08 Aug Navigating Life at Godspeed
Confession time… I hate waiting. Whether it’s sitting at a traffic light, waiting in a long line at the Secretary of State, or waiting for an Amazon delivery, waiting isn’t fun. It’s a sentiment that I am certain resonates with many of us. The discomfort and restlessness that accompany waiting are feelings we are all too familiar with. In our fast-paced, instantly gratifying world, we are conditioned to despise delays and view patience as an unwelcome imposition.
However, as followers of Christ, our view of patience must radically differ. This virtue takes on a profound significance when we examine it in the light of scripture, particularly James 5:7-12. We are beckoned to view patience not as a passive act of waiting, but an active expression of trust in the sovereign timing of God.
When we examine patience from this perspective, we are not just talking about waiting. We enter a realm where our faith is both tested and strengthened. Patience becomes a testament to our faith in God’s sovereignty, a concrete affirmation that we believe His timing is perfect and His plans for us are always good, even when circumstances seem to suggest otherwise.
Yet, this journey isn’t without its challenges. Our struggle with impatience often brings to light a subtle but significant spiritual issue – idolatry. Not idolatry in the sense of worshipping graven images, but an idolatry of the heart. When we are impatient, when we insist on our own timing over God’s, we unseat Him from His rightful place as the sovereign Lord of our lives and instead elevate our own desires, our own timing to that throne. This idolatry, subtle as it may be, can be as damaging to our spiritual growth as any overtly pagan practice.
In this exploration, we will unpack how patience, viewed through the lens of God’s sovereignty, transforms our spiritual perspective. We’ll investigate how our struggles with impatience can act as a mirror, reflecting the idols hidden in our hearts. As we journey through this, our hope is to learn not just to tolerate waiting but to embrace it as an expression of our faith in God’s timing and as a tool to unmask and address the hidden idols in our lives.
Our Scripture Text
As we begin our exploration of patience and its deep spiritual implications, it’s important to ground our discussion in the inspired Word of God. In James 5:7-12, we find a rich discourse on patience that goes beyond human endurance to the heart of spiritual maturity and faith:
“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.
11 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.
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
In this passage, James compels his readers – and us, by extension – to be patient, using the analogy of a farmer waiting for his crops and drawing examples from the prophets and Job. He cautions against grumbling and making oaths, hinting at the heart issues that impatience can reveal. As we unpack these verses in the context of our discussion, we will see how patience intertwines with God’s sovereignty and helps us unearth hidden idols in our hearts.
Patience and Trusting in God’s Sovereignty (James 5:7-8)
In James 5:7-8, we find a compelling analogy that bridges the connection between patience and trust in God’s sovereignty. James encourages us to “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.”
The farmer doesn’t merely wait; he waits with expectation and trust. He doesn’t control the rain or the growth of the crops, yet he knows that in due time, the earth will yield its fruit. Similarly, as followers of Christ, we’re asked to wait with an unshakeable trust in God’s perfect timing. Our role isn’t to expedite the process, but to patiently await God’s ordained timing.
The prophet Isaiah, speaking the words of the Lord, reminds us of the vast chasm between our thoughts and God’s: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV)
Here we’re reminded that God’s ways and timings are not only different from ours but far superior. His plans are not subject to human limitations, errors, or misconceptions. They are perfect, just as He is perfect.
When we exercise patience, especially during times of trials and waiting, we are essentially surrendering our human instinct to control and resolve things according to our timeline. We’re acknowledging that God’s ways are higher, His plans are better, and His timing is perfect. We’re affirming that He is sovereign, and we can trust Him to work out everything for our good.
In essence, practicing patience is an act of faith and surrender to God’s sovereignty. It’s our response to His promise that His thoughts and ways, though higher than ours, are always for our ultimate good and His glory. Our patience, therefore, becomes a testament to our trust in His perfect timing and divine sovereignty.
Impatience: A Subtle Form of Idolatry
When we feel the stirrings of impatience, it’s often a signal that we’re struggling with surrendering to God’s timing and plan. This struggle, if left unchecked, reveals a subtle form of idolatry in our hearts. It’s here where we come face to face with the uncomfortable reality that we might prefer our own timing and will over God’s.
In Exodus 20:3, we encounter the first commandment given to the Israelites: “You shall have no other gods before me.” This commandment was not solely about the physical idols of the time. It was about prioritizing God above all else in every aspect of life – including our time, our will, and our desires.
When we struggle with impatience, when we yearn for our plans to unfold in our preferred timing, we are subtly shifting the position of God in our lives. We are putting our own desires, our timing, our control before Him. This is a subtle form of idolatry that can creep into our lives unnoticed.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus warns us about divided loyalty: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Although the immediate context of this verse is about serving God and money, the principle extends to all areas of our lives, including our desire for control and our struggle with patience.
When we are impatient, we are in a state of divided loyalty, torn between trusting God’s sovereignty and asserting our control. This tension is an indicator that we need to examine our hearts for any hidden idols of control, self-will, or preferred timing that we may be serving.
In essence, impatience can act as a mirror, reflecting the idols hidden within our hearts. By recognizing this, we can confess our idolatry, seek God’s forgiveness, and realign our hearts to truly serve Him, trust in His perfect timing, and wait patiently on His plans to unfold. Our journey to patience, then, becomes a journey to deeper trust, surrender, and freedom from the subtle idols in our lives.
Prophets and Job as Exemplars of Patience in God’s Sovereignty (James 5:10-11)
As we seek to understand and embody the virtue of patience in our lives, we are not left without examples. In fact, the Bible presents to us a rich tapestry of individuals who exemplified patience and trust in God’s sovereignty in the face of immense trials. James specifically mentions the prophets and Job in this context.
“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:10-11, ESV)
The prophets, often faced with rejection, suffering, and prolonged periods of waiting, remained steadfast, echoing trust in God’s timing and sovereignty with their lives. They spoke God’s word and awaited His promises, even when they didn’t see immediate results.
Job, whose story is synonymous with suffering and patience, gives us a profound insight into a steadfast trust in God’s sovereignty. Despite his profound losses and intense suffering, Job’s response in Job 42:2 acknowledges God’s supreme control: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Then there’s the remarkable faith chapter, Hebrews 11, which documents the faith and patience of a great cloud of witnesses. Whether it was Abraham waiting for the promised son, Joseph waiting for his dreams to come true, or the numerous unnamed saints who waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises, they all trusted in God’s timing and sovereignty, exhibiting a patience that reflected their faith.
These examples serve as models for us as we navigate our own journeys. Their lives remind us that patience isn’t about passive waiting but active trust in God’s timing and plan. They reassure us that our waiting isn’t in vain. Instead, like these giants of faith, we can embrace patience as a demonstration of our unwavering trust in God’s sovereignty and His perfect timing.
The Sacredness of Promises and God’s Timing (James 5:12)
In James 5:12, we find an interesting directive that connects to our discussion on patience: “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
On the surface, it may seem that James has shifted topics abruptly. However, when we view this verse through the lens of patience and God’s sovereignty, we realize that our words – our promises and commitments – hold a significant place in this discourse.
Often, our impatience can lead us to make rash promises or commitments, born out of a desire to control situations and outcomes. When we can’t wait for God’s timing, we might be tempted to take matters into our own hands, swearing oaths and making commitments that we may not be able to keep.
The wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes warns us against such hasty speech in Ecclesiastes 5:4-5: “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”
Our words matter, not only because they reveal our character but also because they reflect our trust in God’s timing. When we hastily make and break promises, we show a disregard for God’s sovereignty. We imply, albeit subtly, that our plans and timings are superior to God’s.
In admonishing us to let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’, James is inviting us to a life of simplicity, honesty, and trust in God’s timing. He is calling us to patience, to waiting on God, and to speaking and acting in alignment with God’s will and timing.
Therefore, our promises – our words and actions – become a barometer of our patience and trust in God’s sovereignty. They reflect how deeply we’ve allowed the virtue of patience to permeate our lives and our faith.
Theological Perspectives on Patience and God’s Sovereignty
Theological reflections on patience and God’s sovereignty reveal a deeply intertwined relationship that shapes our understanding of both Christian life and God’s character.
At the core, patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances, but an active affirmation of God’s sovereignty. It acknowledges that God, in His omniscience, knows what is best for us, and in His omnipotence, is able to bring it about in His perfect timing. The virtue of patience, therefore, is a reflection of our understanding of God’s sovereignty and our trust in it.
Theologically, the patience we exercise is not isolated from the patience of God Himself. God, in His sovereignty, exhibits divine patience – His forbearance towards mankind’s sin, His delay in executing judgment, and His long-suffering love that leads to repentance. As His image-bearers, our patience reflects God’s divine patience and serves as a testimony to His sovereign character.
Furthermore, God’s sovereignty and patience are evident in the grand narrative of salvation. From the fall of man to the promise of a Redeemer, from the long centuries of waiting for the Messiah to the future hope of His second coming, God’s sovereignty unfolds in His perfect timing. Theologians have long held that this divine timeline, filled with waiting periods, is not indicative of God’s inability to act sooner, but rather of His perfect wisdom and patience.
The very gospel message we believe in and proclaim is a testament to God’s sovereign patience. He could have chosen to enact salvation history differently, but in His perfect wisdom and patient love, He chose the fullness of time to send His Son (Galatians 4:4-5).
Therefore, when we exercise patience, we are participating in God’s grand narrative, reflecting His character, trusting His sovereignty, and pointing others to His divine patience and love. This profound theological perspective elevates our understanding of patience from a mere virtue to a worshipful response to God’s sovereignty.
Cultivating Patience and Trust in God’s Sovereignty
Our journey has illuminated the profound relationship between patience and trust in God’s sovereignty. We’ve also uncovered how impatience can subtly give way to idolatry. Now, let’s explore how we can practically cultivate patience and trust in God’s sovereignty, seeking to mortify the subtle idolatry of impatience in our lives.
1. Embrace God’s Perspective: Patience is birthed from an understanding and acceptance of God’s sovereignty and His perfect timing. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are far superior to ours. As we embrace this perspective, our impatience will give way to patient trust.
2. Study and Meditate on God’s Word: Regularly studying and meditating on the scriptures helps us comprehend God’s character, promises, and timings better. Passages like James 5:7-12, Job 42:2, and Hebrews 11 encourage us to patiently wait on God’s promises, reassuring us that our waiting is not in vain.
3. Cultivate an Attitude of Prayer: Prayer is a powerful medium that fosters patience. It keeps us connected to God, reminds us of His sovereignty, and helps us to wait upon His timing. Prayer also aids us in surrendering our desires, timelines, and control to God.
4. Walk in Community: Doing life alongside other believers who encourage, support, and hold us accountable is crucial in our journey toward cultivating patience. As we share our struggles with impatience and idolatry, we can learn, grow, and find strength in each other’s experiences.
5. Seek God in Moments of Impatience: When we’re confronted with impatience, instead of succumbing to frustration or despair, we can choose to seek God, bringing our anxieties to Him, and asking for His peace and patience to fill us.
We are encouraged in Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” This powerful verse is not just an admonition but also a promise. As we trust God, acknowledge His sovereignty, and cultivate patience, He promises to guide us.
Cultivating patience and trusting in God’s sovereignty is not an overnight process, but a journey of faith. However, every step in this journey leads us closer to God, aligns us more with His will, and frees us from the subtle chains of idolatry. As we patiently trust in His perfect timing, we can rest in the assurance of His sovereign love and perfect plan for us.
Sermon & Sandwiches
One enriching practice to integrate into our faith journey is the act of discussing sermons or biblical studies after they’ve been presented. Not only does this allow us to digest and reflect on the material more deeply, but it also fosters communal growth, mutual encouragement, and accountability in our spiritual lives.
Here are some conversation starters to get the discussion going:
- “How has the theme of patience resonated in your own faith journey? Are there instances where you felt particularly challenged to trust in God’s timing?”
- “Reflecting on the concept of impatience as a subtle form of idolatry, can you recall a moment when you might have placed your timing or desires above God’s? How did that impact your spiritual growth?”
- “The scriptures often cite examples of prophets and biblical characters who trusted in God’s sovereignty amidst trials. Which of these stories inspire you the most and why?”
- “Discussing promises, James reminds us to let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’. How do you think this principle could apply to our daily life, especially in nurturing patience and trust in God’s sovereignty?”
- “We examined some practical steps to cultivate patience and trust in God’s timing. Which of these steps resonates with you the most, and how do you think you can practically incorporate it into your spiritual practice?”
- “Reflecting on Proverbs 3:5-6, in what ways have you seen God making your paths straight when you trusted Him wholeheartedly?”
Remember, the goal of these conversations is not to suggest a checklist of behaviors to modify, but to encourage each other in the journey of faith, pointing towards a Gospel response of trust in God’s sovereignty, patience in His timing, and a heart inclined to His will.
The Daily Devotion
Monday: Reflecting on God’s Timing
Scripture: James 5:7-8, Isaiah 55:8-9
Devotion: Contemplate the sovereignty of God and His perfect timing. Write down areas in your life where you have been impatient and reflect on how God’s timing proved to be perfect in retrospect.
Tuesday: Identifying Idolatry
Scripture: James 5:9, Exodus 20:3, Matthew 6:24
Devotion: Reflect on the ways in which impatience can lead to a subtle form of idolatry, putting our desires and timing before God’s. Consider areas in your life where you might have unwittingly allowed impatience to lead to idolatry. Pray for wisdom and discernment.
Wednesday: Examples of Patience in Scripture
Scripture: James 5:10-11, Job 42:2, Hebrews 11
Devotion: Explore the stories of Job and the prophets, focusing on how they demonstrated patience in the face of trials. Reflect on how their faith shaped their response to their circumstances.
Thursday: The Sacredness of Promises
Scripture: James 5:12, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
Devotion: Contemplate the relationship between promises, patience, and God’s sovereignty. Reflect on instances where keeping a promise required patience and trust in God’s plan.
Friday: Cultivating Patience and Trust
Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6
Devotion: Consider the practical steps to cultivate patience and trust in God’s sovereignty. Pray for God’s guidance as you seek to grow in patience and deepen your trust in His perfect timing and plan.
Hey, parents! Today, we are talking about something really special: patience and trusting in God’s perfect plan and timing. To help explain this to your kids, let’s dive into a short discussion and some fun activities.
First, let’s talk about patience. You could start by asking, “Do you know what patience means?” Explain to them that patience is like waiting calmly without getting upset or giving up, even if things take a long time. For example, waiting for your turn at the swing, or waiting for cookies to bake in the oven.
Then, tie it to God by saying something like, “You know, sometimes we have to be patient with God’s plans too. Just like waiting for cookies to bake takes time, so does waiting for God’s plans to unfold. But guess what? God’s timing is perfect! He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. And He always keeps His promises.”
Here’s a simple activity: Bake cookies together. While you’re waiting, discuss how good things (like cookies or God’s plans) take time. Just like we trust the oven timer, we can trust God’s timing.
Now, let’s talk about trust. Ask your children if they can think of someone they trust. Discuss why trust is so important. Then, relate it to God. Explain that just as they trust you, their parents, they can trust God even more.
For the activity, you can play a trust walk game. Blindfold your child and guide them around the room, just as God guides us even when we can’t see the next step.
Finish by explaining that we can only trust God and be patient because Jesus first loved us. He died on the cross so we can have a relationship with God. This is the most incredible example of love and patience.