Sunday, August 11th, 2013
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
- V. 10 – “…who spoke in the name of the Lord”. Note that even though the prophets were God’s very own mouthpieces, they were not spared from suffering in this life, and yet, were incredibly patient. They are to be examples to us!
- In the context of vv. 1-6 it could be said that this next section was addressed in consolation to those who were experiencing such persecution and suffering at the hands of the rich. In other words, the evil rich rulers are going to get what’s coming to them, so be patient.
- v.7 “Coming” translates parousia, a word that is applied throughout the New Testament to the appearance of Christ in glory at the end of history. Parousia basically means “presence” and was used in secular Greek to depict the “arrival” of a king or dignitary. (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Vol. IV, 114)
- “Patience is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate against a wrong, and steadfastness is the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering.” R.J. Knowling
- The illustration of seedtime and harvest was drawn from Palestinian experience. The husbandman is the farmer, and the fruit of the earth the grain crop. It was precious because the lives of the farmer and his family depended on it. In Palestine, the grain is planted in the fall and gets the early rain toward the end of October. It gets the latter rain in March and April, just before it ripens. During this entire time the farmer waits in patience. The reason for his patience is his confident hope of the crop. (A.F. Harper, Beacon Bible Commentary: James, 242)
The questions to be answered are… Why is James so concerned with the patience of the early church? What can we glean from it as 21st century believers? And what does all this have to do with Jesus?
Answers: James knew that patience is vital to remaining faithful in trying times; faithful to God AND faithful to each other. To endure what the early church had to endure required an incredible amount of patience; a patience fueled by the certain hope of the Lord’s return. Without patience, people falter and fail to develop the ability to tread water during the difficulties of this life. As 21st century believers, we too should seek to develop patience for the same reasons the early church needed to; 1) to stand firm through the trials and suffering we get to experience in this fallen world, and 2) because Jesus is coming soon.
The word for the Day is… Wait!
What can we glean here from James as 21st century believers?
I. Patience is vital to having a solid faith. (v.7) (Prv 14:29; 15:18; 19:11; 25:15, Ecc 7:8, Rom 2:4; 8:25; 12:12, 1 Cor 13:4, Eph 4:2, Col 1:11; 3:12, 1 Thes 5:14, 1 Tm 1:16, 2 Tm 4:2, Heb 6:12, Ps 37:7)
a) Patience with others. (Jn 13:34-35, Rom 12:10, 16, 14:13; 2 Cor 13:11; Eph 4:2)
b) Patience with God. (2 Pt 3:9, Rv 3:10)
The verb “be patient” (markrothumēsate) carries the idea of “longsuffering.” It is commended as a virtue in dealing with difficult and irritating people. God is longsuffering (Rom 2:4; 9:22; 1 Pt 3:20; 2 Pt 3:9), and believers are to be likewise (1 Cor 13:4; 1 Thes 5:14). There is another Greek word that also means “to be patient” (hupomenō), but in the sense of persevering in the face of difficult circumstances. (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: James, 121)
There can be no patience where there is no sense of evil. (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries; James, 419)
“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” —Leonardo da Vinci.
II. God’s timing is not yours. Jesus is coming soon! (v.8) (Mt 24:36-51, Mk 13, 2 Pt 3, 1 Thes 5:23, Heb 10:37, Rv 3:10-11; 22:7; 22:12; 22:20 )
Three times James reminds us of the coming of the Lord (5:7, 8, and 9). This is the “blessed hope” of the Christian (Ti 2:13). We do not expect to have everything easy and comfortable in this present life. “In the world ye will have tribulation” (Jn 16:33). Paul exhorted his converts that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We must patiently endure hardships and heartaches until Jesus returns. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 153)
Through long acquaintance with God himself, [the prophets] had learned to see the truth behind the way things seemed, to see the heavenly dimension of ordinary earthly reality, to see the heavenly timescale intersecting with the earthly one. Job is a supreme example, but there were many others who, as the letter to the Hebrews insists, went on faithfully even though they had not themselves received the things which had been promised. A hasty, impatient spirit is another form of pride, of the human arrogance that imagines it knows better than God. (N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, 38-39)
James does not try to prove the doctrine of the Second Coming, nor even to announce it. He takes it for granted as a living hope in the Early Church. HE cites the imminence and reality of our Lord’s coming as a reason for Christians to be steadfast. (A.F. Harper, Beacon Bible Commentary: James, 242)
III. Grumbling is destructive and invites judgment. (v.9) (Nm 14:36, Ps 106:25, 1 Cor 10:10, Eph 4:29; Jude 1:16)
James is not asking his readers to submit supinely to injustice or oppression without protest. That is not the point of this paragraph. In the face of all their difficulties and disappointments, he is beseeching them to be steadfast in their loyalty to their Lord. Whatever happens, let them not surrender to evil, for the vindication and ultimate triumph of their Lord is at hand. (The Interpreter’s Bible, James through Revelation, 66)
“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God “sending us” to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ” ― C.S. Lewis
How can this passage translate into my life today?
A. Fix your eyes on Jesus in all circumstances. Remember, “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to HIS purpose.” (Rom 8:28), not the other way around. A faith that saves is one that holds on patiently despite the circumstances. Look at adversity in this life with assurance, knowing that God will redeem every circumstance for His glory and for your growth in holiness. (2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:10)
Do all things without grumbling. Why? You have a sovereign God who is on your side, who works everything together for your good. – John Piper
B. Live every day like it’s the day of Christ’s return. Someday soon, you will be right! (2 Peter 3)
How can we understand, then, the relationship between earth-years and the eternal, ‘timeless’ sphere of the life of God? It was in these terms that Peter saw the problem of the Lord’s imminent return, and offered the Bible’s authoritative solution. First, God is not dilatory in keeping his promise that Jesus will come soon (2 Pet. 3:9); secondly, his time-scale and ours are not concurrent (2 Pet. 3:8); and, thirdly, what we call ‘delay’ is in fact the outward evidence of God’s merciful longing that none should be unready when Jesus comes (2 Pet. 3:9). (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 179)
C. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all! (Mt 12:37)
We need one another! We need encouragement and guidance from our fellow Christians, not verbal abuse and gossip and judgmental criticism. Bickering Christians make evangelism almost impossible – who wants to join a church that is full of back-biting and quarreling? Even total unbelievers can smell that a mile away. (Mark A. Jeske, The People’s Bible: James, Peter, John, Jude, 48)
Worship Point: Your proclivity to trust the Lord and His timing directly relates to how free you are to truly worship. Confident children don’t 2nd guess, they simply trust. As children of God, trust in the Lord fully and worship freely!
Spiritual Challenge: Embrace the freedom that comes from knowing that God is in control. The more you trust, the less you will complain because your trust is in something that is unfailing.
Quotes To Note:
As the farmer puts his trust in a reliable God who has established the seasons (Gn 8:22), so the Christian must wait expectantly and patiently for God (v.8). In both cases there is confidence hope – the farmer is confident of the coming rain, and the Christian of the return of Christ. Two commands are given: the repeated “ be patient” and “strengthen your hearts.” “Be patient” has the personal pronoun “you” for emphasis. The second command carries the idea of being stouthearted, of establishing one’s heart so that it will be firm and resolute. That inner strengthening is sometimes spoken of as the work of God. (1 Thes 3:13; 1 Pt 5:10), but it is also the responsibility of believers to strengthen other believers (Lk 22:32). Here it is a call for self-strengthening. In spite of the difficult circumstances in which Christians find themselves, they are not to turn to self-pity or complaining, but rather to be patient and have an inner strengthening because “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: James, 122-23)
James pictured the Christian as a “spiritual farmer” looking for a spiritual harvest. “Be ye also patient, establish your hearts…” (5:8). Our hearts are the soil, and the “seed is the word of God” (Lk 8:11). There are seasons to the spiritual life just as there are seasons to the soil. Sometimes, our hearts become cold and “wintry”, and the Lord has to “plow them up” before He can plant the seed (Jer 4:3). He sends the sunshine and the rains of His goodness to water and nurture the seeds planted; but we must be patient to wait for the harvest. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 155)
You cannot persevere unless there is a trial in your life. There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys. If you want the blessing, you must be prepared to carry the burden and fight the battle. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 158)
You may burn my body and scatter the ashes to the winds of heaven; you may drop my soul into the regions of darkness, but you will not get me to support what I believe to be wrong. —Abraham Lincoln
Men count time long, because they measure it by the terms of their own duration; but God comprehending all ages in the indivisible point of his own eternity, all is as nothing to him, as a moment, as a ‘watch in the night’. (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries; James, 423)
During times of persecution and distress, it is not uncommon for the victims to turn against one another. It is a curious twist of human nature that in times of pressure we build up wrath against those we love most. (William MacDonald, The Epistle of James, 90)
As an example of patience, James cites, the farmer who must patiently wait for the earth to produce the precious fruit on which his livelihood depends. Although the word rain is not actually used in this text (some manuscripts add it; others have ‘fruit’), the reference of the early and the late is certainly to the rains that fell on Palestine in the late Autumn and early Spring and which were so vital for agriculture (cf. Dt 11:14). While it is possible that the image, being a traditional Old Testament phrase, says nothing about the provenance of the letter, it is more probably that James uses the language because it fits the circumstances of his readers. (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale New Testament Commentary: James, 168-69)
Enduring “good and gentle” treatment is a piece of cake. And enduring suffering that comes as a result of sin is nothing extraordinary. However, enduring unfair treatment with patience is a novelty. (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 170)
We can forfeit the blessing of joyful hope, and replace it by fearful expectation of a coming judge – and it is the tongue through which this grim forfeiture takes place. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 175)
True patience is waiting without worrying. (Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, 124)
He deserves not the name of patient who is only willing to suffer as much as he thinks proper, and for whom he pleases. The truly patient man asks (nothing) from whom he suffers, (whether) his superior, his equal, or his inferior…But from whomever, or how much, or how often wrong is done to him, he accepts it all as from the hand of God, and counts it gain! (Thomas á Kempis)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).”
“A heavy wagon was being dragged along a country lane by a team of oxen. The axles groaned and creaked terribly, when the oxen turning around thus addressed the wheels, “Hey there, why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we—not you—ought to cry out!” Those complain first in our churches who have the least to do. The gift of grumbling is largely dispensed among those who have no other talents, or who keep what they have wrapped up in a napkin.” —Charles Spurgeon
It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. -Edmund Burke
Untold suffering seldom is. ~Franklin P. Jones
Additional Quotes To Note:
It is true that the Christians of apostolic times lived in constant expectation of the Parousia as we all ought still to live. It should not be said that they were certain that they would live to see the Parousia; they were no more certain of it than we are today. The trouble with us is that almost 2,000 years have passed, and we have come to think that the Parousia is still far off. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation the Epistle of Hebrews and James, 653-654)
In a world like ours the harvest of righteousness does not come overnight. The forces of evil seem ever more potent than the powers of good; they have the most money, the political and social power and prestige; they do not scruple to use means to gain and maintain their power which are denied to those who serve the cause of Christ. So sometimes this cause seems utterly hopeless and, as at the time of the Crucifixion, Christ’s dismayed disciples forsake him and Flee. (The Interpreter’s Bible, James through Revelation, 66)
v7.Be patient therefore. From this inference it is evident that what has hitherto been said against the rich, pertains to the consolation of those who seemed for a time to be exposed to their wrongs with impunity. For after having mentioned the causes of those calamities which were hanging over the rich, and having stated this among others, that they proudly and cruelly ruled over the people, he immediately adds, that we who are unjustly oppressed, have this reason to be patient, because God would become the judge. For this is what he means when he says, “until the coming of the Lord”, that is, that the confusion of things which is now seen in the world will not be perpetual, because the Lord at his coming will reduce things to order, and that therefore our minds ought to entertain good hope; for it is not without reason that the restoration of all things is promised to us at that day. (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XXII, 347-348)
The life of men is indeed indiscriminately subject to troubles and adversities; but James did not bring forward any kind of men for examples, for it would have availed nothing to perish with the multitude; but he chose the prophets, a fellowship with whom is blessed. Nothing so breaks us down and disheartens us as the feeling of misery; it is therefore a real consolation to know that those things commonly deemed evils are aids and helps to our salvation. This is, indeed, what is far from being understood by the flesh; yet the faithful ought to be convinced of this, that they are happy when by various troubles they are proved by the Lord. (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XXII, 350)
When the afflictions of the saints are related to us, there is no one who will allow that they were miserable, but, on the contrary, that they were happy. (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XXII, 351)
The early Christians’ conviction that the parousia was ‘near’, or ‘imminent’, meant that they fully believed that it could transpire within a very short period of time – not that it had to. They, like Jesus, knew neither ‘the day nor the hour’ (Mk. 13:32), but they acted, and taught others to act, as if their generation could be the last. Almost twenty centuries later, we live in exactly the same situation: our own decade could be the last in human history. And James’ advice to us is the same as it was to his first-century readers: be patient, establish your hearts! (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale New Testament Commentary: James, 169-170)
How often do we find ourselves taking out the frustrations of a difficult day on our close friends and family members! Refraining from this kind of complaining and grumbling can be seen as one aspect of patience itself: patience is linked with ‘forbearing one another’ in love in Ephesians 4:2 and is contrasted with retaliation in 1 The. 5:14-15. (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale New Testament Commentary: James, 170)
Many have wondered at James’ illusion to Job as a model of faithful endurance of suffering; particularly since the AV translated ‘the patience of Job’. Yet even when we translate, more accurately, the steadfastness or ‘perseverance’ of Job, the illustration seems to be less than appropriate. Did not Job grumble about his circumstances, self-righteously proclaim his innocence and generally question God’s way with him? The seeming incompatibility between the canonical portrait of Job and James’ description of him has led some to think that James is dependent on the apocryphal Testament of Job, where Job is presented in a much more positive light. Yet there is still a sense in which the Job of the Old Testament can be seen as a great example of steadfastness. For although Job did complain bitterly about God’s treatment of him, he never abandoned his faith; in the midst of his incomprehension, he clung to God and continued to hope in him (cf. Job 1:21; 2:10; 16:19-21; 19:25-27). As Barclay says, ‘Job’s is no groveling, passive, unquestioning submission; Job struggled and questioned, and sometimes even defied, but the flame of faith was never extinguished in his heart’. (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale New Testament Commentary: James, 172)
There is a Greek motto that goes something like this: “The first necessity of learning is patience.” (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 172)
[Jesus] taught that his coming would be preceded by signs and would, when it happened, be as vivid, visible and unmistakable as lightning which illuminates the whole sky. It will happen on a day which cannot be known in advance, and will bring about a separation or a taking away of the people of God. Those who are Christ’s will be gathered for ever into his presence, caught up to meet him in the air, transformed into an unblemished holiness as they are at last made fully alive in Christ. To unbelievers the expectation of the Lord’s return is a matter for cynical doubt and dismissal, but to believers this sure hope constitutes a strong call to endure and to prepare by holiness of life. For the Lord himself will come in power, his foes will perish, and the heavens and the earth will be replaced by new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 176-177)
Behind all that God has ever done for us lies his heart of love – behind his choice of us, his gift of his Son, the temporal and eternal blessings of his great salvation, his daily and nightly care for us, his provisions for body, mind and soul, his presence day by day, and the hope of glory. The wonder of the day of Christ’s coming is that then the full content of that heart of love will come home in experience to the people of this great and tender-hearted God. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 177)
Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman,
Never in a man. Source Unknown.
True patience is waiting without worrying. (Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, 124)
I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes — until I met a man who had no feet. – Jewish Proverb
If I were to say, ”God, why me?” about the bad things, then I should have said, ”God, why me?” about the good things that happened in my life. -Arthur Ashe