As our church has been working on memorizing the book of James, we are nearing chapter 5, which has caused me to begin pondering. Join with me, if you will.
Let us begin with the background. James wrote to churches which had been scattered by the diaspora. This was the product of the persecution under Herod Agrippa. These Christians were being persecuted, and were suffering. In fact, in his opening statement to the church, James says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (1:2). There was not much room for possibility. It had happened, was happening, and was going to continue to happen. It is in this context of pain and suffering that James wrote chapter 5.
James says in 5:7-11
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and see the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
I’m going to go through now and pull out the emphases I see James making:
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patientlyfor it until it receives the early and latter rain.
You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!
My brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure.
You have heard of the perseverance of Job and see the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
James’ theme in this passage is perseverance and patience in suffering. What is the reason, or goal that he gives? It is not that one day the suffering will end, or that the pain would one day get easier to bear. His focus, his consolation for the church, is the Return of Christ. Three times James reminds his readers – Christ is coming, and He is coming soon!
Paul, in his writings, shows a similar theme:
II Tim. 3:12 – Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Col. 1:24 – I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.
Phil. 1:29 – for to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
Rom. 8:17 – and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
II Cor. 1:5 – For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
Get the point? As believers who stand firm on the doctrine, the teachings of Scripture, we will face persecution. Nowhere do the Apostles indicate that the persecution is limited to that which afflicts us from the unsaved world. Rather, over and over, we are reminded that the persecution will come from those who call themselves brothers, “spots at your love feasts” (Jude 12). How we handle the persecution from these within “the Faith” will show where exactly we are focusing our mind and our attention.
Our attention. Where is it? As I have had the opportunity to preach and teach within the church, the topic of our attention has crossed my study several times. Our attention is to be on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Our attention is to be on the hope of Christ’s imminent, soon return. And our attention is to be on Prize of being conformed to His image (Phil. 3:14). Some of these things will occasionally flit through our minds. But really, how focused is our attention on the Return of Christ? Do we think about it so frequently we can call it a motivation? Do we really understand what motivation is?
After a few months of marriage I began to notice that I had pudge. Now, I’ve prided myself on being a runner, in tip-top shape, for years. So for me to notice I had pudge is a serious problem. So I began running in earnest, desperately trying to shed the flab. Every time I sit I notice the pudge, the roll over my belt, and I look forward to my run when I get off work. A chance to rid myself of it. That is a motivation. That is a dedication. Is that how we look forward to Christ’s return?
When we face a difficult time, are we dedicated to perseverance and endurance through it on the basis of Christ’s return? Does it motivate us to that extent?
When we see that flab of the flesh rolling over our belt, do we seek to purify ourselves from it on the basis of Christ’s return? Is His return so central to our thoughts that it drives our lives?
God has placed times of suffering and persecution in our lives to get our eyes up, off ourselves, our comfort, our plans, to remind us that Christ is coming. He must be our motivation. His imminent Return must be our reason for hanging on and making the right choices, the doctrinal choices.