As we continue on with our study, I hope all of us have and will be doing some gardening. These lessons we are studying from the Bible will help us in our gardening, and the gardening will repeat these lessons. (To review part 1 of this study, click here)
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. – James 5:7-8
What does husbandman mean? The farmer, the gardener – the one who looks after the crops. What does the husbandman do? He waits. We know he does some things while he’s waiting. He doesn’t just sit down under a tree and watch the crops day in and day out. But when he has prepared the soil and put in the seed, then he has to wait. Then, by and by, he may cultivate. Then again he has to wait. There are times when he has to wait for rain. Were any of you praying after you got your garden in?
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. – James 5:7-8
That’s harvest time. Oh, friends, the thought that I pray that God may make very real and precious to us is this: He has promised to give us a crop in our character building. And He wants us to have such trust in Him that we will patiently wait the working of His Spirit in our hearts. Oh, but we want it right now. We would like to feel like Jesus and act like Jesus and be like Jesus all in a moment. Well, dear friends, we can choose it all in a moment, and God counts it that way (that’s righteousness by faith); but the actual development is like the lily, like the apple tree, like the fruit, as the garden bring forth these precious fruits.
We have a statement of great significance on this:
The prophets and apostles did not perfect Christian character by a miracle. – The Sanctified Life, pg. 83
Did they perfect Christian character? Apparently, that’s what this says. But it tells us how they didn’t do it. How? They didn’t do it by a miracle. Did they do it by themselves? Oh, no. But God didn’t suddenly swoop down on Elijah or Moses or Peter or Paul, and from that time they were instantly sanctified. No, that didn’t happen.
They used the means which God had placed within their reach; and all who will put forth the same effort will secure the same results. – Ibid
That’s a tremendous promise. Can I have what Elijah and Jacob and Daniel got? Yes, if I will stir the soil, put in the seeds, and keep out the weeds. If I will pray and work with God, I can have a garden too. Have you heard about people who have a green thumb? They use not only the thumb, but all the other fingers. They work. It’s not some magic. “And all who will put forth the same effort will secure the same results.”
Aren’t you glad, friends? Thank God, it will work for us if we will follow the directions. And remember, that means to have patience, to keep on – praying, studying, putting forth the effort to live the Christian life. Prayer is the breath of the soul. In the word of God, we receive the nourishment for our spiritual life. The word of God is like seed that we put in the garden. So in the study of God’s Word and in prayer, we are doing the things that He has outlined to make the crop grow, to make our spiritual life grow. This is the way that we are to develop in the things of God.
We have an interesting statement from the Spirit of Prophecy, taken from an old “Signs of the Times” article. It makes plain something that I think will help someone [studying this]:
No one who claims holiness is really holy. Those who are registered as holy in the books of heaven are not aware of the fact, and are the last ones to boast of their own goodness. – Signs of the Times, February 26, 1885
So when Jesus, in the Sanctuary above, closes the records of Heaven and says, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still, and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still, and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” the saints down here in this world will not be saying, “I’m sanctified, I’m holy, I have arrived.” No. This is the paradox of it.
No one who claims holiness is really holy. Those who are registered as holy in the books of heaven are not aware of the fact, and are the last ones to boast of their own goodness. – Ibid
If this is so with Daniel and Paul and John, it must be true of you and me, don’t you think so? Looking into the future, if we know that we will not be able to say that we have arrived (God in Heaven writes it down, but we don’t see it), then should I make any effort right now to see that I have arrived, and to find satisfaction in my own holiness? No. That will be disappointing. It will lead me to either to make false claims or to get discouraged.
“The more nearly they resemble Christ, the more they lament their unlikeness to him, for their consciences are sensitive, and they regard sin more as God regards it. …Their hearts are humbled under a sense of their own unworthiness…” – Ibid
Think of Daniel’s experience, how he humbled himself and confessed his sinful condition and the sins of his people. And when the angel messenger and Christ, the Son of God, came and appeared to him, how it left him without strength under a sense of his own weakness and unworthiness. Yet the angel said, “Daniel, you are a man greatly beloved in heaven.”
As we look at the flowers growing on the hillsides, as we stir the soil and plant the seeds and take care of them, as we look after our own bodies for health and strength, let us learn the precious lessons – that, just as God is growing things in the garden as we cooperate with Him, and just as He is strengthening our health and causing the children to grow, as human being share with Him. And yet, it isn’t done in a second, all in a day. Gradually, day by day, the growth continues in the garden and in the human family. So in the spiritual life, God is at work. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.”
One of my favorite texts on this is Philippians the 1st chapter and the 6th verse. Many of you know it. But if fits in right here, just like it was made for it.
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
The husbandman who puts out the grape vines expects one day to pick the fruit. Praise God, Jesus expects to pick the fruit in our lives of righteous characters. If we do not see the purple grapes today, let’s keep taking care of the vineyard and asking God for the sunshine and rain, shall we? Knowing that He which has begun a good work in us will finish it.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
Patience doesn’t mean to quit running. It doesn’t mean to cease to make any effort. It doesn’t mean ‘let go and let God.’ It doesn’t mean to say, “Well, I tried and tried. I found out I couldn’t do anything, so I just quit and turned everything over to God.” Please don’t try that on your garden. And if you have tried in a poor human way in your spiritual experience, and it hasn’t worked, don’t run to the other extreme and leave it all with God and do nothing. As in the gardening and care of our physical health, so in the spiritual. We are going to run. We are going to do all we can, but we are going to do it with patience.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” What does ‘author’ mean? Jesus began it. ‘Finisher’ means He is going to complete it. It is Jesus all the way through. But we are working with Him. We can’t do it without Him, and He won’t do it without us. And we are to do it with patience. ‘Patience’ means waiting, but it doesn’t mean sleeping while we wait. We are to do everything we can to accomplish the result. But no matter how hard we work, and no matter how earnestly we pray, we can’t make strawberries bloom and get big and red and ripe all in 24 hours. No matter if we have a prayer meeting and pray all night, it won’t work that way.
Don’t misunderstand me. Prayer is a blessing in our spiritual life. But all the praying in the world will not produce a mature Christian character in 24 hours. Therefore, we must have the faith that keeps us doing day by day that which God has outlined.
I’m so thankful that He gives us so many illustrations in the world of nature to teach us how to cooperate with Him.
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.