Seeking Wisdom in Difficult Days
A Study of James
The Power of Patience
Two frogs fell into a tub of cream. One looked at the high sides of the tub which were too difficult to crawl over and said, “It is hopeless.” So he resigned himself to death, relaxed, and sank to the bottom. The other one determined to keep swimming as long as he could. “Something might happen,” he said. He kept kicking and churning, and finally he found himself on a solid platform of butter and jumped to safety.
The Necessity of Patience (vv. 7-11)
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Remember that the book of James is written to the church that has been scattered from Jerusalem to various parts of the Roman Empire because of persecution. The scattered church and this process of reestablishing their homes, businesses, and lives would have been very stressful and demanding. “In times of hardship tempers are apt to wear thin and ‘grumbling,’ not merely against oppressors but against one another, is only too likely to occur.”
And during these times of difficulty, we are to be patient. The words patient, wait, and steadfast in verses 7-12 is used seven times. To be patient is to endure without complaining (see v. 9). The word complains or grumble means literally to groan. To verbally make a sound in reaction to life’s situation. But the grumbling comments are made against fellow believers. To be steadfast is to resist the temptation to take your frustration with life out on another believer – to blame them for problems the church was encountering.
Hebrews 12:1 “. . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, . . .” Long distance runners know they have to run at a certain pace, and they have to build up endurance in order to go the long distance. (“testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:3)
The church only has to wait “until the return of the Lord,” and it seems that the Christians in James’ day thought Jesus’ return was overdue. The church knows that when Jesus returns then the persecution and hardship will end.
The doctrine of Jesus’ return is a core biblical Christian belief, so what happens when it gets ignored or pushed back in importance? What happens when the church forgets about Jesus’s return? When we hold to the belief that Jesus could return at any moment, then we live each day as if it were the last day you will live on this planet. You are not promised another day to live for the Lord, or to get your stuff together – we have today, this moment.
If you knew for certain Jesus was coming tomorrow and that those apart from the Lord would be separated from you fand Him or all eternity you would make the drive, make the phone call, make the effort that you have not done up to this point – because you think you have all the time in the world.
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast” – The term “blessed” is reserved for those who have been found faithful to the end.
The Example of the Farmer
To help us understand this idea of waiting James gives the example of the farmer and how he has to wait. In Palestine there were two rainy seasons. The early rain was when they would sow the grain (Oct.-Nov.) and then the late rain (April-May) that stimulated the growth for the maturing of the crop.
The farmer needed these two rains in order to have a good crop. He had to wait for the rain to come. The farmer has to trust that the rain is coming – but it is the rain’s coming that determines the success of the crop. “If the farmer could not hope for the rains, all the plowing and planting and weeding would be futile.”
The two rains are analogous to Christ’s first advent and then His second coming. When Christ first arrived as an infant and then leading to his eventual crucifixion that planted the seeds of the gospel and the plan of salvation for all of mankind – then after he was raised from the dead, he promised to return and gather the harvest – two rains, two appearances of Christ.
T. Robertson said, “Some of them no longer had a taste for the slow work of plowing, sowing, and reaping, forgetting what Jesus had said of the gradual growth of the kingdom of God from seed to harvest.”
There is much to do at each stage of the process, the soil must be prepared and fertilized, the seed must be sow, the plants must be watered, there has to be proper levels of sunlight and temperature. Animals have to be kept off the plants, and the when the farmer has done all he knows to do he has to give the plants time to grow.
We live in a day when you can text someone in Brazil and get an immediate response, even pull them up on your phone and talk with them on video. If you want to know an answer you can google it, and know instantly the circumference of the earth, or the molecular weight of a gas.
When it comes to life we want it right now – the early church had to be reminded to be patient. How much more in our day, do we need to be reminded that Christ is faithful, we just need to be steadfast.
“The term parousia (presence, coming) was used in the first century to refer to the arrival of kings or highly esteemed persons, and it was used by Christians to refer specifically to the return of Jesus in glory.” People were mocking the Christians as to why Jesus had not returned, and even. Other believers were grumbling about the Lord’s delay.
So Peter responds with 2 Peter 3:8-10 “8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” The Lord, like the farmer, is waiting to return until the harvest can be as many people as possible. If the farmer harvests to crop too soon, he is shortcutting his eventual total crop.
“the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth” The fruit that the farmer grows and waits for is described as precious (valuable) fruit. This is a reminder that there is something worth enduring the persecution, the waiting, hardship, bickering within the church – it is all worth it because the fruit being produced are souls being saved.
Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge Soldier, saved 75 souls without ever carrying a gun – illustration “Lord please help me get one more.”
We as believers and followers of Christ have the unique privilege of watching the crop grow. Those of us who have been at it a while, remember when the seeds were just planted in a person’s heart, then to watch the tiny sprig of green show above the soil, then even to see the plant in its maturity.
“Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” In Mark 1:15 Jesus [and John the Baptist] say, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” When we establish our hearts, we are to renew our courage and confidence in the work of the Lord. Doing church work, seeking to faithfully follow the Lord, can be exhausting and sometimes very discouraging, and at other times we see why there is time given to someone – God’s grace in their lives. We need to grow as people, others need to grow as people.
For the early church there was persecution and they were forced to move around. They were tired, discouraged, feeling abandoned, and even betrayed by other believers. But, the Lord could return at any moment, all that has been foretold that needed to happened before He would come back has been accomplished.
Isaiah 35:3 “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” With Christ’s return coming at any moment, now is not the time to grumble, we are to be patient. James tells us that if we do grumble against our brothers in the Lord, then there will be judgement against that type of behavior.
Christ is the judge, and he is close “at the door.” Jesus even says in Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” That either a terrifying concept or a delightful picture – it depends on your relationship with the Lord. Are you ready to open the door when the judge on the universe knocks on the door?
The Example of Job
“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job” – James gives Job as an example of patience during a time of hardship. In the opening chapter of the book of Job Satan slanders Job saying to God that the only reason that he follows Him/God is because he has blessed “the work of his hands.”
Satan said to God, “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job questioned, but he continued to love and follow the Lord – even when his own wife said, “curse God and die,” and even when the world around him was crumbling.
“and you have seen the purpose of the Lord” – The end result of Job experiencing total loss and devastation was that Job was restored, God “blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12) We are able to see (even though Job would never know) behind the spiritual curtain of what was going on in Job’s life.
Job’s “supreme triumph was this: that despite testings so severe that, beside them, all that we experience pales into insignificance, he did not fail in faith. He clung to the integrity of his trust in God; his deep inward certainty of the character of God; and that ultimately vindicated. God is living; God is Lord; God is just and righteous – and would show it: that is what mattered more than life itself to Job. That was patience.”
We are “to remain faithful and not yield to the temptation to abandon God in the belief that he is less than a God of love and mercy, they will see for themselves the goodness of God as Job did and ultimately be able to praise him for his kindness and compassion.”
The Need to Keep Your Word (v. 12)
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
“But above all, my brothers” James now begins to sum up the book, so he says, “finally,” or “to sum up,” my brothers.
Matthew 5:34-37 “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
James says again and again throughout the book, that the words that you say are of great value – he has warned that our words should have weight, and not be empty clichés, like saying to a starving man, “go in peace, I will pray for you.”
In verse 12, he is warning against making oaths by something (God, heaven, your own head, etc.). For the Christian when we speak it should be truth, and there is no need to swear by something – simply when we say “yes” or “no” that is enough.
“An oath could be seemingly convincing yet no be binding upon the swearer. Consequently, bargaining became a battle of wits between subtle-minded people, in making oaths and detecting their loopholes. Inevitably, oaths tended to become increasingly extravagant and complex.”
Part of this word play was to swear by God but the Jewish people were forbidden to say His name so they were creative in swearing by God by associating the swear by the things of God (i.e. the Temple, the gold in the Temple, the alter, Heaven, etc.)
To involve God and His name in the daily deal making in the market place was wrong. This was to “violate the spirit if not the letter of the first commandment; it was to associate the High and Holy One with the bickering of bargaining: with sordid squabbles and petty gossip.” Jesus and James are saying stop trying to get out of things, or to get on over on someone – just speak clearly, “let your yes, be yes and your no be no.”
We looked at a some material that we go through in the New Attenders Class and part of our discussion we ask the question, what is the difference between a member and an attender? It is one word, commitment. If you are a member of Bellevue Baptist Church then your commitment is to the Lord and His church Bellevue Baptist Church.
Now is the time to “establish your heart” in the work the church and seeing people saved.
 Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, Robert Morgan https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/two-frogs-in-cream
 Clifton J. Allen, Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 12 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1973) 134.
 David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary, James (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1997) 287.
 Allen, 134.
 George M. Stulac, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, James (Downers Grove, Illinois; Intervarsity Press, 1993) 171.
 A. T. Robertson, Studies in the Epistle of James (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1959) 178.
 Allen, 134.
 Stulac, 170.
 This is the only reference to Job in the New Testament (Allen, 135.)
 Herbert F. Stevenson, James Speaks for Today (Westwood, New Jersey; Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966) 88.
 Allen, 135.
 Stevenson, 89.
 Ibid, 90.