(James 5:7-12)

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How about this weather? We’ve been expecting this hurricane system for days now. We have been monitoring the weather, tracking this system and relying on the best technology to predict down to the minute and down to the MPH just where this storm would go and how fast it would blow. And even though we give weather watchers a hard time, they actually are very good at what they do. They really can predict with uncanny certainty what will happen. After all, when you send a plane full of US Air Force Hurricane Hunters into the eye of the storm, I would say that their data is quite reliable. (Now the news media might hype it up, but that’s a different matter).

Think about how different this is from the situation in many parts of the world without access to this technology and think about how very different it would have been in the first century when they notion of a satellite view would have been reserved for God.

Think of the farmer who has tilled the soil not with machines but with muscle and metal and he has dropped seeds into the soil with his own hands. Now all he can do is wait desperately for a crop to bring some sort of return to his toil. There’s no such thing as irrigation, he has to patiently wait on heaven to supply the rain in the proper seasons. Not in his time, but in God’s time. After the nourishment of the rain, he just might harvest a crop. A crop that isn’t simply his livelihood – it is his very life, it is the food that will keep him and his family alive. That is patience!

James has already called us to be patient and to endure ... Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Now, concluding his message, James, the brother of Jesus and the friend of God, uses the image of the patient farmer to encourage Christians to be patient. He wants us to be patient because of the hope that Christ will be arriving soon. Let’s listen to his encouragement and notice the image of the farmer, the judge, and the prophets.

Read James 5:7-11

The farmer works and lives with the eager expectation of something. Christians live in anticipation of the arrival of Christ. We believe that Jesus taught us the ways of God. We believe that the world rejected him and crucified him. We believe that he was buried, but that the power of God raised him from the dead. We believe that he lives and that he rules. We believe that he will return. When he returns, all of creation – even its brokenness and sinfulness – will be judged. Everything will be set right and the Kingdom of Christ will be acknowledged by every creature. Like that farmer who can wait patiently on God’s time, we too will be so patient.

That patience calls for a way of life that is consistent with our hope. It wouldn’t make any sense for the farmer to start selling his field before he harvested it. It wouldn’t make any sense for him to start tilling the soil because he cannot wait any longer. No. And it doesn’t make any sense for us to lose our patience in Christ’s arrival and start grumbling and groaning against others.

James understood that the believers in his day and age could have easily began retaliating against their oppressors or in their frustration they could have turned against one another. We are at our worst when we are under such stress. When we get impatient or even desperate we might take matters into our own hands and start finding someone or something to lash out against. Stress, trials, persecution are no excuse before the judge. James tells us that the judge is at the gate. So let us strengthen our hearts, steel our nerves before we also fall under judgment.

This word for “Strengthen” is the same word used when Luke says that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem.” Christ knows that his trial and his test are before him. All of his teaching about the kingdom and the work of God will either be validated or invalidated depending on how he responds. Will he trust in God to see him through to the end, will he trust in God to vindicate him? [This word vindicate is interesting. It is different from revenge. We think a lot about revenge. Someone has done us wrong and we are going to get them back or expose them. But we cannot vindicate ourselves. A third party does the vindicating – God vindicates us. We must be patient and let him judge. His judgment is better than ours].

The third image James calls us is the prophets. The prophets are heroic figures. People who had a vision larger than what was right before them. He bring in Job to stand among these prophets. Job is the representative of those who have suffered through no fault of their own. Job trusts in a God who will judge all things rightly. Job endures because we waits for the arrival of God to judge all things. Why is James putting the prophets up as an example for us as we wait for the arrival of Jesus Christ? Maybe its because James regards the church as a prophetic community. [And let’s not confuse prophesy with fortune telling. Prophesy is not about predicting the future, it is about heralding the future.] As a prophetic community we don’t have to have special powers or secret knowledge to have vision. We have the story and the witness of those who watched Jesus ascend into heaven. This is no secret. It has been proclaimed for generations. We cannot give you a schedule or program for the end of time, but we can share a promise – Christ will return and will establish a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness. Be patient as you wait. A faithful, enduring, prophetic people can take encouragement from what we do know about the end (not what we have to guess at) – we know that the judge is standing at the gate and we know that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. So be patient. Humble yourself! Don’t grumble and groan! Why would we grumble and groan? Christ is coming back and that is good news for the friends of God.

[Prisoner of War Camp Liberated before they were Liberated]

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 September 2008

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