God’s Guide to Painful Waiting (James 5:7-11)￼
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God’s Guide to Painful Waiting
Ten crucial commitments to enable you to endure patiently
The Test of Patient Endurance–James 5:7-11
I want to describe for you three levels of patience–easy, difficult and painful. Maybe you’re one who says, “I’ve had my patience tested, and it came out negative.” Or you pray, “Lord, grant me patience–but please hurry.” Or patience–what you have only when there are too many witnesses. Or patience–the art of concealing your impatience.
Each one of you have experienced a test of your patience. It’s your kids who get distracted and don’t make it to the car to be able to leave on time. It’s your spouse who says she’s ready to go, then has seven more things to do while you wait. It’s your friends who arrive at noon, when they said they’d pick you up at 9 am. It’s the Lord, who delays answering your school problem, work issue, or financial strain. Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to have a good attitude while waiting.
All of that is part of growing patient–that’s easy patience. The more challenging waiting involves endurance through difficult trials. When you think, “This circumstance is not fun . . . this event really hurts . . . this person is a massive challenge . . . this trial is really wearing”–when counting it all joy seems unnatural because it has to be supernatural, that is difficult patience. This is the patience needed to endure pre-chosen, designer, hard to live under trials.
But there is a deeper level of patience—one that all Christians, at some point, will come to know well. I call it painful waiting. These are long-term, life-altering, character building, specially designed trials that knife you into Christlikeness. Some examples would be living with a debilitating, unknown illness, the ongoing crisis of living with a rebellious, unforgiving, spiteful child, working through your inability to have children, thinking you were Christians when you were married then waking up one day to be married to an unbeliever, having to keep your job but working for an oppressive boss every single day, discovering you have serious medical issues which will probably lead to your death, suddenly experiencing a physical injury which destroys your dreams of scholarship, finding yourself attractive, godly, a real catch desiring marriage but not married at 35, losing your source of income then finding yourself in impossible debt, seeing your entire retirement stolen by unscrupulous employers, lawyers or partners, being falsely accused and watching your reputation be damaged and being cheated out of your just wages by devious, so-called Christians.
Those are the believers James is now instructing. Open your Bibles to James 5:7 to 11–one of the most helpful passages in dealing with painful waiting in the entire Scripture. Where do you go when you’re at the end of your rope, when you’re at the bottom of the barrel, when you don’t know what to do or how to think because the trial is so painful? You turn to James 5:7 to 11.
I’m so excited about this passage to minister to you. As one of your pastors, I want them to be the cup of cold water while you’re in the midst of the heat of painful trial. I want them to be a comfort to your heart, restore your joy, strengthen your trust. I hope they will be the metal railing that keeps you from falling into the hole of despair. For those who are not born again, I want God’s truth to be so attractive to you, that in your pain you surrender to Christ in order to know His compassionate comfort–because these verses only belong to God’s transformed children.
Ten-point sermons are typically a challenge, but I hope God’s Word will bless you and be a tool for you to help others. Hang on to the bookmark/card we will give you as you leave worship today, to help you when you are experiencing painful waiting, and for you to share/give away to those who need the Lord’s help during their dark seasons. Here is God’s guide to painful waiting from the half-brother of Christ. In just five verses, James gives you ten truths for you to lean on, trust with, hope for and rest in.Before we read these verses together, observe some obvious truths. This passage is for Christians–James calls them “brethren” three times, in verses 7, 9 and 10. This passage is about patient endurance–those terms are used six times–twice in verse 7, verse 8, twice in 10 and in verse 11. This passage is also about an eternal perspective, as James twice describes the coming of the Lord. This passage is loaded with illustrations of painful patience–verse 7 the farmer, verse 8 the return of Christ, verse 9 facing Christ as Judge, verse 10 the Old Testament prophets, and verse 11 Job.
Now read aloud with me this crucial paragraph on painful waiting, starting in verse 7 of James 5. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
In verses 1 to 6, James just finished condemning rich farmers who were not paying and taking advantage of their poor Christian fieldworkers. These were wealthy businessmen who attended church, but were not genuine Christians–guilty of oppressing poor saints. Now in verses 7 to 11, James gives instructions to those who are the oppressed–these genuine believers have ongoing painful circumstances. They can’t feed their family.
James says the answer is not to physically attack the financially fake–don’t blame them for your problems, don’t slander them on Instagram or write a bad review on Yelp. Don’t secretly wish they would suffer, don’t seek revenge, don’t hold a grudge, don’t graffiti their house, don’t play mean tricks on them, don’t stay mad. No–James gives you ten truths to rely upon when painful waiting. To endure painful waiting, the key is to depend on God’s Word as if it were a life-preserver. So God’s guide involves . . .
#1 Cultivating HOPE for a great future Verse 7a
This life is not the end. This world is not your home. Your body now is not the body you will live in for all eternity–Christ will resurrect a new body that can eat, go through walls, does not age, will not break, cannot ache, and never needs repair. Your current address here is not your home–your home is Heaven. The Lord will take you from this stinky, temporary shack, to your eternal mansion. Christ is coming to end this world and begin the next perfect, flawless, sinless world.
Start cultivating a certain hope for your fantastic future. James says it this way in verse 7, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” Patience is to be long-tempered, meaning it takes a long time for you to get mad, upset, frustrated or agitated. Patience shows itself by being even-tempered, even during painful seasons. Patience is often defined as longsuffering.
So James commands you in the same way God holds back his anger over this world, you hold back your impatient anger in this world, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ is coming. He promised He’d come back, like the Lord said in Matthew 26:64, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Every Christian is to live in the certainty, Christian hope, of Christ’s return.
Why did Paul endure such suffering, work so hard, go through such difficult circumstances, endure so many beatings? He told us in 2 Timothy 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” In the midst of painful difficulty, cultivate the certain hope of eternal glory. To endure painful waiting, you should also be . . .
#2 Recognizing there are different SEASONS in life Verse 7b
Every farmer understands the difficulty of each season. In Israel, there were seasons of dry and seasons of rain. Farmers had to wait for the beginning rains for their crops to sprout and wait for the later rains for their crops to produce. Every farmer plants seed and prepares the soil, but does not reap a crop immediately. God must send the rains to water the soil, then comes the harvest. (The early rain came in October/November and the latter rain in April/May.) Even so, a Christian must be patient, knowing that Galatians 6:9, “In due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary.”
And that waiting was often agonizing, because it meant the difference between feeding your family or starving. They had to trust the Lord when it was dry. So James says this in verse 7b—look, “The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” James says to trust the Lord during the dry seasons (when life becomes risky, painful, dangerous or scary—and trust the Lord during the difficult dry seasons.
Every Christian and every church experiences full seasons and empty seasons, easy seasons and difficult seasons–seasons of struggle and seasons of sweetness–seasons of doubt and seasons of trust–seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow. Learn to trust the Lord in the dark, dry, difficult seasons, remembering they’re temporary. Remember Ecclesiastes 3:1 to 4, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2A time to give birth and a time to die; …3A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
There are different seasons in your life. During the seasons when the pain and hurt seem to linger, you must remember the other seasons where the Lord blessed and brought joy. Trust in the Lord’s providential care and in His all-wise plan. Remember Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” James here pictures Christians as spiritual farmers, looking for a coming spiritual harvest. When the waiting is painful, remember God is producing a harvest in our lives. Waiting in pain also demands . . .
#3 Being certain your HEART is confident in Christ’s coming Verse 8
While experiencing painful waiting, let your heart be strengthened by His soon return. Verse 8, “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” Two commands–the first is calling you to be steadfast, immovable, longsuffering–but how? Strengthen your heart–James gives a call for resolute, firm courage and commitment. Do not collapse under the weight of suffering, difficulty, persecution or painful trial–but shore up your heart with the soon-to-come Rapture.
Strengthen is from a root word meaning to cause to stand or to prop up. James urges those about to collapse under the weight of painful waiting, persecution and hurt to prop themselves up with the hope of the Savior’s return. Spiritual strengthening is seen in Scripture as the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, like in Ephesians 3. But here, James presents strengthening as the believer’s responsibility, and it is true. God sovereignly strengthens through his Spirit, but you must accept responsibility to strengthen your heart.
The Christian life is not let go and let God, nor is it legalistic self-effort. You are responsible to act upon your will while you depend on the Spirit. And James teaches here, get your heart in the right place in the midst of your painful waiting. Be certain your heart is confident in Christ’s coming. The Bible teaches no one knows the day or the hour when Christ comes again–His coming will be as sudden as lightning. But you must be watchful and ready–and the tougher living in this world is, the more confident you must grow He is coming.
The Lord will snatch you away from all this sorrow, pain, difficulty and struggle. And you need to live each day making certain your heart is convinced He is coming soon. Christ’s return is imminent, near, soon, not distant. Romans 13:12, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Don’t try to change your circumstances, but do allow the Spirit to change your heart. To endure painful waiting, trust in what God says. Also . . .
#4 Not blaming PEOPLE as your problem Verse 9a
Avoid blaming others for your pain, your sin, your difficulty, or your circumstances. Get this, James is telling those who are oppressed not to blame the oppressor. In the rest of verse 9, to leave all that hatred, struggle, blame, complaint and groaning to the Judge. Our Judge, Jesus Christ, will make all things right and all things just. He brings justice. He will condemn the oppressor perfectly and He will reward the oppressed perfectly.
Look at what James says in verse 9, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another.” I love the word complain–it is more accurately translated groan or sigh. Those who cause you pain, discomfort, displeasure which results in you groaning. It literally means to groan within oneself. It describes an attitude that is internal and usually unexpressed. It is a bitter, resentful spirit that manifests itself in one’s relationships with others.
James just said in verse 8 that this painful waiting will affect your heart–so stop groaning against others as a way to escape your pain or keep the Lord from working in your heart. Stop blaming others, because the Lord wants to work on you. Don’t use others as an escape to keeping the Lord from working in you. And with this present tense, continual, ongoing command–James says do not let your brothers and sisters in Christ ever cause you to groan in your heart.
Don’t allow your painful trials turn you into a triple C–a Critical, Complaining Christian. You and I both know, people are easy to blame. But most often, what we blame others for is actually true of us–they make us mad because they remind us of what’s wrong with us. Relationships are messy, people are sinful–don’t let them take your focus off of Christ. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are not the reason for your painful waiting.
You all know the poem, “To walk above with saints we love, That will indeed be glory; To walk below with saints we know–Well, that’s another story!” So James says, don’t groan about them–and now adds, you must not be their judge.
#5 Remembering God is the one you must ANSWER to soon Verse 9b
Even under pain, live each day knowing you will be judged for your life and choices. In verse 9b, James gives his readers a powerful motive for avoiding bitter groaning—”so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” Those who do not know the Lord will face final judgment and the sentence will be eternal damnation. But all of us here who do know the Lord will also be judged. Speaking to you, Christian, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
James reminds you and his other readers in verse 9, “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” Christ, the final judge, the only eternal judge, is about to open the doors to His courtroom and convene His court. Knowing that the strain of hardship, pain and persecution will lead to groaning against others, James cautioned his readers against the sin of complaining, lest they lose their full reward before our great Judge. Second John 8 cautions with this challenge, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”
Why? James reminds you, Christ, the divine Judge is ready to throw open the doors and burst onto the judgment scene–so don’t blame people and know even in pain, there is reward. When you’re in painful waiting, do not judge others, no matter what they’ve done–Christ, the Judge, is at the door. He hears what is said, and He will come quickly and make things right. Murmuring and complaining are serious sins among God’s people. When we remember, “Here comes da Judge,” we will not complain and groan so much. To make sense of our hurtful trial, we should be . . .
#6 Accepting that Painful Waiting is nothing NEW Verse 10
Realize painful waiting is normal and the Lord has given us examples to follow. Verse 10, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” The Old Testament prophets, including John the Baptist, serve as a fitting example of those who patiently endured evil treatment from people because they spoke in the name of the Lord. The persecution endured by Israel’s prophets is a sad catalog of hurtful rejection and harsh abuse.
Moses and the rebellious Israelites, David chased by Saul, Elijah hated by Jezebel, Ezekiel and the death of his wife, Daniel torn from family as a youth, Hosea and a heartbreaking marriage, and so many others demonstrated patience in order to encourage you and me to run the Christian race with diligence, no matter how much it hurts, nor how painful it is, nor how long we must endure.
Verse 10, every one of His prophets were in the will of God, yet they suffered. James says they were preaching, verse 10, “in the name of the Lord”–yet they were persecuted. Satan will often tell born again believers that their suffering is the direct result of sin, or their unfaithfulness. They are tempted to believe, “God is punishing me.” But biblical truth affirms that those who live godly will be persecuted and suffer.
Don’t ever think that obedience automatically produces ease and pleasure. Our Lord was obedient, and it led Him to the cross. The prophets encourage us by reminding us God cares for us when we go through painful sufferings for His sake. James reminds Christians of Old Testament believers who suffered under the hands of sinners, yet trusted the Lord during their painful waiting–how? To endure painful waiting, rely on what God promises. What’s that?
#7 Trusting in the Blessing which comes with ENDURANCE Verse 11a
James reminds his readers, he too will suffer painful trials and difficult waiting–James includes himself in verse 11. “We . . . count those blessed who endured.” You are blessed when you endure–James already affirmed this truth in chapter 1 verse 12, “Blessed is a man who perseveres [endures] under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Endure comes from two Greek words, to remain and under. You are blessed when you remain under the weight of the painful trial and patient waiting.
Even in this life, Paul was blessed with dependence on God, special grace and spiritual strength–all the while he was repeatedly, unjustly assaulted by Satan through fallen men. God’s blessing does not come to people who do great things, but to people who endure. Those who receive the greatest blessing in the life to come are those who have endured the greatest suffering in the present world. The hope of blessing now and in future glory should motivate you to endure painful waiting and hurtful trials. Also, you should be . . .
#8 Knowing that God has DEEPER purposes for your endurance Verse 11b
God shows you His greater purposes with Job. “You have heard of the endurance of Job.” Job is powerful proof God designed your painful waiting to accomplish greater purposes. Job didn’t know what was going on, but God intentionally worked everything together for Job’s good and God’s glory through Job’s incredible pain, long hurt and hardship.
The book of Job is a long book, filled with speeches that seem tedious. The first three chapters are Job’s distress–where he loses his wealth, his family (except for his wife, who told him to commit suicide), and his health. In chapters 4 to 31 are Job’s defense, as he debates with his three friends and answers their false accusations. Then chapters 38 to 42 give Job’s deliverance–first as God humbles Job, then as the Lord honors Job and gives him twice as much as he had before.
This amazing book describes unimaginable endurance in suffering–the fierce attacks of Satan, the loss of his children, the loss of his wealth, his health, his reputation and worst of all, his sense of God’s presence. Job does bemoans his misguided comforters, and Job does cry out in confusion–yet through it all Job didn’t sin or blame God, but what does Job say in Job 13:15a? “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
Job is the classic example of a man who patiently endured suffering and was blessed by God for his persevering faith. By pointing to Job, James is convincing his readers that God has a purpose in your painful waiting, just as He did for Job’s. Which should lead you to be . . .
#9 Longing for the OUTCOME of God’s painful dealings Verse 11c
Greater joys are ahead for those who remain faithful. James says, speaking of Job in verse 11, “and have seen the outcome [or completion] of the Lord’s dealings.” Remember for a moment just how difficult Job’s suffering was–no comfort was given Job, he did not know what was going on “behind the scenes” between God and Satan. Job’s friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. They said to Job, “There must be some terrible sin in your life, or God would never have permitted this suffering.”
Job disagreed with them and maintained his innocence (not perfection) during the entire conversation. His friends were wrong–God had no cause against Job (Job 2:3), and in the end God rebuked His friends for telling their speculative lies, Job 42:7. But it gets better. After losing his wealth, health and family, after being tormented by errant friends who interpreted his godly responses to suffering as hypocrisy—the outcome of the Lord’s dealings with Job now gives hope to each one of you who are enduring painful waiting and unknown suffering. You and I know there were at least four important divine purposes for Job’s suffering.
1) to test his faith and prove it genuine
2) to thwart Satan’s attempt to destroy his faith
3) to strengthen Job’s faith and enable him to see God more clearly, and
4) to increase Job’s blessedness
All those purposes were realized because Job remained loyal to God. God describes the outcome in Job 42:10 to 17, “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold. . . Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.” The book of Job ends with a list of all of God’s blessing given to his loyal and faithful servant—why? To encourage you during times of painful waiting. Ask the Lord, “How can I honor you, my Savior, during this time of hurt and pain?” To endure painful waiting, depend on what God teaches like a lifeline—be . . .
#10 Rejoicing over God’s amazing CHARACTER Verse 11d
You can trust the Lord because He is all-wise, in control, all-powerful, trustworthy, loving, perfect, provident over every detail and every relationship. He even died for you. So in great wisdom, James ends this paragraph by taking the most common negative temptations off the table. James will not allow you to respond like so many do. What does James say? Verse 11, “that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
What do people say when they’re suffering through a long difficult trial–painfully waiting. What are you tempted to think? “God doesn’t care for me.” No, James says God is compassionate. Your Lord weeps over your pain like at the tomb of Lazarus. God cares for what you’re going through. “Full of compassion” is only used here in the New Testament and might be a word James coined. It literally means many-boweled, reflecting the Hebrew idiom which spoke of the bowels or stomach as the seat of emotion–you feel it in your gut. So to say God is many-boweled is to affirm the Lord has a massive capacity for compassion. This is seen in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
And the second most common wrong response to times of painful waiting–the second temptation? “God is punishing me.” No–James says God is “merciful”. And mercy is not giving you punishment–mercy is not giving you what you deserve! Ephesians 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” God is not punishing you—no, God punished His Son instead of you.
Paul continues in Ephesians 2 verse 5, “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” In the midst of your trial, celebrate the character of Christ and the work of Christ. In the midst of injustice, reflect on who Christ is and what Christ has done for you. He is not punishing you, but gave you mercy instead. He is not indifferent to your pain–no, He is full of compassion for you.
In light of all this helpful truth, the most important truth of all is Christ. Remember . . .
A Christ alone is the JUDGE, not you
Don’t blame people, don’t fight back, don’t groan and don’t complain about how unjust your situation is, or how mean those people are. James just taught you in verses 1 to 6. He will punish the oppressors, not you. God will bring justice. God will fix all injustices. So do not take matters into your own hands.
Do not try to get them back. God says in Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Christ is the judge. He will deal justly with all offenders and oppressors.
B Christ alone is the One you RUN to
When you find yourself in the furnace, child of Christ–go to the throne of grace and receive all the grace you need to endure from Hebrews 4:14 to 16, “Jesus the Son of God… 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Run to Him in prayer. Remember, the Lord has a gracious purpose in all of your suffering, and He will work out His purposes in His time. You’re not a robot caught in the jaws of fate. You’re a beloved child of God, privileged to be a part of His perfect plan for your good and His glory.
C Christ alone has the truth which will allow you to ENDURE
The trials, suffering and persecution that are a part of painful waiting as God’s true child can be patiently endured by cultivating a hope for a great eternity, having a confident heart in the Lord’s coming, an understanding that this is just a season, recognizing the Lord’s judgment, not blaming people, following the examples of great people of God, trusting in the Lord’s deeper purposes, knowing His blessings are coming, and embracing the Lord’s compassionate and merciful character.
Trust in these truths during dark seasons–let your heart take root in them again and again and again. To endure painful waiting, the key is to cling to God’s Word as your only hope and lifeline.
D Christ alone can make you ALIVE
Sadly, many in the Church today are accepted as Christians because they talk about Jesus and claim a superficial allegiance to Him. Yet an examination of their lifestyle reveals they do not walk in obedience to His commandments. Their lust for money and possessions betrays their true allegiance. And their lack of trust in Christ during seasons of trial reveals their true character.
Do not be content to know about Christ, but only being intimate with Christ. Do not settle for hearing the Word of God, but heeding the Word of God in everything. Don’t lull yourself with surface church attendance, but be immersed in Christ and His bride. Do not lie to yourself about praying a prayer once, but ask yourself–is Christ in you? If He is, then He will show through you by you wanting to obey His Word, willing to do all that He wants regardless of the cost, and worshiping Him with your entire life. Let’s pray.
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