Saturday, December 31, 2016

Be Patient

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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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.

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. (James 5:7-12)

We are to be patient in waiting for the coming of the Lord, like a farmer waiting for his harvest.  This is a great image, but it doesn't refer to mere waiting.  No, we are to "establish our hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."  How do we establish our hearts properly? 1 Thessalonians gives us a clue in 3:11-13:

"Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." We learn here:

1. God directs his Word to his children.
2. The Lord makes us increase and abound in love for one another (fellow believers)
3. This Love for one another has a goal: to establish our hearts, like it says in James.
4. Note that Paul adds something else: establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of Jesus.
5. To be blameless before God sounds like a tall order!  It sounds like a lot of work that we are going to have to do quickly.  How is this possible?  Well, remember that ours is a religion of faith, and the faith is in a particular person, and that particular person is Jesus Christ.  So, to be blameless before God is to have your faith solely in Christ's righteousness.  His blamelessness becomes our blamelessness, just as our sin is put on his head.  The only way to be blameless and holy is to be in Christ.  Listen to this benediction at the end of 1 Thessalonians:

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."

God does the work.  All we need is the faith in Christ.  Of course, God gives us that, too, because he is all powerful and he loves us, and he will not let one of his wayward sheep go astray.  We want to high-tail-it and run as far away from him as we can, but he will not let us.

So, when James gives us commandments at the end of his passage--do not grumble against each other (the negative variation of the positive "love one another" from 1 Thessalonians), suffer in patience like Job and the other prophets, and above all do not swear an oath on anything--he is giving us the complete cross section of the entire Word of God.  In these three commandments we find not only Christ's command to love, from his upper-room discourse, but his point from the Beatitudes that those who suffer in patience will see God on the last day.  Finally, we bring the law from the Old Testament forward with the command to not swear--as blasphemy and lying are the most common and easily executed sins in history, including today.  What James has done here is to tell us that our faith in Christ will fulfill not only Christ's command to love, but Christ's encouragement to suffer for your faith, and Christ's exhortation that one keep the totality of the law, better than the scribes and pharisees.  This is only done through faith alone in Christ alone.

As Christ says in the sermon on the mount, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  Are you ready to embrace persecutions?  Are you ready to be blessed?  It is not the easy road.  It is not the wide path.  But it is the way that leads to everlasting life.  The only way to life.