Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (James 5:8)
Today we conclude our congregational reading in the epistle of James. You will notice in the beginning of chapter 5, James gives one of the most scathing rebukes of the sins of the rich that can be found in scripture. While the Bible never says it is a sin to be rich, it does give strict warnings about the deceitfulness of riches and what God expects as stewardship of the resources He has given. Most of us in our congregation will never have to concern ourselves with the temptation to horde riches. It is a challenge for many of you to meet your normal everyday household needs. We find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum fretting about making the house payment or the rent for next month. For many Christians, this seems to be upside down. Why do God’s people have to suffer trying to make ends meet when there are unbelievers that are so rich they can’t figure out what to do with all of their money? There are some churches that have developed an entire theology to answer this question. Their conclusion is that Christians that suffer with financial problems and with health problems are living short of God’s intention for them. They suffer because they lack the faith to claim all of God’s promises.
This is where our featured verse brings such comfort. Those that are not wealthy ought not to think that God will right this perceived wrong during our sojourn in this life. James reminds his readers of the holy prophets that suffered affliction (v.10) and patiently endured it. Could we say the prophets suffered because their faith was lacking? He also reminds them of Job (v. 11) who is the Bible’s classic example of patient endurance. Job certainly did not suffer because of lack of faith. It was his great faith that caused God to allow Satan to test him to prove that he would never turn his back on God despite the harshest of circumstances. In the end, Job received the reward of endurance which was more than what he gave up at the beginning.
The point made by James in this example is not that Job received his riches in this life, which he did, but rather there is always faithfulness by God in respect to the reward. Many of the Christians James wrote to would never see riches in the present life because they were slaves. Were they to conclude as modern preaching says that their lack of faith was the cause? This is wild and crazy theology—even demonic theology that arrives at such erroneous conclusions.
So, when is the Christian living in hardships to expect relief? It comes when we meet Christ. Those that live in light of the return of Christ or in the hope of their immediate presence with Christ at death realize they have eternal life in the present. They are going through such a minute period of time in this life that it does not register on the scale of eternity. The hurts of this life are no more than a scab that will be healed and quickly cast aside. If we truly believe in the reward that is coming, we will endure until we reach it.
Another example James gives of this patient endurance is in verse 7. The farmer toils in the field plowing and planting. It is a necessary part of receiving the harvest. The harvest will come but he cannot rush it. At the same time, he is confident the hard work will have a happy result. I don’t think we have any farmers in the church, so think of it another way. How much hard work and schooling does a professional endure before he becomes established and successful? The hardships are first and then the reward. James is simply saying this life is the hardship; it is the proving ground, and then the payoff of faith in Christ will be ours in the eternal home of heaven.
So, be patient. Hold on a little longer and establish your heart in the faith because Jesus is coming!
Pastor V. Mark Smith