Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth…
The earth that yields seed to the sower and bread to the eater has received its constitution from God; and it is governed through His wise providence by fixed laws that are infinitely reliable: and yet, at the same time, with such diversified conditions and minute peculiarities as may well convince us that the Almighty intended the operations of nature to supply us with spiritual instruction as well as with material good.
I. First, then, How DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT? He waits with a reasonable hope for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and the latter rain. He expects the harvest because he has ploughed the fields and sown the grain. Out on the folly of those who flatter their souls with a prospect of good things in time to come while they neglect the opportunity of sowing good things in the time present. They say they hope it will be well with them at the end; but, since it is not well with them now, why should they expect any change — much less a change contrary to the entire order of Providence? The husbandman waits with a reasonable hope; he does not look for grain where he has cast in garlic. Save then that thou art a fool, thou wilt like him count only on the fruit of thine own sowing. While he waits with a patient hope, he is no doubt all the more patient of the issue, because his hope is so reasonable. And not only does he wait with patience, but some stress is put upon the length of it; "and hath long patience for the precious fruit of the earth." Now, our waiting, if it be the work of the Holy Spirit, must have this long patience in it. Are you a sufferer? There are sweet fruits to come from suffering t Have long patience for those peaceable fruits. You shall be brought out of your trouble when the discipline for which you were brought into it has been fulfilled. Have long patience, however, for not the first month does the husbandman find a harvest. If he has sown in the winter, he does not expect he will reap in the early spring: he does not go forth with his sickle in the month of May and expect to find golden sheaves. He waits. The moons wax and wane; suns rise and set; but the husbandman waits till the appointed time is come. Wait thou, O sufferer, till the night be over. Tarry thou a little longer, for if the vision tarry it shall come. Are you a worker? Then you need as much patience in working as you do in suffering. We must not expect to see immediate results in all cases from the preaching of the gospel, from the teaching of Scripture in our classes, from distributing religious literature, or from any other kind of effort. Be patient, O worker, for impatience sours the temper, chills the blood, sickens the heart prostrates the vigour of one's spirit, and spoils the enterprise of life before it is ripe for history. Wait thou, clothed with patience, like a champion clad in steel. Wait with a sweet grace, as one who guards the faith and sets an example of humility. Wait in a right spirit, anxious, prayerful, earnest submissive to the ways of God, not doubtful of His will. Disciple of Jesus, "learn to labour and to wait." With regard to the result of Christian obedience, the lesson is no less striking. The first thing that a farmer does by way of seeking gain on his farm is to make a sacrifice which could seem immediately to entail on him a loss. He has some good wheat in the granary, and he takes out sacks full of it and buries it. You must not expect as soon as you become a Christian, that you shall obtain all the gains of your religion, perhaps you may lose all that you have for Christ's sake. And, while the husbandman waits, you observe in the text he waits with his eye upward, he waits until God shall send him the early and the latter rain. None but the eternal Father can send the Holy Spirit like showers on the Church. He can send the Comforter, and my labour will prosper; it will not be in vain in the Lord; but if He deny, if He withhold this covenant blessing, ah me! work is useless, patience is worthless, and all the cost is bootless: it is in vain. Note, however, that while the husbandman waits with his eye upward, he waits with his hands at work, engaged in restless toil. He cannot push on the months; he cannot hasten the time of the harvest-home; but he does not wait in silence, in sluggishness and negligence; he keeps to his work and waits too. So do you, O Christian men I wait for the coming of your Lord, but let it be with your lamps trimmed and your lights burning, as good servants. The husbandman waits under changeful circumstances, and various contingencies. Only a farmer knows how his hopes and fears alternate and fluctuate from time to time. Yet he waits, he waits with patience. Ah, when we work for God, how often will this happen! There are always changes in the field of Christian labour. At one time we see many conversions, and we bless God that there are so many seals to our testimony. But some of the converts after a while disappoint us. There was the blossom, but it produced no fruit. Then there will come a season when many appear to backslide. Some deadly heresy creeps in, and the anxious husbandman fears there will be no harvest after all. Oh, patience sir, patience. When God shall give you a rich return for all you have done for Him, you will blush to think you ever doubted; you will be ashamed to think you ever grew weary in His service.
II. WHAT DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT FOR? He waits for results, for real results; right results; he hopes also rich results. And this is just what we are waiting for — waiting as sufferers for the results of sanctified affliction. Oh that we might have every virtue strengthened, every grace refined, by passing through the furnace. And you are, also, like the husbandman, waiting for a reward. All the while till the hat vest comes, he has nothing but outlay. From the moment he sows, it is all outgoing until he sells his crops, and then, recovering at once the principal and the interest, he gets his reward, in this world look not for a recompense. You may have a grateful acknowledgment in the peace, and quiet, and contentment of your own spirit, but do not expect even that from your fellow-men. Wait till the week is over, and then shall come the wage. Wait until the sun is gone down, and then there will be the penny for every labourer in the vineyard. Not .vet, not yet, not yet. The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. This is what we wait for.
III. WHAT IS THE HUSBANDMAN'S ENCOURAGEMENT IN WAITING? The first is, that the fruit be waits for is precious. Who that walks through a cornfield where the crops are plentiful, but will say, "Well, this was, after all, worth all the trouble and all the expense, and all the long patience of that winter which is over and gone?" If the Lord should draw you near unto Himself by your affliction, if He should make His image in you more clear, it will be worth waiting for. And if, after your labours, He should give you some soul for your reward, oh, will it not repay you? We may wait, therefore, with patience, because the reward of our labour will be precious. Above all, the reward of hearing the Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," is worth waiting for I Even now to get a word from Him is quite enough to cheer us on, though it be a soft, still voice that speaks it, but oh, the joy of that loud voice "Well done." A godly husbandman waits with patience, again, because he knows God's covenant. God has said "seed time and harvest, summer and winter, shall not cease," and the Christian farmer knowing this is confident. But oh, what strong confidences have we who have looked to Christ, and who are resting on the faithful word of a covenant God. He cannot fail us. It is not possible that He should suffer our faith to be confounded. The covenant stands good, the harvest must come as surely as the seed time has come. Moreover, every husbandman is encouraged by the fact that he has seen other harvests. And, O brethren, have not we multitudes of instances to confirm our confidence? Let us cheerfully resign ourselves to the Lord's will in suffering, for as others of His saints who went before us have reaped the blessing, so shall we.
IV. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PATIENCE? To patiently wait God's appointed time is our business. Suppose a man should be impatient under suffering. Will it diminish his suffering? We all know that the irritability of temper which is caused by impatience is one of the difficulties which the physician has to battle with. "When the patient is calm there is a better chance of his recovery. O that ye would endeavour to conquer impatience. It cast Satan out of heaven, when he was impatient at the honour and dignity of the Son of God. But the benefits of patience are too many for me to hope to enumerate them. Suffice it to say, patience saves a man from great discouragement. Expect to wait for glory; expect to wait for the reward which God hath promised; and while you are waiting on the Lord your bread shall be certain, and your water shall be sure: you shall often eat meat, thank God, and take courage. The short days and long nights shall not be all charged with gloom, but full often they shall be tempered with good cheer. When we have patience it keeps us in good heart for service. Great haste makes little speed. He that believeth shall not make haste; and as the promise runs, he shall never be confounded. Above all, patience is to be commended to you because it glorifies God. The man that can wait, and wait calmly, astonishes the worldling, for the worlding wants it now. You remember John Bunyan's pretty parable of Passion and Patience. Passion would have all his best things first, and one came in and lavished before him out of a bag all that the child could desire. Patience would have his best things last, and Patience sat and waited, so when Passion had used up all his joy, and all he sought for, Patience came in for his portion, and as John Bunyan very well remarked, there is nothing to come after the last, and so the portion of Patience lasted for ever. Let me have my best things last, my Lord, and my worst things first. Be they what they may, they shall be over, and then my best things shall last for ever and for ever. There is one other respect in which our case is like that of the husbandman. As the season advances, his anxieties are prone to increase rather than to abate. In like manner we have a closing scene in prospect which may, and will in all probability, involve a greater trial of faith, and a sterner call for patience, than any or all of the struggles through which we have already passed. Perhaps I can best describe it to you by quoting two passages of Scripture, one specially addressed to workers, the other more particularly to sufferers. The first of these texts you will find in Hebrews 10:35, 36. This is sweet counsel for thee, O pilgrim, to Zion's city bound. When thou wast young and strong, thou didst walk many a weary mile with that staff of promise. It helped thee over the ground. Don't throw it aside as useless, now that thou art old and infirm. Lean upon it. Rest upon that promise, in thy present weakness, which lightened thy labour in the days of thy vigour. "Cast not away your confidence." But there is something more. The apostle says, "Ye have need of patience, after ye have done the will of God." But why, you will say, is patience so indispensable at this juncture of experience? Doubtless you all know that we are never so subject to impatience as when there is nothing we can do. Hence it is that after our fight is fought, after our race is run, after our allotted task is finished, there is so much need of patience, of such patience as waits only on God and watches unto prayer, that we may finish our course with joy and the ministry we have received of the Lord Jesus. And what about the second text? Turn to James 1:4. Seemeth it not as though patience were a virtue par excellence which puts the last polish on Christian chastity? We will hire us back to the cornfields again: I am afraid we were forgetting them. But this time we will net talk so much with the farmer as with the crops. Knowest thou, then, what it is that gives that bright yellow tinge of maturity to those blades which erst were green and growing? What, think you, imparts that golden hue to the wheat? All the while the corn was growing, those hollow stems served as ducts that drew up nourishment from the soil. At length the process of vegetation is fulfilled. The fibres of the plant become rigid; they cease their office; down below there has been a failure of the vital power which is the precursor of death. Henceforth the heavenly powers work quick and marvellous changes; the sun paints his superscription on the ears of grain. They have reached the last stage; having fed on the riches of the soil long enough, they are only influenced flora above. The time of their removal is at hand, when they shall be cut down, carried away in the team, and housed in the garners. So, too, it is with some of you. "The fall of the year is most thickly strewn with the fall of human life." You have long been succoured with mercies that have come up from mother-earth; you have been exposed to cold dews, chilling frosts, stormy blasts; you have had the trial of the vapoury fog, the icy winter, the fickle spring, and the summer drought; but it is nearly all over now. You are ready to depart. Not yet for a brief space has the reaper come. "Ye have need of patience." Having suffered thus far, your tottering frame has learnt to bend. Patience, man — patience! A mighty transformation is about to be wrought on you in a short space. Wait on the Lord. Holiness shall now be legibly, more legibly than ever, inscribed on your forefront by the clear shining of the Sun of Righteousness. The heavenly Husbandman has you daily, hourly, in His eye, till He shall say to the angel of His presence, "Put in your sickle."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.