Patience Amid Conflicts
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
* * * * * * *
"Patience overcomes everything," says the ancient proverb. "The world is his who has patience." For most of us patience is a scarce commodity. But to the Christians of the first century, plagued with problems and intense persecution, patience was more than just a virtueit was an absolute necessity!
Knowing that the outlook was desperately dark, James encouraged these believers to try the uplook. "Be patient . . . unto the coming of the Lord" (Ja 5:7). Why be patient? Because God is in control, and He will one day return to receive His own.
There are many things in life which try our patience. All of us experience frustrating moments when we find it difficult to cope with the pressures and problems of life.
To these same believers of the early church who were experiencing severe testings and temptations, the apostle James wrote, "Count it all joy when ye fall into various trials, [for you know] that the testing of your faith worketh patience" (Ja 1:2-3, NSRB*). There is a purpose in testing! There is a reason why we are given difficult experiencesthat we might develop patience.
* New Scofield Reference Bible
We need patience in every area of life. Driving down the expressway, waiting in line at the supermarket, getting along with that cantankerous person in the officeeverything we do requires a degree of patience. Not only do we need patience in our relationships with one another, but we also need patience in our relationship with our heavenly Father.
The great New England preacher, Phillips Brooks, was known for his calmness and poise. His intimate friends, however, knew that he too suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion. "What is the trouble, Dr. Brooks?" asked the friend. "The trouble is," replied Brooks, "that I'm in a hurry, but God isn't." Have you ever felt that way?
God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Oftentimes His timetable is not the same as ours. The great theologian and preacher, Andrew Murray, declared, "Be assured that, if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious! God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands; He will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long."
Some of the early Christians to whom James was writing were so eager for the second coming of Jesus Christ that they had become impatient for His return. They were beginning to crack under the pressures of persecution. They were beginning to question whether their suffering was worthwhile.
The word used in James 5:7 for patience could be better translated "steadfastness" or "endurance." It suggests not so much the idea of resignation to one's fate as the quality of self-restraint. It indicates the need to refrain from striking back at the tempter. Be patient, says James, without seeking revenge. No matter how severe the testing may be, we are to stand firm, take heart, and be patient.
Why were these words of advice given? As we study this passage, we find that James suggests two primary reasons for being patient.
BE PATIENT, BECAUSE JESUS IS COMING
Most of us know what it is like to be away from our home and loved ones for awhile. Think back to that day when you first set out on your own, when you left your friends and family for the first time. It was a hard and lonely experience. But then one day you were able to go home for a visit. You once again had the opportunity of being with those you loved. It was such a wonderful feeling. It was a happy experience.
The return of Jesus Christ to receive His own is called that "blessed hope" or that "happy hope." It will be a time of beautiful reunion, a time when we forever will be united with our heavenly Father. Therefore, says James, "be patient . . . unto the coming of the Lord" (Ja 5:7).
The return of Jesus Christ will usher in a time of uninterrupted fellowship, eternal fellowship with our Lord. Our lives here on earth are often marked by separations. Some of you have been separated from your children by the physical limitations of the body, an undeveloped mind, a lack of hearing or vision, the inability to speak. Some of you already have laid your children to rest. Many, because of death, have been separated from a husband or wife. Life is a series of separations.
For those to whom James was writing, separation was very real. The physical and economic persecution that these Christians had experienced had resulted in the disruption of many families. For some, the pain and suffering was too much to accept.
But to believers of the first century and twentieth century alike, James' words ring out loud and clear: "Be . . . patient;
stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Ja 5:8). On that day when Christ returns we will enjoy eternal, unbroken fellowship, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Th 4:16-17). There will be no more separation, no more sorrow, for these things shall all pass away. And as the apostle Paul wrote those words to the church at Thessalonica, he concluded by saying, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Th 4:18). Despite the sorrow of separation here, we do have that "blessed hope" of unending fellowship when Christ returns.
Yes, we are to be patient for a very important reasonChrist shall return! And when He does come back to catch up His church we will not only enjoy unending fellowship, but, the Bible says, we shall be given a new and glorious body. We shall be changedin a momentand have no more sickness and suffering, no more pain, and no more death. John declared that when Christ appears, "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). What a day that will be!
Life is filled with conflicts! Every day we are faced with the travestry of war, the ravages of disease, the suffering of those who have nothing to eat. Earthquakes, floods, and fire cause untold hardship. But one day, that great day, these torturing conflicts of life will be straightened out forever.
If we could see beyond today, as God can see,
If all the clouds should roll away, the shadows flee;
O'er present griefs we would not fret,
Each sorrow we would soon forget;
For many joys are waiting yet for you and me.
"If we could see, if we could know," we often say.
But God in love a veil doth throw across our way.
We cannot see what lies before
And so we cling to Him the more,
He leads us till this life is o'er;
Trust and obey.
Yes, trust and obey. "Be patient," says James, "for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." The truth of the coming of Jesus Christ is a great cure for conflict. If the outlook is dark, try the uplook. We need to live in the glow of His coming.
BE PATIENT, BECAUSE GOD IS WORKING
In verse 7 of this chapter, James gives an illustration of the kind of patience we are to possess. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."
The husbandman, or farmer, must patiently wait for the results of his sweat and toil. Patiently day by day, week by week, and month by month he toils over his plants, waiting in expectancy of the harvest which is coming. He cannot alter the growing season. He cannot intervene in the natural course of events. He must have patience and wait upon the earth to bring forth her abundance.
In much the same way the Christian must patiently wait upon God to bring about a harvest of character in his life. God is at work. In chapter 1 of this same epistle we read that we are to "let patience have her perfect work, that [we] may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (Ja 1:4). "Ye are God's husbandry," Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (1 Co 3:9). We are God's garden, purchased by His precious blood. We have been planted and cultivated by the Lord. And as
God is patiently waiting for fruit in our lives, so we are to patiently wait upon Him to accomplish His purpose.
The husbandman, or farmer, can prepare the ground and plant the seed, but he is totally dependent upon the elements for the growth of his plants. James speaks of the great patience the farmer must have as he waits for the "early and latter rain" (Ja 5:7). In Palestine there are two seasons in the year: a wet season from October to April and a dry season from May to September. The rainy season is absolutely necessary to the farmer, for without the needed moisture there will be no crop to harvest during the long, hot summer.
The same could be said of the human soul. At times the experiences of life can be very hard. If our lives were filled with sunshine only, we would be nothing more than a parched and arid desert. We need the storms, for they bring the moisture which produces living things. In all the trying and perplexing experiences of life, God is at work.
The poet had this in mind when he wrote these words:
Did the leaves of the trees say something to you as you
passed them today?
They were not created this spring but months ago. (And
right now others are being fashioned for another year.)
At the bottom of every leaf stem is a cradle, and in it
is an infant germ:
The winds will rock it and the birds will sing to it all
summer long and next spring it will unfold.
So God is working in you, "Both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). Good days and bad days, sad days and glad days, God is accomplishing His perfect will. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose" (Ro 8:28). Therefore, be patient as you wait upon the Lord.
BE PATIENT, FOR THE JUDGE IS AT HAND
But there is another reason we are to be patient. In verse 9 of this chapter James writes, "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door." The coming of Christ will be a happy event, but it will also be a solemn occasion. Therefore, says James, live patiently because "the judge standeth before the door." Jesus Christ is coming to right the wrongs.
Jesus Christ was born to be the Saviour of the world. That was His purpose for coming to this earth, for His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave. But if Jesus Christ is rejected and spurned He becomes, not our Saviour, but our eternal Judge. Just as a citizen of this world must abide by certain physical and civil laws, so, too, must he recognize God's spiritual laws. The apostle Paul indicates that there will come a day when every person will have to give an account of himself before God. Paul writes, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Ro 14:10). Again Paul writes that when Christ returns, "Every man's work shall be made manifest . . . and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Co 3:13). There will be a day of reckoning in which our true values shall be revealed.
During the days of persecution and suffering, the early Christians found it easy to blame one another for their problems. In these words of admonition James is simply saying, "Be patient with one another. Do not grumble and complain at your brother because of the problems you are facing. For in so doing you stand in danger of God's own judgment." God's judgment will take strict account of the Christian's behavior as well as that of their persecutors. What! Falling out with one another, when the Judge is standing at the very door!
How sad it is to see children of God who cannot live peaceably with one another. How God's Spirit must be grieved when we grumble and complain instead of being about our Master's work. The time is short! The days are few! The thought of Christ's return is a warning as well as a consolation to each one of us.
Do not groan against your brother, dear Christian. Do not moan about your troubles. Be patient, be happy, whatever your situation might be. Anyone can praise God when everything is going well. Anyone can be joyful when the bank account is full and there is no sickness. The true test of our patience and maturity comes when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, when we are in a jam!
Paul does not say, "If you are so disposed let me suggest that you rejoice." No! He does not say, "Moan with me," or "Groan with me." He says, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil 4:4). No matter what your situation in life may be, no matter what your trial or affliction, wait patiently and rejoice in the Lord! Paul was not merely mouthing sweet-sounding platitudes. These words were spoken as he awaited a martyr's death. Paul knew what it meant to wait patiently upon God in the hour of conflict. Sometimes we sing the words of the hymn writer, Johnson Oatman, Jr.:
So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.
Why should the Christian be patient? First, be patient, because "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." That is our blessed hope, our joy and rejoicing. Second, live patiently because God is at work. And third, practice patience because "the judge standeth before the door."
* "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Ja 5:8).
* The truth of the coming of Jesus Christ is a great cure for conflict. Let us live in the glow of His coming.
* The true test of our maturity comes when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, when we are in a jam!
* If the outlook is dark, try the uplook.
Chapter Fourteen || Table of Contents