The Wisdom of Patient Endurance (James 5)
Perhaps you have heard stories of men who gave up too soon. One true account involves a man who, during the goldrush, had been digging for gold for months, to no avail; he sold his equipment and left. The man who bought the equipment went back to work and found gold three feet from where the discouraged digger had quit. Such accounts should encourage us for ministry and the Christian life. Point blank, we are told discouragement will come. We will have tribulation in this world (John 16:33). The godly will be persecuted (1 Timothy 3:12). So, it is imperative that, when these things do come upon us, we are prepared to endure and persevere to the end, with our eyes fixed on “the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
James, in chapter 5, pronounces a judgment on those who heap up riches, using language that resembles the oracles of judgment given by the Old Testament prophets. These judgments were often written against those nations whom the LORD had allowed to oppress and even capture Israel. In James’ day, he must have seen many poor followers of Jesus Christ being oppressed and mistreated by rich folks who, in their greedy lust for more, denied wages to those who were already poor and powerless. The believers did not resist their rich oppressors, likely due to their commitment to trust God and turn the other cheek. Naturally, these greedy folks living in luxury interpreted the lack of resistance as a sign that they could safely continue their corruption without fear of consequence. James was compelled by the Holy Spirit to declare otherwise.
Life’s seemingly unfair circumstances, mistreatment, and sin committed against us – these can all leave us feeling like quitting. It may be quitting ministry, quitting a job, giving up on marriage, or leaving a local church. The devil forges weapons against us to tempt us to stop praying, stop trusting God, and even give up on our devotion to Christ. The weapon may differ, but the enemy’s aim is that we would lose heart. If he can get circumstances to overwhelm and to discourage the believer, then he can tempt us to react instinctively and emotionally, rather than reacting in the wisdom of God. Satan wants to produce an impulsive fleshly buckling under pressure rather than a Spirit-led appropriation of the strength and wisdom of God.
James writes, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (5:7). Arm yourself with patience. You and I will go through difficult moments, tests of faith, attacks from the world, the flesh and the devil. Be prepared for patient endurance, and that readiness will be a shield of faith. “I know my God will bring me through even this.” We may pass through even death itself, but having seen His saving work in our hearts and lives, we have confidence that He will bring us through it into glory.
Brothers and sisters, have wisdom in this. “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (5:11). All through Job’s suffering, the intent of the Lord was to “restore the years that the locusts had eaten” (Joel 2:23) and even to bless Job with a double portion of all he once had (Job 42:10). Yet, through patience in suffering, Job’s personal knowledge of God increased a hundredfold.
The Rock Church