Locations of visitors to this page
What comes after alters what comes before
Scripture: James 5:7-12
Track 10 of 12 in the Words to Grow By series
Running time: 33 minutes, 08 seconds.

Click above to listen in this window.
Right-click to download MP3. With one-button mouse, control-click.

Be sure to scroll down to read the transcript.

Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, March 6, 2005
10th sermon in an 11 part series
"What comes after alters what comes before"
"Words to Grow By"
(James 5:7-12 )
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

Well, if the optimum word for the day is "hope", we "hope" that we have a front door some day again. I trust you didn't have too much trouble getting into the building and you were able to find your way to an appropriate entrance. If you see somebody out there just kind of meandering around just grab them by the arm, pull them in with you. They may be on their way to Wal-Mart or something but don't worry about that. Just bring them with ya. They won't mind after they get here, I'm sure.

We want to thank you for your willingness to make your way around there as best you can. Please be careful but find yourself a door. There are lots of them. You may even discover there are parking places around here you didn't know about close to a door and you'll get in a new habit.

Thanks for praying with us. We've been waiting for that stuff to arrive for a long time now. Hopefully, it will go up quickly and we'll be back to normal, well, whatever we were before, we'll be back to that.

Our text this morning is James 5 if you want to turn to it. We're going to take a look at it. If you remember the context of this in James 5, the first six verses are about the fact that the poor have been oppressed terribly by the rich. We saw it in James 2:6-7 . We see it in the first six verses of James 5. There is this suffering that's going on at the hands of these oppressive people. Ah, folk not getting paid at the end of the day and therefore not able to eat the next day. Possibilities in James 5:6 that they were going so far as to even allow people to die in the process while they protected their own wealth. And this text opens up with this rather simple statement. Be patient.

Be patient.

Four times in our text he's gonna call them brothers. We know that he's returned to the congregation now. He has taken this little time out in order to make this rather strong statement about those who are the oppressors. But now he comes back to the people and he says four times brothers, here's what I want you to hear. Starting in James 5:7 this is what he says.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No", no, or you will be condemned.

It's interesting how he arranges this particular text. There are three people he wants you to take a look at. He wants you to look at farmers. He wants you to look at prophets and he wants you to look at Job. So I thought, well, let's just go ahead and do that.

Let's just consider the farmer and see how this might happen to work and since I know so much about agriculture and farming I thought this should be an easy one for me to do. I actually discovered that there is a book out there. The title of it is New Seed Starters Handbook and I thought, well, that sounds as good a place for a guy like me as any. New Seed Starters. This lady has gone so far as to be able to tell you when you're supposed to stick those little seeds in the dirt on your window sill ahead of time so you'll know when to plant them out there in the outside stuff when the time comes.

So here it is. This is not mine. This is hers. It may not fit this region of the country. I have no idea. But if you're going to plant tomatoes, she says you've got to do that like six weeks in advance. So if you haven't started, you probably ought to be thinking about that because it won't be long until it will be time to be out in the field and you want those tomato plants started.

You're probably way too late if you're going to start with onions 'cause you've got to have twelve weeks in advance to have that happen.

And if you're going to have eggplant. . . . . . .Now why anybody would want to plant that, I don't know. But if you're going to do eggplant, five/six weeks is plenty of time ahead of time.

I'm thinking that chicken on your window sill is gonna be really tired of sitting there by the time that eggplant gets sprouted, ya know? Sorry!

Farmers probably demonstrate as much patience, well at least, are required to demonstrate as much patience as anybody I have ever seen because you don't get much choice. Sometime in the next few weeks these guys will be out in their fields and they'll be sticking seeds in the ground and there's not a thing you can do after than except wait for it to grow. So he says, wait, watch.

In fact, I was looking for information for this sermon (no kidding!), and I ran across this investment site for those investing in long term investments. This was the closing line. I thought this was classic. "Who has more patience than a tree farmer?" Well, that's a great idea. I'm thinking at my age if I started planting trees in order to have retirement, I'd have to be in my second or third lifetime for it to matter, ya know.

You'd have to start that when you're a kid if you're going to get anything good out of it. We planted trees in 1983 and then we sold the house about the time that they got big enough to give us some shade. Be patient, he says, like farmers.

Then he says this. Consider the prophets James 5:10. Now those I know a little more about. I've spent more time in this particular "field" than I have with any dirt and weeds, so maybe I know this one better.

Hebrews 11 captures that imagery. Just go back half a dozen pages in your Bible. You don't even have to turn very far. Hebrews 11:32 The writer of Hebrews has this to say about the prophets. Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

It's a rather interesting litany isn't it of the experiences of the prophets? I just thought I would walk you through a couple of those. If you want to turn to these, that's fine. Otherwise, just listen.

But back in Jeremiah 20 (he prophet) for example, if James says consider the prophets, this is one that I would consider. Jeremiah 20:1-2 When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord's temple.

That's not a very good response to a sermon. I kinda like that going standing at the back door and having people shake your hand and people saying, "nice talk" preacher. That's not too bad. But I mean to get thrown into the, get clamped in stocks is not exactly my idea of the way to respond.

Jeremiah 38 as well, has that kind of. . . . . Jeremiah by the way didn't do well as a preacher. He was a, he said way too many things that were true.

Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, "This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin."

"He is in your hands," King Zedekiah answered. "The king can do nothing to oppose you."

So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king's son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

That's no way to treat a preacher. But that's how they treated him.

You know the story of Hosea? If you just turn over a few pages from Jeremiah, well several pages from Jeremiah to that first minor prophet. Hosea 1 starts out this way. Hosea 1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." And so, Hosea 1:3 he married Gomer and by the time you get done with the chapter she has left and gone back to her prostitution.

In Hosea 3 this is what the Lord says to Hosea. Hosea 3:1 "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes."

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you."

There's a patient prophet for you, who goes back after a number of years and actually pays the price of a slave in order to buy his harlot wife back and live with her again.

If you go over to the book of 1Kings you run in of course to Elijah and Elisha a great deal and in 1Kings:19 we come right on the heels (I don't want this to sound too simple, but) right on the heels of 1Kings:18. 1Kings:18 is the Mount Carmel experience where Elijah goes and prays and offer the offerings and God wins, which God always does. And Jezebel doesn't like it very much because 400 prophets of Baal were put to death along with some of the prophets of Asherah. 1Kings 19 starts this way.

Now, Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."

Well, that's not a particularly veiled threat. You killed all those prophets and by this time tomorrow I intend to do the same thing to you. That's an e-mail message that I'm not going to open. Thanks very much! So if you have that idea just put something in the subject line so that when I open it tomorrow morning I'll be able to delete it instead of read it.

This is how the prophets were treated.

Well, you could keep reading this. You could read about Micaiah who was under a death threat. You could read about Isaiah the prophet, though it's not in his book, tradition, and it is pretty well substantial. They put him inside a hollow tree and then they cut the tree in two. Didn't do him a lot of good. Or there is Zechariah who in 2Chronicles 24 was stoned to death.

The writer of James, James says, consider the prophets. Take a look at prophets. If you want to understand patience and perseverance, look at the prophets. And then he says, well, think about Job. James 5:11 you've heard about Job, he says. Everything that happened to Job.

I think most people know the story of Job but just in case you're not entirely familiar with it. Job is right before the big book of Psalms. Job is that story about a man who seemed to have lost absolutely everything. If you come to Job 1:13 this is what it says.

One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

So all the animals and the servants are now destroyed.

Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

So all of his animals, all of his servants and now all of his children have been destroyed.

You come to Job 2:7 and after this brief conversation that Satan has with God: So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

Well, Job exists in our literature as probably the apodeme of suffering having lost everything; lands and farms, and animals and servants, and children and health and James says. Consider Job. You know about Job and his perseverance? These are all examples that James pulls together in James 5 to remind us of this need that we have for "patient endurance". In fact, four different times in this particular brief passage, twice in James 5:7 and again in James 5:8 and again in James 5:10 he uses this term for patience. It's the idea of expectant waiting. It's the ability to just kind of "hang in there" for awhile.

Twice in this text he's going to use another word, a word for endurance or "fortitude". It occurs twice in James 5:11. It's translated there - "perseverance". That's the same word that he used already three times in James 1 when he tells us to be willing to persevere. It's the imagery of somebody who is able to endure great hardship and come out the other side of it okay.

It's the word you probably would use, for example, to describe Wilma Rudolph, the 20th of 22 children. That alone would be perseverance at least for the mother if not for Wilma. When she was four years old she got double pneumonia and scarlet fever and she ended up paralyzed in her left leg. She learned how to walk by wearing braces. At the age of nine, by sheer will and determination she decided that she was not going to spend her life walking in braces and so she took the brace off and she began to learn to walk on her own. Within a year or so she began to run and she began to enter races. And for the first three years of her life she lost every race she ran. But you probably know Wilma Rudolph, not because she lost all those races, but because in 1960 she won three gold medals at the Rome Olympics as the world's fastest sprinter. That's perseverance. That the "hang in" attitude that James is trying to encourage us to develop in our life. That you don't look at whatever life brings get you down.

You might write the word "perseverance" right there in the dictionary next to a fella by the name of Joey Lee. You might also write right next to that name some other words, but this one at least. Perseverance! He decided in honor of his wife, who had died of cancer, to enter one of those fund raising events for cancer research. He chose to enter the Marathon Disables?? Although I doubt if I'm pronouncing it correctly. It's a 150 mile endurance run through the Moroccan Sahara Desert. At 80 miles the air bags in his shoes exploded in the heat and over the next three days he ran the additional 70 miles on blistered feet because he was not going to give up. His wife had not given up, nor was he.

It's that sense of absolute determination that I will not give up. That's what James is calling for. He's calling for that kind of attitude that says persevere, "hang in there", stay with in, don't give up, be strong, endure. Be patient, persevere.

There are two temptations that are clearly identified in the midst of that kind of experience. The temptations are found in these two verses where you have two phrases - "do not". James 5:9 Do not grumble. Often what in life requires patience produces rather than patience just a grumbling spirit.

You probably heard about the Monk who decided that he was going to go into one of those monasteries where it was absolute silence. He was allowed two words a year. So at the end of the first year the Abbott said, "What do you want to say?" And he said, "Hard bed". Came back the next year and the Abbott said, "What would you like to say this year?" "Cold room." A year later he came back, the Abbott said, "What would you like to say this year?" He said, "Bad food." Another year has passed and he shows up again at the Abbott and the Abbott says, "Well, what would you like to say this year?" He said, "I quit!" And the Abbott said, "Well, it's probably a good thing because all you've done is grumble since you came."

It is the temptation isn't it? When life is hard and things aren't going quite the way that you think they ought to go. One of the things that James says that we're going to be tempted to do is we're going to be tempted to grumble and so he just says it right up front. He doesn't pull any punches. He doesn't hide anything. James 5:9 Don't grumble about it. So can I take my preachers hat off for just a minute?

You know that mess out front? Don't grumble about it. It isn't going to change anything. Just learn to enjoy it. We'll give you two words every year and so next year at this time, if you want to say something about it, we'll ask for your two words. How's that?

The other thing he says don't do is don't swear. Now that's not talking about vulgarity. It's talking about a Jewish practice of swearing, taking an oath. It's down here a bit further in the text in James 5:12. See the Jews had created this system whereby if you swore by God and it was something really significant and you absolutely had to do it. But if you swore by something else, then it really didn't matter. It wasn't nearly as convicting.

What Jesus identifies on the Sermon on the Mount and other places I think James is picking up here is that when life gets hard, one of the things that we sometimes choose to do is kind of segment our life and we'll deal with this part over here, but we're going to let God deal with this part over here. And so he says, don't get in this habit of trying to segment yourself out. And in fact, I think bottom line, what he's trying to say is, you just trust God with this. Don't pull yourself aside and in some way separate yourself from what God is doing. Because that is often the temptation that we have is to try to figure out, well, where did God go in all of this. As if this part of your life he's not involved in because it happens to be difficult. James would remind us that our speech ought to reflect our confidence that God is involved in every part of our life.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is as quickly as I can is this. Being a faithful Christian, being a disciple of Jesus is not for wimps. 'Cause you can't expect it to be easy. James says be patient. There are going to be hard times. You are under oppression. Don't try to take this into your own hands. Just be patient.

The problem is you and I live in a world, it's not totally unlike James world in its philosophy, it's just the way we go about it. We live in a world that we want everything NOW.

Have you noticed the proliferation of ATM machines? You know it used to be that there were those few places you could go and drive through and get money because you didn't want to take the time to go into the bank and actually get the money. And then pretty soon they started showing up everywhere. I mean they are all over the place. You can come to the book store in Lincoln, Illinois and you could go into the mail room and stick your little card in and get $10.00 out and pay a $1.50 in order to do it. And students do it all the time. By the way, that's really expensive money.

My guess is, that it won't be very long and they'll be in Dairy Queens. Now that. . .that one I could accept. 'Cause you just never know when you may really need an ice cream cone.

I mean, we started out with fast foods. You notice that's what we call it? Fast food! We don't talk about it being good food. We talk about it being fast food. And that wasn't fast enough so now we have drive up windows. So that you can get your "fast food" faster and eat it in the car while you're driving fast-ly down the road 'cause you've got places to go.

We are a culture that wants everything NOW. Have you noticed that? You can now actually borrow money against your tax returns so you can get it yesterday.

And if you really, really are insistent on these kinds of things, there are places that you can go that buy these wonderful products that will give you rock hard abs in only three minutes a day. I have some of those, they're just hidden. You can't see them. I'm keeping them protected.

We live in this instant culture. We want everything right NOW. And James says it doesn't happen that way. Life's not like that. Takes time. Take a look at the farmer. He waits. Look at the prophets. They suffered. Look at Job. He wants us to be reminded that there is something in us that is happening that is different than is happening in the world.

In fact, James shifts our attention from what is happening to us, to what God is doing in us. Did you notice that? It's a subtle phrase down here right after he talks about Job. Look at James 5:11 again right in the middle of the verse he says. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. Do you hear it? God was in the process of doing something in Job's life and if Job would just step back a little bit and let that happen, something of enormous importance was going to occur because the Lord, he says, is full of compassion and mercy. You would not think that the Lord was full of compassion and mercy if you read Job 1 & 2. But if you'll allow that suffering experience to make its way to the other end of the book, you'll discover that Job becomes the apodeme of endurance, the apodeme of perseverance, the apodeme of faithfulness. Because in the midst of that hardship, God does something spectacular. That's the message of this text. Be patient! Hang in there! Because God has something going on here that you may not yet be aware of and if you'll just wait, you'll begin to see it out there in the future.

Just listen to this parallel text. Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

James and Paul would remind you that when you endure hard times God produces things in you that are absolutely incredible.

A fella by the name of John Ruskin says it this way. "The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it."

In Phillip Yancy's (??)book Disappointment with God, he tells the story of a friend who's daughter, Peggy, is dying. And one day in a sermon this young girls heard a William Barclay quote that she wrote down on a 3 x 5 card and she carried with her for the rest of her life. The quote was this. "Endurance is not just the ability to bear hard things, but to turn them into glory." To allow them to work their work. So how do you do that?

Two quick answers in James book. Let God take care of things. In the context of being oppressed, the first thing he says is "be patient" and then three times he makes reference to the coming of Christ. You be patient Christians under oppression the Lord's coming, the Lord's coming, the Judge is at the door. In other words, you let God do his work. You don't worry about the oppression and the oppressor. You be patient and let God take care of it because one day he will.

Jesus said it this way. "Bless those who persecute you." Paul said the same thing. "Bless those who persecute you." Don't retaliate. Leave that for God. You just let God do his work.

The second thing that James says is trust God to do what only God can do. And that is to turn these things in a way that will produce in you a character that you cannot imagine having and you won't have outside of some kind of endurance. Some kind of suffering.

There's a wonderful text that I was talking to a friend about. This last week I was teaching in intensive week and we had a guess lecturer on our campus who was a good friend of mine from the last twenty-five or thirty years. We've both been through some very similar experiences in life and he called my attention to a text in Joel 2:25 the prophet, where Joel has been talking about how the locusts have eaten the land. And the promise of the prophet to the people of Israel was this. You wait. You be patient and I will repay you all that the locusts ate. And Gary said, "Ya know, I live in that promise. That all that I have lost in this world, God will ultimately give me back in some form."

God is doing something in you right now in the production of character and hope and he's doing it as you persevere, as you live through hard times. So James would remind us. Be patient, then, brothers until the Lord's coming.

Remember the farmers who wait. Remember the prophets who persevered. Remember Job who suffered and remember God was doing something remarkable in them. Don't grumble! Don't swear! Just trust God and let him do his job.

And that is the challenge this morning. Just trust God and let him produce in you that which he desires to produce. And yeah, there will be some hard times. They're almost, absolutely guaranteed in this life. Be patient! Let God do his work.

And of course you know, we have the greatest model of that possible in the One that we refer to every week here. His name was Jesus. And in Hebrews 12:1-3 it says this; Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross. He knew that on the other side of the pain there was something positive and so he endured the pain to get to the positive. And he set you a model that if you will trust in Him, He will bring you to the other side of that difficult hour and He will produce in you a depth you cannot imagine under any other circumstances. And so one more time we're just gonna invite you to trust him wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, just trust him.

Let's stand together.