Suggested reading: James chapter 5
How easily do you lose your patience with people and circumstances? The readers of this letter from James could so easily have done so as they faced immense pressure from their unscrupulous employers, who often kept back from them their rightful wages, verse 4.
They often took advantage of the fact that they were reluctant to resist them, verse 6. James made it clear that such men would reap what they sow, verse 1; indeed, their ill-gotten wealth would be short-lived, verses 2-3.
James’ message to his beleaguered readers was clear: ‘BE PATIENT (with people) therefore, brethren’, verse 7. We might well ask whether it is possible for these believers, including ourselves, to exercise patience in the midst of such hostile circumstances. James gives us the secrets that will enable us so to do.
Firstly, we can be confident that we have a God, who hears our cries, verse 4. He is stronger than our greatest persecutors.
Secondly, we can look beyond the dark days to the return of the Lord, which will bring to an end any injustices we might suffer now at the hands of ungodly men, verses 7-8.
Thirdly, we must live in the light of the judgement seat of Christ, where we will have to give an account of how patient we have been with each other, verse 9.
Fourthly, we can gain encouragement from the patience of others in the midst of adverse circumstances, e.g. farmers, verse 7, prophets, verse 10, and Job, verse 11. Indeed, we will discover, like Job, ‘that the Lord is pitiful and of tender mercy’, verse 11. He always has positive ends in view for us, even if we cannot see them at the time.
One of the greatest tests of our patience is when we face suffering, whether it be general physical suffering or sickness as a result of spiritual failure, verses 14-15. In both cases, recovery is to be found in patient prayer and confession.