Facing the Future

November 16, 2014

James 5:7-11

Facing the Future

 

It is a joy to have children baptized and to see a new generation of believers being lifted up. We praise God for Christ who is the source of our faith, our hope and our future. James writes today about the future, when he reminds us that the Lord is coming soon. Stand firm, don’t grumble, and be patient when you have troubles, because it is a blessing to persevere through them.

Be patient and remain firm, because we don’t know when Christ will come again. Persevere and behave the way the Lord would like to find you. Sure, life may be difficult at times, because we can’t avoid challenges and problems. We’re not going to be perfect, so remember that God is compassionate and merciful. Face the future with confidence; walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

When we baptize a child, it is only natural that we think ahead to the future when that child is able to make a profession of faith for him or herself. We hope that promises parents make today on a child’s behalf will lead to young people embracing Christ as their savior. Each of you in the congregation has made promises too, because it takes the commitment of a whole faith community to nurture a child to embrace faith.

What we see today in these children is but a kernel of faith – the potential God has placed within each child that will be revealed as time goes on. We are like the farmers James talks about, providing raw ingredients to promote growth, but our crop is not wheat, corn or beans, but amazing young people. They are our valuable crop. We want them to be filled with faith, passion and enthusiasm in the Lord’s time. We look forward to when they are ready to serve using their own unique skills and talents. The farmer waits for autumn or spring rains; we remain faithful to our tasks in nurturing these young people to discover faith.

James is telling us to be patient as we look to the future, both with these children, and within our own lives. Be confident that God will fulfill his promises in the right time, and in the meantime, do what God asks like a faithful servant of the Lord. Go long.

I’m not the greatest sports fan, but I do believe sports fans can teach us something about patience. I looked online – did you know that since the ‘70’s when the Super Bowl began, the Browns have never won or even played in a Super bowl game? Wow, that’s discouraging! The last time they won an NFL championship was in 1964. That’s fifty years ago – a long time for sports fans to wait. Even so, I don’t see diehard Browns fans deciding to root instead for the Steelers or Bengals; they will continue to cheer for the Browns whether they win or lose.

For me that’s a type of faith, choosing to persevere despite a team’s winning or losing ratio. Maybe we won’t make the playoffs, but we can build a team for the future. Maybe this year we will get in the draft pick someone who becomes the next game changer –a truly great player like another Lebron James. Sports fans never let the statistics of a dismal season interfere with their continued faith in their team. If you are a Browns fan or Cav’s fan or Indians fan, or whatever is your favorite team, you will be patient and wait for the year when your team will be on top.

James says be patient, because our lives as believers can be as difficult as chasing a Super Bowl dream. Back in the days when James was writing, believers faced persecution and hardship because of faith. They held on to the promise that Christ would return soon to gather his followers – those who were still alive and those who were now gone. It has been two thousand years, and we’re still waiting for Christ’s return. We have to be patient, because God’s sense of timing is different from our own.

We face our own share of troubles and some days it is easy to become discouraged. But if you hold on to faith, you will continue to believe God is in charge. You trust in the promises God has made about the future; adversity will not change the truth of God’s word. God’s character and God’s ability to fulfill promises does not change despite the passage of years. Patience means we have to wait and not give up.

Patience is a virtue every parent needs, because a child will demand it. To be patient is to give a child time to develop on his or her own timetable without trying to impose a particular future upon that child. It allows us to let go of frustration over certain phases of our child’s development. It enables us to wait for the right moment to have a heart-to-heart conversation with our child – without trying to manipulate circumstances to our liking. Patience gives us tolerance for our child deciding to dye their hair green for Halloween, wanting to wear the latest fads in clothing, having a passion for bugs or horses or video games, a sudden decision to go vegan, or other peculiarities that our children adopt. We will choose to love them through all these moments and more and be patient as God continues to work in them.

Being a parent by definition means you are out of control, but by faith God gives you patience, because God is in control. Keep faith in God, because God has assured us that it will all work out in the end. Be confident with the job you are doing as a parent and at peace that God will give you the tools you need as you keep tuned into God’s plans. Patience allows us to lay our head down at the end of the day, trusting that God will help us get through tomorrow just like he did today.

Patience means we don’t have to rush to have our kids grow up or at least get past whatever current phase is making you crazy. Sooner or later you will look back on these days and smile, because there are lots of good moments too. Treasure each day and be patient with whatever parts give you trouble.

Being patient gives God room to work, because God has a different sense of timing than us. By nature we want our problems to be resolved yesterday, but God may have a particular lesson for us that requires us to remain a bit longer wherever we are right now. Patience gives an appreciation for what is beyond the next bend in the road. We may not see it now, but God will reveal it in good time.

There will be a day when God fulfills all his promises to us. God will wipe every tear from our eye, will take away death and sorrow and crying. God will take away all pain in the time of God’s choosing, when the former things pass away, for this is what God promises in Revelation 21. We live in the here and now, but weighed ag ainst the eternity of God’s being, our lifetimes are but a moment to God. We have to be patient to see things through God’s eyes.

We will be raised to eternal life, for Jesus has said that, “God so loves the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life.” If this body we inhabit now is like a tent, a temporary dwelling, we will have a new body, one like Jesus, in the life to come. We will receive an eternal home when God brings us home with him, for Jesus made this promise too. He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” The best promise for today and tomorrow is when Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Look to the future, and be patient with today, because this day will be gone before we know it. Our children will grow up and begin their own lives, but the patience we show today will come back to reward us a thousand fold as our children grow in love and faith to become mature followers of Jesus Christ.

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