We want what we want, how we want it, when we want it.
No? No? It’s just me?
I sincerely doubt it. I’m old enough, with enough grey hair, to look out at our culture and see our expectations of God are out of control. We don’t want a fire-and-brimstone God, one who judges our thoughts and actions, but we also don’t want a God who lets the sins of the murderer slide. We want Him to intervene, but we also want Him to leave well enough alone. We want Him to fix things in our lives, but we want to be absolutely in charge of our own lives. Can you see these ideas play out in the culture around you?
James, again, wants us to have a congruent picture of God, as well as a congruent walk of faith. He’s very concerned with who God really is, according to Scripture, not our changing pictures of Him.
In James chapter 5, he addresses the subject of promises – the things we hold God to, what we want from Him, what we expect from Him. In just two short verses, James turns our God-in-a-box ideas upside down and inside out.
Instead of looking inward at our own ideas and suggestions, James reminds us that our eyes, thoughts, ideas, and trust are firmly fixed on eternity in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit living in us.
Read James 5:7-8 –
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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
So, what does God promise? Let’s sit on that for a minute. What promises does He make to us? List some in your head or on paper.
He promises us – He values us (Luke 12:6-7).
He promises us – He loves us (Romans 8:38-39).
He promises us – He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9).
He promises us hope, a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
James 5 in my Bible begins with the subheading, “Warning to the Rich” and then another subheading “Patience in Suffering” before James 5:7-8. Subheadings are helpful, but remember, they are uninspired. They can play mental mind tricks and cause us to see the passage as two separate pieces instead of one letter. For our purposes today read through James 5:1-10 as one segment, forgetting the subheadings, and answer the questions that follow for yourself:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. 7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
What does richness or wealth have to do with patience or impatience?
What grumbling may come against our brother because of wealth of any kind?
What did the prophets fight for in the name of the Lord and what does that have to do with patience? What does it have to do with wealth?
I can’t say it enough- in this world we like stuff. We value stuff. Because of that, even if we’re not really “stuff” people, we want stuff from God and we inadvertently hold Him to promises He never made.
We look at our neighbors’ house and think – “Well, God, they have nicer things. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I’m faithful.”
We look at our neighbors’ family and think – “Well, God, their children are well behaved. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I follow You.”
We look at our neighbors’ lives and think, “They have it so much easier. Where’s the burden, Lord? Where’s the struggle? Why me, God? You are giving me less.”
These sound harsh, but the internal dialogue down deep helps us to understand our need for Jesus.
God promised Jesus.
End of sentence. All His promises (and there are many) could be wrapped up into that one sentence.
God promised Jesus.
No matter what else we want from Him, this is the promise that everything else clings to.
If we look deep down at what we want from God and don’t come up with Jesus, or something related to Jesus, it was never really promised to begin with.
James 5:8 tells us simply and eloquently –
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Jesus is the promise.
In the struggle, I see Jesus tend to me. He is at hand.
In the abundance, I see Jesus’ overflowing love. He is at hand.
In the early rains, I see Jesus’ plans spring up. He is at hand.
In the late rains, I see Jesus’ perseverance and pursuit of me. He is at hand.
What promises are you asking of God today? Hold them out before Him. Ask yourself, ask God in prayer,
Is this about Jesus?
If not, it’s secondary. It wasn’t promised to begin with. It’s not eternity; it’s just now. It may happen, but it doesn’t have to happen, and our awareness of eternity brings patience.
I’m holding God to His promises with you, friends!
Lord, in Your Spirit, give us forgiveness, and always, always give us Jesus. Amen.
What promises of God can you recall from Scripture?
What promises do people hold God to that are not about Jesus?
What prayer requests do you have and how can you apply the question, “Is this about Jesus?” in those?