Why Wait Is Not a Four-Letter Word

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February 7, 2019

James 5:7-9

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting 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 one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

CONSIDER THIS

No one wants to wait. Nothing like waiting reminds us of our powerlessness to control a situation.

Remember our context. James is writing to a group of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who have been living under the oppression and abuse of the rich, presumably unconverted and unrepentant Jews in the city. Throughout the letter, James has instructed the little church to resist the temptation to resort to violence against their oppressors. In today’s text, James reassures them that the judgment of God was coming soon against their enemies.

Indeed, within decades, the judgment of God came in the form of the Roman army who destroyed the city of Jerusalem. It was an unthinkable catastrophe of epic proportions. It turns out James was exactly right—the Judge was standing at the door. Jesus gave the same warning when he said something to the effect of, “not one stone will be left on top of another,” in speaking of this judgment.

In the face of trial, testing, suffering and hardship we face two primary temptations. First, we want to fight back against our enemies. Retaliation inevitably leads to escalation which turns to outright war. Second, under the stress and strain of the situation we easily find ourselves turning against one another. It begins with grumbling that leads to dissension and finally division.

James reminds us of the promise of God and instructs us in the ways of God: You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Paul would say the same kind of thing to the Christians being persecuted in Rome:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

We do not retaliate. We forgive—which is another way of saying we refuse to fight back. We do not return wrong for wrong. We trust in God’s judgment and the sign of our trust: Patient waiting.

Not only is waiting a sign of trust, it is a mark of courage. The Psalmist exhorts us:

Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

David gives us a vivid picture of the faithfulness of God in the face of our waiting:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3

No one wants to wait. There is nothing that reminds us of our powerlessness to control a situation like waiting does. And nothing like waiting reminds us of who is in control. Far from a passive approach, waiting on the Lord holds the source of our greatest possibilities.

THE PRAYER

God, our Father, I want to be a real Christian. I know this means letting go of my need to be in control of situations and people. Teach me the patience of waiting on you; even in situations where it seems I am waiting on people. Come Holy Spirit and fill me with the fruit of patient love; no more fretting in anxiety. In Jesus name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Why do we hate to wait? What is underneath our disdain for waiting on the Lord?

2. How is waiting an antidote to taking revenge? Are you in the midst of or do you recall a situation where you faced the choice of retaliating against a wrong done to you or trusting in the Lord by waiting for him to act? Which way did you go? What did you learn?

3. Does waiting feel like cowardice to you or courage? Where do you find yourself most “out of control” of the outcomes in your life at the moment? How might you re-orient your approach?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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