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Patience During Affliction

Patience During Affliction

A young Christian man, went to an older believer to ask for prayer. "Will you please pray that I may be more patient?" he asked. The older man agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, "Lord, send this young man affliction in the morning; send this young man affliction in the afternoon; send this young man...." At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for affliction. I wanted you to pray for patience." "Ah," responded the wise Christian, "it’s through affliction that we learn patience."

Left to ourselves, we would think that a lack of affliction would produce patience in us. But that is not God’s app for patience. Patience is a characteristic the Holy Spirit, and we need His grace while we patiently wait for the Lord’s return.

James 5:7-12 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers, do not swear-- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.

Although we may not realize it, the way patient endurance is produced by trials, tribulation, suffering; in summary, afflictions. Most of us, when we recognize the need for patience, pray a prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!” Patience, like most Christ-like characteristics, grows over time rather than being given to us overnight.

James uses the farmer to illustrate the necessity of waiting and the reward for patience. When the farmer plants his seeds, he knows that he is going to have a long wait before he will get to see the fruit of his labor. He begins by tilling the ground. Then he plants the seed and he prays for rain. Actually, the farmer doesn’t have to wait very long to see something coming up through the ground. That will happen in just a few days.

What would you think of the farmer who harvested his crop after just a few days growth? Would he have anything worth eating or selling? NO! What he wants is for that seed to sprout into a plant, and then he wants that plant to reach its full maturity. He doesn’t want a weak seedling; he wants a strong, mature crop. That takes time. He has to wait until the process is complete. If he harvests his crop too early, he will ruin it. Farmers must be patient.

Parents must be patient too. I remember when we were waiting on our first child to be born. It seemed like those nine months would never be over. I know that the wait was a lot harder for Kathy than it was for me.

Now, after that 9 months was over, did I have a strong, mature child who is able to survive on his own? No, of course not. Parenting takes years of work caring for that child and instilling in him the training, discipline, and encouragement that he needs in order for him to mature enough to survive on his own. It takes patience. In the same way, our Father is patiently training, disciplining, encouraging, and maturing us through our afflictions to be more like Jesus.

James 1: 4 “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

In that verse, “perfect” does not mean “sinless.” It means “mature, strong, having everything necessary to withstand the storms of life and the wiles of the devil. Patience produces strength and enables us to wait for the return of Jesus.

When Jesus returns, He is going to reward all those who have faithfully served Him and He is going to remove all the results of the curse on sin. There will be no more cancer, no more dying, no more crying, no more separation. Sin will be absent. We will never be tempted ever again. We will get to enjoy the presence of Jesus for all eternity. All those things that seemed so unfair to us during our life here on earth will finally be set right.

Therefore, as we anticipate the rewards of patience, we can endure whatever happens in our life or in our world. We can deal with anything when we remember that heaven is forever, and earth is temporary. We have peace, because we know for sure that God loves us. When the ground is shaking all around us and we’re about to fall into the pit of despair, we can find a solid, stable rock in the realization that God, the Holy Spirit, is with us. We can be patient because we know Jesus will come again just like He said.

Rom 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation (that is his coming) is nearer now than when we first believed.

Although though we know that Jesus is coming, we still have to deal with today. Sometimes, while we are waiting for something to happen in our life, we allow impatience to build because we wish Jesus would come now and put an end to our affliction. Since we can’t take out our impatience on whatever it is that we are waiting for, we express our impatience to the people around us. That is a poor witness of the faith we profess.

Furthermore, we may look at other people’s lives and get impatient because they aren’t maturing as fast as WE think they should. We forget God’s patience with our slow rate of maturity. Probably all of us should have a big sign hanging around our neck that reads, “Be patient with me; God’s not finished with me yet.” As we wait for the Lord’s return, don’t allow your fleshly impatience to cause you to grumble against God or His people. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you grace to wait patiently during your affliction or for others to mature in the Lord.

God means for us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to find great comfort and practical encouragement in the promise of Christ’s return. But I’m afraid the return of Christ is seen by many people today as nothing more than a fascinating futuristic concept, fun to discuss, debate and study, but it has little or no real effect on their daily living or struggles. It is usually passed off as irrelevant “Pie in the Sky” theology, or seen as a form of religious escapism. But the truth is that the return of Christ is God’s promise to strengthen our faith, especially during times of affliction. Remember, God is in control and He has a purpose in everything.

2 Peter 3:3-9 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

For an example of patience during affliction, James reminds us of the afflictions of the prophets and Job. Job had the same questions we have, “Why am I suffering?” and “How long must I suffer?” Nevertheless, Job endured and never blamed God. The endurance of Job is legendary.

So as not to test your patience, I will not read the Book of Job to you at this time. To summarize, circumstances were against Job, for God permitted the devil to cause the loss of his wealth, his health, and his children. Job’s grieving wife told him to give up, curse God, and die. His friends accused Job of some terrible hidden sin, deserving the judgment of God. Even God would not answer Job's questions for 37 chapters.

Yet Job endured and he was rewarded for his patience during affliction. After Job's deep repentance, God again blessed Job by restoring his family, health, and fortune. He lived another 140 years and saw four generations of his family. Furthermore, through patience during affliction, Job grew to know God in new and deeper ways. Job learned that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

You might wonder how Job learned of God's compassion and mercy when God allowed him to go through so much affliction. Job learned that we do not merit any blessing from God regardless of our personal righteousness. All blessings come from God's goodness, and without God's mercy and compassion toward us, we would be at Satan's pleasure all the time and life on earth would be like Hell. To be sure, our finite minds cannot fathom all the mysteries of God's working, but we do know that through Job’s suffering, Job was purified and God was glorified.

Here are the facts of life. If there is nothing to endure, we cannot learn endurance. We cannot persevere unless there are afflictions in our life. There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys; no joys without sorrows; no strength without trials, and no blessings without sufferings. If we want the blessing, we must humble ourselves before God and patiently endure life's afflictions. God first humbled righteous Job, then He honored him with blessings. Again, Job learned God's heart after enduring the trial and then he realized God's mercy.

In contrast, most people today are characterized by impatience and a love of ease. They want immediate rewards. They seem unwilling to work hard and wait for financial success. They are drawn instead by the lure of instant lottery tickets or some other get-rich-quick scheme. And in the spiritual realm, people look to preachers who promise immediate healing and wealth as rewards for faith.

Quitting is easier than enduring, but it produces a pattern that's hard to break. So if you've been thinking, "This relationship's too hard, so I want out” or, "This job isn't what I expected," remember, you develop patience and perseverance by remaining faithful in a situation you don't like and can't change. So, don't give up! “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy”.

Rom 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

God may not tell us all we want to know about our afflictions, why we are not healed, or why we lost our job, or why we lost a loved one. There are many things in life that belong only to the Lord. He wants us to trust Him and persevere when afflictions come our way. At such times, we must believe that God is a God of compassion and mercy who orders all things for our good and His glory. Some insight may come later, sometimes years later when we can say, “Now I see why that was happening and now I see how it was a display of God’s compassion and mercy towards me.” “Now I see how the Father was loving me and disciplining me as His child.”

John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Through affliction, God is pruning us so that we will bear more fruit of the Holy Spirit. Be sure to respond to His pruning with trust and perseverance. If we do, God will develop in us the characteristic of the Spirit called patience along with all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in us will glorify God. A believer who endures affliction with patience glorifies God because he abides in God and God abides in him.

Therefore, have the same attitude as Paul, who said, Rom 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Unfortunately, we can create our own affliction and suffering by sinning or being foolish. Still we can learn from these mistakes if we humble ourselves and repent.

Brothers, learn a lesson from this foolish man. His wife had just bought a new line of expensive cosmetics absolutely guaranteed to make her look years younger. She sat in front of the mirror for what had to be hours applying the "miracle" products. Finally, when she was done, she turned to her husband and said, "Honey, honestly, what age would you say I look now?"

He nodded his head in assessment, and carefully said, "Well, hon, judging from your skin, twenty. Your hair, mmmm, eighteen. Your figure, twenty-five."

"Oh, you're so sweet!” she cooed.

"Well, hang on,” he said, “I’m not done adding it up yet."

Such a response might cause his wife to swear, but to be serious again; James is warning of another type of swearing in verse 12 that can bring condemnation.

When the affliction is happening and the days are difficult, some of us will do anything to get out of the pain and suffering. James warned Christians in the midst of trying circumstances, not to swear. He is warning against the “fox hole” kind of oath or promise to God of what we will do if God allows us to escape the affliction. This is a foolish thing to do; something for which God holds us responsible. Swearing in this manner shows a lack of trust and faith in God. It is totally unnecessary because God already is merciful and compassionate, having our best interest in mind. Our verbal response to affliction should simply be “no” to sin and “yes” to God.

Numbers 30:2 When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

An example of a foolish man who made such an oath when he was in a difficult situation is found in Judges 11. Jephthah was commanding Israel’s army and swore to God that if he was victorious in battle he would sacrifice the first thing that came through the door of his home when he returned. I don’t know if he had animals in his house or what he was expecting, but his only child, a daughter, was the first to come out of his house to greet him. He sorrowfully kept his pledge to God, but how foolish and unnecessary that oath was!

In summary, life tests our patience. Sometimes we wonder why the Lord doesn’t come back now and put an end to this sin-filled world. Maybe, once again, God is showing us His mercy and compassion. Maybe our Father is giving us time to get ready for Jesus’ return.

II Peter 3:10-18 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

We don’t know when, but Jesus is coming again, perhaps today! Are you ready for the Lord’s return? If not, today is the day of salvation when you can change your destiny from eternal destruction to eternal life. Today you have an opportunity to confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God, to repent, and to give Him your life in baptism. Today you can receive the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to pray with joy and expectation the last prayer recorded in the Bible.

Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Is that your prayer today?)

Until He answers that prayer, remember God’s promises. The promise of God is not a life with no afflictions, but that we will never be alone. Jesus said, “in this world we will have tribulation”, and He also said “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” There are many more promises of God, but I will close with this important one.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.