Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7)
If there is one activity that almost every human being dislikes, it is waiting.
Waiting at the DMV, waiting in line at an amusement park, or waiting to turn sixteen so you can get your driver’s license just to name a few. The reason that most people do not like waiting is because they feel it is a waste of time. When you are in line at the DMV there is little else you can do other than wait.
Waiting just seems like it can only be a nuisance.
James 5 and Waiting
In James 5, however we see that James commands the church to wait and be patient in suffering. He uses an agrarian analogy that his audience would relate to. Planting and waiting for crops to grow and produce fruit is a long and agonizing process they would have known well.
First, the growing process is slow and can sometimes be a letdown. Second, there are many things that can go wrong during that time to hurt the plants. However, when the farmer endures and is patient, the end product is well worth it, as he can feed his family and sell the rest for profit.
So, what exactly is James commanding us to be patient for? The answer is the Lord’s justice.
We must keep in mind that James was writing to churches scattered all over the place and all of which were under intense persecution. He knew the temptation to want to give up, forsake the name of Jesus, and leave the church to escape this cruel punishment would be very tempting.
That being said, he commands them to be patient and thus endure under suffering. The language he uses is quite strong, as these verses are littered not simply asking or suggesting but commanding. James really makes three points through verses 7–11 that I think are wise for us to consider today.
1. Strengthen your heart (James 5:8)
In this context to strengthen means: “to set fast, i.e. (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction, or (figuratively) to confirm.”
This is a call to not be unsure about the hope that you have in Christ, but rather to have a certain and unwavering resolve to fix our eyes on Christ and turn away from evil. He also gives a rational for this difficult command and that is “because the day of the Lord’s coming is near.”
When the Lord comes, He will judge and there will only be two verdicts: in Adam or in Christ. By fixing our resolve on Jesus, we will endure and when the day of the Lord comes, we will be counted as righteous because of Christ. This is what gives us unwavering hope: that one day Christ the Lord will come and set all things right.
2. Patience with one another (James 5:9)
James exhorts the church to be willing to look over an offense with one another. Enduring the suffering of this life is not something that we are to do alone, and that is why we have the local church.
The body of Christ is meant to be in unity (1 Corinthians 1:10) understanding that while we all sin, that we await the coming of Christ in which we will all be counted as righteous. Therefore, we must not get caught up in judging and grumbling at one another’s every fault and sin.
James follows this imperative not to grumble by saying “the Judge stands at the door and knocks.” This was to put earthly discord in perspective of the fact that as the church there was no need to judge one another since God would take care of that.
Rather, we should look to our brothers in sisters in faith as people that can encourage us, and that we can encourage to persevere under suffering. Now, this is not to say that we should accept or tolerate sin!
But we need to be loving and encouraging one another through this life and persevering together. Our goal whether it is encouragement or rebuke is to help one another persevere in our faith.
3. Patience brings blessing (James 5:10–11)
James reminds the church that the people who suffered for the name of the Lord are considered blessed. This is profound because it fights back against the prevailing thought of the culture. Where the culture sees the blessed life as having money, family, a good job, and long vacations, James says that those who are blessed are those who lived a life who were patient under suffering and persevered to the end.
He uses the specific example of Job. Job was a righteous man who loved the Lord, but God allowed him to lose all he had and become extremely ill. Yet Job did not lose his faith and continued to seek after the Lord. He was patient in suffering and though his faith struggled amid his pain, it did not fall away.
We see from this example that not only is this a mark of a true believer, but that it brings about blessing. Notice after he remarks on the patience of Job, he points out God’s compassion and mercy. This illuminates the wonderful truth that suffering is temporary, and that one day God will restore all his people.
We Need Patience
This message of James to be patient in suffering is a word that we need today.
When we see the world we live in grow more and more hostile to God, and when we are treated as outsiders for having a faith in the Lord, it is easy to lose heart. Take heart Christian that this patience in suffering will produce in you great blessing that will be realized when God judges you has righteous because of His son.
On that day you will be so glad that you persevered!