Summary: James is very concerned about how you react to the pain and suffering that comes into your life. This sermon teaches you how to respond to injustice, pain, suffering, delay and difficulty in a godly way.
Stanislaw J. Lec once said, “You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience.”
I wonder how many would agree with that statement. It does seem that those who are patient have large doses of it to begin with, doesn’t it?
In our text for today, James gives us God’s prescription for patience. What James says may surprise you. Let’s see what James says in James 5:7-11:
"7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
"10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:7-11)
You’re at the grocery store. You have a very busy evening ahead of you. You find that your shopping cart has a wheel that drags. You finally finish your shopping and choose a checkout counter with only two people ahead of you. The checker is new on the job. Her hands tremble; beads of perspiration dot her brow. Slowly she gets to you. Her cash register tape runs out. She doesn’t know how to change it. You’re delayed. How do you respond?
It’s finally date night. You’re going to your favorite restaurant. You’ve fasted most of the day so that you can gorge tonight. You made reservations so you won’t have to wait. But when you arrive, you learn that the restaurant has no record of your reservation. The manager asks if you called that particular restaurant or perhaps another one in their chain. You are given a menu and escorted to a crowded bench. There you sit, hungry as an Emperor Penguin in winter with a menu that you have begun to gnaw on. You’re delayed. What’s your response?
The genuineness of your faith in Christ is proven at such intersections in life. The best tests of your Christianity always take place in the mainstream of life, not in the quietness of a worship service or the pleasant atmosphere of a Bible study. It’s in those grocery lines, busy restaurants, delays, setbacks, and hindrances where genuine faith is proven.
James was a man interested in helping people like you and me develop a faith that really works in the mainstream of life. He knew that one distinguishing mark of genuine faith is patience.
So James begins the text we’re studying today with the simple command, “Be patient.” James uses the word “patience” four times in the text before us.
The original Greek term translated “patience” is a compound word taken from two other words. One word means “long,” or “far.” The other means “anger,” or “wrath.” Putting it together we come up with the literal translation of “long-angered.” You’ve all heard the expression, “short-tempered”? That is a description of a person easily angered. Well, the expression for patience is “long-tempered.”
It goes without saying that patience is a rare and remarkable virtue among people today. Who among us hasn’t uttered that now-famous American Prayer, “Lord, give me patience—and I want it right now!”
That great American Statesman, Thomas Jefferson, worked out a way to handle his impatience. He included it in his “Rules of Living,” in which he outlined how adult men and women should live. He wrote, “When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to a hundred.”
About 75 years later, author Mark Twain revised Jefferson’s words and wrote, “When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear!”
If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that although we may have tried everything from Jefferson’s philosophy to Twain’s, we still have a problem cultivating that fruit of the Spirit called “patience.”
The result is that our ongoing impatience has a way of robbing us of our testimonies. It injures our home lives and our relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
Some of the original readers of this letter from James were people struggling with their own impatience. The context of these verses implies that James’ readers may have been poor, working-class people who were being mistreated by the rich. Under these circumstances it would have been very understandable for them to be impatient and angry, for they were being abused and they were being denied their rights—at least, from a human perspective!