Peninsula Community Church
July 7, 2013
James – Establish Your Heart
James 5:7-11 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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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.
We spoke last week about the farmer and how the farmer illustrates the need for patience in our lives. James is saying to us, just as the farmer is patient, you too need to be patient. Once you do all you can do and you do all you know to do; you wait and God at the right time will fulfill his will and his promises in your life. One thing I forgot to mention last week, while the farmer is waiting for the harvest from the seed he plants, he is not sitting at home drinking ice tea and watching Duck Dynasty or Fox News. He is preparing his equipment to reap the harvest He is planting other fields. He is preparing his grain bins for the harvest he is about to take in. The work is never over. He trusts God to bring the harvest.
In this passage it is also noteworthy that James gives the command to “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” The word used here for “establish” means to “fix.” This does not mean to repair but rather to fasten or to secure one’s self as in the preparation for a storm or in unknown circumstances. It means to fasten our faith to God’s promises and to what he has proclaimed. The effect of fastening our hearts to the promises and claims of God is that we are able to endure the trials and difficulties of life. No matter what comes we will be secure.
I enjoy touring local wineries. One of the tours we enjoyed on Thursday was Layton’s Chance Winery. WhenI was talking with Joe Layton, one of the owners, he made an interesting comment. He stated that the best wine is formed when the vines are stressed. When I asked him what that meant, he stated the following. For one, the best fruit is produced when the lower vines are stripped of any buds that would form future fruit. He also stated that the best fruit is that fruit that is in direct sunlight. And finally he stated that you would think that the vines that are in well watered soil would be the best but the best fruit comes from the stress of little water or at least the right amount of water. Since I was preparing for this message, I thought about where the fruit of my life has been tested and where it has grown the best. The fruit of my life has grown the best when it has been stressed or tested. If for no other reason it is from the stressors of life that the quality of the fruit of my life is revealed. Once again, it is in the stress, I find where I lack the growth I need to have. It is in the stress that my heart is revealed. It is easy for me to go along and be happy when everything is going great and there are no problems in my life. But when the stressors come, I lean on God and God’s word in my heart because my heart has been established in Him.
One means of strengthening our hearts is to be reminded of the coming of Christ. Two times in this passage James encourages the church to hang on because the coming of the Lord is near. Why is this important? First, it speaks to the fact that there is an end in sight. Second, it speaks to the fact that this life is not all there is. If this is all there is, we are men most miserable but a full, eternal life is available to those who are called by his name (1 Corinthians 15). Third, we are reminded of the promises of God. Jesus said that if I go away, I will come again and receive you unto my self (John). That was not an empty promise. Fourth, we can comfort each other with these words (1 Thessalonians).
What do we know about the second coming of Christ? First, we know that it is a promise from God and he is one that keeps his promises. Second, no man will know for sure when he will return. We must be ready and prepared for his return at all times. Third, we know that it will be sudden. It will be in a twinkle of the eye or as a thief in the night. Fourth, we must be watching for his coming. Finally, we must not despair in waiting for him to come. This requires us to be patient, especially when it appears that he is delaying his return.
Another means of strengthening our hearts is to refrain from grumbling against one another. I classify these as the “if onlys” and the “shoulda couldas.” When we are living in the “if onlys” we tend to blame others for our own short comings and failures. This action creates tension in us because we do not take responsibility for our problems, our issues, or our failures. We say things like…That wife… that boss…. that pastor…. that chairman of the elders… that neighbor… that son or that daughter. The problem when we grumble is that in most cases we do not take the necessary steps to move beyond the current situation of our lives. We become fully satisfied to stay with the status quo and grumble about what others are doing. The problem with the “if onlys” is that it invades our “what if” and we lose focus on the present possibilities of what could be in us.
The “shoulda” “coulda’s” are also a problem. Once again we are forced to live in the past by concentrating on the past problems and failures and not what we have or what we have accomplished. When we live this way, we are living in the arena of wanting to change things that cannot be changed. We cannot change our past but we can certainly make a difference in our future. It becomes an issue of “Been there, wish I had not done that” or it is a matter of saying that my past is behind me and I am going to push ahead to the future.
To help us understand the issue of suffering and the need to be patient, James reminds us of the life of the prophet and the life of Job. Let’s look at the prophets for a moment. Suffering can come from sin and unfaithfulness and yet suffering may come for being completely faithful to God and his will. We are seeing persecution coming to the Christian church not because they have broken any major laws but only because they are faithful to maintain a biblical standard that is solid and strong. The prophets suffered most from the people that should have known better.
Elijah prophesied of three and one-half years that a drought was coming. When the drought came he suffered through it just like everyone else, but we see that God provided for him even in the midst of the difficulty. Notice the story of Jeremiah. He is called into service by God with protest. He is mocked and persecuted by his fellow villagers. He is forbidden to marry. He is beaten and put into the stocks. He barely escapes a death mob and then goes into hiding. He is accused of being a traitor. After being thrown into a dry well, he is released and put into prison. To our knowledge he never had a convert. And yet, in Lamentations 3:22-24 he penned these words. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in him.” It is of note that most prophecies had a two-fold fulfillment. There was the immediate and then there was the futuristic fulfillment.
James also uses Job as an illustration of endurance and fixing one’s heart on Christ. Job as you know by the end of chapter two had lost everything he possessed. He lost his riches, his children, his home, and he suffered health issues. His friends and his wife while trying to be helpful did little to encourage him. Most of us would have fallen apart and would have been angry at God for all that transpired but listen to the words of Job. “For I know my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my flesh has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me (Job 19:25-27). He also says this. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face (Job 13:15).
In the final analysis, the point James is making is that our peace, patient, and security cannot rest in our possessions but in our relationship with Christ. Everything around us may fall apart. Our world may crumble. Our friends may leave. Our spouse may try to persuade us to turn against God. We may find that we are being severely tested even in the very center of God’s will and in the very center of where he wants us. The question for us is not so much the circumstances of our lives but where have we fixed our hope? Where have we fixed eyes? “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).