James 5:7-12 Sermon – Remain Steadfast

Intro

In 2016, a girl’s cross-country runner entered a race for her university. Madeleine Adams is from Boston College. The race was 6 KM and she had been in training to prepare. The day of the race, she felt great. She was in good shape, energized, and ready to go. For the first 99% of the race, things were good and she was on pace to finish with her personal best time. But twenty yards before the finish line, her legs gave out. She collapsed. She had nothing left to give. The finish line was in sight, but Madeleine just couldn’t make it the last short distance.

Finishing is hard.

The Christian life is also a race. Many who profess Christ do not finish. They do not stay the course. Something happens along the way. We have probably all witnessed someone we know who fell away from Christ.

The book of James is about being an authentic believer and living out our faith.

Today we will learn that an authentic believer should remain steadfast. We are to stay the course and finish the race.

James 5:7-12 – Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

A definition

Hypomeno – Remaining under (the load), bearing up (enduring), to await.

Tie in being steadfast and persevering to theme of James

I. The characteristics of the steadfast

A. Patience and hope

James 5:7-8 – Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

A key characteristic of the steadfast is patience. James gives the example of a farmer. A farmer prepares the field and sows the seeds. But the harvest doesn’t happen immediately. On a day-to-day basis, nothing seems to happen. If the farmer were to sit by the fields and watch, he wouldn’t see any perceptible change. Patience is required.

God designed it so there is a time lapse between the work and the result. Through nature, God teaches us the principle of delayed gratification.

The modern world today says, “I want results and I want them NOW.”

God never intended things to be this way. Moses had to wait forty years in the wilderness after he tried to save Israel for God’s timing. Joshua and his armies had to walk around the wall of Jericho 13 times waiting for the Lord. David had to wait around 15 years after he was anointed to become king.

God uses this wait time to teach His people patience and the importance of depending on Him.

We have faith in God. We believe in the good news of the gospel. We believe in eternal life and heaven. We believe that all of our sins will be wiped out, that we will be given perfect and glorified bodies, and we will never sin again.

Yet the final fulfillment of these promises of God is still in the future. God doesn’t say He will do all of these things immediately for us when we place our faith in Him.

In addition to patience, we need hope. The farmer hopes for a good crop and patiently waits for it. We place our hope in God’s promises.

Paul described a group of people in 1 Timothy 6:5 that “[imagine] that godliness is a means of gain.” These are people who think that God will give them money or health or success immediately when they believe in Him.

There are many who think so. One person once asked me, “If I believe in Jesus, what can I get?” He was hoping for a beautiful girl friend or immigrating to another country.

Those who have this mentality will be disappointed. They are looking for instant gratification.

Note what Paul said right after that.

1 Timothy 6:6-7 – But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

We do gain in this world. Our lives, purpose, and attitude are all changed when we trust in Christ. We already experience many of the blessings, but not all of them. To receive the full promises, we need to be patient.

Patience was a problem 2000 years ago. It is much more of a problem now. The average attention spans of millennials is 12 seconds and Fen Z 8 seconds. I don’t know exactly what that means or how it is measured, but the fact that it is measured in seconds is interesting. I read that many users will scroll away if a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Imagine telling that to a person who used to walk 30 minutes to the library.

God wants us to stay the course and finish the race. James tells us to do so we must be patient and hope in His promises. The steadfast are willing to wait for Him.

Each one of you is facing a different challenge. But it is likely that each of you has been tempted to be impatient toward God and His promises.

– Perhaps you are struggling with chronic pain or illness. Be patient. He will heal believers, but if it is not now in this earth it will be there.
– Perhaps you are struggling in a difficult marriage or relationship. Be patient. One day you can be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
– Perhaps you keep praying for something and are waiting for an answer. Be patient. Perhaps He wants you to learn a lesson while you wait.

Impatience can cause you to lose your way.

– Abraham and Sarah fell into sin because they weren’t patient to wait for God’s promise of a son.
– The Israelites were impatient when Moses was on the mountain for forty days. They fell away from God and created their own religion.

The steadfast are willing to wait for Him. Do not let impatience for some earthly thing derail your faith.

B. Focus on you

James 5:9 – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

One key to being steadfast is to focus on yourself. I don’t mean that in a selfish way of putting yourself first. If you are in a race, it will not help to look around at others. Some of our youth like to play soccer.

Does it help you or your team when you complain about the refs?

Does it help your team if you stop playing and shout at the other team’s player, “It’s a foul?”

Does it help you or your team when you get upset at your teammates and shout out their mistakes?

All of these things distract you and give your opponent an advantage.

Focus on you and your job. Do your best. Do what you should do and don’t worry about others.

James says, “the Judge is standing at the door.” What does that mean? First of all, you are not the judge! God is. Everyone else will have to give an account to Him. You will too. You need to focus on your relationship to the Judge, not on everyone else. Do your job and let God do His.

Adults, you would never grumble against or compare yourself with others, right?

Well, even the disciples and Peter did this. We are not better.

Remember when Peter and the other disciples all thought that Jesus promised John would live until the second coming.

John 21:21-22 – When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

Their preoccupation with John was distracting them from what they should do.

To be steadfast means to focus on what you should do and not be preoccupied with others.

– Students, don’t spend time grumbling or questioning why someone else who is “worse” than you got a scholarship.
– Singles, don’t spend time grumbling or questioning why someone else less qualified got the girl or the guy.
– Volunteers and ministry leaders, don’t spend time grumbling about why others don’t do their share of the work.

These can all be distractions which can cause you to lose focus on what God is calling you to do. You answer to Him. Keep your eyes on Him, not on those around you.

C. Trustworthy and reliable speech (12)

James 5:12 – But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

James has made it clear that real believers live out their faith in everyday lives. One aspect of that is speech. One should not claim to be a believer and then copy the world’s patterns of speech.

A faithful and steadfast believer should keep watch over his tongue.

James quotes Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:37, when He also warned against oaths. Oaths were not universally banned in the Old Testament (Psalm 76:11). But they were considered to be serious and solemn and only to be used in special occasions.

The problem was that by the time of Jesus, people had tried to find loopholes to exploit. For example, a person who swore by “heaven” could break the oath since they didn’t invoke the name of God. There were other unwritten rules. Swearing by the gold of the temple or the throne of God were not considered binding. People were leaving themselves an “out” clause. That is similar to the Western practice of crossing your fingers while making a promise.

It seems that based on the historical context, Jesus, and then James, is prohibiting these types of oaths. He is reminding people that the Creator is always present. He hears what you say and He also sees your heart. Clever word games do not excuse lying.

The world uses a lot of oaths in routine communication. Liars say things like “I swear on my mother’s grave I am telling the truth this time.”

But there is a problem with oaths. If you are normally an honest person, why do you need to swear to convince someone that you are telling the truth? Swearing to convince people of the sincerity of your words actually makes you less believable in general.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says oaths are appropriate only in “matters of weight and moment” (Genesis 26:3, Psalms 132:11, Acts 18:18, Revelation 10:5-6).

A steadfast believer should be clear and honest in speech. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

Application

– Be a person of integrity so that you don’t need to persuade people of the truth of your words.
– Think before you make a promise. As we learned in James 4, say if “God is willing” you will do this or that.
– Parents, keep your promises to your children. If you say you will take them to the park or read them a story, do it.
– Only use a vow in a very serious occasion such as a wedding and even then simply make a straightforward and clear statement of commitment.

II. The motivations of the steadfast

A. Faith in a returning Savior (7-8)

Sprinkled throughout this passage are not only the reminders to be steadfast, but the motivation behind it. When you feel discouraged and ready to give up, what motivates you to keep going?

James 5:7 …until the coming of the Lord

James 5:8 – Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Jesus is coming back. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the tunnel is long, dark, and difficult. But we have the solid assurance that there is an end to the tunnel.

On a global scale, that is encouraging. In many ways, the world seems to be falling apart and civilization decaying and rotting. We read of violence, crime, murder, war, terrorism, disease, disasters, drugs, pollution, infanticide, and the modern insanity of sexualizing children and school curriculum.

Jesus is going to come back. He will solve all of these issues. His kingdom will come, His will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven.

On an individual level, it also motivates us. I believe many of you have gone through difficult times. When you have, I believe the Holy Spirit reminded you that they would not last forever. Those difficult times probably made you long for Jesus to come back.

There were two times in my life when I faced extreme pain. Once was when I had appendicitis. During those times, I remembered Scripture. I remembered the promises that in heaven there will be no more sickness and no more pain.

We also struggle with sin and face its consequences every day. Our coming Savior will free us from all these things.

And we believe that even if He does not come in our lifetimes, that when we die will go into His presence. One way or another, there is light at the end of the tunnel. He is that light.

A few weeks ago my family was in Yangshuo. A guide took is into a cave. We turned off our lights and it was pitch black. We were enclosed on all sides by walls. Some parts of the tunnel were very small. My daughter said the ceiling was too short, so you know how I felt. But we also knew if we would keep going, keep following the guide, and not get lost, eventually we would come out. (Insert picture of light shining from opening).

Faith in a returning Savior should motivate you to keep going.

B. The warning of a coming Judge (9)

James 5:9 – Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Jesus is standing at the door. But He has two hats. We just saw His Savior hat and now we see His judge hat.

The world hates the reality that there is a Judge. That is probably the number one reason behind the development of the theory of evolution. People do not want to believe that a moral authority will hold them accountable for their actions.

There are many warnings in Scripture that not everyone who claims to be a believer is saved.

Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

This is a strong warning. Knowing that the Judge is coming should motivate us to examine ourselves and our salvation. It should motivate us to be steadfast.

Scripture gives us examples of people who appeared to be saved and serving God and then fell away.

– Demas – 2 Timothy 4:10 – For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

I first came to China about 20 years ago. The driving on the roads was chaotic and scary at times. Now many CCTV cameras have been installed. Drivers know they are being watched. Because of this, they follow the rules (at least when they know there is a camera).

You too are being watched. The righteous Judge sees all we do. This motivates us to be righteous and steadfast.

C. The goodness of the Lord (11)

James 5:11 – You have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

We have seen that God’s justice should motivate us. Here we see that His mercy and compassion motivate us.

If we were to face His judgment on our own merit, we could not stand (Revelation 6:17). Thankfully, we do not have to (Jude 1:24). Jesus is a unique Judge. He took our sins on His own self. He paid our penalty for us.

Jesus said “Great love has no one than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends.” That is what He did for us.

Believers do not primarily follow God because of fear. Perhaps fear of judgment is a motivation at the beginning. We follow after Him because of love. We love because He first loved us.

Like the recipients of James’ letter, I believe many of you have seen the purpose of the Lord. Many have experienced His forgiveness, received His grace, and tasted of His goodness.

Application – When you are tempted to give up or stray, remember His love. One practical way to do this is to count your blessings. Keep a record of answered prayer, testimonies, and blessings. Let His love motivate you to stay the course.

III. Examples for the steadfast

James 5:10-11 – As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job.

Isaiah 26:3 – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

A. The prophets

– Daniel is one example (4 regimes, persecution, to old age). Here are some things Daniel endured.
o Being exiled and taken from his country and his family as a youth.
o Facing the full might and propaganda machine of the Babylonian empire.
o Four regime changes.
o A national law forbidding worship of God.
o Persecution by political enemies.
o A den of hungry lions.
o Daniel was faithful as a youth and still over seventy years later when he was an old man.

B. Job

Job experienced worse pain and suffering than perhaps anyone else except for Jesus. He was targeted by Satan for malicious attacks. His own wife told him to curse God and give up.

Job 2:9 – Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.

Job 2:10 – But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Job 13:15 – Though he slay me, I will hope in him.

Job’s story is included in the Bible for many reasons. One reason is to encourage and strengthen us. It is possible to stand fast and endure in following the Lord even in the face of immense suffering.

C. Modern-day examples

– Meltons – For a couple of you who have been in Guangzhou a long time, you might remember Jim and Bonnie Melton. Whenever I think of a couple who remained steadfast and faithful until the end, I think of them. They came to China long before most foreigners in the 1980s and they served people here, having a big impact. They stayed and ministered to people until around the age of 80. Jim’s back was bent and he couldn’t stand up straight. But he could still talk about and explain the Bible in a strong voice and clear language. Eventually, health forced them to leave China. Bonnie got Alzheimer’s. Jim said that his new ministry was loving and taking care of his wife. Even as her memory went, one thing Bonnie could remember and enjoy was some of her favorite hymns. Recently, Bonnie passed away at the age of 89. Jim is currently 92 and still steadfast. They had some terrible things happen in their lives, but they have been faithful to the end. It is a beautiful thing to see. I hope that one day people could say that about me. I hope the same for you. It is much harder to finish than to start.

Conclusion

In the beginning of this message, I shared about Madeleine Adams and how she collapsed near the end of her race. However, that is not the end of the story. Two other runners saw her and, sacrificing their own position, stopped to carry her across the finish line.

We can and should make up our minds to be steadfast. At the same time, God provides help for us. We are not in the race alone. God gives us a Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to do what we could not possibly do on our own. We can only stay the course and persevere to the end by depending on Him.

He also gives us other helpers. This is Christian fellowship. The other runners around us can help us and encourage us and likewise we should help and encourage them.

In Scripture, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught side by side and held in tension.

Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

He started this work in us and will continue it.

But that does not absolve us of responsibility to persevere.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God… Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

We are to strive to enter into that rest.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I trust that this passage will encourage you to be steadfast, to stay the course, to push forward in your walk with God. Rely on Him. By His grace, you will be able to finish.