Week 10, Part II: James and the Fatherless
Day 3: The Work of Patience
Very often the book of James deals with two primary things: Our heart attitudes and our actions. Though there are many subtopics, you can pretty well organize the entire book under these two headings.
Looking at it from this perspective, our first heading under column one, Heart Attitude, could be titled “Faith and Perspective in Tribulation”. Its counterpart under column two, Action, could be titled “Endure”.
As much as we might not like to admit it, caring for the fatherless, or any ministry for that matter, can be absolutely full of tribulation. Conflict among the children, conflict among the workers, financial stress, spiritual battles, you name it, it’s possible. So how do we keep the right perspective and keep from getting completely overwhelmed, worn down, exhausted and burned out?
If you pick up James 1:2 at the wrong moment, you might be tempted to throw it down and say, “How dare you, Mr. Goody Two-shoes! Go smile somewhere else.” That is why it’s so important to know these things in our heart in the good, quiet times, so that we are prepared for the times of turbulence.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
I’ve heard it said many, many times, “Don’t pray for patience, you know what that means.” In other words, if you ask God to give you patience, you’re going to have to go through some horrible testing. A grain of truth does exist in that statement, but it misses the whole point of this passage. (Not to mention that fact that, for most of us, if we’re praying for patience, we’re already in the tribulation.) Patience is to be desired, but it is only a step toward the real goal. If we want to be mature in Christ, we need to go through the process that works out patience because patience is what works perfection in our lives.
Notice what is actually being tried in these difficulties. It isn’t our patience. It is our faith.
A few years ago, I was bumping along in life, enjoying a wonderful season of Christian fellowship, fruitful ministry, and sweet communion with the Lord. As I read my Bible, I kept running into three passages. At first, I didn’t think much about it. They were good, very encouraging verses, but the more often the Lord brought them across my path, the more I began to get concerned. Each of these passages deals with temptations, tribulations and the trying of our faith. I began to call them “The Tribulation Trio”. This went on for weeks, if not months. Every time I turned around, there they were.
I asked an acquaintance one day what the Lord had been teaching her; she shared and then asked me the same. I told her, “You know, I’m not really sure what He is doing, but I feel that He is using these verses to prepare me for something.” Within a month, one of the most difficult and discouraging times of my life had begun.
James 1:2-4 (above) was one of the passages from the trio. As I studied it, I was very intrigued about how patience could have a “perfect work”; a work that would make us “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” But as soon as I saw it in the light of Romans 5:3-6, it made perfect sense: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Patience is the step that enables all of the other steps! When we get impatient we don’t wait around to see what God will do in a situation, we start making things happen. That can lead to all kinds of problems. King Saul is a perfect example of this. (See I Samuel 13, 15, 31.) His impatience led to disobedience, which cost his entire family not only the loss of the throne but also, for most of them, their lives. They had no chance to grow toward perfection. Their impatience had brought about their demise. The experience gained by those observing the situation was of a negative nature: Impatience and disobedience lead to death. That should be enough to turn just about anyone aside and to keep them from impatience, but the lesson ends there. It does not go on to give the next levels in God’s process of perfection. It gives no hope.
Up next: The Work of Experience and Hope