Suffering and Patience
“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord”- James 5:10–11
So many of the situations that we find in life are endurable because we know what their end will be. For example, women can endure the pains and changes associated with nine months of pregnancy because they know the joy that will come when the baby arrives.
In his epistle, James reminds us that we can be obedient to God and endure suffering because of what will happen at the last day. At the Father’s predetermined time, Jesus will return as judge and reverse the fortunes of His people (5:1–9). Only the confidence in God’s final deliverance at Christ’s second coming enables us to rejoice in the trials that produce perseverance (1:2–3). As well, it helps us to understand that in the final analysis, our wealth will not give us any advantage in the kingdom of God (vv. 9–11; 2:1–10; 4:13–17).
In that final day, our trust in God will be vindicated before all men. In today’s passage, James continues to exhort us to wait patiently for this day by pointing us to the prophets and to Job as examples of patient servants (5:10–11).
The prophets are good examples of patience because in the midst of trials brought by those who hated God, they persevered in their callings. At one point in his life, Jeremiah was imprisoned (Jer. 37:11–38:13). Tradition testifies that Isaiah and many of the other prophets were martyred. Yet they patiently preached repentance to hardened sinners, calling Israel to embrace justice and mercy even as the people stubbornly refused. And if they could do this without actually seeing God’s promises in time (Heb. 11:39–40), how much more can we, having seen God’s full revelation in Jesus, do the same?
Some might question why Job is given to us as a second example of patience since he did impatiently demand that God explain his sufferings to him (for example, Job 6). But Job is an excellent paradigm for us because though he questioned God, he never gave up his faith. Also, if Job is our example we can see that even the most patient of God’s servants will not be perfect until they are glorified. Finally, because Job was one of the first to anticipate the final judgment, he serves as an example for us who also await that day (Job 19:25–26).
James 5:11 concludes by reminding us that the Lord is compassionate and merciful. We can see this now but it will be even more evident to us at the last day. The vindication that we will experience and the compassion we will see face to face enable us to be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return. Think of some situations in which you have not been patient and ask the Lord to give you endurance. Strive to wait patiently on the Lord in all things.
Passages for Further Study
- Ps. 37
- Amos 9:13–15
- Gal. 5:22–23
- Heb. 6:13–15