As humans, we are incredibly impatient. We want what we want right now. But patience is learned by being patient. We tend to think that there are ‘patient people’ and there are ‘impatient people’ but patience is a skill that we must all develop.
James does not give any of us an opt-out clause. His words are simple. “Be patient, therefore, brothers (and sisters), until the coming of the Lord.” (verse 7) This is not a request or a suggestion, it is an imperative statement. The word that James used for patience means long-tempered. It literally means “to remain under” — to stay put when your instinct is to give up, run, or quit.
James used three different illustrations as examples of patience. The first is the Farmer.
There is just a natural cycle to a growing season and there is nothing you can do to speed up the process. You plant, you wait, you harvest. But in the waiting there are things to do. To think that a farmer plants in the spring and returns in the fall is foolish. There is a great deal of work that happens in between. Our Spiritual lives too need constant attention if we are to reap a harvest of blessing. When you are trying to develop spiritual disciplines like patience, do you give up too quickly?
The second illustration are the Prophets. We should never think that obedience to God means an easy life. Obedience led Jesus to the cross. Many of the Prophets had to endure great suffering. While many were delivered, others died for their obedience. They are now regarded as heroes of our faith. If you are suffering for doing the will of God, you are in good company. Be patient and know that your steadfastness may be the visible evidence that someone else needs to better understand the reality of God.
The third illustration is Job. You cannot endure unless there is difficulty in your life. There is no victory without a battle. Satan wants us to get impatient with God because an impatient Christian is an effective tool for the devil. If he can get us to lose hope and stop trusting in God, then he can get us to trust in ourselves. It is when I do things my way in life that I most often find myself in trouble. Job held his ground and was blessed in the end.
The first question I need to ask myself in suffering is “Why?” Have I been impatient and had unrealistic expectations on God? Is God trying to teach someone else about Himself through my example of patience and humility? Or is my suffering from an external source and God is trying to develop my character by allowing it? Whatever difficulties we are facing in life, God will use them to develop our character if we are willing to be patient and look to Him rather than give up or look to ourselves.
What is your typical response when it comes to dealing with suffering or difficulty? Which of James’ examples do you most identify with? If you are going through a difficult time, what do you think God is trying to teach you or others through it?
Josh Kesler, Senior Pastor