Summary: While we are suffering, James says that there is one thing we must do, and two things we must not do.


A. Dr. Robert Lightner, a long-time faculty member of the theology department at Dallas Theological Seminary was involved in a terrible plane crash.

1. He was in a single-engine plane that flipped over during takeoff.

2. He was badly injured and bruised beyond recognition. His wife, Pearl, said when she first saw him, “I looked at this black mass of flesh, and I didn’t even know who he was.”

3. Thankfully, Dr. Lightner did recover, and today he is a living testimony of the grace of God.

4. Lightner said of the ordeal, “I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn.” (From Hope Again, by Charles Swindoll)

B. That’s what suffering can do. That’s how God can use suffering in our lives – to mold us and shape us and teach us.

1. Famous talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael, who lost her daughter just three weeks after her son nearly died in a car accident said, “You learn more in 10 days of agony than from 10 years of content.” (Selling Magazine, June 1995)

C. I like the illustration told by M.R. Dehaan in the book, Broken Things.

1. A little piece of wood once complained bitterly because its owner kept whittling away at it, cutting it and filling it with holes.

2. But the one doing the cutting paid no attention to its complaining.

3. He was making a flute out of the piece of ebony, and he was too wise to desist from doing so, even though the wood complained bitterly.

4. He seemed to say, “Little piece of wood, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black stick forever – just a useless piece of ebony.

5. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you, for only thus can you be a blessing in the world."

D. One of the amazing things about the Bible is its realism.

1. The Bible presents things as they really are, without a candy coating, or idealism.

2. When we read in the Bible about the people who have gone before us, we see that even the most saintly of biblical characters still had some warts. They had their challenges, either emotionally, physically or spiritually.

3. Every person in Scripture is portrayed in all of his or her humanity.

4. We see them struggle with temptation and some fall into sin.

5. We see them suffer sometimes being betrayed by loved ones, lied to or cheated on.

6. Sometimes we observe their experience of long spells when God seems so silent and absent.

7. Sounds an awful lot like our experience, wouldn’t you say?

E. It is the Bible that speaks so realistically about the reality of suffering.

1. Job 5:7 says, “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”

2. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (Jn. 16:33)

3. And as we have noticed from our study of James, he addresses this reality so directly and yet so hopefully, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:3).

4. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor’s crown…”

5. And in our text for today, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” (5:7)

F. As we have said from the beginning of this series, James is writing to people who are experiencing suffering.

1. They were experiencing things like famine, poverty and persecution.

2. But James had a very important Word from the Lord to help them stand up under these things.

3. And the Word from the Lord that he gave them can be so helpful to us as we face our suffering.

4. So, what did James say that was so helpful? He gave them and us one primary thing to do, and two things to avoid.

I. What should we do when we are suffering? BE PATIENT!

A. I realize that that is probably the last thing we want to hear. Am I right about that?

1. Turn to your neighbor and say, “I don’t want to be patient!”

2. In his book, Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns, Swindoll writes, “Those late take-offs, those grocery lines, those busy restaurants, those trains! What fertilizer for the thorns of impatience!…Your waitress will not likely be impressed that you can prove the authorship of the Pentateuch. Nor will the gal at the check-out stand stare in awe as you inform her of the distinct characteristics of biblical infallibility…one quality, however – a single, rare virtue scare as diamonds and twice as precious – will immediately attract them to you and soften their spirits. That quality? The ability to accept delay graciously. Calmly. Quietly. Understandingly. With a smile. If the robe of purity is far above rubies, the garment of patience is even beyond that…But, alas, the garment seldom clothes us!”

3. Brothers and sisters, we are often in a hurry, but God is not!

4. None of us likes delays, especially when we are experiencing the pain of suffering, but patience is what God is trying to develop in us, and patience is what is called for.

B. James instructs us, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” (5:7)

1. “The Lord’s coming” could certainly be an illusion to the coming of the Lord to help us in an every day sense.

2. And I believe that that is truly a way that God works in our lives.

3. But I think that James is more likely urging us to raise our sights to a more distant horizon.

4. “The Lord’s coming” is more likely the day that Christ returns at the end of time.

5. We must acknowledge and accept the fact that for some of us, there will be no relief from our suffering while we continue in this world.

6. For some of us our only relief will come when Christ Jesus returns or we go to meet him in death.

7. I know that this is a hard reality, but it is the truth that God has revealed.

8. We must be patient until the Lord’s coming.

9. James then goes on to illustrate what this patience looks like in the life of farmers, prophets and Job.

C. Just think for a minute about the patience required in farming.

1. The farmer has to wait several months, and sometimes years (in the case of fruit trees), to harvest a crop.

2. The farmer knows the laws of nature, as God has designed them.

3. He waits as these processes occur: seed germination, plant growth, and fruit production.

4. There is literally nothing he can do to speed this process.

5. And think about what little control he has over the process. He cannot control the weather – both the temperature and rainfall can have much effect for good or bad with regard to the harvest. He cannot control the soil nor the seed.

6. For the small time farmer in those days, waiting could have been very difficult, and his family might go hungry during the wait. But the farmer had to be patient.

7. And why was he willing to wait? James says that the result could be a valuable crop, or your translation may say a “precious’ crop.

8. A harvest truly worth waiting for.

9. And so it is in our lives. God is a farmer and we are a farmer, planting his seed in us, watching and waiting for it to grow.

10. We must be patient through this process, and trust that the harvest will be truly valuable – a harvest of righteousness.

D. The second illustration of patience James gave us was that of the prophets.

1. Certainly, the Jewish congregation James was writing to would understand how the prophets of the OT are a great example of patience.

2. For one thing, the prophets of God were certainly walking in the will of God, and yet they suffered greatly.

a. Satan often tries to tell the faithful Christian that our suffering must be an indication that we are living outside of the will of God. That we are in sin or have been unfaithful.

b. But the example of the prophets proves that our suffering might well be because of our faithfulness, not because of our unfaithfulness.

c. We must never think that obedience automatically produces ease and pleasure.

d. Jesus himself was obedient, and it led to a cross!

3. Nearly all the prophets suffered persecution and extreme hardship.

a. Elijah was hounded and hated by Ahab, Jezebel and others (1 Kgs 18:10, 17).

b. Amos was falsely accused of conspiracy (Amos 7:10-13).

c. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern and threatened with starvation (Jer. 38:1-13).

4. The prophets also encourage us by reminding us that God cares for us when we go through sufferings for his sake.

a. Elijah announced to the wicked King Ahab that there would be a drought in the land for 3 ½ years, and Elijah himself had to suffer in that drought.

b. Yet God cared for him and gave him victory even during that time.

5. Many of God’s prophets were delivered from their suffering, but not all of them.

a. The Hebrew writer tells us about many of them in Hebrews 11, “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:35-40)

6. Someone might ask, “Why is it that God’s people often have to endure such difficult trials?”

7. The answer is: So that their lives might back up their message.

8. Our patience in times of suffering is a tremendous testimony to others around us.

E. The final illustration of patience James reminds us of is Job.

1. The Bible tells us that Job “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-3)

2. But disaster fell on Job and there is no doubt that he suffered terribly.

a. All his worldly possessions were taken from him.

b. All his sons and daughters were suddenly killed in a freak storm.

c. Painful sores covered his body from head to foot.

d. His wife urged him to abandon his faith, and his friends aggravated him with their awful advice.

3. Through all of this painful trial, Job had no idea why this was happening.

4. He did not know what was going on behind the scenes with God and Satan.

5. And even though Job questioned God, he did not abandon his faith.

6. Job’s declaration, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job. 13:15)

7. If you know the rest of the story, then you know that in the end, God blessed Job and restored his health, his wealth, and gave him another family.

8. He lived to be rewarded in this physical, earthly world, but such will not always be the case.

9. But if we are faithful and patient through our suffering, we will be rewarded.

F. So, first and foremost, we must be patient.

1. Like the farmer we must keep working and waiting for the harvest.

2. Like the prophets we must be faithful and keep witnessing in spite of our suffering.

3. Like Job we must keep trusting, even though we don’t understand.

II. Quickly, Let’s notice the two things we must avoid doing while we are suffering.

A. First, we must NOT GRUMBLE.

1. James writes, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” (5:9)

2. Times of stress and hardship cause tempers to flare. Don’t they?

3. It is so easy in times of suffering to become quarrelsome and impatient, and to take out our troubles on each other.

4. Satan loves to get Christians fighting with each other.

5. An angry, negative attitude takes its toll on us personally and on everyone around us.

6. We must keep in mind that we are not the judge, and that is not our job to judge others and become frustrated and impatient with them.

7. God is the judge, and we don’t want to cause Him to have to make a judgment against us.

8. So, while suffering, we must be careful not to grumble against God, nor against others.

B. Second, while suffering we must NOT SWEAR.

1. Verse 12 reads, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”

2. James’ concern was not swearing in the sense of profanity, or giving an oath in court.

3. James’ concern was with the kind of swearing in the giving of oaths.

4. Jesus had quite a bit to say about this subject in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5.

5. What does this kind of swearing have to do with suffering? Well, if you have ever suffered, then you know how easy it is to say things you don’t mean, and to make promises or bargains with God.

6. Integrity demands that our simple “Yes” be yes and our “No” be no. Our speech should be more sincere than dramatic.

7. While we suffer, we must talk to God and others honestly and truthfully, without deal making and manipulation.


A. Some of you are suffering greatly, and the last thing I want to do is to come across callously or to give the impression that patience in suffering is easy.

1. The only thing that I can offer myself or anyone else while they suffer is the declaration that James makes in verse 11 – “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

2. What I know for sure is this: God loves us. He is coming back. He is full of compassion and mercy. He will reward our patience and faithfulness.

B. Allow me to end with a powerful story.

1. In the autumn of 1873, Horatio Spafford, a Chicago businessman who had been ruined by the great Chicago Fire of October 1871, placed his wife Anne and their four children on a ship sailing from New York to France.

2. He was forced to stay in the U.S. for several more weeks to settle business matters before he could journey to join the family in Europe.

3. On the evening of November 21, the ship was progressing beautifully on calm seas.

4. But a few hours later, about 2 o’clock in the morning, on Nov. 22 while the ship was carrying its sleeping passengers, two terrific claps like thunder were followed by frightening screams.

5. The engine stopped and the ship stood still.

6. Passageways filled with terrified people shouting questions that no one could answer.

7. The passenger ship had been rammed by an English naval ship.

8. Mrs. Spafford saw three of her children swept away by the sea while she stood clutching her youngest.

9. Suddenly she felt her baby torn violently from her arms. She reached out through the water and caught the baby’s little gown, and for a minute she had her again.

10. But then the cloth was wrenched from her hand and she became unconscious.

11. She awoke later, finding that she had been rescued by sailors from the naval ship, but her four children were gone.

12. Meanwhile, her husband, Horatio Spafford was back in the States, desperate to receive news of his family.

13. Finally, word came by cable that his wife was alive, but all four daughters were lost at sea.

14. He was crushed by the news and walked his floor all night in anguish.

15. Toward morning he turned to his friend, Major Whittle and said, “I am glad to trust the Lord when it will cost me something.

16. On the way across the Atlantic to join his wife, the captain announced that they were now passing the place where the passenger ship had been wrecked.

17. For Horatio Spafford, this was passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

18. He sat down in his cabin on the high seas, and wrote a hymn that was to become a great help to many of us.

19. In the agony of his loss, when his suffering was the greatest, he expressed the peace of God which passes all understanding.

20. Here are his familiar words:

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

C. Regardless of what we are going through, it can be well with our souls.

1. Let’s trust God. He knows our situation and is allowing it. Be patient and focus on the eternal.