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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - A Faith That Handles Delays Patiently

Rick Warren - A Faith That Handles Delays Patiently

Rick Warren - A Faith That Handles Delays Patiently
TOPICS: Faith, Patience, A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t

Hello, everybody. Hello, Saddleback. Have I told you lately that I love you? I'm Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and speaker for the Daily Hope broadcast. And welcome to week 15 in our series through the Book of James, A Faith That Works When Life Doesn't: Principles for Dealing with the Pandemic. You know, this week, we all heard the news about the coronavirus infections, going back up in many places, all around the world, including here in California. That was not the word that we wanted to hear. And since that news has come out, I've heard a lot of discouraging talk from a lot of discouraged people. We were all hoping that this pandemic might last a few weeks, or maybe at the most few months. And now after many, many months, the infections are going back up.

And if I had to choose a word that describes the way most people are feeling today, I think it would be the word fatigued. Everybody's tired. We're tired of all the change. People are tired of being cooped up. People are tired of being out of work. 25% of Californians are out of work and people are just generally worn out from all of the changes that they've had to make because of this coronavirus. And we don't really feel like being patient anymore. In fact, one of the reasons the virus infections have gone back up is because people got tired of social distancing and following all the safety requirements needed to keep the virus from spreading. And I think this new batch of infections can be directly linked to our own impatience with the restrictions that were keeping it from spreading in the first place.

By the way, I need you to pray for our Saddleback staff that are in the hospital right now with COVID-19. And this is serious, friends. We have staff members of Saddleback Church in the hospital right now with COVID-19. Now, if we want to get back to some kind of normality in our lives, we're just going to have to be patient. Now, many people are impatient that we're unable to restart our public gatherings as a church family on weekends. But honestly, I'm more interested in your health and in you staying alive than I am in rushing too quickly and exposing people unnecessarily. Now, we've been in this series in James for 14 weeks. This is our 15th week, and we have generally been taking the book in its order, but I have done some skipping around in the book in order to deal with some current issues.

Now today, we're gonna jump all the way over to chapter five. We'll come back and cover the other stuff, but we're going to jump to chapter five because James 5 is the classic passage on patience and on being patient when things are taking longer than you want them to take. And since I know you're impatient, I'm going to rush over to that text this weekend because I feel that's what God wants us to talk about today. You know, sometimes the greatest step of faith you can take is to do nothing, but simply wait on God. Waiting when things aren't moving as fast as you want them to move, takes a lot more faith than going out and doing something impulsively.

So let me read to you, James 5:7-11. Here's what it says, James 5:7-11. "Be patient, my friends, until the Lord comes back. Remember how patient farmers are as they wait for their valuable crops to mature and ripen. They also wait patiently for the spring and the fall rains to do their work. You must be patient. Don't give up because the Lord could arrive at any time and don't complain, especially against each other, or God will judge you. Remember that the real judge is standing at the door. Now, another example of patience in the face of suffering is God's prophets, who spoke God's truth in hard times. Today, we honor them for their patient endurance when they suffered unjustly.

Then remember the example of Job. Job continued patiently to trust God while enduring great pain, but we know how God fulfilled his purpose for Job, and that his plan for Job ended in good because the Lord always treats us with tender compassion and merciful kindness". That's James 5:7-11. Learning to wait patiently is one of the most difficult lessons to learn in life. It's a mark of maturity. Children and immature people have a difficult time waiting. I want it now. I want it now. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? And James shows us when and why and how to develop patience when things are taking longer than we think they ought to take.

Now, all of us have spent a great percentage of our lives waiting, and there are many, many things that test our patience. Freeways, market lines, doctor's offices, COVID-19, all of these kinds of things test our patience. We don't like to be delayed. The truth is we hate to wait. I particularly don't like to wait when I'm hungry. I don't know about you. I'm not very patient when I'm hungry. And so when I go to a restaurant and I have to wait for five different things, that often will make me grumpy if I'm really hungry. I first have to wait to be seated. Then I have to wait to get a menu. Then I have to wait to order. Then I have to wait for the meal to be served. And then I have to wait for the bill and they have the audacity to call that guy the waiter. I'm the waiter. I'm doing all the waiting during this time.

Today, I want us to look at a faith that waits patiently. Six times in the passage I just read it talks about the word patience or perseverance. And James gives us three examples, three illustrations, lessons he says you can learn from farmers, you can learn from the prophets, and he says, you can learn from a man named Job. And we're gonna look at all three of these in these few verses to teach us how to be patient when things are taking longer than they oughta take, in our opinion. And I want us to look at just three questions. I want us to ask, when is waiting patiently an act of faith? When is it an act of faith? What should I remember while I'm waiting? And how do I trust God when I'm waiting for something that's been delayed?

All right, let's look at all three of these from James 5. First, when waiting patiently is an act of faith, when is it an act of faith? Well, we need patience all the time, but there are three times when patience is especially needed and especially important. And that's what James talks about. You might write these down. It has to do with the farmer and the prophets and Job. First, he says, we need to be patient when circumstances are uncontrollable, when circumstances are uncontrollable. Now that certainly applies to what we're going through right now, COVID-19, because none of us can control this global pandemic. But the truth is, a lot of life, most of life is beyond our control.

James uses the farmer as an example. Look again at verse seven and eight. He says, "Be patient my friends until the Lord comes back. Remember how patient farmers are as they wait for their valuable crop to mature and ripen. And they also wait patiently for the spring and fall rains to do their work. You too must be patient. Don't give up because the Lord could arrive at any time". You know, you say, well, the Lord's coming, I don't think I can wait that long. Well, he says, say, look at what the farmers do. You know, farming requires a lot of patience. There are no overnight crops. You put something in the ground and then you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait. And you till and you plant and you weed and you prune.

And eventually, after a whole lot of waiting, you harvest. But more than that, farming includes many uncontrollable factors. Farmers can't control the weather. They can't control the economy. They can't control labor prices. All of that takes faith. And even when we know something is uncontrollable, well, we still try to control it. And how do we do that? Well, if you ever want to know if you're trying to control the uncontrollable, ask yourself this, am I worrying about it? Because to worry about something is to try to control it. To worry about something you can change is dumb. To worry about something you can't change is useless. But the Bible says that when we worry, we're actually trying to control the uncontrollable. And he says, the farmer doesn't do that. He just waits, and he trusts God in the things that he can't control.

When the circumstances are uncontrollable, we need patience. Number two, we need to be patient when the truth is unpopular, when the truth is unpopular. And that's the next verse. Sometimes as a follower of Jesus, you're gonna have to speak up. You're gonna have to tell the truth even when people don't like to hear it, when they deny it, when they don't want it, when it's unpopular. the only thing they want to hear is what they want to hear. And they get upset when you speak the truth. That means that the truth isn't always popular. And of course today, our culture wants to believe a lot of lies that simply aren't true. We want to believe lies about ourselves that aren't true.

And so next, James gives us a second example of when we need patience. And in verse 10 and 11, he says this, "Another example of patience in the face of suffering is God's prophets who spoke God's truth in hard times". In other words, people didn't want to hear it, but it was the truth and they needed to hear it. "Today," he says, "we honor them. We honor them for their patient endurance when they suffered unjustly". Now the duty of prophets is to get people to change their ways, to get them to turn back to God. The duty of a prophet is to get them to be, people to be different, to change our behavior. You know, the problem? People resist change. Even when it's good for them, we don't like change. And when you suggest a change for somebody, they often resent your suggestion.

So the prophets had to deal with being a lot of unpopular, unpopular statements and not being very well liked by a lot of people. Prophets were often maligned. They were often misunderstood. If you read the Bible, they're criticized. They were often very unpopular. That's discouraging. And by the way, let me give you some advice. If you need to be popular in life, don't be a prophet. Okay? Because their job was to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable. They would not only tell it like it is, but they would tell it like it should be and tell it like it could be. Prophets, as a result, because truth isn't always popular, they had to be patient, 'cause people don't change quickly. Prophets had to be patient. By the way, so do pastors.

You know, I noticed that when I started talking about injustice and racism in the world a few weeks ago, suddenly some people didn't like that. They wanted me to change the subject. They didn't want me to point out examples of injustice or racism. And I got a few letters and I got a few calls from people that were frightened, that I was even bringing up the subject. Okay, I understand the truth makes us uncomfortable. But what am I supposed to do as a pastor? Speak the truth in love, love everybody and be patient with everybody. I am not allowed to be impatient with anybody. I have to be patient with everybody. Even when I'm trying to help them change into what God wants them to be. Have you ever tried to change somebody's mind who didn't want to change it? Pretty futile task, if they can only see their own ways.

So what are you gonna do when you're trying to change your husband or your wife or your child or somebody else? Be patient, be patient. You know, in the Bible, the New Testament was written in Greek. And the word for patience in Greek, you're gonna get this, is called makrothumos. That's the word for patience. Makrothumos. It's the word we get thermometer from, which measures heat. And what makrothumos means, it means patience is, it takes a long time for you to get hot. That's what it is. It takes a long time for you to get hot. You don't blow up. You have a long fuse. You don't get overheated with people just because they don't agree with you. If you're gonna be a success with people, you got to learn to be patient. If you're gonna be a successful parent, you can't get overheated. You have to have a long fuse.

You know, in 1 Corinthians 13, the classic passage on love. Verse four, the very first characteristic of love is this. Love is patient. It's the same word, long-fused, makrothumos. It takes a long time to get hot. What that means is you don't grumble about people while you're waiting. And when we are going through times that we don't like, and we're having to wait, and we got a lot of delays going on, we often start grumbling about the people around us. James 5:9 says this, "Don't grumble about each other, my brothers and sisters, or God'll judge you. Remember the great Judge is coming and he's standing at the door". So let's review. When do we need to be patient? When do we need that long-term waiting in faith? When circumstances are uncontrollable, and when the truth that you have to share is unpopular. Be patient with people, okay? Just love 'em and be patient with 'em.

Number three, you need to be patient when pain is unbearable and unexplainable. Circumstances are uncontrollable, okay? People are unchangeable, but when pain is unbearable and unexplainable, that's when we need patience too. Now the classic example, this is the story of Job in the Bible. You know the story of Job. Job was the wealthiest man in the world. Very famous man, had everything he wanted. And on a single day he lost it all. All of his family was killed by a terrorist. He lost all of his crops. He lost all of his livestock and he got a terrible, painful terminal disease. He literally lost everything in a day and he didn't understand what was going on. There was no explanation. Job was a godly man. He feared God. He loved God. He served God. And yet he literally lost everything in a day. It was a test. And yet in this entire time where God is testing, allowing Job to be tested in his faith, Satan came and said, "You know, your man Job, the only reason he's serving you is because he's got it good". And God Said, "No, you don't know Job".

And he allowed Satan to take away all of the things that were good in his life and Job still served God. He was patient. And he was trusting. And James 5:11 says this, "Remember the example of Job. Job continued to patiently trust God while enduring great pain, but we know how God fulfilled," we know that's later in the fact, "We know how God fulfilled his purpose for Job, And that his plan for Job ended in good because the Lord always treats us with tender, compassion and merciful kindness". Then at the end of Job's life, the Bible says God restored everything he'd had double, double.

Now, Job, this guy played in the super bowl of suffering and he won the championship. He's a committed believer. He lost everything, family, friends, finances, health. He literally lost everything. His children were murdered. He went bankrupt. He had a painful, incurable disease. You talk about having a rough day. You know, you think you've got problems? The only thing he was left with was a wife who was nagging him. And she said, "Why don't you just curse God and die"? Well, that's not much of a support system. But the worst part in Job's life is there's no apparent explanation. He's got no idea what's going on. He's just going, "Why me"? And for 37 chapters, God says nothing to Job. He's silent. But in that silence, Job persevered, he hung in there. He refused to give up. He patiently waited on God. The ultimate example of faith, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him".

Friends, whether it's the coronavirus or anything else in life, life is not fair. There is a lot of injustice in the world. We've seen it in the violence and we've seen it in the virus. We've seen it in the pandemic and in the protest. There's a lot of injustice in the world. And sometimes we can't figure out our problems. And that's what Job was going through. Then here's what we need to do next. What should I remember? What should I remember while I'm waiting on God? In these times when I'm going through pain or problems or pressures, what do I remember while I'm waiting on God? Well, James gives us three reminders. And as this COVID-19 pandemic drags on, and as it's taken longer than we want it to take, I want you to focus on these same three things that James tells us to do that'll help us be patient till we get through this.

Number one, remember God is in control. We don't know what's happening in the world. We don't know how long this coronavirus is gonna last. But we do know this. God is in control. Three times in this passage that I just read you, it says the Lord is coming back. It says it three times. James 5:7, "Be patient, my friends, until the Lord comes back". James 5:8, "Be patient and stand firm because the Lord's coming is near". James 5:9, "Don't complain because the Judge is ready to come". Why three times does Job, I mean, does James say the Lord is coming back? Because it's the ultimate proof that God is in control. See, the fact is history is his story. It's not circular. It's not the cycle of life. It's linear. History is moving to a climax. History is his story. Everything is on schedule.

God has a plan. God has a purpose. And one day Jesus is gonna return. We don't know when that's gonna be, but you know, the Bible talks more about Jesus' second coming than it does about his first coming. Did you know that? The Bible talks more about a second coming than his first coming. And James is making a point. He's saying, although the situation may be out of control and what you're going through may be unpopular and it may even be painful, nothing is beyond God's control. So be patient. He's saying God's timing is perfect. He's never late. God is in control. The Phillips Translation of that verse says, "Rest your hearts on the ultimate certainty". What's the ultimate certainty? Jesus is gonna come back one day. Nothing's gonna stop that. And it'll be exactly on time.

So first I need to remember that God is in control. Second thing I need to remember, when I'm going through COVID-19 or anything else, remember that God rewards patience. God rewards patience. James 5:11, he says this, "Now we consider blessed those who have persevered". In other words, it pays to be patient. Note that word blessed? Now there are all kinds of blessings in life. There are all kinds of rewards. When you are patient, it builds your character. When you're patient, you avoid mistakes. When you're patient, you're gonna reach your goals. When you're patient, you're gonna be honored by others. When you're patient, you're gonna have happier relationships. There are all kinds of blessings, all kinds of benefits.

But Galatians 6:9 says this. "Let us not get tired," which is what we all are right now. "Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while," in other words it's a season, "we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up". There are blessings to be had through this period of waiting during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. There are blessings to be had in your character, in your life, in your family, in our church. And by the way, they're not just rewards that happen here when we're patient. The Bible says there are gonna be rewards in heaven too. One of my favorite verses is in Matthew 5:13-14, where he says, "Blessed are you when men shall revile you" or insult you, "and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you, falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven".

Great is your reward in heaven. You know, when you get hurt by somebody else, one of your strongest desires is to retaliate, to get even, settle a score, to get revenge. You know, somebody, you're in a shopping mart and somebody's got their mask on, or you've got yours on and they don't and they bump you. Or in the parking lot, they bang your door. Well, you know what? When something happens to you while we're all waiting for this crisis to be over, somebody criticizes you, before you strike back, think, is this worth giving up my eternal reward for? It's not. You know, as a leader, I get criticized all the time. People misjudge and question and doubt and people second guess the decisions that I make. And you know what I've learned to do is not defend myself. I remain quiet. I remain quiet, why? Because I've discovered that you're most like Jesus, when you don't retaliate.

You're most like Jesus when you refuse to fight back. The Bible says that Jesus was accused of all kinds of things. And it says before Pilate, he spoke not a word unto them. You're most like Christ when you're being quiet in the middle of a crisis. This is trusting God to handle it. So remember God's in control, okay? Remember that God is in control. And remember that he's working and doing all these things in your life. But let me give you a third thing. Remember this is not the end of the story. That's the third thing you need to remember. And we get this from this story of Job. It's not the end story. God is still working out behind the scenes, James 5:11, "We know how God fulfilled his purpose for Job".

See, we're at the end of the story. So we can see that. Job couldn't see it. We know that his plan for Job ended in good because the Lord always treats us with tender compassion and merciful kindness. When you have a delay in your life, a delay is not a denial. A delay is not a denial. I remember reading one time, Phillips Brooks was a famous pastor of a hundred years ago, and he was pacing around in his study, frustrating. And his wife said "What's wrong"? And he said, "'Cause I'm in a hurry and God isn't". You ever been that way? The most difficult room to sit in is in God's waiting room when you're in a hurry and God isn't. A lot of us are in a hurry to have this coronavirus thing be over.

But I want you to know that while you're waiting, God is working. While you're waiting, God is working. I don't care, whatever the problem is in your life. While you're waiting, God is working on your problem, often in ways that you can't see. Now, remember the farmer, while he's waiting for his crops? He can't see what's taking place underground. But God is providing the conditions underground that you can't see to make the seed sprout. About 10 days ago, I took a bunch of seeds and I planted them in little things for the next phase of my garden. And for about eight or nine days, nothing came up. I wasn't worried about it, why? I knew that the seed inevitably is going to sprout. And guess what? Today they sprouted. Philippians 2:13 says, "God is at work within you to will and to do of his good pleasure". Romans 8:29 says, "In all things God is working". While you're waiting, God is working. You need to remember that. This is not the end of the story.

Look at this verse on your outline, Jeremiah 29:11. "I know what I'm planning for you," says the Lord. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I'll give you a hope and I'll give you a good future". Now, I don't know all the problems you're facing right now besides COVID-19, and maybe you're out of work, but I can tell you this. God is working behind the scenes and you need to trust him, and you need to be patient. So now we come to the big question, how? How do I trust God while I'm waiting? How do I trust God that, we're talking about a faith that waits, a faith that trusts God during delays. What do I do while I'm waiting? Well, let's again, look at the three examples of patience that James gives us. Farmers, prophets, and Job. Okay, what do I do while I'm waiting? Write this down.

Number one, like farmers, I need to wait expectantly. I need to wait expectantly. What does a farmer do while he's waiting? He's preparing for the harvest. He's getting ready. He's not sitting around thinking, I wonder if this is gonna grow or not? He's expecting it to grow. He's a farmer. So he starts getting ready for the harvest so that when he comes, he can harvest it all. You need to wait expectantly, okay? Psalm 130:5, I love this. This is The Living Bible. "I wait expectantly, trusting God to help for he's promised to help". Let me ask you a personal question. What have you been waiting for God to do? Transform your marriage? Solve a financial problem? Heal a hurt? Or reach your loved ones, your teenager, or somebody in your family for Christ? Well, let me ask you this. Do you really expect him to do it? If you really expect him to do it, what are you doing right now to get ready for it? What is it that's showing your expectation?

We need to wait expectantly. And while you're waiting, be preparing. That demonstrates expectation. A woman who's pregnant, who is expecting, she's doing all kinds of stuff for nine months, getting ready for that baby. She's not gonna wait until the baby's delivered to get ready. You know what I've discovered is a lot of times, we think we're waiting on God and God's just waiting on us. He's saying, you're not ready to handle the blessing I wanna give you. I want you to grow up first. You're not waiting on me. I'm waiting on you. Isaiah 49:23 says, "No one who waits for my help will be disappointed". What a promise. No one who waits for my help will be disappointed.

So like farmers, I need to wait expectantly. Then like that second group James tells us about, prophets, I need to wait without complaining. Oh boy, I need to wait without complaining. Lamentations 3:26 says this. It's good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It's good to wait quietly. You know, James advises us to guard our mouths while we're waiting. Verse nine, he says, don't grumble, don't complain. That's self pity. You know, it's hard to be quiet when you're frustrated and we're all frustrated right now with what's going on. And often we don't mind waiting as long as we can complain about it. You're in a line. Somehow we feel duty-bound to complain how long it's taking in the line. I love the New English Bible translation of this verse says, don't blame your troubles on somebody else. So you guys, if in the morning you rise and whine, when you start your day, then by evening, you're gonna be dog tired 'cause you growled all day. You gotta just wait quietly.

Now, I didn't read verse 12, but it says there, by the way, don't swear. Does waiting ever attempt you to swear? Yeah. So what happens when you're frustrated and you can't do anything about it? Unfortunately, we often take it out on those who are closest to us and it's not their fault. Often we have fights in our family and your family didn't cause all the stress you're feeling right now. The COVID-19 and all the restrictions and all the people out of work and all of the things that have had to be changed, that fallout falls on your family and they catch all the flak. That's not fair. It's not fair. What we need to do is what James is teaching us. Like the farmer, I wait expectantly, and like the prophet, I wait without complaining. I wait quietly.

And then number three, when I'm waiting on something that's taken longer than I expect it to take, like Job, I wait confidently. I wait confidently. Micah 7:7 says, "I'll wait confidently for God". And Job models this through his entire time. When God isn't talking, God hasn't explained to him why he's in so much pain. Nothing's more frustrating than chronic pain. And in all of this time he's going through day after day of pain and he's lost everything, and yet he waited confidently. In Job 14:14, he says this. "If a man dies, can he come back to life"?

See, Job was probably the first book of the Bible ever written. Did you know that? It's probably the oldest book of the Bible and Job doesn't know if there's a resurrection or not. He goes, "If a man dies, can he come back to life"? And then he says this. "I will wait for better times. And I will wait till this time of trouble is ended". You might want to write that down and memorize that verse during the COVID crisis. I will wait, when this time is ended, the time of trouble is ended. And when the outlook is bad, look up. Just look up. You've heard me say before, the way you spell hope, H-O-P-E is holding on, praying expectantly. H-O-P-E, holding on, praying expectantly. So we wait quietly and we wait expectantly and we wait confidently. How do you express confidence in God? By being still. Show up and shut up, just be still.

Isaiah 40:31, "Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength, they'll fly high on wings like eagles and they'll run and not grow weary. And they'll walk, and they're not gonna faint". That comes from waiting on the Lord. If you're tired, if you are fatigued, if you're worn out, if you're drained because of this crisis, you need to recover, waiting on God. You need to sit down with these notes and review the verses and go over again. And learn how to wait and why to wait and what to remind yourself of.

Now, let me just wrap this up by asking you where do you need patience today? Some uncontrollable circumstances in your life. You had a financial reverse or you've got a long-term illness or job responsibilities. Have you had an unexplained problem? Maybe you feel like Job's twin. Why me, God? It doesn't seem to make any sense. So what do you do in your situation? You need to remember those three wonderful truths. God is in control, and you look to him, nothing is beyond his power. God is bigger than COVID. His purpose for your life is greater than your problems and God, still on his throne. And he knows what he's doing.

You need to remember that God will reward your patience, if not in this life, in eternity definitely. And you need to remember that God is working behind the scenes, that this is not the end of the story. So be patient. And even when you can't see what he's doing, while you're waiting, he's working. While you're waiting, he's working. Would you bow your heads right now? I want to pray for you. And I want you to simply pray this prayer as we pray together, and then I'm gonna pray for you. Let's pray:

Jesus Christ, help me to wait expectantly, to prepare for the answer while I'm waiting on you. And help me to wait quietly, to not grumble or complain or take out my frustrations on the people closest to me. Help me to wait confidently, to be still and not get anxious and not get worried, and not get nervous. Help me to plant good seeds of patience and expect a harvest.

With our heads still bowed, you know, the Bible says three times, the Lord's coming back someday. And he's going to. We don't know. Why hasn't he come back already? Well, the Bible says, God is being patient. In 2 Peter 3:9, he says, "The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". Why is he being patient? To give us a chance to receive him. You see, if Jesus had come back yesterday, would you be ready to meet him? This is what I want to ask you today. If you've never opened your life to Christ, why don't you do so right now? God has been patient with you your entire life. He's been working in your life, even when you didn't know it, even when you didn't know him. So say this prayer. Say:

Dear Jesus Christ, I wanna get to know you. I've waited too long to have a relationship with you. I want to know your plan and purpose for my life. Just say that. I've waited too long. I've waited long enough. Today, I'm opening my life to you, Jesus Christ. And as much as I know how I'm saying come in, fill me with your love. I want to follow you. I need you to save me. Amen.

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