Good morning brothers and sisters,
As James nears the end of his letter to Christians scattered throughout the world, he spends a great portion of the final chapter encouraging his reader to comprehend the value of fervent prayer. Hopefully, today’s Christian has also witnessed the effective prayers of the righteous. In spite of being able to observe God’s faithfulness, the challenge for many seems to lie in our inability to patiently wait for the Lord’s response when we pray.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Indications seem to suggest that the gift of “patience” is in short supply in our world. The concept of immediate satisfaction is prevalent everyone we look. We are encouraged to “have it your way”; to take matters into your own hands when the wheels of justice to do not move as fast as you wish; or “buy today and pay it off in time.”
It is very possible the Christians reading James’ letter would have been tempted to pray for God’s intervention from the circumstances they were enduring in the pagan societies they were now calling home. James began his letter challenging them to “let perseverance finish its work so that you (we) may be mature and complete…” Perseverance is another way of saying: Be patient!
Think about Elijah again for a few moments. There was an extreme famine in the land and God told him he was he was to go to Kerith Ravin where the ravens would supply food!?! If I were praying for nourishment, I don’t think I would expect it to come from any species of birds. We know how they feed their young! Wow! Yet God provided for Elijah, in His timing and using His methods.
The period between the time rain stopped and the small cloud appeared in the sky was three and one-half years. Again, the timing was according to God’ will and His timeline. Elijah demonstrated time and time again patience trusting God to work at just the right time. And there are other examples of patient endurance by God’s faithful.
Noah spent one hundred years building an ark for an event that had never occurred before. “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-6) Imagine the amount of patience Noah had to demonstrate!
When God told Abraham that he would make him into a great nation, it was years before Sarah gave birth to Isaac. In fact, Abraham had to leave Haran and travel to a “land that I will show you” before Isaac was born. His patience is confirmed when one considers he was 100 years old at the time Isaac was born.
When Samuel anointed David to serve as Saul’s replacement as king over Israel the transition didn’t occur immediately. Scripture records that Saul was thirty years old when he became king and reigned over Israel for forty-two years. (1 Samuel 13: 1) David chose to wait for God’s timing to ascend the throne of Israel.
I am sure when Lazarus died, Mary and Martha would have wanted Jesus to return immediately to restore Lazarus’ life and yet he stayed away two more days before returning to Bethany. Each of these examples support James’ opening encouragement. It is through patient endurance of life’s trials – which naturally produce prayerful petitions – that results in a perfect faith. Why? Because they provide an opportunity for us to see God’s faithfulness demonstrated in our personal lives!
The goal is for us to reach the point where we put ALL trust in God and God alone! It has been said that God is never late and never early. He is always right on time. He is on time in answering our prayers. He is on time in leading us through the trials and tribulations we face in life. He is right on time in growing our faith. Reaching a place of mature faith, a complete faith will not happen immediately.
My grandson is an avid baseball player. He wants desperately to be great at a sport he loves so much. As a mentor and encourager, I find myself constantly sharing with him that his skills will not develop overnight. They require continual reinforcement, repetition, and proper execution. The same approach should apply in our prayer life. It should require continual reinforcement, repetition and proper execution.
It takes doing something 21 times for it to become a habit. It takes doing something 1,200 times for it to become second nature. We benefit from the multitude of trials and tribulations (even though they may seem to be unending and more numerous than what seems fair) when we endure them with patience endurance, allowing God to demonstrate His faithfulness to us.
Tomorrow we conclude James’ letter!