A Video Update from Larry
Devotional on Patience in a Pandemic
Over these last several days, there has been a word that keeps coming to mind. That word is patience.
What is patience? I’m glad you asked. The dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept delay without getting upset.” Patience means that we are okay with waiting.
But it seems that patience is largely a neglected virtue in our culture. Whether it be heating up food in the microwave, opening up a webpage on our computer, or receiving a package from Amazon, we are mostly not okay waiting. Are you okay waiting?
- What about when you’re sitting in traffic (which is gloriously non-existent right now)?
- What about when the “fast food” you ordered isn’t so fast?
- What about when you’re waiting for your brother or sister to finish their turn?
- What about when that package you are expecting is delayed?
- What about when you’re waiting for the Lord to provide you with a new job?
- What about when you’ve been dealing with the same pain or sickness for as long as you can remember?
- What about when you’re waiting for your wayward child to turn away from their sin?
- What about when you’re in the middle of a pandemic?
- What about when you haven’t been able to gather together with your church for five weeks?
Are you sure you’re okay waiting? Or to ask the question another way, does patience really apply to us in the circumstances that we face?
The short answer is a resounding “Yes!” God’s Word gives us a clear call to be patient. Paul tells us in Romans 12:12 to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” In Ephesians 4:2 we are called to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience . . .” Patience is counted as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Those who have new life in Christ are called to walk in patience at all times. Even now. Especially now.
But why? Why is patience so important? There is an important lesson God gives us on patience in James 5:7-11. Let’s walk through this passage together to see what God has for us.
[Read James 5:7]
James begins by commanding his readers to “be patient.” But look at verse 7 again and see what he does next. He puts a time limit on our patience. “Be patient,” he writes, “until the coming of the Lord.” In other words, there is a day coming when we won’t have to be patient anymore. Why? Because our hope, which we cannot see now, will be seen in full. Every pain will be healed. Every hunger will be satisfied. Every tear will be wiped away. We won’t just enjoy good things, but we will enjoy goodness itself—God—forevermore.
But until that day we are called to be patient. And that includes today.
After telling us that our patience has an expiration date, he goes on to give us a vivid picture of what this patience should look like. Read the rest of James 5:7.
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.
James takes us to the farm to watch the farmer. What is the farmer doing? He is waiting. But while the farmer waits, he knows something. What does he know? He knows that the rains are going to come. Not only that, he knows that when those rains come they will cause the seeds he planted many months before to flower into delicious food.
The farmer doesn’t worry about this. He is not anxious about it. He is not pacing the floor wondering how he can make it rain or how he can cause his seeds to grow. He patiently and faithfully waits.
As a child my parents would often sing us kids a song that said this: Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry / when you get impatient you only start to worry / remember, remember, that God is patient too / and think of all the times that others have to wait for you! (courtesy of the Music Machine – some families may want to pause here and go give it a listen now).
The farmer is patient, not worrying, because he is confident that what is to come is so much better than what he experiences right now. So, James goes on in verse 8 to remind his readers (and us) again to be patient.
[Read James 5:8]
This time James fills out his call to be patient by calling his readers to “Establish your hearts . . .” What does it mean to establish your heart? To be established is to be deeply rooted and unmoved. To establish your heart is to stand firm in the faith in the face of whatever comes your way.
The call to us today is the same. Stand firm. Establish your hearts. All that you have known to be true is still true in the midst of circumstances you could never have imagined, so stand on what is sure and cannot be moved, rather than that which is constantly changing.
Notice what James says next: “. . . establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” In verse 7, he had instructed his readers to be patient based on the fact of the Lord’s coming—it’s a sure expectation. Now, in verse 8, James makes this call based on the nearness of the Lord’s coming—it’s going to happen soon. In other words, be patient, but you don’t have to be patient for too long.
“But,” you may be thinking, “this was written almost two thousand years ago.” With this in mind it’s important to remember how God’s view of time is entirely different from our view of time. God exists outside and over time, while we only exist within time. Psalm 90:4 says that “a thousand years in [God’s] sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” What to us seems like an eternity, to God is but a moment.
Hold your place in James 5 and turn back to Isaiah 46.
[Read Isaiah 46:8-11]
God sees the end from the beginning, and not only has he planned the events of all of history, he will surely bring them to pass. In God’s view of history, one event looms large on the schedule. Christ’s return is the next item on the agenda of history. It is soon. It is imminent. God has planned it and it will happen. In the meantime, we are to live expectant and full of faith, standing firm as we walk in patience, establishing our hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.
When we come to verse 9, it seems like James swerves left when we expect him to turn right.
[Read James 5:9]
What does grumbling against one another have to do with patience? A lot actually. Our lack of patience is often taken out on others. When we face difficult circumstances it’s easy to grumble, especially towards one another. We can easily begin to compare our situation to the situation of others and grow bitter. We can start to take offense when others are doing what we think they shouldn’t be doing, so we grumble. But to be patient is connected to “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). It is to endure one another, to forebear with one another, to be kind to one another, and to extend peace to one another.
James connects this admonition to be patient with a coming judgment. Since the Judge is coming, don’t stand in judgement over others lest you too be judged (Matthew 7:1). The coming of Christ the Judge is meant to be a sobering reminder to Christians that what they do and how they treat others matters. So, be patient.
In verse 10, James provides another picture of what it looks like to be patient.
[Read James 5:10]
He first turns to the example of the prophets. Flip back in your Bible just a few pages to see how the letter of the book of Hebrews describes the suffering of the prophets.
[Read Hebrews 11:37-38]
Speaking of the suffering and patience of these prophets, James begins verse 11 by saying that “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” To be blessed is not the same as to be happy. To be blessed does not fluctuate with changing circumstances. Rather, it is the unchanging status of God’s children. Blessing is found in being made right with God. James echoes Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount – “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Next, James provides one last example of patience in the face of trial: Job.
[Read James 5:11]
The Bible tells the story of Job in which he loses everything but his own life, and then goes on to record a lengthy conversation between Job and a few friends where they all try to make sense of Job’s suffering. But in the midst of Job’s complaining and questioning, Job never turns away from God.
One commentator writes, “Job’s is no groveling, passive, unquestioning submission; Job struggled and questioned, and sometimes even defied, but the flame of faith was never extinguished in his heart.”
The book of Job concludes with Job repenting before God as he acknowledges God’s greatness and sovereignty over all things, saying, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2, 5-6). In the face of the glory of God, Job recognizes that God’s ways are so far above his ways. The last verses of Job turn to record “the purpose of the Lord” in Job’s suffering, as God gives Job “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
James uses the example of Job to tell his readers that their present suffering is not the “end” of the story. God is going to transform their situation for good when Christ their life appears. Ultimately, James roots the call to patience in the character of God. See “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
This is the source of Christian patience in the face of every circumstance: the character of God. He is compassionate and merciful. He is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). It is much easier to endure in suffering, to be patient in difficult circumstances, when we know the God in control of it all is compassionate and merciful.
In this unusual season we find ourselves, one of the primary things God has called us to is to be patient. This is not a resigned patience as if we’ve given up, but is an expectant patience that looks forward to seeing the purpose of our compassionate and merciful God in all of this. He has a plan and he will surely do it.
In our hurry-up instant world, God does his work in a decidedly different way. God often moves things along slowly, like in Job’s situation, because he is more concerned with what we learn in our circumstances than in getting us out of them. In the meantime, we are to be patient. In the words of Paul, “Therefore, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Listen or Sing to These Songs
A Prayer Guide
Thank God for his unchanging character and faithfulness and that he is the one whose sovereign hand is in control of every circumstance we face.
Pray through the list of prayer requests that Nora sent out this morning
Ask God to bring this time to an end so that we can enjoy the benefits and blessing of gathering as the people of God in the presence of God.
Thank God that soon all the pain, sickness, loneliness, and tears will all be over when Jesus Christ returns for his bride. Ask the Lord to come quickly.
A Sermon to Listen To
Take some time today or this coming week to listen to the below sermon from Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 from Devon.
Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.