SERMONHUNT.COM

James 5:7-12 NLT



The Myth: "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”  


 If I could only change ____________________, then everything would be wonderful. 


If only my health were restored, then life would be wonderful.  If only my husband would have a change of heart, then life would be wonderful.  If only my boss would be transferred or join another company, then my life would be wonderful.  If only my son or daughter would come back to the Lord, then life would be wonderful.  If only this ministry would take off and I could just get out of what I’m doing and get where God wants me to be, then life would be wonderful.  If only I made a few more thousand dollars a year so that we could then life would be wonderful.

Under pressure, we all play the “if only” game.  If only he was more sensitive.  If only she was more affectionate.  If only the economy would change.  If only the stock market would go back up.  If only the interest rates would change.  If only we could – and we do it over and over.  It’s the myth of the greener grass mentality. 

You will see people that believe this myth especially in this country.  You will not see it much in the third world.  You won’t find it in Haiti or Africa, many people in those two world areas live in intense and very difficult times.  When you spend time with people who know that sharing the Gospel may well cost them their life, they do not share this false premise.  But in America, I believe this is a false premise.

A False Premise: My happiness = God’s number one agenda 


And the false premise is God wants me to be happy.  Now, there’s a lot of truth in that so don’t get too shaken up.  God does want to bless us.  He does want to give us a full life.  But when we say, “God wants me to be happy,” we often mean He wants me to feel happy.  He wants me to be emotionally satisfied.  He wants everything to be going right all the time so that I’m a happy camper.  So I’m fulfilled.  So life is going my way.  So I’m successful.  So life is good.  

I believe that’s a myth that many people have come to believe.  You see there are passages that say, “In the world, you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.”  There are passages that say, “Why are you surprised at the fiery trial that you’re undergoing?  Because it’s predictable and certain.”  There are passages of scripture that say that every single person that longs and wants to live a Godly life will experience persecution.  

Major Premise: God wants me to be happy 


Minor Premise: My situation, job, marriage, school, relationships are so painful/stressful that we come to this conclusion:


Conclusion: This situation or relationship can't be God's will for my life. 


The Truth: Running from adversity and conflict in relationships does not solve problems, but compounds them. Patience and perseverance are the keys to relational transformation. 


The author of the book Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships was doing a live call-in program on Christian radio.  

A lady calls in and says, “Well, I just really want you to know that I know God really wants me to be happy.  And I am just miserable in my marriage, and so I’m going to be divorcing my husband.  And that’s okay, isn’t it?”  

The author said, “Well, Ma’am, that’s a very complex situation and I don’t know all the issues.  But do you have Biblical grounds for divorce?”  She responds, “Well, what do you mean?” 

“Well, has he been sexually unfaithful?  Is he an unbeliever that maybe you married before you were a Christian and has he abandoned you?  I mean, do you have Biblical grounds for divorce?”  

And she replies, “Well, no.  He’s just not very considerate.  He’s just not very nice.  I don’t feel fulfilled.  I mean, I’m missing out on life.  I’m miserable.  I just don’t like him anymore.”  Then she said this, “But I know God wants me to be happy.  Therefore, I know this can’t be his will.” 


Some of you are going to respond to this message with a defensive mechanism that will go something like this: “I’m sure there are a lot of people that need this message and need to be patient and persevere but I am not one of them.” You may offer all kinds of excuses like you don’t sleep at night because of your situation or you are having panic attacks or any number of things that might be happening.  Some of you will say you don’t understand and your right I don’t but God does. 


I would suggest there's a group of people that no matter how difficult your situation is, their situation was far worse.  They had lost their homes.  They had been abandoned by their families.  Some were starving.  Others were being persecuted by the Roman government.  They were hiding out in caves to be able to pray and worship the Lord.  They were dispersed and ran for their lives.  

What do you think God would say to that group of people?  Well, you don’t have to guess.  If you look in your notes, I’ve put exactly what God would say to people in a very difficult situation of conflict and adversity. Look at James 5:7:


Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 

 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! 

 10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. 

 12 But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. James 5:7-12 NLT

Let’s do a little bible study. Take a pen and underline four commands we find in these verses.

 

Command number one: Be patient.  (ver 7)

Command number two: Be patient and take courage (stand firm.)   (ver.8) 

Command number three: Don’t grumble. (ver. 9) 

Command number four:  Do not take an oath (or swear).  (ver.12)


 So he’s made it very clear.  He understands our situation.  It’s as literally bad or worse than anyone’s difficult conflict or adversity.  And he says to them very clearly, “Be patient.  Be patient and stand firm.  Do not grumble.  And do not swear.”  


Now let’s circle some words because there are some things that are repeated that will tell us what he’s talking about.  Maybe there’s a theme here.  Circle the word “patient” in verse seven.  Circle the word “waits” in the next line.  Circle the word “patient” in the next line.  Go to verse eight.  Circle the word “patient.”  Skip down to verse ten.  Circle the word “patience.”  Skip down to verse eleven and circle the words endure and endurance.

Now let’s put a box around three words: Farmer, Prophets and Job. These three are going to be used as an example of how you and I are supposed to practice endurance. Having completed that miniature study we are going to move into making some applications for our lives from this passage of scripture.  

What most of you are going to hear today is that you need to hold steady and be patient. You are going to hear that you need to not be so quick to always jump to the conclusion that the grass is always greener on the other side. 


Are there times to move?  Of course there are.  Are there times that God wants us to move from one thing to another?  Of course there are.  Never hear one passage or one teaching outside the full counsel of God.  But what this passage is talking about is you’re in circumstances that it’s obvious from Scripture God doesn’t want to change at this point.  And instead of trying to wiggle out of them and trying to play a game in your mind that believing it will be better if only this – like that cow nibbling the grass on the other side of the fence.  

Having been around farms all my life growing up I can assure you that animals have this concept of greener grass down pat and it is always on the other side of the fence. 


1. We are commanded to be patient even when circumstances are out of our control. 


Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. 

 “Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring.” The farmer has no control over the season but he patiently waits for the harvest. I don’t know any farmer who would ever be successful if after planting in the spring that farmer were to say to his wife, “This is ridiculous, we have be waiting for two weeks and nothing much is happening so we are going to sell this place and move away and do something else.” Verse 7 says “They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.”  The farmer waits. He waits on the land, the rain and the sun. He is patient. He waits on the seasons. There are seasons to life. There are seasons to jobs, and ministries and marriages and children. IF you and I bail out before the seasons have run their course we may never know or see the harvest God intended for our lives. 

The word patience here means long suffering. 

You need to be and learn the lesson of the farmer and realize that you don’t know all that’s going on, and there is a season of difficulty right now.  But you need to persevere.  You need to hang in there.  And then by the way, you need to hang in there with the right attitude.”  Notice what it says, second command.  “Be patient and take courage for the coming of the Lord is near.”  

Seasons have a beginning and seasons have an end, don’t they?  Whatever you’re experiencing that you think, “I can’t take it.  I can’t take it.  I can’t take it one more day.”  Yes, you can.  You say, “Well I can’t imagine myself three weeks from now in this situation.”  You don’t have to.  There is no grace in hypothetical situations.  There is – if you start thinking next year or three weeks from now or two years from now or in five years, you know what?  There is zero grace.  You know what you get grace for?  Today.

And don’t forget we are to have a good attitude during this time of difficulty. 

 9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! James 5:7-9 NLT

The word grumble here means to sigh or groan silently within or whine without. It is to build resentment toward a situation or toward someone else. 

I wonder how many times some of us have bailed out of a situation instead of being patient and missed out on something God was going to do that was beyond what we could imagine or even think. 

2. We are commanded to be patient even when our circumstances are unfair and unjust. 


For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5:10 NLT


We are to study or look at the prophets. You see you and I might be tempted to think that if you were a prophet of God and stood for what He stood for and spoke for Him that you would have a happy little life. 


Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look at just a few. Do you think that Daniel when he was thrown into a den of hungry lions felt happy? Do you think that it might have been a long night that put him right on the edge of completely losing his mind? He didn’t know till God delivered him in the morning that he was going to be delivered. Happy, happy, happy wasn’t something that was going on for Daniel. 


Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet. He was stuck down in a cistern well and do you think for a few moments that he might just have wondered what in the world God was doing? He’s not a prophet but one of my all time biblical heroes would have to be Joseph. Remember we are talking about being patient when life is unfair and unjust. 


Joseph never wavered in his faith. Not once. His brothers kidnapped him and put him in a pit and sold him into slavery.  He worked in a trusted position and his master’s wife made a pass at him and when he refused she accused him of attacking her and he was thrown into prison for about eight years. 


It’s the happiness cult that we’ve produced in America.  “I’m a Christian.  I should be happy.  If I’m not happy, something’s wrong.  We often pray God change it quickly,


What we learn from the prophets is that they were in the center of God’s will and being in the center of God’s will meant pain, suffering and injustice. It meant difficulty. 


Life is not certain.  Life is not easy and life is not fair.  That’s a Biblical appraisal.  When you do what is right – when you’re in the center of God’s will, if you’re expecting that everything lines up and goes your way, that your circumstances align, that people are going to be wonderful, that all your kids are going to make great decisions and turn out right, that you’re never going to have a major problem in your marriage, that you’re never going to go through difficult, painful health issues, that you’re never going to be betrayed by a friend, that you’re never going to have someone in business cheat or lie or do something difficult to you, then you set yourself up wrongly for a life of despair and discouragement.  

The lesson from the prophets is not what they went through it’s where they land! If you go back to James 1 for a moment you will find the basis for this theology. 

 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 

  12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-4,12 NLT

When we are under pressure from a circumstance that seems unfair and unjust we have to realize that the testing of our faith produces holiness in our lives. God is not interested in making us happy but He is intentional about making us holy. 

How does God produce maturity or holiness or Christ likeness?  It’s not because we’re happy all the time and everything goes our way.  It is when he takes us through things that the pressure and the difficulty, like a piece of coal in the heart of the earth, the pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure takes it and makes it a diamond.  Or it’s like the piece of sand inside of a pearl where all the rubbing, the difficulty and the irritation produces a pearl.  

God’s looking to create men and women whose character and whose hearts and whose lives from the inside out are diamonds and pearls reflecting the fragrance of Christ.  That’s his agenda.  But if we think it’s to make us happy, we get very upset and disillusioned when He allows us to experience what the prophets experienced.  Jot down if you will Genesis 50:20.  Here’s the principle – here’s what we learned from the prophets.  

It is a fallen world.  Life is not fair.  Life is not certain.  But all the evil, all the difficulty that came into Joseph’s life, he could when he saw it all look backwards and said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant it for evil but God meant it for good to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.”  

In Philippians 3 the Apostle Paul wrote these words: 

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians 3&version=NIV" \l "fen-NIV-29431a" \o "See footnote a" a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”    Philippians 3:7-10 NLT

You will never be closer to God.  You will never have more intimacy with God.  God will never speak more loudly or more clearly than when you are in pain and when you need him.  When sex and food and trips and money and possessions and houses, no matter how nice they are, all in the right frame of mind with all the right people can’t deliver, Jesus said, “I’ll be there for you.”  


3. We are commanded to persevere even when we don't understand why God is allowing 

such adversity in our lives. 


We give great honor to those who endure (persevere) under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. James 5:11 NLT


Even when we can’t understand why God is allowing adversity in our lives we are encouraged and commanded to move from patience to perseverance. We are directed to look at the life of Job. Unlike the prophets it is not just about patience it was about endurance. Perseverance is holding up under pressure. 


You know the weight of what some of us may be feeling, threatens to crush us. We look at it and think there is no way we can carry this but then the weight gets laid on us and we persevere. We endure and persevere and something strange begins to happen. Like a weight lifter or body builder we begin to notice that the load although not changed seems to be getting lighter and we realize that we are building spiritual muscle. 


Did you ever consider that part of God’s plan may not be to deliver you out of your difficult circumstance?  But He might want to deliver you through it. The Apostle Paul said he had a “thorn in the flesh” and he prayed multiple times for God to remove it. We don’t know what it was but find out in 2 Corinthians 12:8 – 10 the why: 

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT


Could it be that God has something so wonderful to do in you and through you that He has chosen you not because you’ve been bad, but because you’ve been good and He knows that He can trust you with it to allow you to endure through the pain of the relationship or the health issue or the difficult situation.  And that through the pain, his grace will be sufficient.  And one day you’ll be able to say, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

That’s the message of Job. You can read and study his story on your own. The fact is his life blew apart but He knew God. His family all passed away or left him but he knew God. His earthly possessions were all taken away but he knew God. He was left in physical pain and covered from head to foot with boils but he knew and trusted God.  Look again at what James wrote in verse 11: 


We give great honor to those who endure (persevere) under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. James 5:11 NLT

Lastly. . .


4. We are commanded to demonstrate our patience and perseverance by keeping our vows and commitments.


12 But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. James 5:12 NLT


Don’t bail out.  If you made a commitment to God, keep it.  Made a commitment to a marriage partner?  Keep it.  Made a commitment to your kids?  Keep it.  Made a commitment to your church?  Keep it.  Made a commitment to someone else?  Keep it.  Psalm 15:4.  “He who swears to his own hurt and changes not, those are the kind of people that can enter the Temple of God – the Holy Hill and be honored by it.”  

Now are there unique situations where immorality or things happen in a marriage?  Are there unique situations where churches go off doctrinally or there are dysfunctional things and you’ve done all you can and God releases you?  Yes there are, but we’re living in a world of exception clauses and loopholes.  We’re living in a world where people ignore what the Bible says and make it up to suit themselves and their situation and all of that is based on bad theology. 

Jeremiah was a prophet in pain. He was known as the weeping prophet but every now and then he got a little good news from God to share: 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-12 NLT

When Nancy Guthrie gave birth to a daughter, Hope, in 1998, club feet, extreme lethargy, an inability to suck, and a number of other small problems hinted at something more significant. On her second day of life, Hope was diagnosed with Zellweger Syndrome, a rare metabolic disorder that is characterized by the reduction or absence of peroxisomes (cell structures that rid the body of toxic substances) in the cells of the liver, kidneys, and brain. There is no treatment and no cure for Zellweger Syndrome and most children with the syndrome live less than six months.

For Nancy, her husband David, and their son, Matt, the diagnosis was devastating and disappointing. Hope’s brief life—a life of only 199 days— made a significant impact on them and those around them, causing them to dig deep into their faith to make sense of such suffering.

To have a child with Zellweger Syndrome requires that both parents be carriers of the recessive gene trait for the syndrome. So, after Hope was born, David and Nancy took surgical steps to prevent a future pregnancy. Evidently it didn’t work. Just a year and a half after Hope died, Nancy discovered she was pregnant. And a few months later, pre-natal testing revealed that this child also had the fatal syndrome. The Guthrie’s second son, Gabriel, was born on July 16, 2001, the same day a story on the Guthries appeared on the pages of TIME Magazine. Gabe’s life was also very short, a mere 183 days.

Those who have watched Nancy and David walk through such loss, and the millions who have read their story worldwide in TIME Magazine and USA Today have wondered at their ability to emerge from such sorrow with joy for life and passion for God. Nancy offered many of the lessons she learned from this sorrowful experience in her 2002 book, Holding On to Hope: A Pathway of Suffering to the Heart of God, which has helped thousands of people pursue God in the midst of their suffering. She regularly hears from readers who have been touched by the book from all around the world as the book has been translated into German, Danish, Norwegian, Korean, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese. 

There have been no books or articles published about How to reach your full Potential, or Keys to Improving your Life but Time Magazine wrote an article about When God Hides His Face, and Today’s Christian Woman wrote an article called, A Woman Named Job. Or there’s the article that none of us want to read, Suffering Your Way to God. 

God promises to take us through the deepest places of our lives. Sometimes He rescues us right away but often God uses the deepest valleys of our lives to call us, speak to us and draw us to Himself.