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Do You Have a Bridge Over Troubled Water? [5-14-23]



May 14, 2023

James 5:7-11

“Do You Have a Bridge Over Troubled Water?”


It seems like stating the obvious to remind ourselves that we all have trials. None of us escapes hardship. We either bring it upon ourselves, or others introduce hurt into our lives, or it simply happens because life is unpredictable. We all have trials.


We’ve all been weary. We’ve all cried tears of hurt, sadness, shame. We’ve all had tough times when friends couldn’t be found. We’ve all had times of darkness, when pain was all around. But what a friend we have in Jesus. What a friend we have in Jesus. He is our bridge over troubled water.


These wonderful believers to whom James writes were facing trials. While some involved a horrendous kind of persecution we’ll never have to walk through, there were similarities common to the human condition. Life was and is hard. To put is another, more eloquent way, life ain’t always easy.


As Jesus says in John 16:33:


“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


Jesus is our bridge over troubled water.


In Romans 8:18, Paul says:


“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”


We all live in a fallen world, subjected to corruption, groaning, and pain.


How many times do you find yourself saying, “I’d just like a day or two to go by when something difficult or hurtful or unsettling doesn’t happen.” How many of us would like forty-eight hours without haywires?


Life is hardship, reward, and everything else in-between. No one goes unscathed. All of the books and seminars and lectures and Ted Talks and programs for living your best life ever and teachings and sermons and counselors and psychologists and life coaches…none of them, in any combination, shape or form, can alleviate or vanquish trouble. Pain cannot be eliminated in this world. Whether it’s a bank overdraft or the death of a loved one, bad things hit us. And they hit us hard.


Sin is the great disruptor.


Keeping that in mind, let’s look at James 5:7-11:


Be patient, therefore, my friends, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience… take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.


Here's something you might want to write down:

BE PATIENT AND STAND FIRM.

In times of trial, tragedy, and tumult, the Bible calls us to persevere. In fact, James is saying that perseverance under trial is a leading sign of devotion to Jesus Christ.


How many of you have heard of Keanu Reeves? For my money, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” was the greatest time travel movie of all time.


Reeves was abandoned by his father at the age of three. He grew up with three different stepfathers. He is dyslexic. A serious accident shattered his dream of becoming a hockey player. His daughter died at birth. His partner died in a traffic accident. His best friend, River Phoenix, died of an overdose. His sister battled leukemia.


Reeves lives as simple a life as someone of his fame and net worth could live. He is notorious for helping people he works with, from costume assistants to craft employees. Among his known generosity, he has given over $75 million of his “The Matrix” earnings to charities.


Examples of his kindness include the time paparazzi who were stalking him found him listening as a homeless man shared his life story.


Keanu Reeves could live as large as he wanted. Yet every day he gets up and chooses to do the most important thing:


To Persevere.


To be a caring person illustrates how Reeves chooses to move forward in life.


Now, why am I telling you all this? While he embraces some sort of spirituality, Keanu Reeves isn’t a Christian. But make no mistake. If a non-believer perseveres in such a healthy way, how much more should devoted followers of Jesus Christ persevere no matter what they experience or go through in life.


The first element to perseverance is in the first word of verse seven. Makrothymesate. It’s a compound Greek word, “macro” meaning large or long, and “thymos” meaning anger. You put them together and you get “long-tempered.” Long-tempered means you can handle a lot. You have a long fuse. It’s miserable to be around a toxic person with a short-fuse.


Here's something to write down:

HAVE A LONG FUSE…NOT A SHORT FUSE.

What James is talking about, first of all, is being patient with difficult people. Longsuffering. It has to do with how we deal with adverse people. I like the acronym EGR – Extra Grace Required. Be patient with people. “Do not grumble against one another,” James says. Embrace the way of EGR.


Patience is enduring someone who is being angry or mean or rude to you. Proverbs 15:18 advises, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Follow that with Proverbs 16:32, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Not a bad bit of advice.


Here's more good advice. It’s something I read the other day. You know how “My pleasure,” is such a good response when people are thankful or complimentary? We all need to make it second-nature; like part of our rhetorical DNA. In another way, when someone is rude or cruel or mean or short-tempered with you, three simple words can have a disarming effect. “Are you okay?” Ask kindly and graciously. It takes any defensiveness on your part out of the equation. “Are you okay?” You probably won’t get punched or yelled at further. You can rise above a slight or rudeness or cruelty by maintaining your position in Christ. Your name was been written down in the Lamb’s book of Life before you were born. Don’t let anybody’s bad day or bad attitude undermine that fact.


We persevere because we understand our position in Christ.


Another thing James reminds us of is that we persevere because we understand that this isn’t our only life. As he promises in verse eight, establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. However it happens, one way or another, we are going to see Jesus. As a great hymn describes it:


O soul are you weary and troubled

No light in the darkness you see

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace


In other words, no matter what we experience or go through in life, we know the day is coming when we’re going to see Jesus face-to-face. We love how Revelation 21:1-7 describes it:


Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”


We know the pain of this world is overcome by the promise of seeing Jesus in the world to come. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:


“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”


Finally, 2 Timothy 4:5-8:


“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”


Over and over and over again, our perspective in trial and tribulation is shaded by the hope we have in Christ. Our Director of Worship Arts, Ben Nichols, texted me this the night before I finished today’s message. Some guy posted:

“People speak of hope as if it is this delicate, ephemeral thing made of whispers and spider’s webs. It’s not. Hope has dirt on her face, blood on her knuckles, the grit of the cobblestones in her hair, and just spat out a tooth as she rises for another go.”

I love the word “grit.” It’s the stuff of which perseverance is made. There’s a word James uses in verse eleven that captures it perfectly. Hypomonen. It’s another one of those wonderful compound Greek words. Hypo means “under.” Monen means “to abide.” So the word translated steadfast, which in other translations is rendered persevere, means “to abide under” something. We abide under our trials and suffering. With each victory over difficulty or hardship, we are drawn closer to Jesus. And the closer we are drawn to Jesus, the greater strength we have for the next inevitable hardship or difficulty. James is talking about a beautiful strength.


In Luke 9:51, we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” What awaited Jesus in Jerusalem? Right…his suffering and death on the cross. The same word translated as “resolutely” in Luke is the same word translated “establish your hearts” in James 5:8. The Savior who resolutely set out for Jerusalem for us now gives us his beautiful strength. In Christ, we have an attitude of firm courage. It’s a commitment to our faith in Christ, no matter what trial we face.


This is a good place to stop. Next week, we’re going to look at the application of these verses to our lives in the public square. How do we persevere as strangers living in a strange land?


Until then, let’s pray:


HEAVENLY FATHER, THANK YOU FOR PROPPING US UP. THANK YOU FOR STIFFENING OUR BACKBONE. THANK YOU FOR KEEPING OUR EYES UPON JESUS SO WE DON’T COLLAPSE UNDER PRESSURE. WE ALWAYS LOOK TO JESUS. MAKE US PATIENT PEOPLE. WE WANT TO HONOR YOU IN ALL WE DO. MAY WE KNOW THE JOY OF PATIENCE, EVEN IN OUR TRIALS. WE THANK YOU FOR JESUS CHRIST, AND HIS BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH. AMEN.





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