This Too Shall Pass

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One of my favorite books is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In the Book, Christian sets out on a journey towards the celestial city and one of the very first obstacles that he comes to along the way is the Slough of Despond.
In the story, Christian and a man named Pliable are off on their journey toward the wicket gate (which represents Christ) and they come upon the Slough of Despond. They began to get stuck in the mud and the mire and can’t get out. Mr. Pliable returns to his home but Christian tries to make it across and is helped by a man named Help. He asks Christian if he saw the steps, which represent the law, but Christian did not see it. This is a picture of the fact that the law cannot save us out of the mire. In fact, here is what the Slough of Despond is described as after Christian asks why it hasn’t been fixed so more people don’t turn back from the wicket gate.
Here is how Bunyan describes it:
This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
The slough is a place of sorrow over sin and sin is what has made this whole world a miry bog. We are trapped in it and cannot get out without Help from Christ.
Tonight I want to take a look at another one of our phrases that is not in the Bible that many people like to quote from. It is the phrase, “This too shall pass.” What is meant by this phrase is that there are situations that we go through that are difficult and hard, but they are only for a season and then they will be over.
Some of what is communicated in this phrase is true. There are seasons of life. Look at where there is a time for everything under the sun. says,
James 1:9–10 ESV
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
And again in
James 4:13–14 ESV
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
We are only on this earth for a short time and those times are difficult and there are ups and downs to life. But just like Christian is weighted down in the slough of despond by the guilt of his sin, we also can be weighted down in this life by the effects of sin. We suffer in this life for a variety of reasons. Some are of our own making and some are due to the fallen condition of this world.
So, how can we get out of the slough? How can we thrive even in the middle of suffering? Tonight we will discover how we need to act and how we can get deliverance as the Psalmist says in
Psalm 30:5 ESV
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Let’s take a look at what James teaches us from .
Read. Pray.
The context of the Book of James is a letter written by the apostle to be distributed to the Jews who were a part of what was called the Dispersion (). James was the apostle to the church in Jerusalem () and he wrote to Jews that were caught up in what is often called the Diaspora or Dispersion. You see, Rome considered Christianity to be a sect of Judaism like we might consider other denominations of the Christian Church. Now, we know that Jews and Christians don’t believe the same thing about salvation, but Rome didn’t care. So when the emperor decided to expel the Jews, the Christians who were of Jewish heritage were expelled too. God used this expulsion to propel the gospel to the uttermost parts of the empire.
In this expulsion, while it was good to get the gospel out to other people, it was also a painful experience with sorrow and grief too. Many people died for their faith. Many lost their property and their families. Life was hard. Probably much harder than many of us have it today, but that doesn’t mean our struggles are not important either.
James wrote to comfort them and help them not sink into the “Slough of Despond,” but rather to live with hope. So tonight we are going to look at four things he told the church to do while what they were going through either passed, or they were taken up to be with Jesus in glory.

1. Be Patient (vv. 7-8)

right now you are thinking, “What a way to start out a message!” No one wants to be told to be patient, but that’s exactly what James tells us to do. We need to realize that either the moment we are going through is going to get better and it will pass, or it won’t and it will get worse before it gets better. However, God is not sitting in heaven sending bad vibes our way to punish us or to harm us. He has a plan for us.
James says in
James 1:2–4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But look at what specifically is to motivate our patience. It is the coming of the Lord. The New Testament church lived with the expectation that Jesus could return at any moment. If they believed that, how much more is it true for us today.
Do you live your life with the view that Jesus could come at any moment? It helps us deal with our pain and suffering, difficult people, stressful circumstances, or anything that we might get rattled by.
He then uses the illustration of a farmer. I believe everybody should garden because so many lessons are learned from it that are spiritual in nature. He speaks of how the farmer plants and then he has to wait for the fruit and the rains. We are in a drought right now and we are needing to water a lot because the rain hasn’t come for days. Now imagine if you were entirely dependent on rain to have a harvest, and imagine if there were no grocery stores!
I have this weird practice that I do when I plant seeds in the ground. I know that when I plant a seed, it is going to take at least a week for seeds to sprout and break the surface of the soil. I knew they wouldn’t have yet, but I was impatient; however, I did have expectation.

2. Establish Your Heart (v.8)

Think about that word. Establish. We say things like this is a great establishment when referring to a restaurant or store that has been around for a while. We establish a foundation. That means we set it in place. So to establish our hearts means to set them firm on something. Jesus said we could establish our build on the foundation of God’s Word or on the shifting sands of man’s opinion.
Here James instructs us to establish our hearts with hope by looking to the return of Christ. He says thee times in this passage that our action we are to take is to be motivated by the reality of the coming of Jesus. We can have hope in suffering because Jesus has not forgotten us! He is coming back again and he is going to rescue us and bring judgment on our oppressors.

3. Don’t Grumble or Complain (v. 9)

What would make you happy? Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever gone through something that was so terrible you hoped you never had to go through it again, but you wouldn’t trade the experience and the lessons learned from it for anything?
Isn’t it interesting that James tells the church not to grumble against one another? When bad things happen in our lives or in the life of the church, we tend to complain and grumble and look for someone to blame. We do this with national tragedy. We do it with church decline. We do it with our own lives.
Introspection is a good thing and sometimes there is reason to blame someone. However a lot of times something happens simply because we live in a fallen world. Jesus said this about the problem of evil things happening in the world:
Luke 13:1–5 ESV
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In other words, we all deserve to have persecution and evil things happen to us. We participate with the sins of Adam and Eve in bringing about this fallen world that we live in, and things will only get worse if we do not repent and trust in Christ.
James is also alluding here to the complaining the Israelites did in the wilderness after they were delivered from the hand of Pharaoh but were waiting to enter the promised land. Just like Pilgrim’s Progress is similitude or an analogy of the Christian life, the experiences of Old Testament saints were often allusions to realities found in Christ.

4. Read the Scriptures (vv.10-11)

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