Summary: The message deals with patience in the face of suffering and how belieders react and act.
We are looking at a passage today that has two words I personally would prefer to avoid. One word is suffering and the other is patience. These are not my favorite topics but they are very real to life. All of us will suffer to a degree or another and our patience will be tried.
James has already commanded us to "consider it (trials of many kinds) pure joy" so that we might be made complete. He has also said blessed is the man who "perseveres under trial" because we "will receive the crown of life." Now James informs us to be patient in that suffering. He says in v. 7-8,
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
The word for "be patient" is "makrothumesete oun", which means to "catch your wind before a long race". It means in context that the Lord God will soon set things right. The time will come when the unjust (described as the rich and wicked) will receive their due and the just will receive theirs. The accounting of the books will be made and the Lord will right all wrong.
We get a real world example of this patient waiting from the farmer.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains
The farmer plants the seeds and waits for life to take its course. The crop doesn’t automatically come to being, it is a process of growth, a balance between rain and sun, soil and seed until finally the crop comes to fruition. It takes a great deal of patience and prayer to wait for ones livelihood to literally grow over time.
You may ask, "Where do I get the suffering part?" Look at the examples we have in the next few verses. It says in 10-11,
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As 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.
The prophets are the first example in the face of suffering. They were rejected, beaten, killed, as they proclaimed the message to Israel. Each one obeyed God and suffered for Him.
Next we have Job, need I say more. Job suffered to the point that he sat in his own oozing puss, scrapping the skin to get the infection off. Why did he suffer, because the Lord had blessed him in every way. Even his friends and his own wife were no relief. They badgered him often to get him to repent where there had been no sin and his wife simply told him to "curse God and die".
What kind of suffering is James talking about? Let me give you an example of what happened in the first century.
Because the city of Pergamum was the capital of Asia it was the administrative home of the Roman Governor. Roman governors were divided into two categories those who had the “Right of the Sword” and those who didn’t. Those who had the “Right of the Sword” literally had the power of life and death, on their word a person could be executed on the spot. The pro-consul who had his office in Pergamum had this right of the sword and at any moment could use it against the church. Apparently it was used against Antipas.
John Stott describes the probable scene this way, "It is not hard to reconstruct the scene which probably saw the death of Antipas. Known to be a Christian, he was summoned before the Proconsul of the Province. This civil leader was also chief priest of the imperial cult. A bust of the emperor was set on a plinth, and sacred fire burned before it. To sacrifice to the genius of Rome and the divine Emperor was a simple matter. All he had to do was sprinkle a few grains of incense on the fire and say, "Kurious Kaisar," (which means) Caesar is Lord. Then he would be released. But how could he deny Christ’s name and faith? Had he not at his baptism been proud to affirm his faith? Had he not at his baptism been proud to affirm his faith in the simple words, "Kurious Iesous", "Jesus is Lord." Had he not been instructed that God had exalted Jesus to His own right hand and set Him far above all principality and power and every name that is named, and given him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? Had his teachers not assured him that to say "Jesus is Lord" was a sign of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, whereas no man can say "Jesus be cursed" when speaking by the Spirit of God? Such thoughts as these will have invaded the mind of Antipas as his Christian faith was exposed to its supreme test. Whether he wavered or not we cannot say. All we know is that he was given more grace to stand firm, to hold fast Christ’s name and not to deny Christ’s faith. He would indeed render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s but he must also remember to render to God the things that are God’s. (Antipas) could not bring himself to give to Caesar the title that belonged to Christ. Christ was his Lord, not Caesar, even if it meant the whip, the sword, the lions or the stake. And because Antipas would not deny Jesus, he was killed.”