The Epistle of James: Patient Endurance
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. 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 near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so 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. 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 NASB1995
James turns to his brethren in the church after delivering his scathing diatribe about the rich and their oppression. He asks them to be patient until the coming of the Lord. He admonishes them to do no complaining, which leads to judgment. He compares this patience to that of a farmer waiting for the rains to help bring the precious produce of the soil.
Do you remember doing an experiment in elementary school planting a seed and waiting for it to grow? We used little milk cartons that we opened at the top, were given some soil and a seed, and then waited for a little sprout to push up from the soil. It took quite a while, as I recall, and we had to be careful to not overwater the soil and to make sure the little carton got some sun or at least some light (these cartons were usually lined up on the windowsill). Seeing that tiny sprout coming through the soil was thrilling! It is, indeed, miraculous to see how a plant germinates and grows. The tiny plants were usually taken home to plant in a garden. I was quite the anti-green thumb in my childhood, finding many novel and inadvertent ways to (sadly) kill those little plants. My admiration and gratitude to the farmers and ranchers in this country is boundless, and I still get amazed and thankful for the bounty of a nice produce section in a grocery store or farmer’s market. People take this farm-to-table process for granted; if it was removed tomorrow, there would be chaos and mass starvation, to say the least.
The farmer doesn’t plant the seeds and then go into the house to play video games until they sprout. The seed is planted with the harvest in mind. The farmer is tilling and fertilizing and removing weeds and planning future crops and rotations for his acreage and locking in teams for harvest and lining up distributors and marketers. He is looking for adequate water sources to irrigate, including probably praying for rain to save money on water (but also praying for not TOO much rain or any hail). He is fighting rodents and birds and insects and blight and all sorts of other trials and tribulations. Then he gets to start over again in the next season. David Guzik from Enduring Word has an excellent comparison on how a Christian is like a farmer:
When we think about it, the waiting and need for endurance we have in the Christian life is very much like the waiting of the farmer.
· He waits with a reasonable hope and expectation of reward.
· He waits a long time.
· He waits working all the while.
· He waits depending on things out of his own power; with his eye on the heavens.
· He waits despite changing circumstances and many uncertainties.
· He waits encouraged by the value of the harvest.
· He waits encouraged by the work and harvest of others.
· He waits because he really has no other option.
· He waits because it does no good to give up.
· He waits aware of how the seasons work.
· He waits because as time goes on, it becomes more important and not less to do so.
By nurturing patience in our faith we can hopefully endure the trials and tribulations in our life that vary from season to season. Patience is definitely not one of my best-developed fruits of the spirit (in fact, all of those fruits are still in their infancy). I have had very few serious trials in my life, but my patience is not very sturdy even in situations of minor annoyances (traffic, flight delays, waiting for someone, etc.). If I am seriously tested, I will be on my knees begging the Lord to give me the fortitude and patience to endure (He has come through in the past, when my Mom and Dad were ill and passed away). We can’t allow hardships to be cause for complaining and treating other believers badly or judging them.
When I do my Bible readings every year, I am always bemused by the incredible kvetching and grumbling that the people of Israel indulged in after they were liberated from Egypt. They griped about anything and everything, and severely tested the patience of their human leaders and of the Lord. Their inability to believe, have hope and be grateful led to only two of them over the age of twenty actually entering the promised land in the end (Joshua and Caleb).
James ends this passage talking about the patience and virtues of the prophets and of Job. The Lord is compassionate and merciful. Here is more from David Guzik from the Enduring Word commentaries:
We see further that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. This is not immediately apparent in the story of Job; we can quickly think that God was cruel to Job. Yet upon consideration, we can see that God was indeed very compassionate and merciful.
· God was very compassionate and merciful to Job because He only allowed suffering for a very good reason.
· God was very compassionate and merciful to Job because He restricted what Satan could do against Job.
· God was very compassionate and merciful to Job because He sustained Him with His unseen hand through all his suffering.
· God was very compassionate and merciful to Job because in the whole process God used Satan himself. At the end of it all, God had accomplished something wonderful: To make Job a better and more blessed man than ever. Remember that as good as Job was at the beginning of the book, he was a better man at the end of it. He was better in character, humbler, and more blessed than before.
My next devotional examines a short passage in James 5: James 5:12 - Truthfulness. There are two more James devotionals following this next one (James 5:13-18, James 5:19-20). After the Epistle of James is completed, I plan to dive into the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of Luke (a companion to the Advent series that Steve is doing).
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer: Dear Lord, Please grant me patience and endurance to wait on You and Your perfect judgment. Let me plant seeds now with the harvest in mind, doing the work that is necessary to prepare for Your coming. Keep me from complaining and judging other believers in peace or in trials and tribulations. In Jesus name. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
Commentary by David Guzik on Enduring Word is used with written permission.