The Perfecting Power of Patience

Sometimes patience is a virtue absent in the holiest of saints. On the last day of the Papal visit to the UK in 2010, there was a little known incident on his way back to Heathrow. The Pope was delayed due to meetings and was going to miss his flight. When the limousine arrived, the driver was overjoyed to be carrying the Pope. But he was nervous and drove very slowly. The Pope asked him to speed up. But the driver went slower; he wanted to keep the Pope in his limousine as long as he could. The Pope insisted on driving the limo himself. The Pope sped off and was clocked by a speed camera doing 85 mph.

The policeman who stopped him was shocked when he discovered the famous personality behind the wheel. He frantically phoned his police chief and said, “Chief, I have stopped a very important figure for speeding. I don’t know what to do?”–“What do you mean? Give him a speeding ticket!” –“Sir, in all honesty, I can’t.”–“Why can’t you? The law is the law. Who is it anyway that you stopped? Is it the mayor of London?” –“No, sir.” –“Is it the Prime Minister?” –“No, sir.” –“Is it the Queen?” –“No, sir.” –“Well, then, who is it?!” –“I don’t know sir! All I know is that the Pope is driving him to the airport.”

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” (James 5:7a).

Two different words are used for patience. In James 5:7–8, 10 it is the word “long-suffering” and probably refers to people with whom you need patience. The words “endure” and “patience” used in James 5:11 mean something different – literally “to remain under” meaning endurance under great stress suggesting stressful situations or conditions. As a whole, ‘patience’ means “to stay put and stand fast when you’d like to run away.” But why be patient?

1. The Motivation for Patience

James gives us three motivational reasons.

1.1 Because the Lord is Coming

Three times James reminds us of the coming of the Lord. It is the one future event that is certain. It is, or should be, our greatest motivation because when Jesus returns there will be an end to stress, and end to tension, and end to suffering, to evil, to sin and death. Be patient because Jesus is coming.

1.2 Because the Lord will Judge

“Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)

Be patient because Jesus is coming to judge. If believers are suffering from unjust persecution, James reassures us that God will bring justice to this earth when he returns. It means we can live with injustice knowing God will judge eventually. Jesus is coming. Jesus will judge. And thirdly, be patient

1.3 Because the Lord is Compassionate and Merciful

“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11)

God understands what we are going through. He is with us. He will not treat is as we deserve. In his compassionate grace he gives us what we don’t deserve. In his mercy he will not give us what we do deserve. This is our motivation for patience. Because the Lord is coming. Because the Lord will judge. Because the Lord is compassionate and merciful. So how can we learn to be more patient as we wait for the Lord to return? James gives three examples.

2. Three Examples of Perseverance

2.1 The Farmer who Sows

“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.” (James 5:7b-8)

While I dearly love the countryside, I could never be a farmer. I’m not patient enough. Apart from weeds, and my waist line, nothing grows overnight. We might complain about inconveniences the weather brings, but for farmers, the weather is a matter of survival.
Too much rain and the crop will rot. An early frost will kill the crop. Too much sun and it will burn up. And rain during the harvest will ruin the crop. How long-suffering the farmer must be with the weather! In the Middle East, farmers plow and sow in what to us are the autumn months. The “early rain” would soften the soil. The “latter rain” would come in the early spring (our February-March) and help to mature the harvest. The farmer has to wait many weeks for his seed to produce fruit. Why will a farmer wait so long? Because the harvest is worth it – it is “valuable” (James 5:7).

That is the lesson we must learn. The harvest is worth waiting for. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). James pictures the Christian as a “spiritual farmer” looking for a spiritual harvest. “You too, be patient and stand firm,” (James 5:8). Our hearts are the soil, and the “seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). There are seasons in our life just as there are seasons for the soil. Here, then, is a secret of endurance when the going is tough: God is producing a harvest in our lives. He wants the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow (Galatians 5:22–23), and the only way He can make us more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient, is through through trials and troubles, especially from other people!  This isn’t about passive resignation. Farmers rarely have time to put their feet up.  James did not tell these suffering believers to put on white robes, climb a hill, and wait for Jesus to return. “It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.” (Luke 12:43).

Nor do farmers usually have time to get into fights with neighbours. Instead, farmers invariably cooperate, often sharing equipment. They help one another out. James must have had this in mind when he added, “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.” (James 5:9). Impatience with God often leads to impatience with other people, and this is a sin we must avoid. So, instead of growing impatient with God and with other people, let us yield to the Lord and permit his fruit to mature. Let us learn from the example of the farmer who sows. The second example?

2.2 The Prophets who Spoke

“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:10)

Most of the prophets had to endure suffering and persecution because people didn’t like their message. Why did God allow them to suffer? So that their lives authenticated their message.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:35-40)

Perseverance in times of suffering is a testimony to others. The farmer who sows. The prophets who spoke.

2.3 The Patriarch who Suffered

You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11)

It is hard to find a greater example of suffering than Job. He lost his beloved children. His wife was against him, insisting he, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). He lost his wealth and his health. Job’s friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. “There must be some terrible sin in your life,” they argued, “or God would never have permitted this suffering.” And it seemed as if God was against him! When Job cried out for answers to his questions, there was no reply. Yet, Job endured. Satan predicted that Job would get impatient with God and abandon his faith, but he would not deny his Lord.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Job persisted in debating with God, even though God was silent. That is endurance. The apostle Paul describes the application like this:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:4-5).

The better we know the Bible and the example of heroes of the faith, the more God can encourage us in the difficult experiences of life. The important thing is that, like the farmer, we keep working, and, like the prophets, we keep witnessing, and like Job, we remain true to our calling, no matter how trying our circumstances may be. The motivation for patience. Examples of perseverance.

3. The Reward for Perseverance:

“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.” (James 5:11)

We tend to equate blessing with material wealth, with good health, with long life, with a large family, with many friends, with fame, with success, with popularity, but most of all we expect them NOW. Not so, says Jesus.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

This is why we need patient endurance, because however beautiful God’s creation, however tasty our food, however refreshing our drink, however glorious the gifts of the Holy Spirit, however uplifting our worship, however wonderful our sweet fellowship, these are but a foretaste of what is to come.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Let us encourage one another by saying together:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:18-25)

As we learn to be more patient, may God give us…

For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for every prayer.
In Jesus name. Amen.

Pathway to Spiritual Maturity (James): Summer 2013

Some Assembly Required (James 1:1-12)
How to Handle Temptation (James 1:13-18)
Transformed by Truth (James 1:17-27)
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (James 2:14-26)
The Tongue and How to Control it (James 3:1-12)
How to be Wise (James 3:13-18)
To End all Wars (James 4:1-12)
The Folly of Arrogance (James 4:13-17)
The Three Peas of Wealth (James 5:1-8)
Be Patient in Suffering (James 5:7-12)

 

With grateful thanks to Warren Wiersbe for his commentary on James “Be Mature” for some content and inspiration.

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