A Faith That Worketh Patience
A Faith That Worketh Patience "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let faith have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:4 Introduction Has your faith ever been tested? Has there ever been a time when you felt challenged by a series of circumstances that have frustrated you? What was your response? The ideal response to challenging moments is to approach them with confidence, endure them with courage, and arise from them with an even stronger faith. A striking example of this truth is Nelson Mandela's quest to eliminate racial segregation in South Africa. As leader of the African Nation Congress, Mr. Mandela was confident that the South Africa's system of Apartheid was morally wrong. He worked to change that system, even though at the time it appeared he was fighting a losing battle. Despite the hopelessness of this situation, he entered with confidence. His activism resulted in a 27-year imprisonment during which time he demonstrated unparalleled courage and commitment to his cause. He educated himself in prison, refined his thinking, and took the very walls that were supposed to demoralize him and used them as springboards to renewed hope. A few years ago, he arose from dungeons of segregationist ideology with an even stronger faith. He used the new courage he gained from his prison and experience to finally dismantle the remaining vestiges of the apartheid system in South Africa. Today, apartheid is legally dead in South Africa, largely because of one man's faith, courage and commitment to the idea of freedom. The stages of Mandela's struggle represent the same stages that every person faces when pressed to put his or her faith in action, against the odds: Enter with confidence, endure with courage, and arise with renewed faith. It does not matter whether the person is Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Whether it is Rosa Parks or the man and wife facing the difficulties of a troubling marriage, the principle is the same: Those who exemplify great faith are those who enter a troubling situation with confidence that it cannot overwhelm them, cannot frighten them and will not break their resolve to proceed toward their established goal. As Christians, we have learned that simply having professing faith is not the same as acting on faith. We know that to talk about faith and to act on faith are expressly different. Therefore, we should continue to resolve that we will face every difficulty that life presents with confidence and optimism that God will work things out to our advantage in his own due time and in his own mysterious way. Exposition This text focuses on James, the brother of Jesus, as he explains to the church that works, which evidence our faith, have several dimensions, one of which is patience. James' general message is that professed faith in God should equate to action. His statement in James 5:20 exemplifies it best, "Faith without works is dead." The general idea is that those who have faith will show it in their works. In this passage, James helps us to categorized and classify just what he means by "works" as the concept of patience is explained. James seems to say that faith is a matter of strong belief that is professed with the lips. Patience is not a matter of belief it is a product of belief plus trial. James' formula seems to be: F+T=P or Faith plus Trial equals Patience. James says every Christian should welcome trials because they are an opportunity to develop patience. Listen at verse two, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Divers Temptations is simply an old-fashioned way of saying "diverse kinds of troubles." We should count it a joy when we are exposed to the different kinds of troubles that life brings. Why? Because, "the trying of your faith, worketh patience." To some, James' assertion that we should rejoice when trouble comes is troubling. They do not understand why anyone would want to rejoice when trouble comes. They see life with worldly eyes. The world rejoices when trouble leaves. The Christian rejoices when trouble comes. That is not to say that Christians go and seek trouble. James does not suggest that we spend our days looking for trouble so we can prove our faith. A careful reading of verse two reveals the phrase, "Fall into divers temptations" meaning when trouble finds us. When trouble finds us, we approach it with an attitude that it is another opportunity to let our faith work and for Christ to work through us to achieve another victory. The key element of James’ formula is assurance. He equates patience with the quiet assurance that when tested, faith in the life of a person committed to living according to the will of God, produces and inevitable victory. "All things work to the good of them that love the Lord, according to his purposes in Christ Jesus." James says every Christian should approach life's troubles with an air of confidence that helps him to say, "I can't lose, with the stuff I use." That stuff is my faith and trust in Almighty God. How to Develop Patience How can we develop the quiet assurance that is well in our lives? How can we acquire this evasive quality of patience? It comes through repeated application of our faith in moments of trial and trouble. In the beginning, we do not enter trials with patience. Most of us enter with faith alone. However, we come out of trials with faith and patience. Job did not enter his trial with patience. He entered his trial with an unfaltering trust in God. Despite the fact that we know him as a great man of patience, he did not have it when it his trial began. However, he did have it when his trial ended. We know he did not have it because he spent considerable time frustrated with his friends, his wife and with himself. During the course of his trial, he came to grips with some truths about himself, God and life in general and came forth out of his trial with a renewed faith and trust in God. When he came forth, Job was a man of patience. In a similar sense, we do not enter into troubling situations with patience. We enter with faith alone. However, when we come through, we evolve a more patient person because we have seen how God has parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed us to walk on dry ground. We develop patience by winning small battles at first and then winning great victories in the name of the Lord! Patience has two key elements that are essential to its understanding they are: PERSEVERANCE: Perseverance is the ability to endure the storm, without being washed overboard. Those who are able to endure troubling situations are likely to achieve a degree of patience when it’s over. PERSISTENCE: Persistence goes beyond perseverance. Perseverance only seeks to survive the storm. Persistence proceeds toward accomplishing the will of God despite the storm. Persistence seizes the wheel and guides the ship through the storm toward the goal. Even if thrown overboard the persistent person, floating on the life preserver of hope, keeps paddling toward the mark of the high calling of God which is in Jesus Christ. The persistent person sings the words of the old Negro Spiritual, "Sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes level to the ground, but at the cross I'm going to bow, and I going on to heaven anyhow. Through the storm, through the rain, Lord I'll make just the same, at the cross I'm going to bow, and I'm going on to heaven anyhow!" The key to developing patience is to endure small storms and never lose sight of our goal, while gaining strength for bigger storms that are sure to come. No Patience Until We've Been Tried James makes it abundantly clear that there can be no patience gained without trials endured. There can be no victory unless there is a battle. You cannot enjoy the sweetness of ecstasy until you have tasted the bitterness of agony. You cannot appreciate the gain, until you have known the pain. If you ask Daniel, he will tell you that you may prayer all day long. However, you really don't know that the Lord will answer prayer until you been in the Lion's Den. When you have faced the growling fangs of death and been in the grasp of adversity and watched the Lord quiet down angry lions, only then you can say, "I know the Lord will answer prayer for I tried him for myself." If you ask the Three Hebrew Boys, they will tell you may believe that your God is able to deliver you. But you really do not know that the Lord is able to deliver you until you have been in the fiery furnace. When you feel the heat of opposition, burning seven times hotter than it normally burns. When you feel the protecting arms of God surround hear the voice of the world ask "didn't we put three men in the fire, behold I see four, and the fourth man looks like the son of God." The same man that was in the fire with the Hebrew boys; The same man that was in the lion's den with Daniel... That same man is with us today. Jesus, the Lily of the Valley! Jesus, the bright and morning star! Jesus, the Fairest of Ten Thousand! Died out on Calvary but arose on Sunday morning! He was tried in the fire! When you have been tried in the fire, you know there always room for optimism! When you have been tried in the fire, hope waning is restored again! When you've been tried in the fire, love lost is revived again! When you have been tried in the fire, the weak in heart get new strength! Have you been tried in the fire? Did you... Did you... Did you come forth as pure gold?