that slow him down later in life or did it
make him a stronger, more mature man? How much more now that our reconciliation
is near at hand? How much more that the Messiah has come, that the Holy Spirit
has been poured out, that the gospel has spread far and wide and the Judge of
this world must come to judge with righteousness and with equity? ({{Acts 2}},
{{Psalms 98:9}})

Oh live in light of the Lord’s return my brothers, my sisters.
James encourages us in the practicality of this thinking—not to make oaths but to
speak the clear truth so as not to fall under judgment. To pray for those who
suffer, to sing praises if we are cheerful, to call the elders together to pray
of the sick—in faith and constancy. To realize that Elijah, that great prophet
of old with various problems of faith was able to pray to God in heaven and
stop the rain for three and a half years, was a man in like temperament to us.
To help those who are fallen in sin, to lift them up and to restore them.
({{James 5:12-20}})

Look at Nehemiah and his fellow workers building the walls
of Jerusalem.
They had a very public testimony in the eyes of the world and yet they had a
serious work before them. Their ground littered with rubble, the work needed to
be done and there was no end near in sight. And yet, Nehemiah and the people
prayed, as they worked and remained ready to move at the sound of the trump. ({{Neh
4}})

So perform your duties in the world before men but
also in the church, making disciples and building each other up with patience
and endurance, helping each other, waiting for the final trump of the
arch-angel where we will be caught up to meet the Lord. The day is nigh upon
us. Work and Watch! ({{1 Thes 4:16}})

-r- 

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