How would you respond if a friend told you to “be patient” in the midst of a very trying situation?
That was the message that James sent to some Christians who were being mistreated by the rich (James 5:7-11). The rich were oppressing them. Wages were being withheld, and the text indicates that some were being oppressed to the point of death. Wealth and power are to be used to help others to the glory of God not for evil purposes as these rich men were doing.
By inspiration James writes “be patient” – to endure the trials without grumbling and without comparing their circumstances to those around them, especially their oppressors who seemed to be getting away with their wicked deeds.
However, James doesn’t just exhort them to be patient or long-suffering under their trials. He puts the exhortation in its proper context – be patient until the coming of the LORD; His coming is near. Everything finds its proper context in the LORD. The LORD will take care of the wicked when He comes. The LORD will put everything right at His coming.
Contextually, the coming of the LORD here finds an immediate application to His coming in judgment upon the Jewish nation that took place in A.D. 70. God used the Roman empire to bring judgment upon the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah. The Romans were merely an instrument in the hand of God. God’s judgment brought some relief to Christians from persecution and oppression by the Jews who rejected the Christ.
There is also a second application to His return to judge the world (Acts 17:31) and destroy every rule and authority, and to give immortality to those who belong to Him (I Cor. 15)
They did not know when the LORD’S final coming would take place, and we do not know the day. Therefore, His coming is near because it could be any time. It could be today or tomorrow or even in the next moment. We are eagerly looking for our Savior who is our hope. (Titus 2:13)
James exhorted them to remember Job whose faith remained strong in His God even during severe trials that God allowed Satan to inflict upon Job. Satan had thought Job only served God for the blessings. How very wrong he was!
Trials test our faithfulness to God. Are we seeking God or do we seek His gifts only? Yes, God rewards us. God Himself is our great reward. Job sought God. His faith in God was not destroyed when the blessings were taken away.
When Job’s friends came to visit him, they did not even recognize him. How much his appearance must have changed! The boils tormented his flesh and the sorrows marred his countenance! What misery they must have read in every line of his face – what depth of anguish and sorrow must have filled his eyes. They sat in silence for a whole week in the face of such pain and grief.
Job’s trials came to an end, and the LORD blessed him for his endurance. We read,
“So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” (Job 42:2)
Job’s life teaches us that in the end all will be made well. God rewards endurance. It may not come in this life. But the reward will come. The curse will be fully removed with Christ’s coming. The latter end will be more glorious! We will gaze upon the King who died for us. All heartaches, all sorrows, and all cares will flee.
Problems come to all of us. But Christ gives purpose to our suffering. He is glorified through us when we endure trials with patience, looking to Him for the strength we need. He is glorified through us when we acknowledge His sovereignty in our life and serve Him with gladness amidst the trials of life. He is glorified through us when others see that nothing in this life can cause us to turn away from our LORD.
When trials come your way, focus on Him. Focus on bringing glory to Him through your suffering.
In those moments when life threatens to pull you down, look up to Him and look to Tomorrow. Tomorrow is coming – a tomorrow when all is made right.
There is not one sorrow, not one heartache, not one trial that we endure that the LORD doesn’t stand with us and for us. Not one. Burdens are not to be lightly brushed away as if they are nothing. We hurt. We cry out to God. But these trials become light when we use them to His glory and compare them to the eternal weight of glory in Christ that awaits us. The reward far, far, far outweighs the trials we are called to endure (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We must keep Christ before our eyes, and know that all trials here are brief and light compared to eternity with Him.
Whatever the trial, look up. Be patient. Who, me? Yes, me! Why? That He may be glorified through my life.
Remember – The LORD is coming! All will be made right in the end which is truly The Beginning. God will dwell with us forever. What immeasurable joy!