Monday, December 2, 2013

The Power of Patience

Be patient, then, brothers (and sisters), until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits (expectantly) for the land to yield its valuable crop (harvest) and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm (establish or strengthen your heart), because the Lord's coming is near. Do not grumble (complain) against each other, brothers (and sisters), or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers (and sisters), as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the Name of the Lord (as His messengers). As you know, we consider blessed (happy) those who have persevered (endured, persisted, steadfast). You have heard of Job's perseverance (endurance) and have seen what the Lord finally brought about (God blessed Job at the end with full restoration). The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers (and sisters), do not swear (cuss) – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. James 5:7-12 (NIV)

The book of James is considered by many the wisdom book of the New Testament. James relied heavily on Jesus Christ’s wisdom teachings, particularly the Sermon on the Mount (see e.g., James 2:14-16 and Matthew 7:21-23; James 3:17- 18 and Matthew 5:9; James 4:11 and Matthew 7:1-2; James 5:2 and Matthew 6:19; James 5:12 and Matthew 5:33-37). One key of wisdom addressed by James is patience (James 5:7-12; see also James 1:1-5).  James reminded his readers that God will right all the wrongs and dismiss all injustices at the Lord Jesus Christ’s return to earth – the "blessed hope" of the Christian (Titus 2:13). Until Christ’s return, Christians (followers of Christ) must patiently endure all things with expectation. The precise date of Christ’s return is uncertainty (Matthew 24:36) but His return to Judge the world is promised throughout the Holy Scriptures (James 5:7-8; see also Romans 13:12; Hebrews 10:25, 30; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 22:20).

The book of James used two different Greek words for patience (hypomone and makrothymia). Both of these Greek words are translated by our English word patience. “Hypomone” means endurance under trials, not like a coward or with discouragement, but as an attitude of the heart. “Makrothymia” means longsuffering and is an attitude with respect to people. Thus, patience means endurance, steadfastness, mercy, long-suffering, and self-control within our hearts. James encouraged our patience toward fellow believers as well as unbelievers (non-followers of Jesus Christ). The Holy Scriptures encourage God’s people to face hardship and suffering with patience, obedience, and faith within their hearts to Jesus Christ (Romans 5:3-5; see also Revelation 2:2, 19; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12).  “Meanwhile, the saints stand passionately patient, keeping God's commands, staying faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12, the Message Bible). Christ is the great example of faith, patience and endurance (Hebrews 12:1-3). Christians are to have a heart attitude of self-sacrificing humility, patience, and love for others like Christ (see Matthew 11:9; John 13:12-17; Philippians 2:1-11).

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and a description for love (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7). God blesses our patience (James 5:11).  If we need patience, we can go to God’s throne of grace and receive from Christ all the grace we need to endure (Hebrews 4:14-16). Christ will send the Holy Spirit – the Helper – to help us develop this fruit (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; Galatians 5:5-6; Jude 1:20-21). God’s grace is always sufficient during any trial and suffering (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Christian patience is ultimately a gift from God (Romans 15:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:5).

May God who gives patience, steadiness, and encouragement help you to live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. And then all of us can praise the Lord together with one voice, giving glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So warmly welcome each other into the church, just as Christ has warmly welcomed you; then God will be glorified. Remember that Jesus Christ came to show that God is true to His promises and to help the Jews. And remember that He came also that the Gentiles (non-Jews) might be saved and give glory to God for His mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote: “I will praise You among the Gentiles and sing to Your Name.” Romans 15:5-9 (The Living Bible)

But the question remains: How can we as Christians have patience as we wait for Christ’s return? To answer that question, James gave three encouraging examples of patience:  the farmer, the prophets, and Job. The farmer must patiently wait for the crops to grow and he cannot hurry the process, for it takes time for plants to yield their harvest. While he waits, the farmer must live by faith, looking with expectance toward the future reward and harvests for his hard labors of farming. Keep in mind that the farmer does not stand around doing nothing: he is constantly at work. The farmer labors because he believes a day of reaping will be enjoyed. As Christ has instructed His disciples, we Christians are to keep working, remain faithful to God, and patiently wait for Christ’s harvest (Luke 12:42-44).  

As an example of patience in suffering, James reminds the readers of the prophets (James 5:10; see also Matthew 5:12; Matthew 23:31; Acts 7:52). Many prophets suffered and were persecuted as messengers of God, such as Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah (James 5:10-11). Yet, the prophets remained faithful and loyal to God, suffered for their faith, and now they have received their reward from God (see Hebrews 11). Like the prophets, we must practice faith, prayer, and confession (James 5:13-17).

Job was a man of great endurance because he remained faithful to God throughout his suffering and hardships (Job 1:20-21; Job 2:9-10). He lost his home, property, wealth, family and health. God had no cause against Job (Job 2:3). Job was not patient (see Job 3; Job 12:1-3; Job 16:1-3; Job 21:4) but he persevered (stuck in, persisted, continued, steadfastness and endured) (Job 1:20-22; Job 2:9-10; Job 13:15).  Like Job, we must endure suffering to learn and discover God’s mercy, compassion, and full restoration (James 4:10; James 5:11).

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)

Evil wants us to get impatient with God and others, for an impatient Christian is a powerful weapon in evil's hands. Moses' impatience robbed him of a trip to the Holy Land; Abraham's impatience led to the birth of Ishmael, the enemy of the Jews; and Peter's impatience almost made him a murderer. When evil attacks us, it is easy to become impatient, run ahead of God and lose God's blessing. We are to faithfully trust God and love others (Galatians 5:14-15). “The important thing is faith—the kind of faith that works through love” (Galatians 5:6, NCV).

While we patiently wait, James also warned against grumbling, judging, complaining, striking out, and blaming others for our miseries (James 5:7-9). We are also to resist resentment and retaliation during our trials and suffering while we patiently wait. Jesus Christ as Lord and Judge will come and individually judge each of us (Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Hebrews 10:30). The coming of Christ may not be immediate. However, James encourages Christians to endure by faith with love (James 1:3-4; James 2:8, 14-26) and wait patiently for Christ’s return (James 5:7-8). As Christians, we will receive God’s crown of eternal life (James 1:12) and reap a harvest of righteousness sown by our faithfulness to God (James 3:18). “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) is God's formula for salvation (redemption and deliverance). At Christ’s return, the faithful will receive their just reward (Isaiah 40:10; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 22:12).

God is patient. The Holy Scriptures repeatedly note God’s patience and patience with His people (see Numbers 14:18-19, Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Isaiah 48:9; Hosea 11:8-9; Romans 15:5). God is filled with “mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true— loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7,  the Message Bible). In spite of our repeated faults, pride, and rebellion, God is always ready to forgive (Nehemiah 9:17). Christ’s parable of the tenants depicted God’s patience with His people (Mark 12:1-11). God’s patience with us (believers and non-believers) allows time for us to repent of our sins and faithfully turn to Christ with our whole hearts (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4), especially in the apparent delay of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:9-10).

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Douglas, J.D. and Tenney, Merrill. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament. Victor Books, 2001.

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