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Hold On

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Hold On For Just A Little While Longer (Part I)

James 5:7-8

In the movie Click, Michael Newman (played by Adam Sandler) is given a true "universal" remote control.  This “universal” remote control has the power to influence real life. With this “universal” remote control, Michael can mute peoples' voices, rewind through past experiences, and even fast-forward through annoying situations and circumstances. 

In one scene, Michael is talking to Morty (played by Christopher Walken)—an employee of Bed, Bath, and Beyond who originally gave him the remote. He is having a particularly difficult time.  Things aren’t going well for him.  He’s having a hard time at work; is too busy at home; and his life seems to be spiraling out of control.  So, he wants to use the “universal” remote to skip this difficult period in his life in order to get to the good stuff

Have you ever felt like that?  Have you ever wished you had a “universal” remote and could fast forward through those painful periods in your life and get to the “good times”?  Perhaps you are going through a rough stretch right now (a painful breakup or divorce, the loss of a loved one, cancer or leukemia, or a debilitating stroke) and you wish you could just fast forward to better days.

Job says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (Jn. 16:33)  In other words, we all are going to have some difficult days.  We all are going to endure some trying times.  We all are going to experience some trouble. 

One Friday night, when I had the summer off from college, I asked my Father if I could go out for the evening with some friends.  He warned me to stay out of trouble.  “Dad, I ain’t looking for no trouble!” I quickly responded.  He than informed me, “Son, you don’t have to look for trouble.  Trouble will find you!” 

In our text, James is still addressing the suffering saints.  James is talking to believers who have had their share of trouble.  James is talking to some Christians who are ready to fast forward through some trying times.  But James will have none of that.  He ends this letter as he began this letter.  At the beginning of his letter he writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  And now at the close of the letter he writes, “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”  In other words, hold on for just a little while longer. 

I came this morning to encourage somebody to hold on.  God knows what you’re going through.  God knows how much you are hurting.  God has seen your tears.  God has heard your cry.  God has felt your pain and tasted your sorrow.  Somebody came here ready to give up but God says hold on.  Somebody came here ready to throw up your hands but God says hold on.  Somebody came here with an “I’ve had enough” in your Spirit but God says hold on.  I’ve had enough of that ungrateful man.  I’ve had enough of my wayward child.  I’ve had enough of that job.  I’ve had enough of my family.  I’ve had enough of those so-called Christians.    I’ve had enough of those backbiting friends.  I’ve had enough of this cruel world.  But God wants you to hold on for just a little while longer.      

James wants his readers to hold on for just a little while longer.  So, three times he reminds them of the coming of the Lord.  In verse 7, “Therefore be patient, brethren until the coming of the Lord.  Verse 8, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  Verse 9, “The judge is standing at the door.”  One of the best ways to encourage someone is to give them something to look forward to.  I came by this morning to remind somebody that Jesus is on His way back.  I came to remind somebody that trouble won’t last always.  I came to remind somebody that you have a reason to hold on.  The coming of the Lord is at hand.  But until he returns we gotta hold on for just a little while longer. 

Some of you may be asking, “How can I hold on?”  How can I keep the faith?  How can I keep on fighting the good fight?  The text gives us some examples that should help.

The Farmer (James 5:7-8)

First of all, James lifts the example of the farmer.  “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.  Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” 

James uses two different words for patience. In this pericope and in verse 10, the word translated patience means long-suffering.   It means not to lose heart.  It means to persevere bravely and patiently as opposed to giving up or losing faith.  

My father in law was raised on a farm.  So, each year, while his health permitted, he planted a garden.  One day, after having sowed some seed he stood back and looked over his work.  I had just gotten off work and decided to stop over.  So I stood there with him for a moment as he looked over his garden.  I don’t know what prompted him, but he asked me a question.  “Son, I just planted some beans in this garden.  Would it be helpful for me to stand here day and night watching over those seeds to make sure they come up?”  The answer was an obvious “of course not”.  But he wasn’t talking about beans he was talking about faith.  “All you can do is sow in faith and trust God for the harvest.”        

If a man is impatient, then he had better not become a farmer. It takes patience to farm.  It takes faith to sow.  And it takes patience to wait on the harvest.  No crop appears overnight.  No farmer can control the weather.  If it rains too much your crop will rot.  If it rains too little your crop will dry out.  An early frost and you can lose a whole harvest. 

A farmer must be patient.  You cannot sow and reap in the same season.  Jewish farmers sowed in the Fall and reaped in the Spring.  The Lord sent the rains.  The “early rain” would soften the soil for the plowing and sowing.  The “latter rain” in early Spring would hasten the crop towards the harvest.  If you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you had to learn how to wait.  If you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you have to learn how to lean and depend on Jesus. 

You won’t lean how to wait on Jesus, if you never have a storm.  You won’t learn how to wait on Jesus if you never have trouble.  You won’t learn how to wait on Jesus if things always go your way.  The secret of enduring when times get tough is looking forward to the harvest.  You were sown in tears and you will mature in tears.  Somebody wept for your soul’s salvation.  And you won’t mature in Christ without some more tears.

Tell somebody, He’s worth the wait.  “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).  Heaven is worth the wait!  Eternal life is worth the wait!   A better tomorrow is worth the wait!  Jesus is worth the wait!  

But James isn’t talking about passively waiting.  He’s not talking about spiritual naval gazing.  He’s not talking about an introverted Christianity that sits on its hands spewing out religious platitudes.  He’s not talking about a Church that is so heavenly minded that it’s no earthly good. 

A good farmer works whiles he waits on the harvest.  A good farmer always has plenty to do around the farm.  A good farmer rises early and works hard.  There are always animals to care for; equipment to service; and repairs to be made.  A good farmer is busy working towards the harvest.   

A good church works while they wait on the Lord.  A good church knows there’s plenty to do until our Lord returns.  There are lost souls to be saved; babes in Christ to be trained up in the Word; causes to be championed; and hearts to be established. 

To establish means to make steadfast and unmovable.  It’s the word that Jesus used when he warned Peter that Satan desired to sift him like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to me, strengthen (establish) your brothers.  The primary purpose of the preaching ministry is to establish your heart.  The primary purpose of the teaching ministry is to establish your heart.  The primary purpose of the discipleship ministry is to establish your heart.  Only way establish someone’s heart is to point them to Jesus. 

Good farmers are too buy helping one another to get into fights with one another.  Nobody on the farm has time or energy for disputes with the neighbors. James must have had this in mind when he added, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged” (James 5:9,niv). Impatience with God often leads to impatience with God’s people, and this is a sin we must avoid. If we start using the sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest! 

Many of you know that I am a big fan of Michael Jordan.  I followed his career from UNC to the NBA.  After Julius Erving retired, I didn’t care too much for NBA basketball games.  Then along came the tongue flapping Air Jordan.  I was hooked and seldom if ever missed a Chicago Bulls game.  Those games became the highlights of my week.  You can imagine my disappointment when on October 6, 1993, Jordan announced he was retiring from basketball.  Then in 1994 rumors began to circulate that MJ was coming back.  Then on March 18, 1995 Jordan announced that he was coming out of retirement.  I watched the celebration they had at the United Center as they awaited the arrival of Air Jordan.  There was an air of anticipation.  Fans were in frenzy, balloons were flying; shouts of joy filled the arena; because they remembered what he did the first time. 

Every church service should be filled with a spirit of anticipation.  Remind you, what he did the first time.  Now, He’s coming back!

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