I don’t know about you, but no one has ever accused me of being patient. However, as Christians, we are called to be patient, because patience is a characteristic of godliness. Our Lord God is long-suffering and slow to anger even when man continues in sin after numerous warnings.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8) This passage refers back to vv. 1–6. Since the believers are suffering at the hands of the wicked rich, they are to look patiently forward to the Lord’s return. “Stand firm” (NIV) is “Establish your hearts” in NKJV and “Strengthen your hearts” in NASB, and all are a call for resolute, firm courage and commitment. Patience is a matter of our heart attitude before God. The verb, strengthen is used in the sense of being spiritually firm or established. “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thess. 3:13) James exhorts those about to collapse under the weight of persecution to shore up their hearts with the hope of the second coming.
The farmer must wait patiently for his crops to grow; he cannot hurry the process. But he does not take the summer off and hope that all goes well in the fields. There’s much work to do to ensure a good harvest. Likewise, we must wait patiently for Christ’s return. We can’t make Him come back any sooner. But while we wait, there’s much work that we can do to advance God’s kingdom. Both the farmer and the Christian must live by faith, looking toward the future reward for their labors. Don’t live as if Christ will never come. Work faithfully to build His kingdom–the King will come when the time is right.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:7-9) We should live expectantly because Christ is coming. Getting ready to meet Christ involves continually growing in love for God and for others. It’s important to pray regularly, and it is also important to reach out to needy people. Our possessions, status, and power will mean nothing in God’s kingdom, but we will spend eternity with other people. We need to invest our time and talents where they will make an eternal difference.
When unbelievers wrongly take advantage of you, keep working for the Lord while you wait patiently for Him to come as the righteous Judge. Biblical patience is tolerant of the imperfections, faults, and differences in others. It gives the other person time to change and room to make some mistakes in the process. When we are patient, we aren’t prideful, but instead humble. Paul lists patience as the first quality that describes love (1 Cor. 13:4). If you’re not patient, you’re not loving! It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Like all fruit, it takes time and effort to cultivate. “…See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.”
Patience is a quality of God Himself. Peter, when writing about the delay in the Lord’s return to judge the wicked, explained (2 Pet. 3:9), “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Realizing the glory that awaits us at Christ’s return should motivate believers to patiently endure mistreatment. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18). As children of the sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances. Although we may go through rough times, we can be confident that the Lord has a purpose in them and will show His glory through them. That doesn’t mean we pretend we don’t really hurt. But instead we declare, “God’s blessings are worth the sacrifice and obedience.” We cling in hope to the Lord and eagerly expect the rewards that accompany our faith.
When Christ returns, God will right all wrongs and reward those who have suffered and labored for His harvest, which will be precious because we will have waited for it while laboring for God’s kingdom. So James’ main point is, when unbelievers wrongly take advantage of you, keep working for the Lord while you patiently wait on Him to come as the righteous Judge. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corin. 12:9-10)