Today’s Reading: James 5:7-12; Psalms 43 & 64
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. 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 5:7-11 (NIV)
When we are in the midst of suffering, James encourages us to not get impatient and begin to grumble but instead to be patient and stand firm. We can’t rush God. We often have the tendency to go ahead of God and try to push His hand but God calls for us to patiently wait on Him. It is in the midst of this waiting that we are strengthened in our faith.
It helps for us to consider others that we have seen persevere through trials and how the Lord has delivered them – like Job. What testimonies of perseverance in the face of suffering have you heard of? What stories of standing firm have you seen firsthand, either in your life or the life of someone close to you?
James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. When he refused to deny his faith in Jesus, he was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple – more than 100 feet high. When he survived the fall, his enemies beat him with a club. My heart grieves as I think of the great suffering that took place shortly after James’ death. The early Church and those who called themselves Christians were persecuted, unjustly charged, imprisoned, tortured, and many put to death.
We started out our study of James with the challenge to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. The weight of these words sits differently when we consider how harsh the persecution was during that time. We may go through difficult times, but it pales in comparison to what some of the writers of the New Testament letters went through. When we are going through a hard time in our lives, we are comforted by the words penned by men who suffered horrible deaths, all for the sake of Christ. Even now, many missionaries and pastors in other countries preach God’s word despite the threat of death. Why would they be willing to do that for the gospel?
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ…When I am with the weak, I share their weaknesses, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23
Let’s look at what James says next:
Above all, my brothers, do not swear – 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 5:12
God calls for us to be honest – men and women of integrity. If we say we are going to do something, we need to do it. If the ability to do something is out of our control, if we don’t know what tomorrow brings, then we need to be careful to not promise to do something we may not be able to follow through with. Avoid lies and exaggeration. Avoid telling only half of the truth or deceiving people by your omission of the truth.
If we consistently live a life of truthfulness, where our word alone means something because of our history of following through, then others will be able to trust us. We are God’s children and we represent Him when we call ourselves Christians. That alone is a great reason to stand strong on the foundations of truth and integrity.
So what do we do with this? We look forward and become more conscious of what we say we will do but we can also look back. What have I promised to do that I have not followed through with? How can I make that right today or this week or very soon?
Lord, please bring these words of wisdom from James back to my mind over and over again. Give me patience, helping me look to your valuable harvest – taking courage in your coming. Do a work in my heart that changes my grumbling into praise, my judgment into understanding. Oh Lord full of tenderness and mercy, I praise you that you help us when we are going through a difficult time. May the words of my mouth be evidence of what you are doing in my life. Amen.
Let me close with a quote my friend, Linda Seaman, posted on Facebook yesterday afternoon while her husband was having a brain tumor removed. It is a quote that a friend sent her 24 years ago after her daughter’s accident.
“Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto and will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.” – Francis de Sales, 16th century French Catholic saint