Is your patience being tried?  Or, perhaps you are trying someone’s patience?

7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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. (James 5:7-11, ESV)

Patience is a virtue … indeed!  I often find my self feeling rather un-virtuous in this regard.  What words come to mind when you think of patience?  (waiting, anticipation, endurance, steadfastness, suffering, perseverance, relief, satisfaction)

James links our patience with the coming of the Lord, gives us an agrarian analogy, and then reinforces it with the reminder of the imminent return of the Lord.  Let’s not overlook the importance of this precept.  We have a greater reason to be patient than anyone who is lost … this is all temporary!  Our troubles, our frustrations, our pain, our fear, … all the things that remind us of our not-yet-glorified, not-yet-fully-perfected, mortal state.  Our citizenship is in Heaven and, at any moment, our King will take us home to be with Him in glory forever!  Jesus is coming soon!  We will be glorified … made perfectly whole in Him.

And when our King – the Righteous Judge – returns, justice will be executed.  So, in demonstrating patience with one another, don’t go around grumbling and complaining about each other.  Be sure of your right relationship with the Lord and with others lest you are condemned as well.  It’s quite likely that none of us has had to endure as Job did … we can certainly follow his example and learn from his dialog with his wife, his friends, and God.

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 5:12)

This clearly aligns with Jesus teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:33-37) that our word alone should carry the reputation of being reliable and trustworthy.  Following James exhortation to patience, this lays a solid foundation for avoiding things that confound patience.  Don’t over-commit yourself … you’ll only end up frustrating yourself and others.  At the same time, be certain to follow-through on that to which you do commit.

Why Do Bad … Rather, Why Do Good Things Happen?

We humans often find ourselves wondering why bad things happen to good people.  I’ve caught myself doing it … even saying it aloud.  Yet the premise is entirely wrong!  Can any human claim goodness?  Jesus Himself said: “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18, ESV)  Paul tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)  And we who have been saved are not saved as a “result of works“, but “by grace … through faith” in the atonement of Jesus blood, the “gift of God.” (Rom 8:28-29)

So, if not one of us can claim goodness, what happened?  God did create everything “good,” including humans (Gen 1:31).  But, being created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), mankind was given a free will – an innate ability to choose and decide how to live, act, etc.  And, being less than Divine, man and woman chose to act against the will of God (Gen 3:1-13).  The consequence was a series of curses pronounced upon the serpent, woman, and man (Gen 3:14-19) … even more, upon all of creation.

Paul eloquently discusses all this in the context of God’s redeeming re-creation:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8:18-25)

Paul acknowledges and accepts suffering as part of our existence in this age.  But he goes on to complete our understanding.  All of creation is watching, waiting, and seeing what God is revealing of the firstfruits of His re-creation … we who have been born again into new life by the indwelling of His Spirit.  And just as our souls have been made new, one day our bodies will be redeemed.  All of creation is groaning with anticipation, just as we do, for the glory to come.

In the mean time, why do good things happen to any of us?  James declares, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17).  And God is not prejudicial in this regard; “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:45).  ” 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17–18).

So, the next time someone asks or you find yourself wondering “why do bad things happen” … remember and declare the glorious, incomparable hope that belongs to all who are redeemed, made new, and being made new by the precious blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God!

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:50–55)

Understanding the Trinity by Analogy

Liquid/Solid/Gas certainly is readily understandable as three unique states of the same substance – but no single molecule exists simultaneously in all three states. Another that stands out to me is being a father, son, and husband (a spiritual union) all at the same time – yet human constraints still remain. The analogy drawn from Scripture that is more universally applicable to all of humanity and for me the truest theologically is that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27, ESV) – patterned after the likeness of the Divine and made to love Him with all (heart, soul, and mind … three-in-one) of that image (Deut 6:4-5; Mark 12:30).

Not Against Flesh and Blood

I found myself blessed and exhorted by a devotional from Greg Laurie yesterday regarding the misguided human efforts of too many Christians today. How desperately we need to return to preaching the Word and earnestly, sincerely praying without ceasing! (1 Thess 5:17, ESV) The Christian (and likewise the church) who doesn’t pray isn’t pursuing God … isn’t knowing God … is like a body dying and disconnected from life-support. Greg raised the example of the response of the church when James was executed and Peter was thrown in prison … “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (Acts 12:5) Politics, protests, boycotting, and such are not even mentioned … because we battle not against flesh and blood. (Eph 6:12) Our battles must begin and end and be executed in the arena of spiritual warfare … along with all the armor of God, we must pray! (Eph 6:13-18) Indeed, when the Word and/or the Spirit move us to action in the physical realm, then we must humbly, lovingly, and boldly obey (James 4:17); but not without being prepared for the real battle which is spiritual.