Faith is the substance of things not seen yet hoped for. It’s in the waiting of faith to come that we are tested. The question is, with that testing, will we be found faithful to the Lord? I’d like to say that the resounding answer I would give is “YES!” But unfortunately, the reality is that I have often been found wanting and whining to God amid my circumstances.
When I consider my circumstances, I have nothing to complain about. I have a great job, a fantastic wife, a daughter, and a roof over my head. I am about to be commissioned as a provisional elder—what more could I ask for? If I think about it long enough, I can find a million little things to complain about. However, I don’t want to get into stinking thinking. I want to live from a place of gratitude and thanksgiving for what God has given my family and me. I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to praise the Lord for all that God has done.
James, the brother of Jesus, has something to say about patience in suffering. And I think having to watch his brother tried, beaten and crucified that he would know something about patience in the face of suffering.
“ Be patient, therefore, brothers,1 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.” James 5:7-11
I have waited all winter for spring to come. It’s here, and all I can do is complain that it’s not warm enough yet. My daffodils have come up together with my tulips and hyacinths. The grass is ripe to be mowed, and last year’s leaves need to be removed. I should be grateful for the spring, but all I can focus on is the 43°day (the real feel is 29°). Why should something so inconsequential cause doubt that God is in control? Perhaps it is because I want to be in control of what I can’t. Control is an illusion we buy into as human beings and a quest for all of our lives. In reality, we aren’t in control of a whole lot. We can’t determine the amount of hair on our heads. We can’t control our height or shoe size (I wear a 14). We can’t control the day or the night in which we will depart this world for our heavenly home.
The believers that James is writing to are a community that is experiencing incredible suffering and persecution. James is attempting to encourage them to live out their faith under those circumstances. Our problems in America are first-world problems. They are nothing compared to our brothers and sisters around the world that are dealing with a lack of food, housing, clean water, war, and famine. Believe it or not, there are places in this world that Amazon.com does not reach, and many people wouldn’t have the cash or credit to buy at the rate that Americans do.
We have an abundance in this world—perhaps too much stuff. What if we went on no spending holiday? What if every time we surfed Amazon.com or another online retailer, we made a donation to our local church or food pantry? What if every time we surfed social media, we stopped and prayed that God would break us of our vanity and ego?
The root of all my character defects is self-will run amuck. I have to stop thinking this is all about Daniel. I have to stop and find myself in the shadow of the cross on which my Savior was crucified. I have to let God break me of the person I think I am and restore me to the person that God wants me to be. God asks me to be humble, filled with grace, and willing to do God’s will. God asks me to serve others even when I don’t want to.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Having faith isn’t comfortable. Listening to fear brings us to the pits of despair. Faith is like putting on a one-piece chain mail garment that covers from head to toe. It’s tough, rigid, and isn’t the most comfortable thing to wear, but when the arrows of discouragement, lack, pain, and suffering come—it will hold up our heads high to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The great hymn Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates, Behold the King of glory waits by: Georg Weissel in 1642 says what I am feeling now.
1 Lift your heads, ye mighty gates; Behold, the King of glory waits; Glorying of Kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here!
2 Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple, set apart from earthly use for heaven's employ, Adorned with prayer and love, and joy.
3 Redeemer, come, with us abide; Our hearts to thee we open wide; let us thy inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in us reveal.
4 Thy Holy Spirit lead us on Until our glorious goal is won; eternal praise, eternal fame Be offered, Savior, to thy name!