June 12, 2016 – manuscript

Show Videos of False Starts…

I always think false starts are better when they happen to somebody else.  Not only do false starts carry embarrassment for the who left early, but they also carry penalties and disqualifications.  False starts do not hurt individual competitors, but false starts hurt teams.

  • If business launches too early, a false start can hurt its profitability and longevity.
  • If you take a loaf of bread out of the oven too early, a false start ruins the entire loaf. In contrast, in you take cookies out the oven too early, you might enjoy a false start, but somebody may not.
  • Athletes certainly understand the consequences of committing a false start.
  • A farmer who harvests too early due to a lack of patience must endure the consequences of a false start.

Every one of us is guilty of false starts in our lives.  Churches that consist of humans commit false starts and lose serious momentum and effectiveness due to that false start.  James provides some instruction that is applicable to this topic of false starts.

Scripture Text: James 5:7-12 (ESV)

7Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, 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.

12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Don’t force God to make an appearance before He is ready.

Scripture Text: James 5:7-8a (ESV)

7Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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. 8You also, be patient.

It would be silly for this suburban guy to explain how farming works.  Many of you understand when to plant, when to harvest, when to pray for rain and when to pray for dry ground.  Many of you know that it’s hard work to create an environment that allow the crops to grow.  Many of you also understand that creating this environment depends on something outside of the farmers control; the early rain and the late rain.  The reality is that God’s sovereign rule and providential kindness must bring together all the elements needed for a fruitful outcome.  Many of you also know there is a window for every part of the growing process.  A false start at any point leads to consequences.  All this from the guy who picks vegetables in the produce section of the local grocery store.

The parallel that James teaches us is that we, the followers of Jesus, are to be patient until the coming of the Lord.  The context in which James writes points to those who are struggling with persecution.  James encourages them that persecution will end when Christ returns to the earth.  To me, that isn’t very encouraging.  Persecution will stop when Christ returns to the earth, but there is no guarantee he’ll return during your lifetime.

If we dig a little deeper, we can find encouragement in that sentence.  The coming of the Lord includes the idea of “presence” and “arrival”.  The Christian’s greatest hope (and the church’s great hope) is the arrival of Jesus Christ when he chooses to bless us with his presence.

Here’s where it gets a little messy.  There are lots of Christians who know how to fake this really well.  We’re really good at getting ahead of God’s timing.  We’re really good at Christian false starts.  We’re really good at putting our Christian experience ahead of our spiritual discernment.  We’re really good at rushing through processes without giving adequate time to prayer so we can tell other people we finished our job.  We’re really bad at calling those things false starts.  We’re equally as bad at learning the necessary lessons so we don’t do it again.  James 5:7 tells us to be patient and do not lose heart because the presence of God will speak into whatever situation you are taking before him when he is ready to speak.  The challenge is not whether we patient enough.  The challenge is whether we are actually taking situations and requesting the spirit of God to speak loudly into those situations.  Spiritual discernment becomes weak when you don’t practice requesting the spirit of God to speak loudly into your life.

Those who remain focused win the prize.

Scripture Text: James 5:8b-11 (ESV)

8Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, 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.

If we desire the spirit of God to speak loudly into our lives, we must remain focused on the prize.  There are three actions we must take in order for our spiritual discernment to remain strong.

The first action we must take is found in verse 8.  We are to establish our hearts.  This phrase has everything to do with our spiritual condition.  We cannot remain focused on the prize if our spiritual condition needs life support.  Philippians 2:12-13 says, “My beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

If your life does not bring good pleasure to God, your spiritual condition needs work.  You will lose focus and you will false start; it’s a matter of time.

If you constantly live under a pressure to give people what they want instead of what the Spirit of God has poured into you, your spiritual condition needs work.  You will lose focus and you will false start.

I read a statistic this week based on 1,000 men who declared themselves to be among the core of their church attendance, including many areas of church leadership.  These men were asked a numbers of questions.  When they were asked how often they read their Bible, 45% said once a week outside of Sunday church.  If you don’t read your Bible at least 3-4 times per week, your spiritual condition needs work.  You will lose focus and you will false start.

The second action we must take if our spiritual discernment is to remain strong is found in verse 9.  Do not grumble against one another.  Do not grumble – Grumbling is complaining. It begins as an attitude that you intend to keep internal and never express to another person.  This attitude develops like a bad infection.  You decide one day to engage in “Christian grumbling” or “Christian gossip” and share a prayer request as you give entirely too much information.  This attitude keeps growing and growing and you find yourself looking for a good friend to “vent” to.  Finally, this attitude grows into a bitter, resentful spirit that manifests itself into all of your relationships.  The result is that nobody wants to spend time with you or speak to you.  You become “that person”.  Your spiritual condition needs work.  You have no spiritual discernment because you have no physical discernment.  You desperately need the spirit of God to invade your life.  You need the presence and the arrival of God to invade your heart and fill you up in a way you haven’t experience in a long time.

The third action we must take if our spiritual discernment is to remain strong is found in verse 10-11.  Remember the giants.  Not the football or the baseball giants.  These giants are the ones who’ve gone before us.  These giants are the ones we looked up to and thought if anybody could be sinless, they were the ones.  These giants are the ones who look back on their lives and understand the compassion and mercy that God constantly poured into them.  They remained focus.  They are the ones at the top your list when you have a big prayer request.  Inside the Bible, these giants are the ones that Hebrews 11 writes about.  They lived incredible adventures for God and remained strong and focused.  It seems their spiritual discernment was always at the top of its game.

If you stopped learning from those spiritual giants, your spiritual discernment might need work.  If you’re not a spiritual giant to another person, that is an indicator that your spiritual discernment might need work.  Please don’t lose focus.  Please don’t false start.  The kingdom of God needs you to be a spiritual giant to another person.

A false start loses the blessing of God.

Scripture Text: James 5:12 (ESV)

12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Our mouths kill the momentum of God.  Matthew 12:34b says “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  James instructs us to make sure our oaths are a firm “yes” or a firm “no”.  The oath James is speaking of refers to a contract, agreement, negotiations or even discussions that would lead to any contracts, agreements or negotiations.

Church, if we didn’t engage in these types of oaths, James would not have included this instruction in his letter to the church.  These oaths are misused and become wrong when they have an intent to mislead or deceive another person.  James also warns us this type of person is guilty of condemnation.

Condemnation – God’s merciless sentencing to hell those whose lack of mercy reveals their unregenerate (one who doesn’t show repentance) hearts.

If your mouth habitually misleads or deceives another person, you false start.  Your spiritual discernment is out of alignment and you need to repent.  If you chose to live unrepentant, you chose to absorb the merciless judgment of God poured out on your life.