Friday, June 3, 2011

Patience, Pettiness, Persecution and Promises

Today's passage:  James 5
     I've mentioned before that I have been doing some gardening.  Last spring, when I planted my tomato plants, my then 2 year old son, was very excited about it.  He was anticipating those tomatoes arriving.  In fact, as soon as I put them in the ground, he sat right down next to them and waited for the tomatoes to appear.  He couldn't understand why they weren't producing as soon as I put them in the ground.
     I wish I had that same enthusiasm for Christ's return.  I believe He is coming back (some day), I'm excited about the prospect of being reunited with Him in the air (sometimes).   James tells believers to be patient.  This time the word doesn't bother me.  I'm not sure about you, but I don't always have the sense of urgency for Christ's return that I should.  If I did, I'm pretty sure I would live differently.
      In verse 7, James tells the Christians to wait like a farmer waits for his crops to grow.  He says to "stablish your hearts" which reminds me of a plant that is first put in the ground.  It's roots have to get used to the ground, the seed sown needs water and sunshine so that it can establish roots. Some years, when I first put a plant in the ground it looks pretty feeble.  Strong winds could blow it over.  But as it collects the sun rays and the rain, it steadily grows stronger, and it can withstand any storm.  What can I withstand?  
     In the following verses, James explains how to exhibit patience.  God tells me if I am to have patience, I need to stop begrudging fellow believers. Ugh. I think I know why.  What does it matter the trivial little things that others do to upset me?  We will be meeting our Lord in the sky, maybe even today, and the things of this earth are not going to matter anymore.  That beef I have with my brother or sister in Christ is not going to make the tiniest difference when I meet with my Lord, unless I have chosen to hang onto it.  Better let it go.
     In verses 10-11, he says to look to persecuted Christians for examples of patience.  If I were a Christian in Indonesia, Syria, or other parts of the Middle East and Africa, I would not even be able to carry my Bible.  I would not be able to attend church publicly.  I heard once that in China (this was years ago, I don't know how it is today) the believers there only mouthed the words to hymns, no music, because they could not be caught singing praises to the Lord for fear of imprisonment or death.  They understood the importance of singing praises to the Lord, even when they could not sing aloud.  When I think about these things, how do I have the right to grumble and complain about ANY thing?  I don't.  I am so selfish.  I am so ungrateful.  James says to remember these, because in doing so, I can be patient with people and circumstances. 
     Then he says, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay: lest ye fall into condemnation."  Don't make a promise I can't keep.  It seems obvious why we shouldn't do this.  We all have fallen victim to unreliable people.  We all have been unreliable people probably at some point.  It used to be that a handshake was a man's word.  That really means nothing these days, and that is a shame.  We have to do background checks and consult a person's references on the smallest matters anymore.  I'm not saying those things shouldn't be done, it is just disheartening that it needs to be this way.  A Christian especially should be reliable.  As a Christian, I should especially do everything in my power to fulfill what I set out to do.  I find this particularly discouraging at church.  I would say why, but then I would be grumbling against my fellow Christian, and I have just been convicted about this.  I will say this.  If God gives me something to do, I should take it on with gusto.  I should try to fulfill every detail of the task, despite my other responsibilities because wood, hay and stubble time will be coming soon.  I want gold, silver and precious stones and I want to invest in things that are eternal.  When I think about Christ's coming, I do not want to leave anything behind that could have been a witness for Him.  If I falter in my promises, I will cause unbelievers to doubt my word about Christ.  If I fail Christians, I become a stumbling block.  This verse says, that over all the things he has mentioned, "above all things", this is the most important.  Why?  Because grumbling may occur on my own time, not in front of others, it might not impact my testimony.  I do not have persecuted Christians before me every day, so I must think about them to really affect me.  However, keeping my word is an everyday tangible representation for believers and unbelievers to see whether I believe what I say I believe.  If I can keep my promises, they will have faith that God keeps His.  He promised me He would return, didn't He?  If He keeps His promises to me, shouldn't I keep my promises to others? I could make the excuse that we are all sinners and we will all let someone down.  This is true.  I could say, people should follow God, not man.  This is also true.  But do I want to give anyone an excuse?  Do I want to bring shame upon my God in any way? I must consider these things carefully before I ever make a promise I cannot keep.
     It is my prayer that I will more eagerly anticipate His coming.  I am going to try harder to be dependable, to pray for Christians who are suffering, to let go of petty grievances with other Christians.  Just as the farmer waits for his crops to appear, just like my son waited for the tomatoes to grow, I want to wait patiently and in good standing for my Jesus.

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