Are you a patient person – both on the outside and on the inside? Do you mind standing in long lines? Are you unperturbed when listening to long commercials on your TV or radio, or long, automated ads on the telephone? Are you content when put on hold for an undetermined amount of time? If your honest answer is “yes”, you are, by far, an exception to the rule!
In 2006, a survey of more than 2000 adults revealed that most people take an average of 17 minutes to lose their patience when waiting in line. Also, most people lose their patience in only 9 minutes when on hold on the phone. Impatience is a common trait; wouldn’t you agree?
James has finished his verbal chastening of the selfish, unrighteous rich people, and is continuing where he left off in his address to the churches. We see the transition in verse 7, where James now calls his readers and listeners “brethren”. He is writing once again to his brothers and sisters in Christ.
I. THE EXHORTATION (vs. 7a)
He has been telling the wicked rich people what to do before they meet their Maker. Now he is telling his fellow-believers what their attitude should be in their present circumstances in order to prepare to meet their Lord and Savior. He reiterates what he said in chapter 1, verse 12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” In this letter, James has brought to their minds many passages from the Old Testament, and I believe he is doing so again. One Old Testament passage of Scripture which closely parallels his words is Psalm 37. In verses 7-9 of Psalm 37, King David writes: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret for him who prospers in his way, because of him who carries out wicked schemes.” Then David says in verse 9, “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.”
This exhortation is repeated several times in Psalm 37. I encourage you to read the whole psalm to get the full effect of what David is saying there under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
James also gives this encouragement in verse 7 in order to protect his readers and listeners from their own selfish plans and boastful attitudes (James 4:13-17). Some of them have been setting up their own timetable for what they want to accomplish for themselves, and have been boasting about it to others.
When James uses the words “until the coming of the Lord”, he may be reminding himself of the Lord Jesus’ words to him and the other disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). That’s a wonderful promise for us to cling to as well, in these troublesome times! The early church believed that Christ could come at any moment, and that was a source of joy and encouragement in their trials. Two centuries have passed, but Christ could still come at any moment. Are you excited about that possibility? It could become a reality at any moment!
II. THE EXAMPLE (vs. 7b)
James says, “take a good look at the farmer as an example of patience (long-suffering)”. The farmer has a lot of work to do, and he also must wait for things to happen in his fields and orchards. Plants take time to grow and fruit takes time to ripen. As his readers and listeners know, in Deuteronomy 11:13-14, God made a promise to the nation of Israel before they crossed the Jordan River and entered the promised land. “And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain . . . “. In Israel the early rain, or autumn rain, comes in October and November, after the ground has been prepared and the seed has been sown. This rain enables the seed to germinate, produce sprouts, and grow to almost full height. The late rain, or spring rain, comes in March or April, when the buds have formed, and enables the grain to mature for the harvest. It’s important that the farmer follows this timetable set forth by God if he wants an abundant harvest. There is a time of patiently waiting for the autumn rain to arrive, for the spring rain to arrive, and for the harvesting to begin, but the farmer is kept busy preparing and repairing the equipment and the barns, and getting the laborers ready for the coming harvest. The time goes by quickly because the farmer is committed to his tasks and excited about the harvest to come.
III. THE EXHORTATION (verse 7b)
James encourages his readers and listeners to have the same attitude of perseverance and expectancy as the farmer that he has just described. There are, and have been, times in our lives that have tested our patience and posed a threat to our devotion to God and service for Him. There have also been times when we have wanted to get things done in a hurry just to get them over with! 19th-century preacher A.B. Simpson offers this advice: “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering. If you are to practice these things, it must be now.” Each day offers countless opportunities to learn patience. Let’s not waste them.
A PERSPECTIVE FROM ABOVE
I’m going to carry this illustration of the farmer a step further because both the Old and New Testaments do so. It is a clear, powerful, and exciting realization and motivation for us today. I have already shared scriptures concerning the early and late rains as found in the old testament. But there is another image that James may be trying to convey, and this image may be coming to the minds of his readers and listeners. It is the image of God as the patient Farmer, the Cultivator, the Planter, the Nurturer, the Pruner, and the Harvester in the lives of His people.
King David says to God is Psalm 65:9-10: “Thou dost visit the earth and cause it to overflow; Thou dost greatly enrich it. The stream of God is full of water. Thou dost prepare their grain, for thus Thou dost prepare the earth. Thou dost water its furrows abundantly; Thou dost settle its ridges. Thou dost soften it with showers; Thou dost bless its growth.” He describes God as doing the whole work of the farmer.
Psalm 121 gets more personal. “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is the shade at your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from every evil. He will keep your soul.” As the farmer takes good care of his land and crops, so the Lord takes constant care of His people.
A song that I sing to myself almost every day is the hymn, “God Will Take Care Of You”. Now I’m beginning to realize why this song is so special to me. The words. “God will take care of you” are repeated over and over again with different melodies. Singing the song brings a smile to my face and an assurance that those words are really true. It reminds me that when I was a little child, my mother used a similar method to calm me down and help take away the fear or the pain I was experiencing. She would hold me close, rock me in her arms, and say, “It’s OK, Tommy . . . It’s alright . . . I love you . . . You’re going to be alright . . . It’s gonna go away . . . You’re going to be OK.” Does that bring back memories? Those repeated words brought comfort to me, and helped take my mind off the problem. In a similar way, God tells us over and over again in the Scriptures that He loves us and will take care of us.
Isaiah 30:18 reflects the patience of a farmer. “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you. And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.” “For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightul plant.” If God is waiting, that means He is also watching, and with joyful anticipation!
The Lord Jesus echoed the words in the psalms and prophets when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. . . . by this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:5,8).
We believers in the Lord Jesus are God’s vineyard, God’s field. We are the fertile ground which God has prepared. He has planted the seed of His Word in us, watered it, and caused it to germinate and grow. He has provided for everything, filled us with His Spirit, and taken care of everything in our lives. Now He is waiting patiently for you and I to cooperate with Him so that we might bear much fruit before He comes again. The seed is in that fruit to bear more fruit. God wants us to depend upon His enabling, follow His example of working and waiting on Him, and so prove to be His disciples. You are equal to the task because He is the “Lord of the Harvest”, and He has called you to be His laborers. The coming of the Lord is very soon!
“For you are God’s fellow-workers: you are God’s field” (I Corinthians 3:9). May you experience the Lord’s care for you, and may your lives bear much fruit for the Lord!
I’m moving on to a new construction site: James 5:9-11. Hope to see you there once construction begins! This work-in-progress must go on until He comes! Or until I go to Him – whichever comes first! May the Lord of the Harvest bear fruit in your life today as you abide in Him! (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).