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(Part 78)


December 15, 2013
Today’s reading: James 5:7-10

James says that “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (v.8c). At the same time he says, “Be patient” (v.7a). Considering that, after two millennia, the second coming of Jesus has not happened, but also that we are today indeed already in the end times, these two statements are still so very relevant. We must anticipate and hope for the coming of the Lord, but we must wait patiently until this happens. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” (v.7a).

As we patiently wait, do we just sit and do nothing? Of course not. In fact, the delay in the Lord’s coming is meant for good, so that many more can be brought back to him before the final judgment. So how should we use whatever time there is?

First, we should be like the farmer. While he waits and depends on nature to work, he also waters, weeds, fertilizes, etc. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” (v.7b). The farmer planted; we too plant the seed when we proclaim the gospel. Now the fruit is left to God, but we still teach, admonish, counsel, correct, console, encourage, inspire, and journey with. The first part of evangelization is proclamation of the gospel, but evangelization continues through one’s lifetime, because it is about one living out the fullness of the good news, which actually takes a lifetime to do.

Second, even as we are patient, we should remain focused and determined, wholehearted in our work of evangelization. “You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (v.8). We must not relax in our efforts. We must not lose hope in the face of challenges. We must never give up on anyone (even as we move on and just return to that hard soil later). We must endure and persevere. We must try to expend our time and energy fruitfully for the Kingdom, knowing that Jesus can return any time.

Third, the work of evangelization is more effective when done by a body, and so we should strive to be an active part of an evangelistic community and work such that that body will be united in its efforts. “Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that you may not be judged.” (v.9a). One reality about Christian community is that often there are conflicts, even among top leaders. This usually happens when the outward focus on the work is lost. When brethren are no longer evangelizing, they will end up fighting with each other. When they lose sight of the one enemy, they will find many reasons to consider their own brethren as enemies. But we are brothers, co-workers, comrades-in-arms! We must not tear each other down.

James gives a warning: “Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.” (v.9b). At the end of time we will be judged, to determine whether we can enter heaven or not. One important aspect of this judgment is how we related to brethren. Did we assault them rather than assaulting the one enemy? Did we cause strife and disunity in the community, such that the body was unable to effectively do its work of evangelization? Were we then in effect the cause of so many more souls being lost to damnation? Remember, you will be judged.

Fourth, we should look to the patience and long-suffering of the prophets. “Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (v.10). We too are called to speak in the name of the Lord. We are called to do the very divine work of God, helping to bring souls into the Kingdom. Like that great prophet John the Baptist, our work is meant to prepare the way for the Lord. When we do those things, contrary to the ways of the world and the intent of the evil one, then we become embroiled in warfare. We must then be willing to endure hardships. We will be oppressed and persecuted. Through it all we rejoice in the privilege of sharing, albeit in a much smaller way, in the cross of Jesus.

Be patient and continue to plod on in the work of the New Evangelization!

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