Drought: Disaster or Reaffirmation

given on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Scripture:  James 5:7-11 and Job 42:10-17

In all likelihood, no one disagrees that Summer 2012, has been a long one.  No one complained when the boiling temperatures came to an end, and the recent rain is liquid gold.  Yet, the record-making Drought of 2012 is really not over and the complaining has not ended.

During the week’s reading, the scripture from James surfaced.  While reading those few verses, the verses outlining the farmer’s leaped off the page:

7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.

Surely those words were written just for 2012!

Time and again life hands us challenges.  The drought has tested farmers and non-farmers alike this year, and now that the temperatures are well under 100 and we have had dabs of rain, the results cannot be reversed.  The drought continues.

All too frequently life hands us droughts that can pass by without everybody not

icing.  These droughts are those of faith.  Maybe an illness destroys a  sense of well-being, whether the illness is a personal one or one suffered by someone dear to us.  Maybe the drought is of income after losing a job.  Still another drought could be loneliness after a relationship is broken.

The 2012 drought conditions experienced locally have also reached around the globe.  While googling images of the drought, I found images related to England, India, Africa, and more.  We are not suffering alone.  Each American is only one of the millions around this earth facing hardships due to drought conditions.

Yet the drought hits each one personally.  The drought challenges our faith.  It challenges the very foundations, both literally and figuratively, of our homes.  The drought looms around us as a disaster, but Jesus’ brother, James asks us to see the faith of the farmers:

9Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong.”

The drought is a disaster if we allow our faith to fail us.  The drought can serve as an affirmation of our faith is we remain patient, steady, and strong.  Certainly the conditions of this year’s drought have placed unbelievable pressure upon us.  Our personal health, especially mental health, has been pushed to the limits.  The health of the livestock in the rural communities remains at risk.  Yet, nature is sending out signals that with patience the drought will end.

Look at the signs all around you.  I found the lilac bush, across the street, in bloom—in September.  I discovered zinnias have sprouted up from the earlier summer blooms’ seeds.  The lakes and ponds may have less water in them, but that is not keeping the fishermen away.  The knockout roses have bloomed despite the heat and lack of rain, but lately they have flourished in even brighter colors.  And the trees also have faithfully stood strong—even the corkscrew willow is showing bright green leaves mixed in with the bear branches.

The new life appearing in the world around us reminds us of the rewards God promises us.  Job certainly battled his share of droughts.  He hung on to his faith, though, and was rewarded.  As many trials that Job experienced, he never gave up his faith.  When his friends asked him why did he continue to pray to his god, he answered by his actions of faith.  The drought around him did not lead him to a drought of his faith.

Not one soul–past, present and future—is going to have a life drought-free.  The drought may take on a variety of personas such as loneliness, illness, divorce, or death; but with faith in God and maintaining the practices, we keep our relationship with God strong.

James used the metaphor of the farmers who work to produce crops and livestock even in the worst conditions to demonstrate how to stay grounded, how not to lose faith in Christ’s return.  Looking through various study notes to James 5:7-8, this explanation was given:

We cannot make [Christ] come back any sooner.  But while we wait, there is much work that we can do to advance God’s kingdom.  Both the farmer and the Christian must live by faith, looking toward the future reward for their labors.  Don’t live as if Christ will never come.  Work faithfully to build his kingdom—the King will come when the time is right.  (Life Application Study Bible, p. 2252)

Drought 2012 does not have to destroy anybody.  This year’s drought simply challenges us to maintain our steady conviction in God.  It challenges us to look around and find others who need God in their lives and then to serve as God’s hands.  The drought is stripping us of all those accessories in life that can replace the importance of God in our life.  Drought 2012 can serve as a reaffirmation of our reliance on God and the promises he has made.

God’s promises kept Job faithful.  Even through all the trials handed him, he stuck to his faith.  Reading the epilogue, those last few verses in Job 42, provide a glimmer of hope:

 After Job had interceded for his friends, God restored his fortune—and then doubled it! All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble God had brought him.  . . . God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life.

The drought experienced this summer may not be over, but we already see evidence that the earth heals.  The current drought may be a record breaker just like the Joplin tornado last spring, but consider the outpouring of Christian love afterwards—just like the lilacs blooming in late September.

Whatever challenges we handle, whatever drought we experience, God is with us.  Job turned to God despite all his sufferings and even prayed for his friends:

1-6 Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”  (the MSG)

Job prayed.  He knew his scripture.  He repented and prayed.  His sufferings turned from self-pity to the needs of his friends.  He stood up and offered his intercession for them.  God heard him, answered him, and rewarded him.  This was under the Old Covenant.

Under the New Covenant, life is simpler but it still comes with suffering.  James did not let the New Christians forget their Jewish history.  He reminded them that Job, too, had suffered and yet persevered.  He said:

“If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God,
I’d throw myself on the mercy of God.
After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts;
there’s no end to his surprises.
He gives rain, for instance, across the wide earth,
sends water to irrigate the fields.
He raises up the down-and-out,
gives firm footing to those sinking in grief.
He aborts the schemes of conniving crooks,
so that none of their plots come to term.
He catches the know-it-alls in their conspiracies—
all that intricate intrigue swept out with the trash!
Suddenly they’re disoriented, plunged into darkness;
they can’t see to put one foot in front of the other.
But the downtrodden are saved by God,
saved from the murderous plots, saved from the iron fist.
And so the poor continue to hope,
while injustice is bound and gagged.

James and Job knew what a drought of faith could cause, but during the worst of the suffering, God will remain by our side.  We must remain by God’s side.

Drought is a condition of the earth, yet when the rain does come and the temperatures do drop, the earth responds with the greatest of riches—new growth, new color, and lots of surprises to reward us.

The truth is that we will experience private droughts or sufferings, but remain faithful.  God is beside you and will reward you with riches beyond our expectations.

Dear Faithful Father,

These long hot weeks of the drought have challenged us.

We struggle to keep our faith.

We struggle to know we are not alone.

We struggle to find hope along the paths of parched earth.

Thank you for your words of encouragement

         found in the scriptures.

Thank you for the support and love of the Christian family.

Thank you for evidence of your promises

          in the surprising spring blooms beside autumn mums.

Give us strength and courage to weather the drought of earth and soul.

Help us to look forward to the rewards yet to come.        

–Amen

These lilacs are across the street from our house.
What a surprise it was to find them on September 25, 2012.  They bloomed this year in March, a month early due to the warm winter.  Nature sure does surprise us.

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