BOOK OF JAMES BIBLE STUDY
LESSON #12 - (James 5: 7-12, NIV)
TITLE: PATIENCE IN SUFFERING
DR. MICHAEL COCHRAN
APPLICATION: Because I know the Lord's coming is near, I can be faithful and stand firm in the midst of spiritual darkness.
JAMES 5: 7-10
7 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. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
How to view the doctrinal truth “The Lord's Coming” has been of great dispute in the Church for the last one hundred years or more. When some teach about the Lord's coming, they try to bring out every detail of what might happen and how this or that prophecy might be fulfilled. The hope is that believers who are well-informed about the future will be better able to discern the signs of the times and know when the Lord's coming is near.
Some teach about the Lord's coming from the perspective of what that means for planning, both of careers and for financial goal setting. They believe there is money to be made in End Tines investing, and that the Bible gives insight into that. And some teach about the Lord's coming from the perspective of needing a strong national defense. They perceive a threat to the American nation from forces abroad that have been predicted in the Bible, and they think it is prophetically justified to build a strong army in case of war.
But James, of course, has none of these views in mind. He is not concerned with when the Lord will come, though He is “near.” Rather, James seems to return to the theme with which he began his letter, that of patient enduring while under the trial of opposition.
The rich have lived with no particular awareness that they are in the “last days.” They have lived without the patient endurance that James is describing and have “hoarded wealth,” entered into fraud (verse 4), and lived in pleasure and wantonness (verse 5). Finally, they have “condemned and murdered innocent men.”
How different would it all have been if only the rich had chosen another path—the path of patience! James had told the readers of his epistle, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete”; now he returns to that theme to illustrate more fully that spiritual treasure without which no one receives the commendation of God.
James uses varied images or illustrations of patience. His first illustration of patience is based on the cycle of seed planting and harvest. He starts with a plain enough image, that of a farmer. A farmer is patient in that he must wait for the harvest of life-giving grain, the “valuable crop” (verse 7). This expected harvest is important because the lives of the farmer and his family depend on it. After careful preparation and planting, the farmer's fields must receive the correct cycles of rain and sun to bring home the crop.
The farmer waited patiently for the “fall and spring rains.” In Palestine the grain is planted in the fall in the expectation that the rains will come in October or November. Any farmer who is totally dependent on the natural cycles of rain and sun must wait and hope. He can wait patiently or impatiently; the choice is his.
When James says, “Don't grumble against each other” (verse 9), he is shifting the image from having patience for something or someone outside ourselves (rain and the Lord) to an image of patience within the community. Christians are to have patience with one another. Of course, the danger is that we will judge another person harshly and thus be left open to judgment ourselves. James has already written at length about this problem. Here, he reminds his readers that the “Judge is standing at the door” (verse 9). The Lord we are patiently waiting for is also the Judge of our lives.
In verse 10, James turns to the prophets as examples of “patience in the face of suffering.” This is a particularly appropriate tactic on James's part because the prophets were often lonely people who were out of step with the society around them. In the Book of Hebrews the plight of the prophets is graphically depicted: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. (11: 36-38).
Obviously, James's readers, because of their Jewish background, would get the message. The prophets had needed a lot of patience and hope. The prophets' patience had been a patience that held firm in the face of all circumstances. Because of their undying hope, unbending belief, and unwavering patience, the very lives of the prophets were mighty sermons that complemented their prophecies.
JAMES 5: 11-12
11 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. 12 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.
In some respects, Job appears to be a poor choice for James to use as someone to be put in the same company as the prophets. What was patient about Job? He got upset right away about his problems. He pleaded his innocence again and again. He rejected the advice of his well-meaning counselors (good thing, too!). So, why is Job a good example of patience? Because his was a surface impatience, a dramatic dialog with God that we profit from to this day. Job's feelings of frustration and despair over the loss of his family and the loss of physical health are understandable to us. Job's friends were telling him that he was guilty of great sin and was obviously being punished by God. Yet Job never believed his friends. Though he was frustrated with his pain and his friends' ignorance, he always retained his trust in God. Through all the suffering and loss, Job held steadfastly to his faith.
James reminds his readers that they know of Job's good end. They know “what the Lord finally brought about.” The key here is the word “finally,” because it was certainly not immediately that Job was rewarded for his faith, but only at last. Finally, the clouds lifted, and he was restored to his health and wealth.
The phrase “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” is meant to sum up the happiness of Job's final circumstance, but is nonetheless true for all who endure, or so James implies. After all, the Lord is coming; He is right at the door. Our reward will be beyond anything that Job received in this life.
The exhortation of verse 12, “do not swear,” should not be necessary for those who are patiently enduring in the full consideration of how to please the Lord. But it is James's good reminder that those who are quick to lose their temper and become impatient need to relax. During times of complex circumstances, frustration, and impatience there is a tendency to speak explosively and irreverently. But God's name is not to be used as an oath, nor are the names of God's creation (“heaven or by earth,” verse 12). There is no reward for that!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
1. Is it important to know why a trial is occurring to endure it? Why or why not?
2. Why is it valuable for a Christian to be known as someone who keeps his or her word?
3. In what ways does the truth of the Second Coming of Christ affect the way you live?
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