I have my great grandfather’s diary, and he writes about the first time he voted. He came to this country from Scotland, became a citizen, and was very active in local politics, and he prized the right to vote. The first time he voted was shortly after the Civil War. After voting, he went home and went to bed. No television to watch. No Internet sites to download. Nothing but the next day’s newspapers, which of course had nothing but the local election results. Gathering information back then was very slow – but they were used to it.
On the other hand, we live in a world of immediacy. We want something, we want it right then and there.
We call for a pizza delivery, and 30 minutes is too long to wait. Gotta have it now.
We graduate college and we don’t want to work our way slowly up the ladder, we want to jump into the highest paying jobs right then and there.
We want to lose weight, so do we exercise and eat right? Well – not me. Takes too log.
We are an impatient people.
When James wrote his fifth chapter of his letter, his closing remarks, he was addressing us.
James says to us in verse seven of chapter 5, “Be patient.”
Now that is the last thing impatient people want to hear.
You’ve all heard the old joke about the man who prayed, “Lord give me patience and give it to me RIGHT NOW.
The book of James has a sense of urgency throughout most of the document, so it is a wonderful contrast that James would end his book with a calming voice. “Be patient.”
”Be patient brothers and sisters, 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,”
I’m not sure how many of you plant gardens every year. It is a wonderful process. You plow the field and then you plant the seeds. That sounds simple but it is a lot of hard work. And as you would do with any time that you finished a long, hard job, after plowing the field and planting the last seed, you look back to admire your handiwork.
And what do you see?
Nothing! Just dirt.
The next day you go out and water your garden and what do you see? Nothing. Just dirt.
The next day and the day after that and the day after that you go out and you water and what do you see? Nothing. Just dirt.
Then one day you see something. It’s small and tiny but it is something. At that point you’re not sure if that is corn, or poison ivy. But it’s something. So you keep your eye on it day after day until finally you see that there is a whole row of these “somethings” coming up out of the ground. Corn!
Well, almost. It’s only a half inch tall. Every day you go out and pamper the plants. You water and pull up weeds and wait. Day after day you see how much the corn stalk has grown until one day – an ear appears.
But it’s not ready yet. You let it keep growing, larger and larger until you begin to think – “Maybe I should pick it today? Or maybe one more day?”
And then it is on your table. Fresh from the field and right off the stove.
It doesn’t take a few minutes or a few days. It takes a season in time.
James tells us that we should “be patient brothers and sisters. 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,”
Why is patience so important? It is not just that being patient is healthier and a more stress-free lifestyle than being impatient.
Impatience destroys our faith and hinders our personal lives, our social lives and our spiritual lives.
Impatience even has an impact on our personal economy.
Now these are tough economic times, but James has some good economic advice.
Let’s take another look at how James opens up this 5th chapter, beginning with verse one.
1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.
2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
James goes onto say several things about money and wealth – all of it negative – and then he says this in verse seven:
“Therefore, be patient.”
What do we want in life? Happiness, security, friendship, and love. And these are things that we think a good economy will bring – but is that really true?
These are things that take years to achieve and to cultivate and to nurture. We are too impatient for these things. So instead of spending years to create and find happiness, security, friendship and love – we become impatient. And money becomes our main goal because we think that money will buy happiness, security, friendship and love.
Money doesn’t provide those things, but it does provide us with the illusion of those things. Let’s face it – put a wad of money into your pocket and take people out on the town. Buy them a steak and lobster meal. Buy them an expensive gift. Pick up the tab wherever you go, and you have an instant friend. No waiting required. The problem with that is that when the money is gone, the friendship disappears.
James wrote about how moths eat through the clothing you buy, and how the wealth itself rots away. It’s almost as if James is writing about the 21st Century economy.
We have wonderful goals for our lives – security and friendship and love. But impatience gets in the way.
You want these things in your life? You must be willing to spend a lifetime seeking them.
James also talks about how impatience can interfere with our relationship with others.
6 You have condemned and murdered innocent people, who were not opposing you.
7 Therefore, be patient brothers and sisters. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Impatience makes us judgmental. We don’t want to wait to get all of the facts about an issue. we don’t want to get to know someone. We are an impatient people, so we rush to judgment. As James put it in verse 6, we condemn the innocent person. We grumble against each other.
Even in the church, this sometimes happens.
People sit in ConwayHall and they grumble about other church members, or about the pastor or the church staff, and they don’t build each other up.
Even in the families, this happens.
We grumble about our spouse, or children, or parents, and we forget to speak lovingly about them.
James also speaks of how impatience can interfere with our relationship with God.
James said this:
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering…
13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
In our impatience, we do not pray.
In our impatience, we do not give thanks.
In our impatience, we leave God out of our lives.
Advent is a season that should teach us patience.
Christmas is not until December 25th, and yet we allow this holiday – this holy day – to become a burden. We have to rush around. We rush to do our shopping. We rush to the post office to mail cards. We rush from party to party. It is so easy to be so rushed that there is no time for Christ left in Christmas.
But the Bible calls us to be patient. To stop grumbling and to start building one another up. To be quiet. To be still and to savor life – because life takes time.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved.