Ep. 7: Patience
March 30, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Encouragement Passage: James 5:7–5:11
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
On today’s podcast, we’re going to look at patience from James 5.
The book of James is all about the practical outworking of faith for the Christian—how our faith motivates action.
In chapter 5 he begins to speak about patience and prayer. In James 5:7–11, you will quickly notice that James writes of patience seven times in just these few verses. He commands patience, he illustrates patience, and he gives two examples of patience.
The Command: Be Patient
I suspect that you are like me and you struggle with being patient! I mean, I can talk myself into thinking I’m a patient person by comparing myself to someone else who is impatient, saying, “Well, I’m not impatient about that. What’s their problem?” Which might be true—but then I demonstrate impatience in an entirely different way!
James writes two times, “Be patient.” It’s a command, an imperative—meaning that we are to obey it—that it’s not optional.
But what does it mean to be patient? The Greek dictionary defines this word we translate “patience” as meaning, “to remain tranquil while waiting or to bear up under provocation without complaint.”
One kind of patience is like when a brother or sister is provoked by their sibling, they are exhibiting patience by being forbearing while being ridiculed.
But the other kind of patience is to remain tranquil while waiting. This can look two different ways: waiting for something we know is coming, like waiting for Friday and going out to dinner, or waiting for something that we’re not actually sure is going to happen—waiting for medicine to work and wondering if it will, or waiting to get married, or waiting to have children. In these circumstances, when we don’t know the outcome, waiting seems a lot more difficult.
I actually think both senses of the definition work here in James 5. We can demonstrate patience by bearing up under provocation without complaint as we suffer and we can demonstrate patience by remaining peace-filled while waiting.
Notice that this patience isn’t an indefinite amount of time—“be patient forever”—there is an expiration date—“until the coming of the Lord.” Now, someone might argue that this doesn’t really help, because the expiration date might be long after we have lived and died—after all, the people to whom James was writing never saw the second coming. Their patience extended the rest of their lives!
But how? I think this is where his illustration begins to point us in the right direction.
Be patient, therefore brothers and sisters, 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.
The example of the farmer helps encourage patience because he knows that there is absolutely nothing he can do to make the crops grow. He can’t go out in the middle of the night and pull on every stalk and try to get it to get taller. In the Ancient Near East, there weren’t sprinkler systems that he could set up and make it rain on the crops. All he could do was wait patiently. That is, in fact, what he was supposed to do. Do what farmers do, then wait patiently.
But in verse 8, after he gives the command again, “Be patient” he adds, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
To establish our hearts means to fix them firmly in place, to support them. I think of how when you dig a hole and put a fence post in the ground, as you pour in the cement and wait for it to dry, you have to support the post with 2x4’s so that it stays level and straight.
As we wait for the coming of the Lord, even while going through trial we need to make sure our hearts are supported with truth. Specifically, in context here, we could support our hearts with the truth that Jesus is going to return. That it is a certain fact. It might not be today, but it could be. We want to make sure that our hearts don’t lean toward other things in the meantime, so we keep them supported with God’s word and truth about his character. As James says here, don’t grumble against others because the judge is standing at the door. We keep our hearts established by reminding ourselves that it isn’t our job to judge others and make them do what we want them to do.
So James commands patience twice, gives an illustration, then ends with two examples of others—“those who remained steadfast.” James points both to the prophets who suffered and were patient and also to the steadfastness of Job. In both cases, the steadfastness and patience in the midst of suffering pointed people to look to the purpose of the Lord. His servants were patient even when enduring trial so that others could see the character of God—that even despite suffering, we can be a living example that we believe we have a compassionate and merciful God. Being reminded of these examples helps us to be patient even when we don’t know when the trial or suffering we are going through will end.
But let’s turn the dial one more turn—how does God demonstrate his compassion and mercy toward us? By actively showing patience toward sinners. He is the patient one, who has shown such compassion and mercy to us. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul writes,
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Jesus is the supreme example of patience because we have offended him through sin and he endured more suffering than anyone else. God intends for us to see examples of patience while suffering, with Jesus as the foremost, so that we can be patient when we suffer.
So the gospel helps provide us with the motivation to be patient—because we have been shown mercy and grace in the example of Jesus being patient with us and we have a great history of Christians being patient in trial in order to demonstrate that they trust God to deliver them in his timing—even if we have to wait for that deliverance until the return of Christ.
See you next time. Remember, we have hope in Christ. Let’s encourage ourselves with this hope by speaking truth to ourselves and by making that hope known in a struggling world.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.