MS Week #40: Holy and Blameless

Brad Libolt speaking on James 5:7-11. He spoke about patience with God and with others. Reminding us that our love for others is evidence of an established heart. Asking us if we are patient in our suffering? And if our hearts are ready for the Lord’s return?

  • Who’s ever been to Disney Land, or an amusement park of some sort? It’s a super fun idea right? But then you get there, get your funnel cake and soda and you’re super excited about the rides and then you wait in line. And sometimes it’s for hours. And while you are waiting in line, watching people get on and off and having an awesome time, you realize in that moment the true meaning of impatience. It’s because you are being impatient. Impatience is something we’ve all experienced, right? Maybe not in line at Disney Land, but maybe while you’re waiting for food to finish in the microwave. Or maybe you’re waiting for a show or a video to buffer. We are all impatient, we all struggle with impatience with various things.
  • It’s partly because of the world we live in. We have instant satisfaction and gratification. Our society and culture is so fast paced, we have everything at our fingertips in seconds. And so when something takes longer than mere seconds, we become impatient.
  • Because we are wired like this, when we experience suffering, we want instant relief. We want instant answers. We want an answer from God right away, because that’s what we deserve. When we experience some sort of suffering or trial or hardship we want it to be fixed right away. We get impatient. It’s our natural reaction. Right now maybe you are going through suffering. Maybe you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, you’ve been bullied or persecuted at school, maybe you are experiencing depression or anxiety or serious self consciousness. Suffering can look like a lot of different things, so what is it for you? Maybe you aren’t going through anything right now, and that’s awesome! But it won’t always be that way. You will go through some kind of suffering at some point in your life, so this message is still relevant to you.
  • Whatever it is, whatever you are going through, your initial reaction is going to be impatience. You want answers, comfort, relief immediately, and you won’t always get it. James is speaking to those who are suffering, and telling them to fight the initial reaction of wanting immediate gratification, and to have patience. He talks about two kinds of patience: patience with God and patience with others.

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.

  • He begins by saying to be patient until the coming of the Lord. We are to be patient until Jesus returns. We don’t have any idea when that will be, if it will be in our lifetime or not, so what James is saying is to be patient always.  There is never a time for impatience.
  • James says to have patience like a farmer who waits for the early and late rains. The farmer’s patience is incredible, because he has no control over the rain. He doesn’t know when the early and late rains are going to fall, but he knows that the precious fruits are worth the wait, so he is patient. The Old Testament talks about the early and late rains a lot, and every time it talks about them it says that God is the one who sends the rains. It isn’t for man to know when the rain is going to come, that is up to God. It is man’s job to just be patient and wait, knowing that God’s timing is best.
  • I grew up on a farm where we grew alfalfa. When you make alfalfa into bales, there has to be dew because the alfalfa needs to be kind of wet. Dew comes late at night and super early in the morning, so there were many nights when my dad, brother, and I would wait for hours for the dew to come on. When it finally did, we could bale for a few hours, then we would have to stop because the hay would get too wet. Then early in the morning, we would do it again and wait for who knows how long until the dew came and we could make hay bales. So it’s the same kind of thing, we didn’t know when the early and late dew would come, but we would wait until it did because we knew the product we were producing was worth it.
  • This is the kind of patience we need to have, the patience of the farmer who’s entire well being rests on something that is out of his hands. When we go through suffering and want answers or comfort or relief or whatever it is, that only comes from God, and we must be patient and wait for it. God doesn’t withhold this from us because he is cruel or inconsiderate, but because he knows the perfect timing. It’s a trust thing. We have to know that what God has for us is worth the wait. We have to trust that God knows when the perfect time is to give us answers, comfort, relief, peace and whatever else we need, and then we wait patiently for it.

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 

  • So, James says just like the farmer, you must also be patient. Then he says to establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Let’s look at what it means to establish your hearts. To do that, let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13.
  • Paul is asking that the Lord would make the Thessalonians increase and abound in love for one another, which includes those who are in the church, and for all, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before God. So, the picture of an established heart that we get in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is connected to loving one another, those in the church and those outside of the church. And also notice, that it is God who gives that love.
  • Ok, so how does that connect with James? Our hearts are supposed to be established for the coming of the Lord. We learn in 1 Thessalonians that for our hearts to be established means that they are blameless in holiness before God. We want to be blameless in holiness before God when Jesus comes back, because that is the only thing that will allow us into a right relationship with God for eternity.
  • And, in 1 Thessalonians we learn that our love for others is evidence of a heart that is established as blameless in holiness before God. And this makes perfect sense, right? Our hearts are established in blamelessness and holiness before God because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die in our place. He did that out of love. And now that we are justified, declared righteous and holy before God, our job is to share that same love with others. Our hearts have to be holy and they have to be blameless in order to enter into relationship with God for eternity. Our love for others is evidence of an established heart.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

  • This is same kind of thing. Don’t grumble against one another, so that we might not be judged, or condemned. Don’t grumble against one another so your hearts will be established, love one another, so that your hearts may be proven established. Do you see what is happening here?
  • Loving one another is evidence of an established heart that is holy and blameless before God. Loving one another is not how we get an established heart, it is how we show our heart to already be established, because of God’s love for us in the gospel.
  • So what does all of this have to do with patience and suffering? It has everything to do with it because when we experience suffering, our relationships tend to break down.
  • Think about it, when we go through suffering, our initial reaction is to turn inwards. We isolate ourselves, seclude ourselves from the world, and try to deal with things on our own. We remove ourselves from our community, our friends, our family, and our small groups. Not only do we isolate ourselves, but with isolation comes grumbling and impatience. We stop loving others. We get consumed by our own suffering, that we don’t want anything to do with anyone else.
  • But that isn’t how God designed us. He designed us to be in community, in relationship with others and with him. We are all going to go through suffering. Some of us are in it right now and those who aren’t, it’s coming. So if we are all going to go through suffering, then let’s go through it together. In fact, we were meant to go through suffering together. We have to continue loving one another even when we are suffering, and especially when others are suffering.
  • So our patience in suffering and our love for others as evidence of an established heart is closely connected. Now let’s talk about the Judge.
  • Jesus came to live the life that we couldn’t, to obey God and keep his commandments and resist the devil and flee from temptation. Then he was crucified on the cross, taking the wrath and penalty for our sins upon himself. He was buried, then he rose again, conquering death and sin and proving himself to be the Son of God. After rising from the dead, he ascended into heaven, but before he left he told his disciples that he would return some day in the same way.
  • When Jesus comes back, he is going to bring final judgment. God, the Judge, will separate those who have established hearts in holiness and blameless from those who don’t have an established heart. Those who do will spend eternity with their creator- and those who don’t will not. We need to ask ourselves if our hearts are truly established. Are we loving others with the love of Christ, or are we grumbling against others and impatient? Are we patient with God and patient with others in our suffering? Are we ready for when our Lord Jesus returns?

10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

  • James says as an example look at the prophets. They experienced intense suffering and persecution, yet remained patient and trusted in God’s plan. Just this last week I was up in Portland for a class on the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet who was proclaiming the word of the Lord, but the things he was proclaiming were really unpopular. No one was listening to him, and he was persecuted. Jeremiah experienced the same thing. The prophets in the Old Testament tried to tell the people what God was saying to them, but they didn’t listen and often persecuted the prophets. The prophets could have become impatient, questioning God’s plan. But instead they had patience, they persevered, they waited on the Lord to send the early and late rains, they established their hearts and continued to love those around them by preaching truth.

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. 

  • Finally, James encourages his readers to remain steadfast. Those who remain steadfast are considered blessed. Then he offers the story of Job as another example.
  • Job gives us one of the most brutal instances of suffering in the Bible. He loses absolutely everything. He loses his livestock and land, his wife and children, and even his own health. He is left with nothing, a kind of suffering I hope none of us ever experience. We learn in the book of Job, though, that even after he had lost everything, he still obeyed God. Job didn’t sin, and he continued to bless the name of the Lord despite his suffering. Job had incredible patience with God. Then Job’s friends show up, and they start accusing Job. They tell him that all this has happened because of his sin, that their must be something he did to deserve all this suffering. They even start making sins up, because they think there must be something Job did wrong. But he hadn’t done anything wrong. At the end of the book, Job realizes that God is in control, that God is the one who brings the early and late rains and Job has no place to question God’s purposes or timing. God is angry at Job’s friends, but Job loves them and intercedes on their behalf, praying for them so God wouldn’t punish them. God hears Job’s prayer and withholds his wrath.
  • Job is a great example of patience with God and patience with others through suffering. But we have a greater Job, we have the perfect example of patience through suffering. Job was a righteous man who experienced undeserved suffering, but because of that suffering was able to intercede on behalf of his friends. This points us to Jesus, who also was a righteous man. A righteous man who suffered undeservedly on the cross. Jesus is a great Job. And then because he suffered, he is able to intercede on behalf of you and me. Because Jesus went through suffering, he is able to establish our hearts. To make us increase and abound in love. And during his suffering he trusted in God’s perfect plan and perfect timing. He was patient with God, waiting, allowing him to be in control. And during his suffering he was patient with others. The disciples didn’t get it, the Pharisees wanted him dead, his family thought he was crazy. Yet still, he was patient with them. He loved them, and didn’t grumble against them.
  • Jesus was patient through suffering so that we can experience God’s compassion and mercy and have our hearts established as blameless and holy on the day that Jesus returns.

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