Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
– James 5:7-11 (NAS)
Patience – the quality of persevering or forbearing; the ability to wait
The ability to wait! That is not always as easy as it might seem. Waiting, especially when it comes to prayer and asking God to intervene in your life always seems under pressure to have it happen now. We all get why this is a challenge – it is ingrained in us. We have the technology, science and expertise in our culture to have things faster, quicker and in more abundance. We hardly have to wait for anything anymore. While this makes life more convenient it does not always help in our relationship with Christ; in fact it becomes harder for us city people because, as indicated in the text above, James uses an agrarian illustration to explain patience.
The fact that James uses a farming illustration is out of our normal thought processes for many people. Farmers work on a scale of weeks and even months not minutes or days. We are used to instant results and answers to things– everything is faster and quicker and we like it. Of course technological advances have made life easier, more efficient and more helpful; nothing wrong with that. But the danger is that we can lose patience for even the little things in life.
Patience is a tough issue – when things get to be a struggle it is easy to quit; when life becomes inconvenient one just does something different; when we don’t get what we want it is easy to complain. Here are a few things from the text:
- Having a divine, eternal perspective is critical to developing internal patience. Notice the text tells us to be patient, strengthen your heart because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Now it has been over 2000 years since that was written and the Lord has not returned. Most would say that it is not going to happen. But God’s time table is forever different than our time table. But unless you have your patience grounded on this eternal promise then it will be very easy to lose patience with the little stuff on earth.
- Patience does not complain or judge. The issue here is patience but also a sense of trust that God, who is the final judge, not only has His hand on our journey in life but He will also bring justice and righteousness to those things that feel unjust. If we judge then we may find ourselves standing before the One with whom we must give account. Think of it this way – when we complain, criticize and judge others it is saying to God “I don’t trust the way you are handling this and I don’t have confidence that you will every handle this properly… so I am going to take over” (or something like that).
- Patience is a journey from suffering to God’s compassion and mercy. Job may not be the first person you “want to be like” but on the other hand endurance finds great favor with God. Endurance is clearly an integral part of patience and one of the most resilient qualities of true, godly character.
Because of His great patience,