“ You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”–James 5:8.
My Beloved Ones in Christ Jesus our Lord,
One of the oddities of our modern, technologically advanced life is the amount of waiting that we do throughout any given week. Whether it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store, at a governmental office, the airport, or in traffic, we seem to always be ‘in the queue’ as they say. What makes this so strange to me is the expectation that our ever-evolving technology would lead to less waiting around. Yet, a 2017 survey of people in the USA found that we wait on average:
20 minutes a day for the bus or train
32 minutes whenever we visit a doctor
28 minutes in security lines whenever we travel
21 minutes for our significant other to get ready to go out
13 hours annually waiting on hold for a customer service
38 hours each year waiting in traffic (50 hours in larger cities)
So, what do we do during these frequent periods of standing around in line, or sitting in a ‘waiting room’?
Over the years, I have always taken a book along with me when I anticipate such times of waiting. Sermon preparation is a never ending process, and by doing a little study in such situations I can make use of otherwise wasted moments. I’m sure that most of you do something similar to this.
To be a bit more open about it, engaging in something useful while waiting helps keep my level of (sinful) frustration in check. And as I have so frequently witnessed in my own soul, frustration is a sin that never travels alone. It seems always to breed and expose additional wickedness. Perhaps few things serve to sanctify us so efficiently as does this common and unpleasant experience of waiting.
All of this makes it rather remarkable that, according to Scripture, waiting is a vital component of our walk with Christ.
One place in the New Testament where this is spelled out with explicit clarity is in the Epistle authored by James, our Lord’s own brother. In the fifth chapter of his letter, he exhorts us to:
“ 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” (v. 7).
It’s as if we are presently in the Great Waiting Room, anticipating the sudden blast of the last trumpet and that inexpressible moment when our Sovereign King and Redeemer shall appear for a second time to judge the living and the dead. In fact, this is precisely what James declares in verse 9: “ behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
Waiting, then, is a critical part of our service to the Kingdom of Heaven. And yet, the necessity of waiting is such a challenge to our hearts, an assignment that is terribly difficult for all disciples of Jesus.
But James gives us some wonderful insight into how we should spend our time in the ‘waiting room.’
He exhorts us in verse 8 to “ establish” our “ hearts” as we pass the time. That is, during these days of waiting on our Lord’s return, we must strengthen or stabilize our souls. We have something specific to do while we are ‘in the queue.’ We are not to let these moments, days, and even years be wasted or turn into an opportunity for sin to blossom in our souls. Rather, our “ hearts” are to be made stronger instead.
But what, exactly, does this mean? How do we strengthen our souls?
Well, the answer is to be found on the farm!
As we have seen in verse 7, James directs his readers to consider “ the farmer.” Here, the Lord’s brother is comparing us to one who raises crops. Each day the farmer actively engages in the many tasks and duties which are required by life in the country. And as he works, he trusts in God’s providence; that the Lord will indeed supply the rain, both in the right amount and at the right time. He waits, but that does not mean just sitting around. It means faithfulness in doing what must be done right now.
But there’s more to this as well.
As the farmer waits on the Lord to provide the proper conditions for the growth of the produce, he trusts in the faithfulness of his heavenly Father. Implied in these words is the truth that our hearts are made strong as we work and reflect. We are to engage in those duties that we have been called to perform. And as we go about accomplishing our assigned tasks, we set our minds firmly on the character of our God.
In other words, we don’t spend our lives, our time of waiting, doing nothing. And we don’t wait upon the Lord’s return with minds that are disengaged, wandering all over the place, daydreaming as it were. To the contrary, we faithfully and obediently do what today requires while focusing our minds upon the unfailing nature of our Lord and His Word.
Today, we wait. We are anticipating the moment when the door between heaven and earth opens and our King suddenly appears. And as we pass the time, we are patient but not inactive, trusting and not becoming frustrated or fearful. His return is surely “ at hand” (v. 8).
Perhaps now we can grasp a little more of the meaning of Isaiah’s magnificent promise made to each of us who love the Savior:
“ but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
I love you so very much,