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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-76750278Back in 2013, the Red Sox and the Cardinals faced off in the World Series for the second time in 10 years. I remember being shocked to read that tickets to these final games at Fenway were selling for upwards of $1,700 a piece! A few hours before each game, however, the box office sold a limited number of tickets at just a fraction of the price. As you can imagine, die-hard fans were lined up around the Green Monster for hours, hoping for the possibility of buying a coveted World Series ticket at face value. What struck me about this article is that people are capable of incredible patience when it comes to receiving something of great value. These Red Sox fans were willing to bear the cold and miss work because the reward far exceeded the price. They were able to be patient because they had the right perspective.

Now, this is a lighthearted example, but when it comes to struggles and true hardships in life, being patient is much more difficult. As Christians we are called to be patient. After all, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and, like the other fruit, we don’t grow in it apart from being placed in situations where we must put it into practice. Scripture speaks to this in James 5.

“Be 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.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, 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.” - James 5:7-11

Here, James is speaking to Christians who are going through a difficult time. The rich are oppressing their poor laborers to the point that they can’t support themselves and some have even died (see 5:1-6). But, how are they called to respond? With patience. This kind of patience we’re talking about is enduring hardship without retaliating and without giving up. James gives us three examples of this kind of patience.

First, we’re told to be patient like the farmer who “waits for the precious fruit of the earth.” The farmer is able to plant his crops and tend to them, but when it comes to the growth, he is completely at the mercy of the “early and late rains.” Mark Twain was known to say, “Everyone complains about the weather, but no one seems to do anything about it!” It’s a ridiculous statement because we have no power over the weather; it is utterly out of our control. The farmer is a wonderful example of patience because he is not fretful or anxious, but expectant; he can only watch his crops and wonder at the God who brings the rains to make them grow. The farmer is able to be patient with the perspective that God is in control and he is not.

Next, we’re given the prophets as examples of patience in suffering. The prophets we read about in the Old Testament did not live glamorous lives. They were beaten, mocked, imprisoned, sawn in two. I’m sure they were tempted to lash back and defend themselves, but they remained patient, enduring hardship without retaliating, with the perspective that God is the One who vindicates.

Lastly, James uses the example of Job to illustrate the kind of steadfastness we should demonstrate under trial. If Job knew anything, it was suffering. Yes, he did complain, but ultimately he endured his afflictions without giving up on God. From Job, we learn that God does not demand stoic perseverance, but that we recognize God’s greatness from the perspective of our finiteness.

How is your patience being tested in this time of fasting and prayer? What perspective of the Lord do you need renewed in your heart that you might patiently persevere through these 40 days? When we focus our eyes on God himself instead of our circumstances we can be patient through anything.

Julia Carlisle
Ministry Fellow at Dartmouth