What We Are Waiting For
by Rev. Chris Rice
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:7-8 (NRSV)
A young man approached me on Monday morning in the lobby here on Locust Street. He said that he was confused and wanted to go home. I asked him where he lived and I learned that he was from a small town in southern Illinois. He had come to the big city looking for work but now that he’d arrived he realized it was not what he’d thought. He’d met people who were beat up for their money in the area. He felt threatened just from walking the streets. He didn’t want to stay any longer. He was asking if our ministry could please give him a bus ticket home.
Now don’t misunderstand, he came here to the city with clear intentions. He couldn’t find work anywhere in the area close to his home. He was used to doing work on an oil rig, but this time of year there was no work to be found. This was the biggest city in the region. After coming here and feeling out of his comfort zone he said he’d be heading to some other city next— maybe in Indiana. Too many murders here, too many muggings. He didn’t want to die.
His story is similar to many others, men, women, and families, looking to make a living with very little. They’re searching for a place where they can work, live safely, and live peacefully. When I stop and consider it someone is always being born, someone is dying, someone is self-medicating, someone is doing all they can to stay sober, someone is making lots of money, and someone is going broke. Most people feel like victims to life’s circumstances, and they feel like their hope lies somewhere out there in the next town, with the next job, maybe with new people.
It occurs to me, “Is this what life is really all about? Why is life such a struggle, and for what?”
The Apostle James gave us a clear word on who we are and what we are to be doing. He says that we are to be “long-tempered” or “suffering-long”. This is what the Greek word, “makrothumeo” which we translate “Patience” says. We are not to get frustrated, angry, fearful, and weighed down by life, but instead we’re to look to the coming of Christ.
What are we waiting for? Life is in constant flux and we are always at the center of change. If we’re waiting for things to settle down and become “normal” we’re missing the point. I’ve been waiting my whole life for people to be less difficult to deal with. How’s that workin’ for me? Not too well. And you know, I’m sure people have been waiting on me to be less difficult to them too. Stop and listen to the kinds of things people want to talk about.
I was standing at the auto repair shop this morning and the TV was on with the weather report. People around me began discussing whether or not they liked the snow we’re supposed to be getting. Now, as I’m writing this it’s only the second week of January here in Missouri. But the consensus this morning is that everyone prefers the rain and forty degree temps to snow. I’m wanting to say, “Come on people! It’s winter time. Deal with it.”
I got a ride back to work from one of the shop repairmen and I wanted to talk about history and the Scott Joplin house and the new Blues Museum in downtown, but he wanted to talk about how the weather changing was effecting his bones. You just can’t steer conversations past this moment in our world today. I’m here to tell you I know Jesus is returning soon, the Bible says it is “nigh”, meaning it is “at hand”.
My driver asked me, “Isn’t that Larry Rice at 1411 Locust?” I told him my name and he got excited because he said we are doing good work. He asked about how things are going with the city and I told him, “I’m not waiting on the city. I’m waiting on the Lord.” And he said, “I know that’s right.” In this world we all have big and small things that can easily seem more important than the return of Christ. This is why it’s important for us to remember WHO we belong to, WHERE we belong, and WHAT we’re called to do.
James tells us we’re called to patience.
Matthew Henry said, “This Christian patience is not a mere yielding to necessity, as the moral patience taught by some philosophers was, but it is a humble acquiescence in the wisdom and will of God, with an eye to a future glorious recompense.”
You don’t have to be patient just to get along. You’re not being patient so that people will like you. You’re certainly not called to patience so that good things will come eventually. God is patient and the fruit of his spirit is patience. We are what he has made us. We are called to remain in Him and wait for His appearing.
Next we’re given a word picture to remember. “The farmer waits….” This should set our minds on the way of life we’re to follow. We’re called to lives of simplicity that involve planting seed, and trust that the “early and late rains” will bring the crop. Now I’ve done some gardening and I’ve lived on a farm with animals. I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing romantic about
this life. It’s a hard life. There’s a reason America has a history of migration from farms to the city and suburbs. People wanted an easier life.
But we’re called to patience that involves attention and trust. No farmer just plants the seed and then lays around. If you want a good crop you have to know all about your land, weather patterns, tools, neighbor relations, etc. Our patience is not a lazy patience, it’s a hard work and trusting patience. Vines Expository Dictionary says that,
“Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope (1 Thess. 1:3)”.
James then tells us (vs. 8) that we need to “strengthen our hearts”. The Greek word here is “starizo”, meaning “to set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction, to confirm”. We can’t forget WHO we belong to and that the WHEN of his appearing is certainly at hand. So what this means is that we have to stay focused on the most important matter in a world that is more focused on sports and weather.
Most people don’t realize it, but things broadcast on TV and in social media actually are carefully created in order to form our opinions and tastes. If you aren’t careful about your use of them the messages you receive will leave you only concerned with momentary problems, and you’ll be left with big worries about things out of your control. This morning I made a conscious effort to leave the radio off on my drive into work. I found I had much more time to pray and focus on doing the will of God.
Maybe you’ve become distracted and fretful about things that are far less important than Christ’s Returning. I want to encourage you to return now to your calling. Be patient and strengthen your heart for His appearing. We are now in the third act of divine history. The Holy Spirit is here among us making us ready for what Christ will do next. “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Heavenly Father, you have demonstrated your divine love in sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. You have been long-suffering toward us desiring that none of us would perish, but all come to knowledge of the truth. We are so grateful and right now we commit ourselves fully toward being what you desire. Have your way in us, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.