Text: James 5:7-12, Isaiah 40:28
By: Ezekiel Oghenekaro
Life is full of waiting and that is sad, because none of us really enjoy waiting. In fact, it is one of life’s absolutely irritating experiences. Have you been in a doctor’s office lately? Most of us have. A man went to the doctor and waited for over an hour to be called to the examination room. Then he waited in the exam room with the door closed for another thirty minutes. Finally, the doctor walked in and asked, “How old are you?” The man answered sarcastically, “Do you want to know how old I was when I got here or how old I am right now!”
Most parents would agree that their children don’t want to wait for anything. The last thing kids want to hear is Mom say, “Not now.” It can prompt anger, frustration, even hopelessness. This “disease” of waiting follows most of us into our adult years. We may not respond with the same emotional outbursts as children, but most of us still hate waiting for what we want.
And our modern society just makes it worse. We want everything done quickly — and new devices constantly spring up to meet those demands and encourage our impatience. We are not used to waiting, and the more our technology caters to our immediate desires, the less we feel willing to wait.
Such is our dilemma as Christians. While society makes every attempt to make our life easier and faster, God works on a very different timetable. In his mind, nothing is wrong with waiting. In fact, waiting can actually be a positive good that he often uses to make us more like His Son.
No one likes to wait. But we wait in traffic, in grocery stores, for the persons ahead of us, for the doctor, for a spouse, for a baby, for retirement, for sermons to get over, or for Jesus to return.
Waiting is not just something we have to do while we get what we want. Waiting is the process of becoming what God wants us to be. What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is, we are waiting for. Waiting, biblical waiting, is not a passive waiting around for something to happen that will allow us to escape our troubles. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It is not a way to evade unpleasant reality.
“With God, there is actually something happening while nothing is happening.
While waiting, do what waiters do – “they serve”.
James 5:7-12 gives us some suggestions. Whether you’re waiting on God to move, or waiting to see what happens next, these things will make waiting profitable for your soul. Let’s begin in vs. 7-9.
The word therefore is very important in vs. 7. It refers back to the previous verses where James writes of the injustice perpetrated against poor servants by their rich masters. James says God hears the cries of the oppressed, and eventually He will bring justice to this world. But for now, they must wait. It is to people waiting on God that James speaks. What can you do while you’re waiting?
- You can practice patience. (v. 7-9)
You would think as much time as we spend waiting, we would eventually get good at it. But we are not usually. Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman, but never in a man.
There is a word to describe a person who is good at waiting: patient. One very important thing you can do as you wait is to practice being patient, both with God and with each other.
James writes in vs. 7-8, we can practice being patient with the Lord. He specifically refers to the second coming of Christ, and uses the image of a farmer who waits patiently for rain and the harvest. Patience is a must for a farmer, because even though it takes a lot of hard work to produce a crop, you have to wait on it to grow. A farmer works in faith, believing all his hard work will pay off in the end. James says in vs. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Establish your hearts – strengthen your hearts. Don’t worry or fret; practice staying calm, because you know the Lord will eventually show up. As surely as the farmer knows the harvest is coming, you know Christ is coming. In fact, He can show up at any time. Our job is to do what we can and patiently wait for the Lord.
But James also encourages us in vs. 9 to be patient with each other. He writes don’t grumble (groan) against each other, because Christ, the Judge, is at the door! James isn’t saying we should never confront a brother/sister over sin. What he is addressing is the petty griping and complaining about each other’s faults and failings. You and I are called not to criticize and find fault, but to love each other. John 13:34, 1 Peter 4:8. James says, remember we are all works in progress. None of us will be finished until we see Christ. While you are waiting for perfection, practice being patient with one another!
Patience takes practice. The farmer is patient because he’s had practice cultivating soil, planting seeds, weeding, and waiting on the rain and the harvest. So also, you and I can practice being patient as we wait.
We’re all waiting for Christ to come back. But we are also waiting for the Lord to show up in many other ways, aren’t we? When you pray, you’re waiting on the Lord to show up and answer your prayer. Whether you’re praying for a sick person to get well, or a job to come through, or a lost loved one to get saved, you have to wait. It’s a good time to practice patience with the Lord. One thing I can guarantee: He never gets in a hurry.
We are all waiting for the day when we all become what Jesus saved us to be. But that day is not yet. We have to wait: I have to wait on you, you have to wait on me. There is not much I can do to speed up the process for you, not much you can do to speed up the process for me. You have to be patient with yourself. Growth doesn’t happen in a hurry. It takes time, and you have to wait. What do you do while you wait? Practice being patient with one another, instead of griping and complaining because none of us have arrived.
- You can practice perseverance. (v. 10-11)
Practicing patience is not easy; practicing perseverance is harder. There are many people who can be patient for a long time, but eventually they give up. Consider Sarah. She waited, but felt an alternative will be enough. But a person who practices perseverance is in for the long haul, has made up their mind to keep running until the end of the finish line, to keep fighting until the victory is won. They are, in the words of vs. 11, those who endure and James gives us some good examples of people who practice perseverance.
James mentions Job, a man who obviously knew a lot about waiting. You’ve probably heard about the proverbial patience of Job from the KJV, but the word is better translated the perseverance of Job. That makes a lot more sense if you’ve read the book, because there are many times Job appears anything but patient. But Job does hold on to his faith, he does persist in believing God will somehow come through for him. He does endure, despite his pain and confusion, and discovers in the end …the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
How can you practice perseverance? I think the prophets and Job give us some clues.
First, you hold on to God’s Word. The prophets knew they heard from God, and they held on to His promises and His truth. They kept going in hard times by reminding themselves of what God said. If you want help persevering, you need to get a tight grasp on God’s Word, to cling tenaciously to His promises and His truth, no matter how things seem or what happens.
Don’t just read—study and meditate, even memorize key verses that deal with your situation. In the words of Ruth Graham, find a verse and put your name on it.
Hold on to God in prayer. The book of Job contains not just Job’s complaints, but Job’s honest cries to God for help. Prayer and perseverance go hand in hand. Don’t try to polish up your prayers—be real with God about what you’re going through, whether it be your confusion, your fear, even your anger. Prayer helped Job persevere, and prayer will help you persevere if you will keep praying!
Serve in His Vineyard: we most often focus on our problem, waiting patiently for God to show up and rescue us. This can sap away our strength. One way to wait, to be active while you wait. Do what waiters do, they serve. You can busy until you get you blessing, you won’t even remember how long you have waited. Are you looking for a child, a job, a husband or a wife, get busy, visit others, help out with chores, encourage the depressed, visit the needy, give… just serve. Your time will come. The farmer waiting for the harvest does not have to be idle doing nothing. He weeds, visit, checks, ensure that the crops are going well, all in anticipation for the harvest. You too can do the same, serve while you wait. Psalm 130:5-6
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
God is the great mover. We are to push, to work. And if we wait, in patient trust, remembering that God is in control doing his work increasing our strength, we will experience the move of God on our lives and in our church.
We are not patient: A woman’s car stalled in traffic. She looked in vain under the hood to identify the cause, while the driver behind her leaned relentlessly on his horn. Finally, she had enough. She walked back to his car and offered sweetly, “I don’t know what the matter is with my car. But if you want to go look under the hood, I’ll be glad to stay here and honk for you.” God’s idea of waiting: The apostle Peter wrote, “that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years.” An economist once read those words and got very excited.
“Lord – is it true that a thousand years for us is just like a minute to you?”
“Then a million dollars to us must just be a penny to you.”
“Lord, would you give me one of those pennies?”
“All right. Wait here a minute.”
Unseen growth: The Chinese bamboo tree is one of the most remarkable plants on earth. Once the gardener plants the seed, he will see nothing but a single shoot coming out of the bulb – for five full years! That tiny shoot, however, must have daily food and water. During all the time the gardener is caring for the plant, the exterior shoot will grow less than an inch.
At the end of five years, however, the Chinese bamboo will perform an incredible feat. It will grow an amazing ninety feet tall in only ninety days! Now ask yourself this: When did the tree actually grow? During the first five years, or during those last ninety days?
The answer lies in the unseen part of the tree, the underground root system. During the first five years, the fibrous root structure spreads deep and wide in the earth, preparing to support the incredible heights the tree will eventually reach.
An oak or a mushroom? It’s been said that when God wants to grow mushrooms, he can do it overnight, but when he wants to grow a mighty oak, it takes a few years. What do we want to be, a mushroom or an oak? If we want to be an oak, it is well worth the wait.