By Larry Snyder
Is patience difficult for you? The story is told about a man in Los Angeles, California who was arrested for negligent discharge of a weapon after shooting his toilet bowl five times with a .38 caliber handgun. He claims that he just got upset. He couldn’t take it any longer. His daughter had flushed a hairbrush down the toilet earlier in the day and clogged the pipes. So he shot the offending toilet. I have no word on the toilet’s condition, but the man’s patience was long gone.
Someone has said,
“Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman,
Never in a man.”
I recently read a statistic that says that in the average lifetime, a person will spend 2 years calling people who aren’t home, 3 years in meetings and 5 years waiting in line. Five years waiting in lines! No one likes to wait. I don’t like missing a green light or an elevator. Waiting for even one minute can be agonizing!
But even worse is waiting on God! Have you ever had to do that? It seems like I am always in a hurry . . . but God seldom is.
As James, the half-brother of our Lord, moves into a conclusion to this marvelous book named after him, remember he is writing to Christians who had been exiled by the Roman emperor Claudius, and they have been unable to return home. He begins his letter to these believers telling them in James 1:3, “…the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
In the verses in James 5:7-11, he returns to this theme of endurance. Actually, in these 5 verses, James tells his readers 4 times to be patient until His return. The word James uses for patience and endurance in the original Greek implies for Christians “to stay put and stand fast when you would really like to run.”
James gives us 3 examples of patient endurance. He begins with an example of the farmer in verses 7 thru 9. If you are an impatient person you should not desire to be a farmer. I have met several farmers but I have never met one without patience. They must be patient. They must endure pain and toil preparing the soil to sow the seed. They must sow the seed, and after the soil is prepared and the seed sown, they must be patient with the season. Why does the farmer willingly wait so long? Verse 7 tells us it is because the fruit is “precious”. You see, the farmer has his eyes on the end result.
Next James gives the illustration of the prophets in Verse 10. These early believers who James is writing to would have been familiar with this example of Old Testament prophets. When we read how these faithful servants suffered, it offers us encouragement. Beloved, we can be encouraged because we can know that God is in control. These prophets encourage us by showing that they were in the will of God, yet they suffered. They were proclaiming their message in “the name of the Lord.” Pain and suffering are sometimes due to your faithfulness to God. Perhaps that is the reason for your trial. As someone once said “the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”
The third example that James gives us of patience and endurance in this passage of Scripture is Job. James mentions him in verses 11 and 12. Job is the classic example of a man that patiently endured suffering and was blessed by God for his persevering faith. James reminds the believer that there are blessings for those who persevere. But there often must be a trail of suffering to persevere through. Job lost all he had except a nagging wife and friends who did not understand or support him. He did not understand what the causes of his suffering were. He did not know what was going on behind the scenes with God and Satan, yet Job endured.
James wants to encourage us to be patient in times of suffering. He says:
- Like the farmer, keep working; keep waiting for that spiritual harvest.
- Like the prophet, keep witnessing; keep seeking opportunities to share the truth of God.
- Like Job keep trusting.
And we will have a clear vision of the Lord and come to know Him better for having been in the furnace of affliction.