As promised, here is the final piece of our study in James: "Faith For Real." I encourage you to read this with your Bible open to James 5. Make your own notes and feel free to e-mail or message me with any questions that you might have. Remember: Pastor James is teaching his flock what to do in the midst of their great trials and persecution. So, watch for the commands and bullet points of action that evidence their real and genuine faith even in the midst of great suffering and conflict.
Waiting With Patience: Verse 7
The entire point that James is making is that you must endure your suffering with a hopeful expectation and an assurance of Christ’s return and righteous judgement. There are also several commands within this part of the letter. As James begins to close out, he speaks very directly and very pointedly to his parishioners. The command is to “be patient.”
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” (verse 7)
James reverts back to his use of “brethren” here, which we also see in verses 10 and 12. He’s actually encouraging his followers and believers to wait patiently on the Lord and to allow Him to be the ultimate judge against the unrighteousness of the rich or of any others who may be mistreating the local congregants. Recall that — historically — this is a time of great persecution for the church. The government, as well as the Jewish hierarchy, is condemning, tormenting and oppressing Christians everywhere. James wrote his letter to the church during the great persecution mentioned in Acts 8:1-3.
The word James chooses to use for “patience” is the Greek word “makrothumia.” It’s a strong word and it literally means “to stand in the heat of a battle for a long time.” This word would’ve often been used to describe the vigorous soldiers who stood and fought to the very end of brutal military clashes, even as they grew weak and weary. These men were willing to suffer long for the cause in which they believed, the cause for which they fought. In the same way — as Christians — we are to suffer long for the cause of Christ and for the work of the Gospel. James is writing to weak and weary Christians who are being tortured for their faith and he is pleading with them to “suffer looooooong” in the midst of their trials.
It’s important to note here that the word “patience” is not synonymous with yielding to a “Well, if I have to…” sort of mindset. In fact, it means to humbly accept the suffering, discomfort and inconvenience as a sovereign plan from God. As an illustration, James uses the patience of a farmer who is willing to wait on the early rains of October and November to germinate the crop. And then the farmer patiently waits on the late rains of April when the crop will reach its fruit-bearing stage. The wise and experienced farmer knows that this is all part of God’s plan. He’s realized that God has control of the climate and so he willingly and patiently waits for God to accomplish the sovereign, seasonal plan. I also believe that — tied into the farmer’s waiting — is his dependency on God. After all, only God can bring about our seasons and make changes to our weather patterns.
Waiting With Endurance: Verse 8
In verse 8, James commands his readers to “strengthen their hearts.” This word means to establish your heart and to make it stand; but not just to stand up, but also to make it stand strong and steadfast. “Strengthen” is an old compound word meaning “to stand steadfast” and it’s often used in many key passages. For example:
“And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.” - Luke 9:51 (NAS) — Jesus was waiting with strength and His expectations were centered on God’s sovereign plan.
“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” - Luke 16:26 (NAS) — The word here is used to describe the chasm between Heaven and Hell, denoting that it is fixed and established as firm. Likewise, we are established and strengthened by God, the greatest Helper.
“So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” - 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (NAS)
“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” - 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NAS)
“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” - 1 Peter 5:10 (NAS) - The Lord establishes us through His Word and His people. (see also 1 Peter 5:10; Romans 16:25; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Peter 1:12; Revelation 3:2)
Waiting With Expectancy: Verse 7b and 8b
This passage is filled with numerous references to the Second Coming of Christ. It’s actually so many that I could spend an entire week focusing solely on this aspect. But, as we look at how James wants us to wait, it’s important to see his emphasis on waiting with expectancy. We are to patiently wait and to endure our trials while simultaneously expecting Christ to return. Paul even says that there is a crown for those who hope in the Lord’s return. Waiting with expectancy will strengthen your heart, secure your faith and give you the ability to hang in there just a little longer. While we’re enduring trials and difficult times, we must strengthen and encourage one another with the hope-filled words of the Scriptures. It’s our responsibility as believers to help our fellow Christ-followers.
So, here’s a simple question: When was the last time you encouraged someone with the promises of the Word?
Waiting with expectancy communicates several things to God concerning our walk with Christ, most notably:
- We believe that He's coming back.
- We're focusing on His return and judgement, which keeps us more inline with holiness and righteous living.
- We're excited about His coming and we are longing to see Him.