Scripture Reading: James 1:12-27
Sermon: “Through Tough Times To Triumph! Or, Patience!” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
My second grade teacher, Mrs. Rush, started me down the road of delayed gratification. You know how your mother always commanded you, Patience! Well, Mrs. Rush taught me how to put patience into action with a Flintstones lunch box. When I opened my lunch box, out would cascade a baloney sandwich, a banana and a Hostess Twinkie. Which would I grab first?… Mrs. Rush was not humored by us eat dessert first types (I guess she didn’t believe that life for a second grader is too short.) so she instructed us to eat:
Your sandwich first, your fruit second, and, you guessed it, sadly, dessert last. Wawawa.
That was all part of Patience! Being the compliant child that I was, I abided by the rules, but Dennis, whose mother would stuff his Flintstone lunch box with nothing but candy on the day after Halloween, didn’t. At lunch, I suspect, is where Todd and Dennis met their fork in the road. I went on to graduate from college and two graduate schools, marry well, have two great kids, and enjoy a blessed life. Twinkie first Dennis went on to get a girl pregnant, drop out of school, marry a few times, drink too much, and, as far as I know, he still struggles with life. I am suggesting that what you do with your fork in second grade may determine which fork you take in tough times going forward. So, Jesus, how do we delay gratification in trial?
The Holy Spirit inspires James’ pen to start our passage with Blessed is anyone who endures trial… Patience in trail is especially critical isn’t it? The mother church in Jerusalem’s trial was that they were a persecuted minority. Patience! In other words, don’t eat your Twinkie first by sucking up to Jewish leaders at whatever cost. Stick with your beliefs, God is with you.
Barbara Taylor writes about a car accident where her car skidded off the road, and next thing she knew, she found herself up-side-down in a creek watching the water rise towards her head. As the water got closer and closer she knew she was a goner. Her heart was racing. As the blood was flowing to her head, and she thought she might pass out, she noticed flashing lights, and then heard words. She writes that they weren’t the sweetest words she ever heard, like an I love you from her husband, but they were the most important. A gruff, tough fireman said, Don’t panic, lady, I’m right here with you. Panic in trial only makes things worse, right?
So what is God’s Patience! in our trial? In a tough job search it may be to not just roll over and give up, but to keep clawing away at getting retrained for a new career, or to keep putting feelers out to prospective employers because God is with us, it’ll be o.k. Or, Dennis didn’t have to resort to Southern Comfort to console him after his second divorce, he could have let the Comforter, i.e., the Holy Spirit, help him pick up the pieces of his life and learn from it.
For James points out that trials really do put a fork in the road before us. James is sort of the Proverbs of the New Testament. Jesus’ brother, James, was very interested in how to live out God’s way practically, even wisely. And one of the common themes in Proverbs is the two roads: the way of the wise and the way of the fool. So, listen for this fork (vv. 12-15)… You can diagram it like this
Desire (instant gratification) Patience (delayed gratification)
resulting in Death or Life
By God’s grace I went right and Dennis, sadly, went left. Dennis took the Jersey Shore route, and by God’s grace I went more the Jersey Fresh route. That is, I blossomed and grew to bear healthy fruit under Mrs. Rush’s tutelage. That’s the fruit of God’s patience.
How do we drive down life’s road with patience? Basically by checking our mirrors…
Mirrors help us see others on the road in the same way that Jesus helps us have patience with others. The side mirrors tell us if a car is passing on the right or left. Often in trial we lose patience with those closest to us. And so the Spirit’s wisdom is to be quick to listen, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger. How often I wish that I had held my tongue and opened my ears in stress. In my younger days I’d fire off an email when upset. Today I breathe, write it once and read it twice–to see if I am really giving the annoying person the benefit of the doubt. Patience!
Mirrors help us see ourselves in the same way that Jesus helps us have patience with ourselves. We look in the visor mirror to smooth out our hair, or put on lipstick. Most often in trial we lose patience with ourselves. When we look into God’s word we see patience personified in Jesus who endured the cross (v. 27). With our kids away at Keswick, let’s apply this to parenting and patience. How often don’t we parents get caught up in the short-term: wanting the room cleaned yesterday rather than looking long-term to help them learn to do it for themselves by, say, tying part of their allowance to a clean room. So then when we realize that we aren’t showing the same patience that God the Father/Mother shows us, its easy to get too frustrated with ourselves that we just walk away. I can’t parent like God! However, when we see how far we fall short of Jesus, if we keep looking, we also see our true selves. Your true self is not an angry parent, but a patient one because, like God, we love our kids . So patience, in a sense, is your natural destiny. Patient is how God created you to be. It makes families work.
And some day by God’s grace we will arrive at our destination. In our second grade, Twinkie first mentality, we may say more than once, Lord, are we there yet?! And Jesus will just say to us, patience! I am with you. And that’s what I’ve admired about you over these last two months. Suddenly we lost a key member of our ministry team we couldn’t tell you much of the story, you could have panicked, but you didn’t. You’ve been patient with little info. You’ve been patient to step up to fill ministry holes. You’ve been patient as we’ve put together another excellent Search Committee. Now this week they will start their work again. And if we eat our baloney sandwich first, and then our apple, because Jesus said so and is with us, we’ll get to the Twinkie, and it’ll be worth it! Amen.
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