Sermon for Sunday, May 22nd, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Psa 37:1-11 ESV] 1 Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! 8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. 9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. 10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. 11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
New Testament reading:
[Jas 5:7-12 ESV] 7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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. 12 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.
[Mat 24:32-44 ESV] 32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The definition of patience is helpful for us to consider.
Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Being patient doesn’t mean that you have LIKE the issues that arise, but the calling is to react well to those issues.
While we may dread the idea of patience, we can easily accept the desire to react well to whatever comes at us in life.
So we have a call to patience in James. And this among three commands that James gives in our passage.
Three commands which we must attend to.
I. Be Patient
II. Do Not Grumble
III. Do Not Swear Falsely
These are to be part of the lifestyle of a Christian.
I. Be Patient
Patience in general is a virtue.
But here we have in mind, patience for the coming of the Lord.
In patience, we are not to take vengeance on others. The Lord will judge, when He comes. Let us be patient.
The Christians James writes to have suffered, and in the context, it seems they have suffered at the hands of the rich. But their suffering will not continue forever.
And our suffering will not continue forever. Let us bear it patiently, for the Lord will come and there will be no more suffering, no more tears.
There is often this question brought up against the early Christians – were they expecting Christ to return IN THEIR LIFETIME. And therefore, since he did not come, does this negate all their prophecies?
We have to understand what James (and other apostles) are saying. The Judge is standing at the door; the coming of the Lord is at hand.
It can be hard to understand how the Bible uses time references. The author of the book of Hebrews spoke of being in “the last days,” and at Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel that the Lord will pour out his spirit on all flesh in “the last days.” But we continue here on Earth 2000 years later.
The Biblical teaching is often summarizes as saying that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent.
That His return is imminent means it can happen at any time. Though we don’t know the hour, we are to prepare as if it could be any hour, even this hour.
But the “last days” as Michael Kruger, the president of Reformed Theological Seminary says, “is not about the quantity of time. It is about an eschatological concept that the next thing that will happen on an eschatological level is that Jesus will return.”
Or to say this another way, that which Jesus did in his first coming—his life, death, and resurrection—fulfilled much of the Scripture, leaving only the very final things in God’s plan remaining.
So we are in the “last days” as the apostles also were in the “last days.”
And we patiently look forward to Christ’s return saying “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.”
James gives the example: “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.”
And as we, like the farmer, toil in this world, we are to know that one day the work will be done and the harvest will come. We will be in the eternal rest of heaven, blessed by all the fruit of the Lord provided by the Lord.
So he says, “be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Prepare you hearts, and do it now. Do not wait until it is too late, but come to the Lord now, for the end is at hand, it is near.
Let us be patient as Christ our savior is patient.
[1Ti 1:15-16 ESV] 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
II. Do Not Grumble
First, James has told us to be patient, then he says “do not grumble.” [REPEAT: Do not grumble]
This is sorta the opposite of patience; grumbling.
Those who are impatient grumble about their current situation.
Now, very interestingly, while the Scriptures often tell us not to grumble, we may bring our concerns to God DIRECTLY in prayer. He just doesn’t want us to do it as if behind His back, as if that were even possible.
So if you have some trouble, go to the Lord in prayer. In the Psalms we see men of God even questioning God, angrily and upset with Him. Yet this is dialogue with God, and not grumbling.
Grumbling is not only an insult to God, but produces bad attitudes among others. So let us not grumble, but speak to the Lord in truth.
James gives two more examples of patience. First, he had spoke of the farmer. Now he speaks first of the prophets, and then of a particular person, Job.
10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.
The prophets remained steadfast. They held out against all opposition. They trusted in the Lord.
And if there is a person who was steadfast even more than the prophets it was the patriarch Job.
And perhaps he we have a New Testament explanation of the rather enigmatic story of Job. We wonder, “what is going on in the story of Job.” “Why does God bring Job through so much suffering.”
Well, I think, for one that he is foreshadowing Christ, the suffering servant.
But James also tells us this:
“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
So in the story of Job we learn
(1) of his steadfastness. As an example for us.
(2) We learned how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
God blessed Job in the end, though he endured many trials.
Calvin explains that while Job’s patience was somewhat deficient, it is deservedly commended because throughout all Job surrendered himself to God, and was ever willing to be restrained and ruled by him.
We have that phrase “The Lord is compassionate and merciful.” And in many places in the Old Testament there is added the following “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Slow to anger.
The Lord has shown great patience with us, though we sin. Let us be patient with others as well.
III. Do Not Swear Falsely
Finally, there is a third command from James: do not swear.
12 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.
Now, we actually have a full chapter in the Westminster Confession of Faith on “Lawful Oaths and Vows.”
So we understand James’ command not to be the whole story.
In general, we are not to swear, but to build up our “name” with honesty and integrity.
But this does not preclude some necessary oaths. When you’re in a court row it is OK to swear to the tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
And as James says, we do not swear by heaven or by earth, but as the confession says oaths “are not to be made to any creature but to God alone.”
1. Consider the “Long Game”
James seeks that his listeners do what is right with an eye towards the eternal.
The short term “solutions” – anger, grumbling, and lying—are no solutions at all.
But we are to cultivate the virtue of patience, which is a fruit of the spirit, so that we might be sanctified and thus drawn closer to God.
Patience isn’t just good for the recipients of it, but it is good for you as well who practices it.
2. Establish Your Hearts
Let your faith be firm, without wavering.
When something is established it does not change. This particular church, as group of people meeting to give praise to God, was established in 1803. And it still remains. Many other institutions have been established and have lasted even longer.
But you don’t “establish” something that is fleeting. When something is established it is with an eye towards longevity, towards the long term. And it is with an eye towards not changing.
So we want to establish our hearts upon Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit, not one day thinking one way and then thinking something contrary the next, but living on the Rock of our salvation.
All other ground is sinking sand. And we should not let the winds of doctrine effect us, but stay true to the Faith once given to the Apostles.
And we must realize this the work of God.
Establish our hearts, o God, as you have established the work of your hands.
3. Prepare for the Coming of the Lord
Now finally, prepare for the coming of the Lord. While the Lord’s coming is imminent, the fact that we are to cultivate patience may indicate that the Lord has unfinished business before he returns. And indeed the Scriptures tell us about things that must occur before the end comes.
Yet even so, even if there is a delay from our perspective in the Lord’s coming, we should prepare for it. As James says earlier, do not store up treasures on earth.