God doesn’t microwave Christians to maturity, He crock pots them. It takes time to grow to maturity. For that reason, James commands us in 5:7 “Be patient therefore brethren.”
The only time I won a trophy was when I was preaching at a church that was going to have a men’s chili bean cook off. I put all of my stuff in the crock pot on Saturday night: Hamburger and Jimmy Dean sausage, chili powder, onions, tomatoes, etc. Later I threw in several different kinds of beans. It was rough that night waking up to the smell of chili beans cooking. But I won the cook off. I could have gotten up Sunday morning and thrown all of that stuff in a large frying pan and wiped out something quickly but I would not have a tasty dish.
We don’t like being patient. We despise waiting. In Florida a man billed his ophthalmologist $90 for keeping him waiting an hour.
A man’s car stalled on the freeway and no matter what he did, he could not get it started. Traffic was backing up and most everyone was taking it pretty good naturedly, except one guy in a pickup truck who was just laying on his horn. The driver of the stalled vehicle walked back to the driver of the pickup and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here in your truck and blow your horn for you” (David Jeremiah, Integrity, page 166).
Patience is not the same as a type B personality or a laid back disposition. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Patience is a characteristic of love (1 Cor 13). Here is the hard part; patience is the result of hardship (Rom 5:3).
The believers James is writing to was enduring great hardship for the Gospel (1:1). They had been scattered from their homeland and now they were oppressed by hostile landowners (6:1-6). James condemns the hostility of the rich toward believers.
James connects his condemnation of the persecutors to what he now says to these persecuted believers with a “therefore.” In light of all their hardship, James says, “therefore” be patient. James answers the following three questions about patience.
1. What is Patience? (5:7)
James states three times we need to be patient in 5:7-8. Patience means to be long tempered with people instead of being volatile. You can’t have a short fuse and be patient. We don’t retaliate. We do not seek revenge. James said in 5:6, that these believers had not resisted or wrongly responded to the hostilities of the rich. We don’t lash out at our enemies. In not resisting their enemies, these believers had obeyed Jesus’ instruction in Mt 5:38-44. There are many references to Jesus’ sermon on the mount in James letter. James apparently was greatly impacted by the teaching of older half brother and Savior. This is where James probably got this truth.
2. How Long Must We Be Patient? (5:7)
James says we need to be patient “until” the coming of the Lord. For then people will no longer mistreat you and the Lord will right all wrongs. James uses the example of the persevering farmer. No crop springs up over night. The farmer has to pull up weeds, plow the hard soil and sow his seed. He must also wait on God to send the rain and the sunshine. The farmer both works and waits. He works 12-14 hours a day while he waits for the harvest. And when harvest season is over, he has to start the process all over again. No farmer sows one season and reaps for the rest of his life.
James makes application to you and me in 5:8: “Be you also patient (like the farmer).”
W. A. Criswell said years ago our government had sent a great tonnage of wheat to starving India and the picture on the front of the newspaper showed the wheat that was to be planted for a harvest. But the hungry hordes tore apart the bins, seized the golden seed, and consumed it in their starvation. Criswell thought how tragic that instead of patiently waiting for the harvest when the seed was planted, they were seizing in and destroying it (W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on the Epistle of James, 91).
Not waiting has serious consequences. Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. We finally reap for our patient response to mistreatment at the coming of the Lord not next week.
3. How Can We Be Patient? (5:8)
A. By Strengthening Our Hearts
“Stablish your hearts for the coming of the Lord draws near.” Notice we are told to stablish or make strong our hearts. Not God. In 1 Thess 3:13, however, it is God who stablishes or strengthens our hearts. But He doesn’t strengthen us without our cooperation. This is like the farmer pulling up the weeds, plowing the soil, and sowing the seed. This is hard work.
I grew up part of the time with my grandfather who was a tenant farmer. I watched him kill hogs, ring the necks of chickens, and shear sheep. I slopped the hogs. I also spent the night at Cleo Steed’s when he was a dairy farmer. They got me up around 4 in the morning. Farming is hard work. Strengthening our hearts is also hard work.
We must pull up the weeds of sin: Heb 12:15 “Let any root of bitterness springing up trouble you and thereby many be defiled.”
We must sow God’s Word in our hearts. David wrote, “Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
We must fellowship with His Son. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7).
We also must work and wait “for” the coming of the Lord draws near. Before James wrote about waiting “until” but now he writes about waiting “for” or “because of” the coming of the Lord. The possibility of the any moment return of Christ should impact our lives now: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Every man that has this hope in him purifies himself” (1 John 3:2, 3).
According to 1 Corinthians 15:58 the coming of Christ is the working hope. When we give out the gospel our labor is not in vain.
The Gideons give out little white New Testaments to all the nurses in America. One nurse had one of these little white New Testaments in the pocket of her uniform one day and the outline of it was seen by one of her patients who was a lost man. He thought it was a package of cigarettes. So, seeing it there in her pocket, he asked her what brand she used. She told him it was no brand, took it out, and held it up for him to see and explained that it was a little New Testament, the Word of God. She asked if she could read to him out of it. He gave her permission, and as time passed she read to him again and again. And under the influence of the Holy Spirit the man was wonderfully saved. He confessed his sins, asked God to forgive him, and received the Lord Jesus into his heart. As the days passed, this Christian nurse had a strange impulse to go see the man. So she went to his room, and as she stood looking at him, he sat up in bed. He seemed to be looking at someone standing at the foot of the bed. Then he raised his arms and cried, “My Lord and my God,” fell back, and his spirit was translated to heaven (W. A. Criswell. Expository Sermons on the Epistle of James, page 94). The coming of the Lord should strengthen our hearts to keep giving out the Gospel which will not return void.
We will continue answering questions about patience in Part Two