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.