Friday, February 22, 2019

Sermon: James 5: 7-11 Fruitful - Patience

This morning we’re thinking about patience. Now, when I was growing up, my granny had a saying that went like this: ‘Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Seldom in a woman, and never in a man.’ Do you think that’s true?

So let’s do a little test. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 very patient and 5 not very patient, how are you...

when you’re counting down the days to your birthday
when you’re stuck in traffic
when you’re sitting in waiting for a delivery
when you’re in a queue
when you’re in the dentist’s waiting room
when you’re looking forward to half-term holidays

Now, if you’ve kept a note of your scores, then I’ll tell you later on what your score means... And if you couldn’t wait to hear what your score meant, then you’re probably impatient!

So how patient are you? If granny’s rhyme was true, then we all have some work to do. We’re not as patient as we should be. But why should we be patient? Why are we even thinking about growing in patience?

We’re looking at patience today because it is one of the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve already sung about the full fruit of the Spirit in our service - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And we’ve been looking at each of them in turn at our Church Family services to see what it is God the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us.

Some of us might be more patient, because of our natural personality, and some of us might be less patient, because that’s the way we are. But all of us can grow in the patience that the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us - because he is at work in us when we belong to Jesus.

So to help us think about growing in patience, I’ve brought along some things to help us. I need someone to help me - someone who is good at gardening and growing things. So I’ve got a planter, some soil, some seeds, and we’re going to plant these lovely flowers. We can see what it’s going to look like, we see the pattern and example here on the packet.

And for the fruit of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus is our pattern, and our example. When we want to see what the fruit of the Spirit look like in real life - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, we can look at Jesus, and see how he demonstrated all the fruit of the Spirit.

And when we read the gospels, we find how patient Jesus was. He always had time for people, he spent hours and days caring for people and healing people, he was never in a hurry, in a word, he was always patient.

And in our first reading, we see just how patient the Lord still is. You see, Jesus lived, and then died on the cross as our Saviour to take away our sins. He was raised to new life on the first Easter Sunday, and he ascended back to heaven, promising his disciples that he would come again. Peter says that, as time goes on, and Jesus hasn’t yet returned, people are going to be asking, so, where is he?What about this return that he promised? And some will even think that Jesus isn’t going to come back at all.

But in verse 9, Peter tells us what’s going on. ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ The reason that Jesus hasn’t come back to this earth yet isn’t because he’s slow at keeping his promises. No, he is being patient, giving us more time to turn to him, to repent and trust him. If Jesus had returned fifty years ago, then many of us wouldn’t have been in his kingdom. Or thirty years ago, or ten years ago. Some of us here in Richhill have become Christians, followers of Jesus, in the last year - that’s why Jesus hadn’t already come back this time last year. He was being patient. And maybe the reason he hasn’t already come back is so that you repent today - as we’ll see in the Baptism questions a little later on, to repent is to turn away from sin, and to turn towards God.

The Lord is patient towards us, not wanting us to perish, but wanting us to turn to him, before he finally returns. And because Jesus is patient, we who follow him, we want to be patient too, to be like Jesus in every way. That’s what our other reading is about. Being patient.

Do you remember what we planted earlier on? I’m just wondering to myself, have those seeds done anything yet? Have they started to grow and sprout? So I’ve got my little trowel here. Boys and girls, do you think it would be a good idea to dig them up to see if they’ve started to grow?

It would be a bad idea! I need to be patient, to wait for the seeds to sprout and grow in their own good time. It wouldn’t help the seeds if I was digging them up every five minutes to see if they’re doing anything. I need to be patient. And that’s what James, the brother of Jesus tells us in his letter. He says: ‘Be patient, then brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.’

The farmer doesn’t harvest his crops until they’re ready. He has to wait for the rains in the autumn and in the spring before his harvest is ready. And we need to be patient as we wait for Jesus to return. But that’s not always easy. We see all the bad things happening in the world, and we know that Jesus will put all things right when he comes, and so we have to wait patiently.

And we need to be patient with other people - just like Jesus was. We need to see people the way Jesus sees them - as the people we are to love and care for and help and talk to about Jesus.

Many of us will know Psalm 139. It’s a Psalm about how amazing and wonderful God is, that he knows everything about us, wherever we go, whatever we’re about to say - God knows everything about us. And no matter where we could go, God is always with us. And, as we come to the Baptism of little Rachel, the Psalm also talks about how God ‘created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ And then it says this: ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’

So often we’re always looking forward, always rushing on to the next thing. So maybe you were eagerly waiting for Rachel’s birth - we can’t wait to meet her! And maybe you’re eagerly waiting for her to start walking and talking - we can’t wait for her first steps! But all of us can get caught up in this - we can’t wait to finish school. We can’t wait to start our first job. We can’t wait to get married. We can’t wait to get a bigger house. We can’t wait to have children. We can’t wait to retire. We’re always looking forward, wanting the next big milestone to come. Always rushing on, a microwave society always in a rush.

But every one of our days has already been written down. God knows how long we’ve got. And so we don’t need to rush on. We can be patient, taking each day at a time. Seeing what God has prepared for us to do today - in the people we meet, the opportunities we have, the places we find ourselves. It doesn’t come naturally, and it may not come easily. But God is calling us to be patient, and to grow in patience, to become more like the Lord Jesus. And God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to grow his fruit of patience in us. So let’s pray, as we seek to follow Jesus in this way.

This sermon was preached at the Church Family Service with Baptism in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 17th February 2019.

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