James 5:7-12 Exercising My Patience During the Christmas Season
During the Christmas, many of us are not a patient people. A survey1 of 1,003 adults done in 2006 by the Associated Press and Ipsos discovered the following:
• While waiting in line at an office or store, most people take an average of seventeen minutes to lose their patience.
• On hold on the phone most people lose their patience in nine minutes.
• Women lost their patience after waiting in line for about eighteen minutes. Men lost it after fifteen minutes.
• People with lower income and less education are more patient than those with a college education and a high income.
• People who live in the suburbs are more patient than people who live in the city.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is something that can come from living the Christian life. It is a skill that is developed when you and I exercise it. During the Christmas, the stress of life may make it very hard to be patient. This passage shows us five different forms of patience. These are five different ways I can exercise my patience.
The important thing to remember is that must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us be patient. The Holy Spirit and the world will give us many opportunities to exercise patience. In James 5, we see five opportunities to exercise patience.
FIVE WAYS TO EXERCISE MY PATIENCE
Patience with waiting (5:7-8)
“Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7–8, HCSB)
The first form of patience that God teaches all of us is to be “patient with waiting.” You and I must learn to not just wait, but to be patient with waiting. This is the reason why we have to stand in line so long. Why did we ever learn to stand in line for something? Because God wants me to learn to be patient with waiting. It is the most basic, elemental form of patience that I learn.
I go to the grocery store and I stand in line.
I go to the government office and I learn to sit and wait for them to call me.
I go to the doctor’s office and half a day later they call me.
I go to the post office and although there are twenty people in line, there is only one person behind the desk. The other counter is empty.
Why is that?
Because God wants me to learn to be patient with waiting. Waiting is form of patience. It is the most basic form. If I get upset at just sitting around and waiting, then I can’t handle what God has planned for me.
This is the reason why James recalls the picture of the farmer.
A farmer plants a seed and then waits months for the fruit. This does not mean that the farmer is inactive until the harvest. The farmer is still involved. He suffers as the weather makes its impact on his crops. He checks the crop to see if it will bear fruit.
Farmers don’t complain while they wait. They are patient and observant. When they see that something needs to be done to get the plants ready for harvest, they get involved. They kill weeds, they nourish the soil. They endure until the end.
The farmer who must wait patiently for the rains and the harvests. He must patiently trust the forces of nature (the early and latter rains). In the same way we should patiently trust the God of nature.2
Waiting for Jesus requires patience without complaining. Waiting for Jesus requires endurance during difficult times. Waiting for Jesus requires that we accept the Father’s compassion and mercy even when the soil is not working like we think it should. Farmers can’t cheat their way to a harvest. They are required to do honest work.
The fruit that Jesus would return must be waited upon. It cannot be rushed. It cannot be changed. We have to do our part. God does His part. We wait and prepare for the harvest of souls. We look forward to the return of Jesus just as a farmer looks forward to the harvest of crops.3
If the farmers wants to see a good harvest, then he learns to wait for the fruit to grow.
James compares this form of patience – this waiting – to the return of Jesus Christ. In one sense, we can’t push Jesus. We can’t tell Jesus to finish His work this afternoon. Now of course we can help it by planting the seed, and watering the seed. We can tell so many people about Jesus that the gospel will be preached to the entire world. That is like the early and late rains. We can help the harvest come, but we will have to wait on Jesus. God’s grace teaches me that Jesus will return. Remember, we are called to “wait on the blessed hope”? God’s grace comes to me and teaches me how to live. God’s grace also helps me wait patiently until Jesus returns. So this is one form of patience that God teaches me.
Patience with people (5:9)
When I have learned to be patient with waiting, God teaches me how to be patient with people.
“Brothers, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door!” (James 5:9, HCSB)
You are to be patient as you await the coming of Christ to dispense justice. Do not take matters into your own hands. Followers of Christ do not try to get even for a wrong that has been done to them. Patience is the attitude of the person who is willing to wait for God to act and intervene with His own judgment.4
Patience in my present task (5:10)
“Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience.” (James 5:10, HCSB)
PATIENCE AND ENDURANCE
What is the difference between patience and endurance?
Patience is a form of toleration.
I can learn to be patient with someone or something. In other words, I learn to tolerate it.
Endurance is a form of hope or victory. There is an end to something and by enduring, you overcome the difficulty in the future. The difficulty is with you in the present. But you learn to overcome it and the difficulty will end in the future.
You can be patient with people. But the object of endurance is not a person. The object of endurance can be a characteristic of a person that you learn to endure.
Here is a picture that shows the difference between patience and endurance:
I am patient with my coach, but I learn to endure the race.
Specifically, endurance is a form of patience. Endurance is the “ability to see the end intended by God.” Having endurance helps me to be patient. If I know that God intends the end to be, then it helps me to be patient to wait it out. I endure to see the intended end. However, I may have to learn to be patient with people to help me see the intended end to completion.
If I can see the goal (the intended end by God), it can help me to take the steps necessary to reach the goal.
Patience in receiving answers to my prayers (5:11)
“See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11, HCSB)
ENDURANCE AND PRAYER
ILLUSTRATION: Endurance and Prayer Is Like Getting on a Plane
I can travel from here to Los Angeles. The first way I can do this is by walking. I walk until I get to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I can walk all the way across to Los Angeles, California. It will take a long time to get there. I can do it by my own power, but it I might wear myself out in the process.
The second way to do this is by place. I go to the airport. I get on a plane, and I stay in the plane until I arrive in Los Angeles. Perhaps I have to switch planes, but the process will take about 5 hours. But all I have to do is trust the pilot and enjoy the ride. When the plane lands, I get off the plane and I am there. It is much quicker and easier than using my own two feet. And I won’t get frustrated, nor worn out in the process.
Endurance without prayer is like walking and swimming to Los Angeles by my own power. I will get there. I will arrive at the “intended end”, but it takes a long time, and I will certainly wear myself out.
Endurance with prayer is like getting on the plane.
Some of us need to learn to get on the plane, and stop walking and swimming ourselves to death about things that God has planned for us. Endurance requires that we trust God with things that require the plane rides in our life. If we spend time swimming and walking, when we should riding planes, we are not going to be able to endure.
GRACE AND ENDURANCE
For example, if I know God is compassionate and merciful, I know that God is loving, then it helps me to see the end as a good thing.
Because I know God is loving and because I can see that God will show me His intended end.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, HCSB)
“All things work together for the good.” For whose good do all these things work together? Are they for my good? No. They are for God’s good. God’s good is much better than my good. God’s good is a much better intended end than what I would plan to do.
God is the good coach and I am the runner.
Therefore, because I know that the intended end by God is a good intended end, I can learn to be patient. I can wait it out.
If however, I can’t see this intended end (this God’s good for me in a given situation) – and it requires faith to see God’s good or God’s intended end in a situation, then I will just panic and have trouble with what is going on right now. I will lose my patience.
LOSING MY PATIENCE
Losing my patience comes from not seeing the grace of God in the situation that He has placed me. I have to believe in faith that God knows what He is doing. I have to believe that whatever the intended end is for this situation comes from a loving, merciful and compassionate God. If I don’t, I won’t stay patient. I will just lose my patience. What happens to me when I lose my patience?
I get frustrated. I get angry at God. I get critical about the people and the circumstances around me. I become bitter. Let’s go back to the illustration between the player and the coach. The coach knows the game plan. He knows the big picture. The coach knows what the player needs for him to run the race well. But if the player gets upset at the practice. If the player says: “I’m tired of running these laps.” “I don’t see the point in getting up early and working out.” “I want to eat marshmallows and cake and coffee.” The player will start to lose his patience. What happens?
He will never win the race. He will never have the power he needs to endure the race long enough to win. I wonder what would have happened if Job had given up? Of course Job did not entirely see the end intended by God. He did not entirely know God’s good in the situation he was in. Everyone around him told Job to “lose his patience.” But Job did not. And if Job can learn to be patient, we certainly can.
Patience with my words (5:12)
“Now above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. Your “yes” must be “yes,” and your “no” must be “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment.” (James 5:12, HCSB)
Your words have power. As a Christian, what we say has an impact on other people’s lives. What we promise will be taken by outsiders as a reflection of our lifestyle. My words as a Christian reflect my reputation as a Christian. They stand like a mirror toward my actions. Does what I say match what I do?
If I make a promise, I should keep it. The Jews had two types of oaths. They had non-binding oaths. These were oath that were said in the name of “heaven”, or “earth.” for example. When an oath was made in God’s name, then it was binding. The person had to commit to it. Jesus tells me that I should be patience with my words. Why?
Because it takes a long time to build trust. This trust can be destroyed very easily. So I should be patient with my words. I should not promise more than I can do.
Hypocrisy or condemnation really means to pretend. A pretender is someone who says something but never really means it. A pretender eventually builds a reputation that no one can trust. A hypocrite’s words can never be trusted.
What does this have to do with patience and endurance?
Patient people are sincere people. Christians who have endured trouble become because of the circumstances sincere and honest people. Patience and endurance helps me become real to other people.
Let me close with this example:
On the Saturday morning that a couple was getting married in Germany, Heike and I went to the hairdresser. We arrived at 9am. I had made an appointment with the hairdresser the previous week. We had agreed that I should show up with Heike at 9am. We would both get a haircut at the same time. So we showed up. They seated us next to one another at the hairdresser stools. They served us coffee, and we waited. Within 20 minutes they started working on Heike. I sat and read a magazine. I saw another person sit down at the end of the aisle. They started to cut his hair. I waited. The little girl served me a second cup of coffee. A family came in and the hairdressers worked on another family. Two sons, and a father received a haircut. I was finishing the magazine, when I realized how long I had waited. It was two hours later. My wife had curls on her head and no one had come to cut my hair.
I was needless to say starting to get upset. So I asked, what is going on? In classic fashion, I was told that I had misunderstood. I was about to get very angry because it was 11:15 and my hair was still not cut. So they start to work to finish my wife’s hair. Then the hairdresser came to me two and a half hours after I sat down and started to cut my hair. It took him 12 minutes. He apologized, and I realized that I had not caused a scene in this shop. What is my point?
I endured an impatient situation with grace. The hairdresser, who was not a Christian, probably learned more from my example then and there than any amount of time he would have spent in this sanctuary.5
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 498. Originally from Trevor Tompson, “Impatience-Poll Glance,” 28 May 2006, http://www.hosted.ap.org.
2 William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 517.
3 Jim Erwin, “Actively Waiting for Jesus to Return,” 7 July 2015, Lectionary Reflections Year B (2015-2016), Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2015/07/07/actively-waiting-jesus-return/, accessed on 9 December 2016.
4 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2006 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 376.
5 Jim Erwin, “Grace Gives Me the Power to Endure,” Sermon, 10 September 2007, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2007/09/10/james-57-12-grace-gives-me-the-power-to-endure/, accessed 8 December 2016.
Photo by James Earle courtesy of Unsplash.com