Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Pastor James has been dealing with the wicked wealthy who oppress the poor Christians in the first six verses of chapter 5. In this passage he is dealing with the oppressed brethren! Therefore, this is very applicable to us, even if we may not have the same amount of oppression. We are in a country, where our leaders are engaged in high levels of corruption. Consider the current scandals in the ministry of health. Billions of Kenya shillings are lost, while doctors are not paid, and patients are languishing in pain. While the medical supplies and medicine is scarce in government hospitals, there are wealthy people who are carting away all the money. People are dying because the government is not doing its work and even worse, it is protecting those who are stealing. What do we do?
How should Christians behave when they are under the pressure of oppression? Do they take to the streets to demonstrate? Do they go to the civil courts and litigate? Do they begin a revolution? What is the way forward? Questions abound. For those who are unbelievers, hopelessness is rife.
Thankfully the Lord knows too well our greatest needs. He is looking at His people with great favour. Consider what we have in this passage and the clear exhortation to be patient:
· Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord (v.7)
· You also, be patient (v.8)
· As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (v.10)
· Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast (v.11)
For how long should the Christians in Syria, Somalia and North Korea be patient under trial and oppression of their respective governments? What is the basis of our patience under trial? Why should we persevere under trial? How shall we be patient able to be patient? Why should we take the examples provided and be steadfast under trial? These are some of the questions that might linger in the minds of Christians under oppression.
Thankfully, the inspired word of God provides us with the necessary instructions to be better disciples of Christ in patience. Three things I have to say under this subject of patience:
1. Be patient until the coming of Christ
Christians are those who are watching and waiting, looking above for the coming of the Lord. The great hope of Christians is not a better political leadership. Trump will not be any better than Obama, even though he may do some good. Therese May might not be any better than David Cameron or Gordon Brown. Therefore our hope cannot be in men, whether civil or religious leaders. Our Christian hope is tethered on the coming of our great Redeemer, Christ.
James impresses this upon the hearts of his hearers by the emphasis he lays: “…until the coming of the Lord” (v.7); “… Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (v.8)…” “behold, the Judge is standing at the door…” (v. 9). These three statements are the framework of this passage, as chassis is to a car. They capture the spirit of the great expectation that James wants to sow and cultivate in the hearts of his hearers. You would not miss it if you were blind, that the one thing where the hope of a believer is established is in the second coming of Christ.
This was meant to comfort the twelve tribes in the diaspora. Will there be an end to persecution? Yes! When will Christian oppression come to an end? When Christ will come, and reverse every curse of the Fall, uproot every thorn and thistle, overturn even scheme and design of the devil, dash to pieces the human kingdoms.
For how long do I persevere? Be patient until the coming of the Lord because the coming of the Lord is at hand! The full-stop of our patience and perseverance in trial is the coming of Christ. This was a comforting reminder that the Saviour is near… He will not delay. Each day brought the coming of Christ closer. The time of their suffering, oppression and persecution was shorter and shorter by the day! It was soon drawing to a close, even though the Lord in His wisdom has not seen it fit to tell us the exact period of waiting.
This was meant to soothe and console and strengthen them in their difficulties. It was also meant to help them put their hope in the right place and look in the right direction. We should always consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18). Bearing in mind that the suffering and affliction are short-lived, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The coming of the Lord would bring with it challenges of a different nature, for the Lord is coming not as a baby in a manger, but as the King of kings; NOT as not a Lamb, but as the eternal Judge. Am I saying that Christ is coming as a Judge even for Christians? Precisely! Christ is coming as a Judge even for Christians – because remember this letter is written to believers.
But this is what Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Paul is among those who will appear before the judgement seat of Christ, but not to be judged and condemned, but to be openly acknowledged and acquitted. This day will bring to light everything that is now hidden.
This great Day will test the quality of our ministry and service (1 Cor. 3:13). Our works will be exposed and our reward (or lack of it) will be given. At that time you will give an account to your Maker of your behaviour at home, at school, at work, your business ethics, your character, your prayer life, your stewardship of God-given resources, i.e. time, money, etc. This is what informed Martin Luther’s statement, “I preach as though Christ died yesterday, rose from the dead today and was coming back tomorrow!” How do you be patient now?
2. Be patient by running away from sin
The exhortation, ‘…establish your hearts…’, must be considered. James is saying that there is false patience and it must be denounced. There is not patience or steadfastness if you are in love with sin. This is the point that Pastor James makes so clear when he points out in verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged.”
Grumbling is, generally speaking, intolerance. Even worse, grumbling is trying to weigh God on a human scale! Because of grumbling a whole Israel generation died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). But James is particularly speaking of grumbling against one another. Earlier on he warned against slander – do not speak evil against one another, brothers (4:11). This sin messes up human relationships.
Differences can be so heightened among brothers that they groan against one another as much as against the common enemy. Paul speaking of the state of the early days, shows how Christians were ‘biting and devouring each other’ (Gal. 5:15). To show their rage he uses words appropriate to the fights of animals. That is how it usually happens when conflicts arise in the church. Religious hatreds are most deadly. Thus Luther complains that he never had a worse enemy than Karlstadt, and Zwingli that the Roman Catholic were never so bitter to him as his friends. It is sad when we dispute against one another and tongue is armed against tongue and prayer is set against prayer and appeal is set against appeal – lambs acting the wolves part. Thomas Manton
The consequences of grumbling are so clearly highlighted – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged. God will punish those who fail to love their brothers. All must be done to restore and build a broken relationship. All must be pursued to build bridges where attempts to burn them with the tongue has succeeded, and this should be done without any further delay.
It must never be forgotten that false brothers, just like the wealthy oppressors will be judged. False brothers are not brothers at all – they are hypocrites. So when you hear grumblings against each other, run as fast as you can before the judgement comes upon you. Grudges are a recipe for judgement – flee from them immediately!
3. Be patient because of the examples provided:
The encouragement to patience would not be complete without a vivid imagery and illustration from day to day living. The Lord has given us work to do so that we may showcase eternal truths and realities. Consider the following:
A farmer ploughs, a farmer sows, and then a farmer waits. He does all this with the hope of rain and so he waits for the rains! In the Palestine climate, there is the early and the latter rain almost just like the climate of Nairobi. The early rain came in October and the latter rain came in March. The seed that was sown, would germinate and produce crop. More than the rain the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth. The farmer is patient until the fruit is ripe and ready for harvesting. He does not harvest it when it is not ready. He waits.
This is interesting because this is where Pastor James began the letter – faith meets life’s trials and tests and through patience (and not without it), it grows into maturity of character – the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing (1:2-4).Christian growth should be steady not just in spite of trials but in and because of trials! Just like nothing can hurry the early or latter rains, so nothing can also speed up the coming of the Lord. But what we are sure of is, yet in a little while and the coming One will come and will not delay (Heb. 10:37).
b) The prophets
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (v.10). The prophets were a persecuted lot. And so Stephen asked the Jews who were persecuting him and he was on the verge of death,
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, (Act 7:52)
Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 and see how men of faith were afflicted and oppressed. Torture, chaining, prison, flogging, stoning, banishment and death by being burnt, beheading among other atrocities against Christians have been used and reported. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs has a lot to say on this subject. As we speak, there are many who are being killed in different parts of the world. It could be you.
The point to note here is, if those chosen by God to be prophets were so persecuted, if prophets so suffered, could we note that we are no better? But there is a word of encouragement – we consider them blessed who remained steadfast (v.11). In their perseverance, the grace of God of patience upon them was demonstrated and can now be pointed to.
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (v.11). We speak of the patience of Job. Job persevered in endurance for a long time in a steel faith in God. Job is a man when he had lost all his wealth, all his children and even his wife in one day and lost his health was able to say,
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. (Job 13:15-16)
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, (Job 19:25-26)
Consider what God produced in Job. Job was able to see the second coming of Christ – “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Job’s hope was not in the restoration of his health, or his wealth. His hope was anchored on His Redeemer who lives and who would ultimately stand upon the earth.
James tells us that in the story of Job we see God at work in a man. For we see the purpose of the Lord in it. We see God’s compassion and mercy. Job is a demonstration of God’s wise, powerful preserving and governing all His creatures an all their actions. Why else did God allow His beloved servant who was upright and righteous to be tested so severely, by our adversary the devil? It was to demonstrate His purposes and mercy, and to show that the devil is under the omnipotent hand of God, only going as far as the Lord would let him. Job’s story ends gloriously, with God vindicated in His mercy, and Job vindicated in his steadfastness.
We may be going through trials of such a nature that we are in the dungeon of giant despair. Look up to Christ who is our hope and stay. Edward Mote (1797 – 1874) put it so well on the song My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (I have changed it a little for effect):
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness;
We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
When darkness veils his lovely face, we rest on his unchanging grace;
In every rough and stormy gale our anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, and His Blood, support us in the whelming flood;
When all around our souls gives way, He then is all our hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, we stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
You may have been so tempted that you are swimming in despondency. Remember that our Lord was tempted in every way yet without sin. Look to Him, He will give you strength beyond degree. Only trust Him even though you are in the valley of the shadow of death – fear no evil for He is with you to uphold you.
It may as well be that your afflictions are at a fever pitch and you do not know what to do. Remember that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver them from all of them.
But remember that the Lord is compassionate and merciful. Go to Him in prayer. O what a Friend we have in Jesus, all our griefs and pain to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to the Lord in prayer.
May the Lord give grace to you so that you are not tempted beyond what you can bear – the Lord cannot test you beyond your capacity. He always provides a way of escape. Yours is to remain faithful in patience under trial – depending and trusting in the strength and wisdom of the Lord alone.