Grace, peace, and mercy to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. I trust that you are growing in your love for Him and in your experience of His love for you.
Today we are going to look at James 5:7-12. The general petition here is that God calls us to be patient while we serve Him here in this life. The final exhortation in this letter is God tells His people to be a praying people as we serve Him here in this life. So today the duty of patience. And our next study, the duty of prayer. We patiently pray. We have patience because we pray for it.
Please take your Bible out and read along with me. James chapter five, I will begin at verse seven, hear the perfect word of our perfect God – read.
James 5:7. Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. 12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
Let’s go to the throne of God and seek His grace to help us in our study of His word – pray.
The definition of duty.
Before we look at the particular duty of patience let’s say a few words about the idea of duty in general.
Here is the dictionary definition of duty. Duty is a moral or legal obligation, a responsibility, a task, or an action that someone is required to perform, obligatory tasks that arise from one’s position.
May I say that the idea of duty is something objective and not something subjective. The idea is that this is some required service no matter what a person thinks or feels. The antonym of duty is choice or option.
Let me provide an example or two of duty from the Bible. God called Abraham His servant to sacrifice his son Isaac. That is an obligatory service. Abraham was required to do it. He had ‘no choice’ in the matter. If he disobeyed, he would have been faithless to God. Now we know that God graciously provided the ram instead of his son, this being shades of Christ as the grace provided substitutionary Atoner of our sins. (Gen.22:1-24, Jn.1:29, Gal.3:13)
And then of course, Christ always did His duty to His heavenly Father, and I will say to His elect Bride as well. The Father gave the Son obligatory work to perform, and Christ suffered and died doing His duty. (Jn.17:4, Jn.4:34, Jn.5:19-20)
Duty is serving God and not self. Duty is adhering to what He wills and not what we will. (Mk.14:36, Lk.22:42)
Our flesh is opposed to doing our duty to obey God. (Mt.24:11-13, 2 Pt.3:3-4, I Tim.4:1, 2 Tim.3:1-13) But we see here that God is so good to remind us of our duty and to wean us from our selfish self. (Lk.6:46)
The revelation of duty.
I say all of this because our passage is a duty passage. God, in the Bible, requires us to patiently endure hardship as good soldiers of Christ. (2 Tim.1:13, 2 Tim.3:16)
Salvation by the grace of God or the free gift of God in Christ does not nullify the truth of duty. We obey God not to merit God or forgiveness with God or any other good thing. We labor to obey God because He has given us Himself in and through Christ.
The goal of patience.
Remember the subtitle of this study is, Living to Honor Christ. Living patiently thinking on Christ honors Christ.
The duty of patience.
Now let’s address the duty of patience. And this is a duty, V.7 is in the command form, second person plural. So, this is you-all must be patient.
The definition of patience.
We see the word patience used four times in our passage. The Greek word is makrothumeo. It has the idea of waiting for something with expectancy, waiting without fretting, waiting with hope, that kind of an idea.
There is also the notion of constraining oneself and forbearing with difficulty. (I Cor.13:4) So we see the idea of postponing or delaying satisfaction of certain things while going through afflictive things. (Lk.18:7) This patience is a steadfastness or constancy in bearing troubles and hardships. (Jer.15:15, Rom.2:4; 9:22, 2 Cor.6:6, Gal.5:22, Eph.4:2, Col.3:12, 1 Tim.1:16, 2 Tim.4:2, 1 Pt.3:20, 2 Pet. 3:15)
This word also is used for having patience bearing with the offenses and injuries of others. Part of this patience is to be mild or meek when others abuse you and to not seek your own vengeance but to wait on the Lord’s justice for you. So, slow to anger, slow to punish your abusers.
Our passage also uses a word related to patience and sometimes it is also translated patience, but here in my version we see it translated endurance. V.11 uses the word endurance twice.
The Greek word is hupomeno. This word has the idea or persevering in the face of hardships, or patiently enduring hard circumstances, continuing firm in the faith, refusing to run away in danger, standing one’s ground in the face of the enemy. This is what James spoke about in chapter one. (James 1:3-4, Rom.12:12)
So, Christian or Biblical patient endurance is persisting doing the revealed will of God without grumbling and by God’s grace with submission, quietness, and even with cheerfulness. The Bible says that patient endurance “is” the will of God for all His children. (Rom.2:7)
A positive duty.
I want to point something out here, this is a positive duty, a do-something Christianity. And not merely a not-do-something Christianity. You see many professing Christians think that refraining from outright sin is all that God requires of us. Do not hate your brother, for example. And so, if they do not hate their brother then they conclude they are obeying God. But God says, love your brother, a positive duty.
Beloved do not rest satisfied in not doing evil. Do positive good. Be patient. Remember on Judgment Day as we see in Matthew chapter twenty-five Jesus says well done good and faithful servants to Believers that proved their faith by positive good, a cup of cold water and so on. (Mt.25:31-46)
A negative duty.
V.9, 12. But then negatively our passage warns us, don’t be impatient.
Do not grumble.
And the impatience is seen by grumbling, which is a breaking of the tenth commandment. Ultimately impatience expresses a distrust of God and a dissatisfaction with God and His government over us. (WLC 146-148)
Do not swear.
V.12. And the command not to swear an oath is connected to the command not to grumble. The notion is do not grow so impatient with the difficulties in your life that you are tempted to take the Lord’s name in vain. In this case with the form of a sinful or rash vow.
We could easily see how this would work. You have some enemies that are making your life miserable. You are not finding your peace in Christ. You are not walking by faith in Christ. You are responding according to the flesh. And so, you give way to the temptation after provocation and you say something like, I swear to God you will not do thus and so. Or I swear to God I will do thus and so. Something like this.
I recommend that you study WCF 21.5 and WCF 22.1-7 along with the Bible proofs for a further study on oaths. But the main idea is to govern your heart.
The need for patient endurance.
Now that we have a basic definition of what God requires of us let’s try to unpack the duty of patience.
First, this call to duty presupposes the need to be patient by God’s people.
Remember how this letter opened and to whom James is inspired to write.
James 1:1. James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Believers will be hated by unbelievers.
When these people came to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were then hated by those around them. Scattered. Exiled. Abused.
We need patience to follow Christ because we will be hated and opposed by those that do not love Christ. (Jn.15:18-27, Acts 14:22, Acts 5:40-43, 2 Tim.3:12, Rev.1:9, 7:14)
For Jews that came to believe in Christ Jesus they were put out of the synagogue. (Jn.9:22, Jn.16:1-3) And as we see with Saul before he became the apostle Paul, the unbelieving Jews would throw Christians into jail and even execute them. (Acts 8:1, 9:1-3)
And if you were a Gentile and you came to believe in Jesus as your Sin-Bearer Savior that meant renouncing your former religion and its gods as false gods, that offered no salvation. You also would be an outcast by family and friends.
Listen to what Jesus says.
Matthew 10:16. Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
One more quote by Christ.
John 15:17. This I command you, that you love one another. 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
Beloved, as Believers in Christ we are children of light living in a fallen and sin-cursed world. And because of the enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil we need to patiently endure hardship like a faithful servant of Christ.
We must not expect uninterrupted easy and peaceful times in our pilgrimage here below. We are to consciously live as aliens among a foreign people. The unbeliever is at home in the world, and we are not. We are just passing through until we come to our true eternal home in heaven with Christ.
The Bible says that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of heaven. (Acts 14:22) Christ says in this life you will have much tribulation, but take cheer or courage, I have overcome the world (on your behalf). (Jn.16:33) Beloved, it has been granted to us by God to savingly believe in Jesus Christ. But it has also been granted to us by God to suffer for the namesake of Christ. (Phil.1:29)
All who desire to live godly (in Christ) will suffer persecution. (2 Tim.3:12)
Believers will experience common miseries.
And it is not only spiritual enemies that necessitate the need to have patient endurance, but also the common miseries of this life.
What I mean is that because of Adam’s Fall and God’s curse for Adam’s fall, the whole world is filled with thorns and thistles. We have sickness beyond number and accidents of every stripe. Everything about our constitution and all our relationships are liable to misery; our minds, bodies, souls, jobs, families, everything. (Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10)
But even in our common miseries we are to approach them in such a way as to bring honor to Christ.
Believers will strive after Christ.
In addition, Believers need patience because Christ calls us to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. In this life Jesus calls us to strive after Him. He speaks about the “violent” taking heaven by force. (Mt.11:11-12) Our earthly pilgrimage requires joyful endurance to live in such a way to honor Christ.
Think of how the Christian life is depicted. (Phil.3:1-14)
We need patient endurance because life in Christ on earth is a marathon race, a boxing match, a wrestling match, a spiritual battle, and often depicted as farm labor – hard work.
The provision for patient endurance.
The next obvious question is, how are we going to do this duty of patiently enduring a lifetime of hardships in a God-pleasing Christ-honoring way?
The flesh has “patience” or “endures” something out of necessity. Our flesh does not have to power to put down our enemies or to stop the hard things in our life. So, this is a kind of grudging apathy or carnal acquiescence.
But that is not what we are commanded to do. God shows us how to have patient endurance by this phrase, until the coming of the Lord. Life is hard. This is enduring hardship by faith in Christ, by faith in His word. Faith works patience. (Heb.11:1-6) Faith draws us to God. Faith enables us to enjoy the love of God for us. God’s love will enable us to endure anything for God. (Rom.8:31-37)
We endure by remembering who our God is. We endure by remembering who we are in God.
As Believers in Christ, we are spiritually united to the Godhead. (Gal.2:20) We have union and communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In Christ we have received all of the spiritual blessings Christ procured for us. Everything we need to follow Christ and to live for Him is yes and amen. (2 Cor.1:20) In Christ we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. (Phil.4:13)
This means the strength to carry out this duty is not ultimately found in us. It is ultimately found in Christ and as we seek Him by faith. (Phil.2:12-13, I Cor.15:10)
Remember the return of Christ.
V.7-8. In particular the Holy Spirit inspires James to tell us that part of the way that we are enabled to patiently endure hard times is by meditating on the return of Christ when hard times shall be no more. (Jer.29:11)
Remember the day Jesus returns is on the Day of Judgement. All men will appear before the righteous Judge Christ and give an account of themselves to Him.
In light of patiently enduring our enemies now, we can do so knowing that God will come to our defense on that Last Day. (Phil.1:6)
2 Thessalonians 1:4. therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
God is telling us that we do not have to be overly concerned about those that abuse us in this life. We do not have to take matters into our own hands. No. Just wait on the Lord. He will repay them to their face. (Dt.32:35, Rom.12:12, Heb.10:30)
V.8. See how he repeats himself and reminds us, that the Lord is near. (Rom.13:11-12, I Cor.1:8, 2 Cor.1:14, Phil.1:6-10, Phil.2:16, I Thess.5:2, 2 Thess.2:2, Heb.10:25)
Christ is near to us spatially. He is in us. And we are in Him. Christ is near to us temporally. In the blink of an eye, we will be in His immediate presence.
Remember the farmer.
V.7. Then God condescends to give us practical examples to follow in order to help us live with patient enduring during the hard times of life. God tells us to look to the farmer.
The idea here is the Christian life is hard work, the tilling of the field, and the sowing of the seed. And then waiting on the Lord to send the rains. (Dt.11:14, Jer.5:24, Hos.6:3, Joel 2:23) And then waiting hopefully for God to cause the growth. That is the hopeful patient persevering that we need as Christians.
We are so immersed in an “instant” everything culture. We do not want to delay gratification on anything. No need to diet and exercise. No. Pop a pill. Have a surgery. Voila! Great shape. Well, we apply this same wrong thinking to our life in Christ. Everything has to be quicky-quick. Quicky-quick sermons. Quicky-quick devotional reading. Quicky-quick prayers. And we will have instant results. No. God has shown us a more excellent way, persist in obeying Him.
Remember the OT prophets.
V.10 James then gives us the prophets as examples of patient endurance or hopeful, steadfast, perseverance in the face of great trials and oppositions.
And this example to me is a bit sad. God called these men to proclaim God’s will of salvation to the people of God. And to a great extent the people of God hated and persecuted the heralds of God. To be an OT prophet was not quite like been a modern pastor over some mega church. No. Not at all. (I Pt.1:10-13)
Think of the ministry of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah. Almost universally hated and abused. (Isa.6:1-13, Isa.20:3-4, Micah 1:8, Jer.1:1-19, Ezek.3:1-27, Mt.27:36, Lk.13:34)
And the same is true for the NT apostles. They preached Christ in an anti-Christ world. And they were killed for it, all I believe except the apostle John. He was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos for speaking of Savior Christ.
And what did these men do? They kept right on following Christ and sowing the seed of the gospel, praying that the Lord of the harvest would save souls. And He did. In His own time. You see these servants of God left the results to God. They lived by faith in the Son of God, no matter what.
God is encouraging us to suffer hard things now by looking to the future promised good things. (Mt.5:10-12, see also James 1:3, 12)
V.11. Then James uses Job as our next example. It is proverbial to say, that fellow “has the patience of Job”. Job lost all his possessions, then he lost his children, and then he lost his health.
Yet for all of this he refused to do what his wife told him to do, forsake his integrity or his faith in following the Lord, to curse God and then die! (Job 2:9) Job endured all his hardships while (and by) holding on to God by faith. Job reasoned even if God killed him, he would still hold on to God. (Job 13:15) Job was going to wait until his “change” to come in the Eternal Estate when he would see His Redeemer. (Job 14:14, Job 19:25-27)
The fruits of patient endurance.
V.11. God says that those people that patiently endure hard things for Christ’s sake that they are blessed and that they are recipients of God’s compassion and mercy.
This is completely contrary to how the natural man thinks. He thinks health and wealth and ease and pleasure and friendship with the world is what it means to be blessed. (Ps.73:1-28) But God’s ways are not man’s ways. (Isa.55:8-9)
Let’s talk about some of the good fruit that patient endurance produces in the life of a Believer.
It proves our nature.
Think of the prophets. Their opposition by the unbelievers proved that they were faithful prophets and true Believers themselves. Hardships prove our true spiritual nature. Do we profess Christ and stay with Christ in the face of hard things?
It purifies our faith.
Also, when we hopefully persevere in the face of pain and suffering and we will not let go of Christ our Redeemer, this exercises, purifies, and strengthens our faith in Him.
These things provide us the opportunity to walk by faith in God and not by sight.
It weans us from this world and sin.
Patiently enduing in the face of hardships and suffering weans us from the love of sin and from friendship with this fallen world; it prepares us for Glory.
It exercises our gifts.
It is part of patient endurance to pray for our enemies. Having enemies provides us the opportunity to exercise our spiritual gifts and thus builds our graces. Though our enemies do not intend for our good, spiritual, or otherwise. But God does.
Think of Christ on the cross. He endured it all, looking for His reward. And so, He prayed for His persecutors, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. (Lk.23:34-35)
This allows us to overcome evil with good. (Rom.12:17-21)
It brings us to Christ.
Beloved, just living in a fallen world can be so frustrating. Certainly, following Christ in an anti-Christ world can be so hard. Stay in God’s word. Pray constantly. Pray to obey God’s word. Be patient. Think often on Christ. Think of His return. Very soon you will be with Him.
- Define duty. How does duty differ from a choice or an option? How did Christ do His duty to His Father? Does God in the Bible require us to perform duties to God and Man? Describe. Is duty-doing popular among modern Christians? Why? Why not? (Gen.22:1-24, Jn.1:29, Gal.3:13, Jn.17:4, Jn.4:34, Jn.5:19-20, Lk.22:42, Exod.20:1-17, Mt.24:11-13, 2 Pt.3:3-4, I Tim.4:1, 2 Tim.3:1-13, WSC 3)
- What is the goal of obeying God and doing our duty to be patient in this life? How does being patient as a Believer help you to fulfill the subtitle of this study? (James 5:7-12, Phil.1:27, Col.1:10, Eph.4:1, WSC 1)
- Define biblical patience and endurance. Describe the nature of Christian patience with examples from Scripture. What lessons do we learn here? (Jer.15:15, Rom.2:4; 9:22, 2 Cor.6:6, Gal.5:22, Eph.4:2, Col.3:12, 1 Tim.1:16, 2 Tim.4:2, 1 Pt.3:20, 2 Pet. 3:15, James 1:3-4, Rom.12:12)
- How does grumbling reveal a lack of patience? How does grumbling reveal a lack of faith in God and love for God? How is grumbling a breaking of the tenth commandment? In the context of our passage how does taking an improper or unlawful oath reveal a lack of patience? (James 5:7-12, Exod.20:17, WLC 146-148, WCF 21.5 and WCF 22.1-7)
- Why do we as Believers in Christ need to have patience and endurance in this life? Hint: Where do we live? Among whom do we live? With what difficulties do we live? How does Scripture depict the Christian life? (James 1:1-4, Jn.15:18-27, Acts 14:22, Acts 5:40-43, 2 Tim.3:12, Rev.1:9, 7:14, Mt.10:16-21, Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10)
- Where do we get our ability to persevere and endure? What lessons do we learn by this? (James 5:7-121, I Cor.4:7, Rom.8:32, Gal.5:22-23, Heb.11:1-40)
- Why does meditating on Christ and the immanent return of Christ improve your patience and endurance in this life? Is Christ ‘near’? How? (James 5:7-12, Phil.1:6, 2 Thess.1:4-8, Dt.32:35, Rom.12:12, Heb.10:30, Rom.13:11-12, I Cor.1:8, 2 Cor.1:14, Phil.1:6-10, Phil.2:16, I Thess.5:2, 2 Thess.2:2, Heb.10:25, Mt.5:10-12, James 1:3, 12, Job 1, 2, Job 13:15, Job 14:14, Job 19:25-27)
- How is enduring all things for the sake of Christ contrary to the way the Natural Man thinks? What do we learn about God and Man by this? (Ps.73:1-28, Isa.55:8-9)
- What are some benefits or fruits of Christian patience? How does patience improve our faith and exercise our gifts? (James 1:1-4, Heb.6:12, Col.1:11-14, I Tim.1:16, 2 Tim.3:10-12, I Pt.2:20-21, Lk.23:34-35, Rom.12:17-21)
- How are patience and prayer related? What lessons do we learn by this? When will we no longer need patience? What lessons do we learn by this?