“Unbelief & Impatience”    James 5:7-11  (Isaiah 30:1-3;15-18)

December 9, 2007

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO:  In a sermon series on unbelief.

The thesis of this series is that whenever sins crop up in our lives—

   whether attitudinal or behavioral—

   it’s a sign of lurking, growing, unbelief in God.

The flip side of the coin, the positive side is that all righteousness,

   all good deeds in our lives come from faith in God,

   in his word, both the promises and the warnings.

 

So the way to fight sin in our lives is to battle unbelief,

   and the way to pursue righteousness and holiness and love,

   is to fight the good fight of faith.

 

Each week, we’re looking at passages in which believers

   are struggling with certain sins, trace those sins back to unbelief,

   and then show how faith helps us overcome.

 


INTRO:  Several years ago Allison and I planned a day trip to Nashville

   with two other couples.  We had lunch reservations for a riverboat cruise.

   And the ship was set to sail at 12 noon.

So we left Cullman with plenty of time—I was driving.

   We were around Pulaski when we had a bad flat tire, the thing came apart. 

   OK, no problem—we’ll put on the spare and still make it.

But the spare was one of those funny little tires, barely had any air.

   By the time we had gotten to the next exit it had disintegrated.

 

We thought—we can still make it.  Limp off, find a service station, buy a tire.

   There was nothing at this exit, just two little gas stations, very unhelpful clerks.

I’ll call a tire store, as them to bring us a tire.

   Found a tire store in Pulaski, Yeah, they said—we can be there at 2:00. 

 

About that time an older gentleman was getting gas and Allison said:

   Do you know where we can get a tire, explained situation.

$20 bucks.  You pay me $20 and I’ll get you a tire and on the road.

   I gave him 20 and he said:  Throw that tire in the back of my truck and come on.

 

So I jumped in his truck and we took off and I was saying in my mind,

   come on, come on—faster, faster—and he really started flying.

   And I thought—Man, this is great, we might make it.

So we got to the tire store, and the place was packed—people lined up.

   I just looked at the line and thought—this is ridiculous.

 

Well, he started shouting—Let this man through!

   He’s got three women out at the interstate and if he doesn’t get

   this tire fixed the are going to snatch him bald—people got out of the way.

We went to the front of the line.  I’m thinking—yes, yes.  Clock is ticking.

   So we got the new tire mounted, threw it into the back of the pickup.

 

Instead of pulling out on the state highway we came in on,

   turned and drove right into old downtown Pulaski, getting every red light.

Why are we going this way?  Well, I want to show you where my wife works.

   Right over there—you see that building.  We’ll pass by my house in a minute.

   Started telling me about growing up in Pulaski. 

Horrible thought dawned on me.

   This is the big event of his day. 

   He doesn’t want it to end.

 

Frustrated plans can sometimes be funny, especially in retrospect.

   But impatience itself is not funny.

Impatience is a form of unbelief.

   As John Piper puts it:  “It’s what we begin to feel when we start to doubt

   the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of his guidance.”

 

Impatience is saying:  God, Your plan stinks. 

   Your timetable is all wrong.

   It’s raging at the sovereignty of God.

At the people God has put in your life—

   the slow people, the incompetent people,

   the unresponsive husbands, nagging wives and demanding children

 

It’s raging at the circumstances God has planned—

   the plans that don’t work out, the dreams that are not fulfilled,

   the frustrations, accidents, illnesses, delays and setbacks,

   that are all part of his sovereign plan. 

 

Impatience expresses itself in many ways: 

   internal rage or angry outbursts.

Making hasty, reckless moves to try to get past the obstacles in your way

   without waiting for God’s guidance.

Or finding a person or circumstance is so frustrating that you just give up,

   bail out, because it’s just not worth it to you. 

At its heart, impatience says:  I want God to serve me.

   I have my agenda and a timetable for my life—God better deliver. 

 

Patience is the opposite: 

   Saying, I live my life at God’s pleasure. 

   I will accept whatever He has planned for me.

   I will accept his timing. 

Once again, John Piper: 

   Patience is to wait in God’s place or to go at his pace.

 

Patience is not indifference.  Not saying, “I don’t care.” or “Whatever.”

   It’s not denying the frustrations of life—

   but it’s living by faith in God.

So the unbelief of impatience is fought by faith.

 

Let’s look at this subject and what we can learn from James 5.

   We studied this passage a year and a half ago when we were

   looking at the fruit of the Spirit—so some of the points I make

   should be familiar to you.

 

James gives three examples of patience—look at these and learn.

   Use them to strengthen your faith in God and fight impatience.

   The example of the farmer.

   The example of the prophets.

   The example of Job.

Let’s look at each.

 


MP#1  The example of the farmer.

“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop,

and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.”

 

In the land of Israel, the summers are hot and dry—no rain at all. 

Then, around October, it starts to rain. 

   These rains called the autumn rains.

   They soften the ground that had baked hard during summer.

After autumn rains, Israelite farmer would plow, sow winter grains, wheat, barley.

 

Grain would grow during cooler, wetter winter months.

   But farmers would be looking forward to the spring rains, April, May.

   These spring rains swelled the grain, made it good and ripe.

 

If the spring rains were delayed.  Farmer might become impatient.

   Start thinking—if spring rains don’t come, if I wait too long to harvest,

   then my fields are hit with a wave of dry summer heat, I’ll lose crop.

But if I harvest now, even though will be inferior grain, better than nothing.

   James says the patient farmer waits—no matter what, waits for spring rains.

 

In the Old Testament, patience is called “waiting for the Lord.”

   Read this in Isaiah 30 a moment ago, vs. 18 

   “Blessed are all who wait for him.”

The opposite of waiting for the Lord is running ahead of the Lord.

   Trying to get around obstacles and solve problems without his guidance.

   Or trying to fight your way past things that he has obviously put in your way.

Or saying, this is an impossible situation, God’s not going to help.

   He’s not going to send the rain I need when I need it, so I better do something.

 

Our reading in Isaiah was an example of this. 

The Assyrian Empire was threatening to invade Israel.

   The Lord said to Israel through the prophets—trust me, I’ll deliver.

God had always come through in the past. 

   Used natural and supernatural events to confuse and defeat Israel’s enemies.

 

But Israel did not wait, they were impatient, and what did they do?

   Formed a political/military alliance with Egypt. 

   forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, going down to Egypt without consulting me”

 

God warned them that this is not going to work out like they think.

   “Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace.”

   Shame and disgrace for not waiting on the Lord.

 

Now, how do you apply this to your life.  A few thoughts.

If there is something good that you want very much,

   that for some reason God has not given you,

   don’t try to get it outside of his will.

 

And even if it is not clearly a matter of right and wrong,

   but if your conscience, or wisdom, or your trusted friends, parents say,

   slow down, back up—be careful about this relationship, or this decision—listen.

Don’t let impatience convince you that if you don’t get this right now,

   then your life is not worth living. 

   God has better things planned for you if you will wait for his spring rains.

 

Does this mean that you will get what you want?  Only God knows your future.

   But he promises to send the spring rains. 

   God will come to you, and give you all you need for life and happiness.

   He will bless you with fruitfulness.

 

I know this is hardest to hear for those of you who have been impatient,

   and rushed ahead of God, and now you are suffering the consequences—

   relational, financial and emotional consequences. 

What hope does this give me?  I wasn’t patient.  I didn’t listen.

 

Take heart.  You are united to Jesus Christ and Jesus was always patient.

He always waited for Father’s perfect timing.

   “My time has not yet come.”  When that time came, went to the cross.

   Your sin of impatience is paid for by his death.

Ask for forgiveness and know that you are forgiven.

 

And there is more than forgiveness. 

   What did the Lord say to Israel after they made a treaty with Egypt?

   Did he say:  That’s just too bad.  You’ve made your bed, now lie in it?  No.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you, he rises to show you compassion.

   In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

   Blessed are all who wait for him. 

Commit yourself afresh to wait for the Lord, and he will send the spring rains.


MP#2  The example of the prophets.

“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering,

take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

 

Let me ask you a question about the prophets of the Old Testament.

   What caused their suffering?  What caused Elijah’s, Jeremiah’s, Daniel’s?

   People.

Prophets called to preach to people of Israel, Judah, sometimes foreigners.

   Message—God’s judgment coming because of sin and hard hearts.

   Repent, turn to God, He will forgive and pour out His mercy and forgiveness.

   They preached the Gospel. 

 

How were they treated?  Wow!  So grateful for concern.  No.  Heb. 11

   “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were

   stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in

   sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of

   them.  The wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

As a group, held before Christians as an example of patience, long-suffering.

   Preached the Gospel to people who were cruel to them.

 

This brings us to one of the most difficult applications of patience—

   being patient to people who have done you wrong, continue to do you wrong.

One kind of challenge to be patience in dry seasons of life, people another matter.

   The tendency that rushes into your heart is to get even,

   to go on the attack, to put this person in his place. 

What gave the prophets patience?

 

The Gospel gave them patience.

   The prophets preached Gospel to themselves before preached to people. 

   They knew that they were sinful and wicked than ever dared to admit.

   They knew that in Christ, more loved and accepted than they could ever hope.

The realization that God had been patient with them, made patient with people.

 

Isaiah—vision of the Lord in His holy temple.  Overwhelmed by sinfulness.

   Woe is me.  I am a man of unclean lips.  But God cleansed.

Jonah ran from God, complained but he experienced God’s grace.

   All prophets—sinners whom God has dealt with patiently.

If you say—I just can’t bear this person. 

   He’s exasperating, infuriating, intolerable. 

The Jonahs, Isaiahs, Daniels and Elijahs would ask you:

   Aren’t you glad God is patient with you?

Even though most people did not respond to the words of the prophets—

   God had His chosen people in Israel.

Used the patient proclamation of the Gospel by the prophets to reach them.

   Lord still works that way today.

 

In study this week, ran across interesting story about Charles Simeon.

   Charles Simeon was an famous Anglican minister, late 1700s-early 1800s.

   As a young pastor, was appointed by bishop to important church in Cambridge.

 

But members hated him because he was an evangelical.

   Preached the Gospel at a time when it was not popular.

They refused come to church on Sunday morning, lots of hostility.

   Simeon asked for transfer but the bishop said no, You’re the man for the job.

He continued to preach, and his Christ-centered preaching attracted crowds.

   Church began to fill up, members responded by locking their pews.

   Pews had doors, and were rented by members.

New people coming to church had to sit and stand in the aisles.

 

So Simeon went to court, got a court order to unlock the pews.

   But this is the part of the story that I found fascinating—

   he decided not to enforce the court order.  He decided to be patient.

And after 12 years of preaching the Gospel to people in the aisles,

   the Holy Spirit sent the spring rains, members began to come back,

   and the church was revived.

Simeon went on to minister in Cambridge for over 50 years, with great fruit.

 

Look at the prophets.  Prophets of the Old Covenant, of New Covenant.

Men and women who were patient with fellow man

   because knew God’s patience with them, knew messengers of Gospel. 

What about you? 

   Who are the maddening, hostile, exasperating people in life?

   Are you lashing out at them—actions, words, thoughts?

 

No—I’m a person captured by the Gospel and transformed by it.

   I have an accurate view of myself—a sinner, saved by grace, recipient of patience

   I’m going to be a patient conduit of that good news.


MP#3  The example of Job

“You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”

James draws attention to two things in Job’s story.

   1.  Job’s perseverance or patience.

   2.  What the Lord finally brought about.

 

The thing that’s funny about Job’s patience is that he wasn’t very patient.

   John Calvin says in his commentary:

   Job “displayed many signs of impatience and was carried away by a hasty spirit.”

When he lost everything he did say

   “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 

But when friends try to explain things. 

   He argued.  Called them miserable comforters.

Said things like:  “I curse day was born.  I despise my life.”

   Not exactly patient words. 

   He challenged God.  You’ve done me wrong God!

 

Read the book of Job—see lots of impatience. 

   He lashed out with words, thoughts at people and at God and himself.

But what happened?  After Job has lashed out, God spoke. 

   Do you know who I am, who you are?

   Job listened.  Still suffering, but became still, patient, bowed before God.

In the end, he learned patience.  He learned to submit to God’s plan and timing. 

 

What this shows us is that patience is not just a personality trait.

   You can’t say—I’m just an impatient person.

   Now so-and-so, she’s patient, but I’m not.

There is an element of personality involved, but the Bible presents

   impatience as a sin and patience as a virtue.

That means that by the work of the Holy Spirit, one can be overcome,

   and the other can grow.  And God’s wants it to grow, as it did in Job.

 

Of course you will struggle with impatience toward circumstances and people.

   And you will make impatient, hasty decisions that dishonor God and hurt you.

But the Lord won’t leave you in that condition. 

   He will complete what He began.

   Draw near to God.  Pray to Him.  Listen to Him. 

   He’s a patient God, His attributes will grow in you.

James also says—Look at what the Lord finally brought about.

   What did the Lord finally bring about?

Made all things right and new in Job’s life.

   Remember Job lost everything, but then he learned patience,

   and God opened the floodgates of heaven:  wealth, flocks, herds, children, honor.

He became the wealthiest and most honored man of his time.

 

What does the end of Job mean?

   Does this mean that all of our stories will work out that way in this life?

   Of course not, in spite of what some popular TV preachers say.

But the ending of Job is not a fairy tale either—it’s true.

   It’s a vivid illustration of the ultimate good that God has planned for us.

 

BB Warfield was a theologian at Princeton Seminary.

   When he was 25 years old, married Annie and went on honeymoon to Europe.

   On the honeymoon, she was struck by lightning, and paralyzed.

   She was never healed. 

He brought her back to America, patiently cared for her for 39 years.

   Seldom left his home for more than two hours at a time during those years.

 

But listen to what Warfield wrote about Romans 8:28, “All things work . . .”

   “If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good.  Though we are too weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for what we need, and can only groan in unformed longings, He is the author in us of these very longings, and He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.

 

And the ultimate promise that we shall reap good is the coming of Christ.

Remember how James introduces this subject of patience?

   With an appeal to Christ’s second coming. 

   “Be patient, then brothers, until the Lord’s coming.”

It’s by believing that one day every tear will be wiped away,

   that you are going to be patient when you shed tears now.

 

And by believing that one day everything will be made new,

   that you are going to be patient with the frustrations and brokenness of this world.

By believing that one day you will enjoy the total abundance of God’s gifts,

   that you are going to be patient with the things you lack now.

Grow in patience by looking at your present suffering,

   by faith draw a line to great promises of Christ.


CONC:   Impatience is a form of unbelief—but God has called us to live by faith.

And so, by faith be patient in difficult circumstances. 

   Wait for the Lord.  Don’t run ahead of him.

   He will send spring rains in his time.

 

And by faith be patient with difficult people. 

   Believe the Gospel.

You are an exasperating sinner, loved and accepted by a patient God because

   of the work of Christ on your account.

   You are a conduit of that patient love.

 

And by faith be patient until the end. 

   Know that God is working all things for your good.

Keep your eye on Christ’s coming. 

   You will see him.

   And he will wipe away all your tears. 

   And make all things new.