Advances in technology seem to have shortened the distance between then (the ideal world we are looking for) and now (the reality in which we live). We can travel to another continent in a day and communicate to someone on that continent in a second. Diseases that once killed are now treated with a pill. Many of the discomforts that plagued humans since the beginning of time are now eliminated by the flip of a switch. And so, the level of patience we must exercise today is considerably less than what it was a century ago.
Thank God for all of these advances, and we look forward to many more. But, if we are not careful, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we can create a perfect world now, and that there is no need to look and wait for something to come. This mindset is harmful to our discipleship.
Some have said that modern Christians have lost the Christian virtue of patience. This may be because we have lost the discipline of regularly looking ahead to the return of Christ as a way of shaping how we live in the here and how. If we believe we can have everything now, why would we look ahead to then, when Christ will return?
This is not the Christian way. James 5:7 says, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” James is calling us to live now in light of then, not to ignore then by living only for now.
When Christ returns much will happen. Judgement will take place for all people. The unbelieving will be eternally separated from the life of God. Grace and mercy will deliver the people of faith from evil, sin, and death. Christians will be complete in their conformity to Christ. A new heaven and new earth will be joined together as a new place of worship characterized by peace and prosperity under the rule of God. We will receive the crown of life which God has promised to us. “No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor heart has imagined all that God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
This vision of the return of Christ generates patience now. Patience as a Christian virtue means faithfulness to Christ. Patient Christians believe and hope in Christ’s return. They remain obedient to God’s word because they know that no matter how much self-denial their obedience requires they will be rewarded and will have no regrets. They withstand persecution and hardship. They lay aside demandingness and love well. They seek first the kingdom of God because they know that this kingdom is their final and eternal home.
The patient Christian lives now in light of then.
This weekend, spend some time in James 5:7-26. Evaluate your perspective on now and then. Ask God to reveal to you how to live in Christian patience by remembering the coming of Christ. Pray for our gathering on Sunday.