What does such a diverse crowd as Jerry Falwell, John Wesley, Joseph Smith, Herbert W. Armstrong, Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, and Edgar Cayce have in common?
You may have guessed the answer. They all believed that the second coming of Christ would take place in their lifetime or at a certain future date.
From the first century to the 21st century, people have expected Jesus to return to complete God’s plan for the ages.
First-century Christians expected Jesus’ imminent return. To their anxious waiting, James counseled patience.
Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, 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).
Patience in the Old Testament is expressed by the phrase “wait for the Lord.”
The Psalm writer said, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)
In a song of praise, Isaiah said, “It will be said on that day, ‘See, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
“‘This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation'” (Isaiah 25.9).
What does it mean to “wait for the Lord” or to “be patient”? Here are two thoughts.
(1) Waiting and being patient acknowledges that God’s timing is perfect.
I am grieved over what is happening to people in the world. Here are a few striking examples. I’m sure you can easily add to my list.
— An 8 and 10-year-old brother and sister make bricks every day from dawn to dark in Nepal.
— Children as young as my grandsons are used as slave labor in Africa, mining for minerals that are used in our smartphones.
— As I am writing this article, over 12,000 people have died in a massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
— It is estimated that 200,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and innocents have died in a war that is less than one year old.
When Jesus returns the oppressed will be able to sing songs like the one I quoted from Isaiah 25.
Until Jesus returns, God’s people wait and trust that God is at work in the world and achieving his plans for his creation.
We are called to patient waiting because the timing of Jesus’ return is up to God’s plans.
(2) When we wait patiently on the Lord, we do not attempt to manipulate God. Instead, we humbly submit to what he is doing in history.
Old Testament prophets like Isaiah contended against prevailing idolatry in Israel and her neighbors.
The foundation of idolatry is the creation of a deity of our making. Humans engage in extreme sacrifices to the deity to manipulate it to give them what they want.
Baal was a Canaanite god, whose name meant “owner.” These neighbors of Israel engaged in many practices to manipulate this god to give them fertility – children, animals, and crops.
Money is the central idol of our age. “Whatever it takes” is the approach humans take toward this idol.
Even though the monetary “god” requires enormous sacrifices, humans continually attempt to manipulate money to their advantage.
By contrast, patient waiting on God trusts him to love us and have the power to accomplish his purposes for us.
The gift of prayer is one of God’s finest gifts for his children.
A balanced prayer life will help us escape the inclination to treat God as a god in our image who can be manipulated to serve our desires.
On one hand, The Bible encourages fervent prayer for God to supply our needs.
On the other hand, we need to be willing to wait on God to answer our prayer according to his will and timing.
The last thing we want to do is attempt to create a god in our image, whom we can manipulate through prayer.
Patient waiting is the perfect attitude toward the Lord we love.
I don’t know about you, but I become grouchy when I don’t feel well or when things don’t go my way.
James has guidance for people like me.
Brothers and sisters, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! (James 5.9)
The Lord’s soon coming is in view. He is our loving Savior, but also the Judge of all the earth.
Patient waiting for the Lord to set things right is counseled in place of critical grumbling.
We judge the behavior of other people, when we complain, criticize, or grumble against others.
The Old Testament prophets had plenty of reasons to grumble.
They were in the middle. They upheld God’s purpose for the nation and grieved over the demise of the people.
Rather than grumbling, they humbly waited for God’s will to be done. They patiently trusted God even though their patience was mingled with suffering.
James asks his readers to recall the prophets and Job as an illustration of behavior they should imitate.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Indeed, we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about, for the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5.10-11).
We are inspired by characters in the Bible and other dynamic followers of Jesus. We need their example to show us an alternative to the idolatry of the culture around us.
We don’t know when Jesus will return, but we are called to be ready for his return every day.
Patient waiting in trust is the best way I know to be ready for the second coming.
Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.