The Patient Life! — James 5:7-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 17, 2014
When things did not turn out the way the little five-year-old girl wanted, she sat down in a huff and cried. Her father, trying to be sympathetic, told her that she just needed to be patient and that good things come to those who wait. She lamented back, “I am patient I just want it now!” That kind of sums up a lot of us; we want to be patient, but being so is a lot harder than we often anticipate. Someone once said that “If patience is a virtue, many of us aren’t very virtuous!”
James realized that a lot of the struggles his readers were going through were of their own making simply because they wanted all of the blessings of God without any of the hardship involved. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar? While we can grin at the fact that folks haven’t changed a whole lot since James’ day, we should be ashamed and stunned that we haven’t changed. James’ answer for the fact that too many believers are indifferent to their ungodly behavior was not only to repent, weep and wail, but to practice a life of living for the Lord. With this comes the admonishment to be patient in the face of life’s difficulties. The hardship of life will happen but how we handle it says a lot about what we truly believe. Let’s discover what James teaches us concerning the patient life…
Instead of plotting, planning, and scheming how you are going to get rich quick and stick it to the man, James writes that perhaps you need to focus your life on that which is more important. He reminds us that…
I. Patience is standing strong in the Savior (Vv. 7-8)!
1. James reiterates for his readers to “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” He is literally telling them to be long suffering, but we do not use that kind of terminology anymore. After all, who wants to suffer for a long time? Yet, that is exactly what James meant! Not that we should suffer for a long time but rather we should bear up and be strong until Jesus returns! Some think he was addressing the poor folks whom the rich had misused, while others think he is addressing the impatient get rich quick folks who wanted life’s richness now at the expense of others! I believe he is addressing all of us. Christians are to be patient until the Lord’s coming, then all of this scheming, plotting, and other ill-conceived living will come to fruition. James gives us an example of what he means by relating, “See” or consider “how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” The farms in his day and in that area were totally dependent upon the autumn and spring rains for growth. If they did not happen, there was no crop. All the famer could do is to wait patiently for the rain and then also wait patiently for the harvest afterwards. In our day we can hardly relate to the patience these folks had to have in order to survive. We get impatient waiting for a red light to change or if our hamburger isn’t made perfect in 60 seconds! James concludes by telling his Christian friends, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” We easily forget that every day brings us one day closer to Jesus’ return. Jesus knew that each day bought us nearer to his eventual return and the justice of God, this is why he related that when the Son of Man returns “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8 NIV)” Until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Savior!
EXAMPLE: We have become a generation of miscommunication. While we think we have created more convenience for ourselves, instead we have created more frustration and misunderstanding. Texting has taken the place of email which took the place of using the phone which took the place of writing a letter which took the place of actually speaking to another person! Misconception is at an all time high because of the reliance of texting. In fact, we have even shortened texting to using letters for phrases or tweeting, which uses 140 characters or less! It is humorous how now when someone is misunderstood because of a tweet they wrote, others tweet what they meant by their tweet! We spend a lot of time texting or tweeting what we really meant in the first place when we could have spoken to the person ourselves and gotten it right the first time! Is it any wonder then the church has become impatient with its own faith? Believers are no longer admonished to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming. We are to be spoon-fed ten easy ways to gain a strong faith by the end of a sermon series instead! James teaches us that until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Lord!
James knew that in life we often see injustices. He warned against them, especially from the hands of believers who abused one another! This can create bitterness in our lives. Standing strong in the Lord is important, but he reminds us that…
II. Patience is bearing another believer’s burden (v. 9)!
1. We can be unhappy because our latte didn’t have enough foam or our drive to work was longer than we like. James is not referring to life’s petty inconveniences when he related we are to stand strong in Christ, rather he was writing about how we respond in faith to our circumstances. Part of the problem in today’s church is that we have effectively created a standalone faith. We erroneously teach that church membership is not necessary, that we do not need to fellowship with fellow believers on a regular basis, or that we are only responsible for ourselves. Church has become our Sunday morning experience rather than the Body of Christ it is meant to be. Nothing could be further from the truth of Scripture! James writes therefore, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Grumbling here is murmuring or to sigh and roll one’s eyes. James knew that when you are part of something bigger than yourself, it gets messy. You actually have to get involved with one another! And guess what? You soon realize that believers are not perfect people, including our pastors or church leaders! According to Paul as the Contemporary English Version translates it, “You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others. We each must carry our own load. (Galatians 6:2-5 CEV)” The burden we are to help one another with is the heavy load of life and the load is our faith walk in Jesus! When we grumble about a fellow believer we forget we will be judged for our griping, and in fact, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James reminds us. When we grumble about a pastor or fellow church member, we are grumbling about those Jesus died for. Instead of grumbling perhaps we should give a helping hand instead. Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden.
EXAMPLE: I have been blessed over the decades on how other believers have come along side of one another to help, encourage, and strengthen one another. But I have also been shocked and saddened at the easy betrayal of those who profess Christ and their easy disloyalty of fellow believers. Often they have difficulty seeing their own delinquent behavior. James knew the Body of Christ is a sacred thing. It is Jesus’ body doing his work and will in the world until he returns. And when we grumble against a fellow member of that Body, we are grumbling against the Lord himself. We are saying through our actions that the Lord himself is burdensome! My mom would tell us, “Young man, don’t you roll your eyes at me and huff!” She knew what I was thinking by my actions and so does the Lord! Instead of being disgusted with another believer, we are to come along side of them until they grow strong in his Body! Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden!
Christians are to be patient with one another. We cannot expect perfection from that which isn’t! In fact if we think we are so strong in the Lord that we can judge another person’s actions, we had better be careful. Remember Jesus’ teaching on the log removal from an accuser’s eye? Instead, James related that…
III. Patience is putting forth a pattern for other people (Vv. 10-11)!
1. James teaches, “Brothers,” fellow believers in Christ, “as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Instead of going for the jugular of the weak in faith, we should look to the strength of those who have gone on before us! I have discovered that those who have the fewest problems within a church are those who actually have the strongest walk with the Lord! Go figure! David in all of his weaknesses could remind others, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV)” Paul would encourage, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)” Jesus remarked to his disciples after he had washed their feet, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15 NIV)” In fact, we are to “take note of those who live according to the pattern” that they have given us in the Lord! (Philippians 3:17) None of us have suffered as the early believers did, but in this life of ours we are to respond no differently. In the face of our lives we are to set a pattern for others to follow. We can look to Job, Isaiah, Daniel, James, Peter, Paul, John and others who were not perfect but who set for us an example themselves. James encouraged by writing, “As you know, we consider blessed (happy) those who have persevered.” Are you happy in your faith? Perhaps you have misunderstood what perseverance means? It isn’t putting up with or making excuses for, it means standing with God in Christ! James reminds us, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Interestingly, James did not say that Job had makrothymia, “patience,” but rather that he had hypomonēn, “steadfastness, endurance, and perseverance”! While he may have gotten impatient with God, he endured in his faith, and that is exactly what we are to do; never forgetting that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!
EXAMPLE: As a parent I knew that I no longer lived my life in a vacuum. Little eyes and ears were watching and listening to everything I did and everything I said. As a grandpa, this lesson has come rushing back into my life again. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, and whether we feel like it or not, as parents and grandparents we are examples to our children and grandchildren. They are the legacy we leave behind. And believe me those irritating things they do come from somewhere and usually they come from what they have seen or heard us do! The same holds even truer for our faith walk in Christ. The world around us is looking for the pattern of Christ in our lives, what do you think they see and hear? If your fellow believers have a hard time seeing and hearing Jesus in you, what kind of pattern are you displaying for the rest of the world? We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!
Patience is standing strong in the Savior, patience is bearing another believer’s burden, and patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.