James returns to a theme with which he opened his book – dealing with trials and suffering. In Chapter 1:2 he tells us to “consider it all joy when you encounter trials of various kinds.” The reason he gives for receiving difficulty and suffering positively is that they will produce endurance that will build maturity. They are good for us since they shape character. Here in Chapter 5, he gives us another key ingredient to help us to be patient amidst trials, suffering and injustices. The additional reason and motivation for patent endurance in hardship is the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.
We have all heard the criticism of Christians that they are “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” So how does James’ call to be focused on the impending coming of Jesus produce in us a “faith that matters?” James is out to convince us that being heavenly minded will produce a faith that results in patience and perspective that will help us not only endure difficulty but will produce a life that will draw others attention to the most certain and encouraging reality of all – that Jesus is coming back soon. When He does, everything will be made right, justice will be restored, sickness and death ended, and all the conflicts in our relationships that are so prevalent will be brought to a place of peace and harmony.
Clarity on what Jesus has accomplished for us and what our experience will be when He returns has an immediate effect on how we think about the things we are dealing with and how we respond to them emotionally. If we expect, as James puts it, that “He is standing at the door,” we will be fortified by that reality and show more endurance and steadiness. So James calls us to “be patient” – not a passive response to “take” what we are given in life, but an active engagement of our hearts and minds in fixing our attention on what will take place when Jesus returns.
God has given us resources to help us focus our hearts and minds on the eternal, glorious life that awaits us on the other side of Jesus’ coming. His Word encourages us to fix our eyes on our sure destiny which gives powerful hope (Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-5: 10; Colossians 3:1-11; Hebrews 12:1-3). He has given us a community of faith to encourage and strengthen each other when we may be flagging in our endurance (Hebrews 10:23-25). Use these passages to spark your mind to wait for the newness of life that Jesus brings. Because we know this new life is our sure destiny, we can begin to see it become real today in the difficulties we face. Our faith in the new life Jesus brings when He returns “matters” in experiencing the new life to come today.
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.