Summary: We might think we have patience but the proof will be in the testing of it. Just like our faith needs to be tested, as James pointed out in chapter two, so does our patience. The people in chapter five had been under unjust suffering and they were, up to
INTRODUCTION: Someone once said, “Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman; never in a man.” Of course, the men are agreeing with this except the part about never in a man and the women are agreeing except for the part about seldom in a woman. We might think we have patience but the proof will be in the testing of it. Just like our faith needs to be tested, as James pointed out in chapter two, so does our patience. The people in chapter five had been under unjust suffering and they were, up to this point, not getting any deliverance. Their patience was being tested.
1) Be patient (vs. 7).
• Be patient, then. James is saying, ‘I know you’re suffering at the hands of unfair employers; be patient, the Lord will deliver you’. The Greek translation of patience basically means to have an attitude of self-restraint that enables one to refrain from hasty retaliation in the face of frustration. We can be impatient with God. We’ve been wronged; we’ve cried out to him and wonder when the deliverance will come. James is writing to restrain those who have been wronged from taking matters into their own hands. New England preacher Phillips Brooks was known for his calmness and poise. His intimate friends, however, knew that he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion. ‘What is the trouble, Dr. Brooks?’ asked his friend. ‘The trouble is,’ replied Brooks, ‘that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.’” That’s the test of patience-will you react according to your will or God’s. Will you surrender to God’s timing, or act impatiently and do things in your timing? When God calls us to wait on him he’s asking us to act supernaturally. Our natural way is to retaliate when we’re wronged or to take matters into our own hands when things aren’t happening quickly enough. Having our patience tried is God’s way of testing us to see if we’re going to respond in the flesh or the Spirit.
• The example of the farmer. James provides a valuable illustration of how patience is needed and rewarded. The early rain was the November showers which prepared the ground for the seed; the latter rain, the spring showers needed to bring the harvest to maturity. The farmer’s patience is rewarded in the value of the harvest. However, while the farmer waits for the harvest he doesn’t just sit and wait. He needs to tend to it, weeding it and protecting it from animals. He also goes to work in another part of the farm. Same with us, while we are waiting for the Lord to return we don’t sit and wait; we work and wait. We are busy with the Lord’s work while we patiently wait for his return. This is wisdom. “A watched pot never boils”. If we are idle, it makes us more impatient. However, if we are active, we are less preoccupied with the wait. Also, in the farmer illustration there is the fact that he is dependent on the weather (rains) and, as we in Syracuse well know, the weather is unreliable. He can’t do anything about it; it’s out of his control. Therefore, the farmer will be tempted to worry while he waits. That’s what can trap us. We worry about the unpredictable. And it’s magnified because it’s out of our control. We have no choice but to wait. However, we can wait in patience or we can wait in frustration. We can either have a positive spirit while we wait or we can have a negative one. And having a negative one makes it worse because through worry and fear and frustration the wait feels that much longer. And if our frustration persists, we might throw in the towel. If we do that we will forfeit the blessings that would be ours if we were patient. Gal. 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” There’s a saying that goes, “Wait around long enough to see the miracle happen.” We need to have patience in order to see God’s miracles.
2) Stand firm (vs. 8).
• Stand firm. Other translations, “establish your hearts”. Strengthen your hearts. Our hearts can be heavy and we feel weighed down and weak by our calamity. James is encouraging us to be strong and firm in our hearts. We can have our hearts strengthened through prayer. We can have our hearts strengthened through fellowship. And the Word of God helps us to strengthen our heats too. David was a man who dealt with unjust suffering. Look at his heart strengthening words in Psalm 37:39-40, 40:1-3. We can have our hearts strengthened by believing and knowing that only Christ is the solid rock and everything else is sinking sand. The prophet Isaiah dealt with suffering. He wrote these encouraging words in Isaiah 40:31, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” And we strengthen our hearts most of all in knowing that our Redeemer lives and he is coming back to right the wrongs and claim his own.