As humans, we are incredibly impatient. We want what we want right now. But patience is learned by being patient. We tend to think that there are ‘patient people’ and there are ‘impatient people’ but patience is a skill that we must all develop.
James does not give any of us an opt-out clause. His words are simple. “Be patient, therefore, brothers (and sisters), until the coming of the Lord.” (verse 7) This is not a request or a suggestion, it is an imperative statement. The word that James used for patience means long-tempered. It literally means “to remain under” — to stay put when your instinct is to give up, run, or quit.
James used three different illustrations as examples of patience. The first is the Farmer.
There is just a natural cycle to a growing season and there is nothing you can do to speed up the process. You plant, you wait, you harvest. But in the waiting there are things to do. To think that a farmer plants in the spring and returns in the fall is foolish. There is a great deal of work that happens in between. Our Spiritual lives too need constant attention if we are to reap a harvest of blessing. When you are trying to develop spiritual disciplines like patience, do you give up too quickly?
The second illustration are the Prophets. We should never think that obedience to God means an easy life. Obedience led Jesus to the cross. Many of the Prophets had to endure great suffering. While many were delivered, others died for their obedience. They are now regarded as heroes of our faith. If you are suffering for doing the will of God, you are in good company. Be patient and know that your steadfastness may be the visible evidence that someone else needs to better understand the reality of God.
The third illustration is Job. You cannot endure unless there is difficulty in your life. There is no victory without a battle. Satan wants us to get impatient with God because an impatient Christian is an effective tool for the devil. If he can get us to lose hope and stop trusting in God, then he can get us to trust in ourselves. It is when I do things my way in life that I most often find myself in trouble. Job held his ground and was blessed in the end.
The first question I need to ask myself in suffering is “Why?” Have I been impatient and had unrealistic expectations on God? Is God trying to teach someone else about Himself through my example of patience and humility? Or is my suffering from an external source and God is trying to develop my character by allowing it? Whatever difficulties we are facing in life, God will use them to develop our character if we are willing to be patient and look to Him rather than give up or look to ourselves.
What is your typical response when it comes to dealing with suffering or difficulty? Which of James’ examples do you most identify with? If you are going through a difficult time, what do you think God is trying to teach you or others through it?
Josh Kesler, Senior Pastor
The following is taken directly out of my transcript from Sunday’s message from the book of James.
As followers of Jesus, we become stewards of God’s wealth whether it is a great amount of wealth or small amount. Either way, we have a responsibility to make decisions as to what is the most faithful thing we can do with the resources that God has entrusted to us. Simply put, regardless of what we have, or how much has been given to us, we must be faithful to use it for the good of others and the Glory of God.
The deep question we each have to ask ourselves when it comes to what we have is who is the true owner, God or me? There is an incredible difference between enjoying the gifts that God has given us and living extravagantly. A couple of months ago, I was at a football game next to a professional sports photographer who I have come to know. At one point during the game, he needed to change his camera lens and go to the upper deck to take a panoramic photo. He handed me his regular lens which was about a foot long, 5 inches in diameter and worth more than I could pay to replace it. You can be certain that I held it with both hands and did not lose sight for a minute. I had been entrusted with something of value that did not belong to me.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1
Even the things that we think we control belong to God. This extends beyond our stuff, even to people. I forget that even my children belong to God and have been given to me to steward well into adulthood. Oh yeah… and all of my relationships including the ones I have yet to build. All people belong to God, and it would be wise for me to treat God’s possessions with the respect and dignity they deserve. All of this reflects the fact that stewardship goes far beyond finances and wealth. Regardless of what we have, God says, “hang on to this, I’ll be back for it.” We can never lose sight for a minute that what we have been entrusted with does not belong to us.
If you have a giving problem, it’s probably because you have an ownership problem. Here are a couple of questions for you to answer that may help you better determine how you actually feel about giving/stewardship/generosity.
What does the term stewardship mean to you?
Where do you draw the line between enjoying what God has given you and living a life of indulgence?
Do you trust more in God’s provision for your future or your material possessions?
I would love to hear how you are wrestling with the ownership battle in your own life. I tend to feel that since I give obediently to my church that the rest of the stuff is mine to do what I want with, including over-indulge. How has the stewardship question challenged how you view “your stuff?”
If you remember from the message Sunday, I talked about your spiritual gift as a sort of divine sweet spot. When you hit a golfball or a tennis ball just right, you know it. When you are doing something naturally and on behalf of others and it just feels right, you are probably honing in on an area of spiritual gifting. One of the main questions that I always get about spiritual gifts is, “How do I know what my spiritual gift(s) are?”
As Jesus was the full embodiment of all spiritual gifts lived out to perfection, rather than focus on a certain “way” or “gift”, we can simply focus on being like Him. However, there are abilities that come more naturally to us that others. We are all wired differently.
I want us all to begin to think more deeply about how God wants to use us in the way that he has uniquely crafted us because I know that our our service to others will build our faith in powerful ways. Here are some practical questions to prayerfully ask yourself.
A scripture to help you think more deeply about this is 1 Corinthians 12:4-7:
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Often in life we can hit spiritual plateaus. The important thing is not to stay there. One of the best ways out of these lulls in our faith is to “serve” and “love” our way out. When you give to, love, and serve others as motivated by your love for Christ, the gratifying feeling you receive is God at work in and through you. When our service seems effortless, it is because it is the God of the universe enabling you to be far more than you could ever be as working from your our own. If your service seems like a burden, then you may be out of your sweet spot or you could be serving for selfish reasons like having an internal motivation to receive the praise of others. God sees our hearts and will not empower selfish service.
If you would like to take an online spiritual gifts inventory I have included a link to a good one. I have taken the test myself and it only takes about 10-15 minutes. I have also read about the group providing the test and I am confident by their Confession of Faith and description of spiritual gifts that their mission and doctrine are consistent with who we are at The Well. If you do decide to take the test, just bear in mind that it's less about self-assessment tests and more about becoming who God already created you to be. SpiritualGiftsTest.com
Please feel free to share with us your results or use this opportunity to ask any further questions you may have about spiritual gifts.
Josh Kesler, Senior Pastor