In today’s study, we are to study (together) the following text that we have studied separately, and try to ascertain James’ meaning.
“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. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
We previously studied:
- vv 7-8 in Be Patient and Establish Your Heart;
- v 9 in Complaining Against Someone IS Judging Them;
- vv 10-11 in What Can God Do In Our Suffering?; and
- v 12 in Straight Talk
This passage is about standing firm, which we can do all the way from sowing the right seed to receiving the greatest harvest of the highest quality. It takes patience to work the land; one must clear the field, plow the dirt, plant the seed, thin the sprouts, clear the weeds, fertilize, irrigate, constantly take care of the plants, trim, pollinate, engage in the on-going endeavors of cultivating the soil, including measuring and evaluating, and then, glean the final harvest. Then, it is time for the next season. This all takes effort and time; it does not just happen overnight at a whim.
It is the same with our spiritual formation. We receive Christ into our lives, but that is not the end of the matter. Rather, it is only the beginning! Jesus plants the seed, the Spirit waters it, and then we embark on our great adventure, the cultivation of our own lives by the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, learning, sharing, devotions, fasting, fellowship, and the like. Then, we are honed and trimmed so we can grow. This is a slow and glorious process; yes, this is what the Christian life is all about on this earth, as it is about the journey and not the destination. Our destination is already booked and secured; now, we are to concentrate on what to do while we are on our way to His Way! Even when others come against us to exploit and betray us, our purpose is to grow in our security in Christ. It must be His Way and not our circumstances. Then, our faith will flourish, even in times of adversity and sickness.
Vs. 7-8: The call is for patience. God is still in control, even when we do not see it. He will return. And, even if it does not happen in our lifetime, He is still on the throne and has our very being in His hands. When our eyes are on Christ, then our eyes are not overwhelmed by what we are going through in life. As the farmer looks to the rain, we are to look to the Ultimate Farmer, our LORD. He is our hope because He is our courage!
Vs. 9: Do not grumble, as in do not be complaining. Don’t criticize, find fault, be irritable or argumentative, or whine to fellow believers-and definitely not to unbelievers. All that does is bring stress and misery. Yet, when we look to Him, our trust becomes complete. Our hope is fulfilled, and, ultimately, there is nothing about which to complain. Yet, James still makes the case that we can and are called on to speak against what is wrong, such as oppression. It is our hostile orations that are in question (James 5:1-6)! We are called to speak out against injustice. You may wish to vent your discontent, but make sure you do not blow it out of proportion or just wallow in it for self-pity’s sake. Complaining serves only to stir the discords of strife, increase stress, irritate others, and place the focus where it is not to be. There are times to get things off your chest, but it must be to actually get it off, not to keep poking at it so the stress sticks around and consumes you, drawing you away from Christ as Lord. When overwhelmed, seek a pastor or counselor to help you through it, but don’t turn it into a problem that has no resolution. He is our resolution, our hope, our promise fulfilled. He is at the door; let Him in (Rev. 3:8, 20).
Vs. 10-11: James points us to the prophets of the OT as examples of faith in the midst of extreme adversity. Job was a great comfort to those who were in captivity. These examples help us to see the hope we have in Him, and give us perseverance and patience. Whatever may be seeking to derail your faith or seeking to take you off God’s path, be it spiritual warfare, toxic family members, disgruntled work situations, or a debilitating illness, we can carry on because He appropriates us for a purpose; He carries us through!
Vs. 12: Do not swear to prove you are telling the truth. If we practice deception, we may preserve superficial peace on the surface. But when the truth is revealed, there will be far more damage than if we had honestly dealt with the issues when they first came up. The root of truthful communication is walking truthfully before God, who sees your heart. We don’t tell the truth because we have taken an oath; we tell the truth because we are truthful. Your word should be true without needing to make a big deal about it. To walk like Jesus Christ, we are to be truthful.
Being a farmer in James’ day was a harsh, life-and-death occupation, where one was dependant on and at the mercy of the rain and ground. There were no modern irrigation methods, fertilizers, or pesticides, just hard work and waiting; it is a perfect image of what it means to grow in Christ at times, as sometimes, all we can do is wait. We desire retribution and vengeance; He desires for us to wait expectantly, seeking Him with confidence. But, we do have irrigation, fertilizer, water, and pesticides in Him which are His Word, prayer, fellowship, and His Spirit! If we do not learn and practice patience, we will quickly become impatient, bitter, and bow to self-pity. When we wait, we are not in a hopeless, meaningless holding-pattern, for we are learning and growing in Him! While we wait, God is working, He is in control! He is compassionate and will intervene, heal, restore, and bless in the fullness of His timing (Gen. 50:20; Psalm 37:7; 130:5; Isa. 49:23; Jer. 29:11; Lam. 3:26; Mic. 7:7; Hab. 2:3; Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:28-39; 13:1; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 1:6; James 1:2-18).
Do you sow the right seeds-the seeds of faith and devotion to our Lord, with absolute trust and obedience in Him? If our purpose in life is not lined up to His, we will only have broken circumstances and directionless pursuits that lead to emptiness and despair! When we do sow the right seed, we are prepared to weather the storms of life, because our roots are deep in our Lord Jesus Christ; our identity is in Him, and our hope looks to Him. The storm-tossed seas will massage us and not break us; our anchor in Him will keep us steady. The mooring ropes to tie us to His anchor are in our hands. He gives us the boat, the rope, and the anchor; we still have to tie them to one another, which we do as we grow in Him.