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Patience In Suffering [5-28-23]


May 28, 2023

James 5:7-11

“Patience in Suffering {Slight Return}”


Have you ever found happiness in the midst of sorrow?


Let’s return to the question of how to face trials patiently. Here’s James 5:7-11 once again:

Be patient, therefore, my friends, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience… take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the

Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.


Let’s turn our attention first to Job. I love Job. It is one of my favorite Old Testament books. When I was in college, I took a class on theodicy, which attempts to understand the existence of evil in light of the love and goodness of God. The focus of the course was the Book of Job. This was the semester after my mother had died following a seven-year battle with cancer. Job answered a lot of questions for my young, heartbroken mind.


I love how James so effortlessly connects this section with Job. He knows the story. His audience knows the story. They know how substantial Job is when considering suffering.


Job was well acquainted with suffering. As he says in 5:6-7:

For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

What he means is that, just as surely as sparks off a fire go up, not down,

so we will have trouble. It’s ridiculously naïve to think otherwise. As Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:32-33, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Encouraging the Christians in Galatia, Paul affirmed that, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” {Acts 14:22} Joy and sorrow – life is a package deal.


James 5:7-11 instructs us to be patient in suffering. Two weeks ago we called it perseverance. That’s how you can find happiness in the midst of sorrow. Life lobs suffering and persecution at us. Sometimes we see it coming, sometimes we don’t. Regardless of the reason - that’s what’s behind the lament, “Why me? Why now?” – James says to be patient. To persevere through our suffering. Whatever the trial…whatever the persecution…we must be patient.


In 1914, Ernest Shackleton led a crew of twenty-two aboard the ship Endurance for a Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It was a harrowing journey. The ship was lost. The men were stranded. They covered ice and land no one else had ever set foot on. After two years, they were rescued. Not a single man was lost. On a side note, it’s telling that, 100 years later, college students need safe spaces on campus to protect themselves from words or ideas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the greatest character quality young people need to have passed on to them is grit.


Anyway, here’s a description from Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It describes the situation of the boat six of them set off on to get help for the rest of the stranded crew:

“Here was a patched and battered 22-foot boat, daring to sail alone across the world’s most tempestuous sea, her rigging festooned with a threadbare collection of clothing and half-rotten sleeping bags. Her crew consisted of six men whose faces were black with caked soot and half-hidden by matted beards, whose bodies were dead white from constant soaking in salt water. In addition, their faces, and particularly their fingers were marked with ugly round patches of missing skin where frostbites had eaten into their flesh. Their legs from the knee down were chafed and raw from the countless punishing trips crawling across the rocks in the bottom. And all of them were afflicted with salt water boils on their wrists, ankles, and buttocks. But had someone unexpectedly come upon this bizarre scene, undoubtedly the most striking thing would have been the attitude of the men…relaxed, even faintly jovial - almost as if they were on an outing of some sort.”

  • Page 299


Many of these men were not devout Christians. And that’s not even the point. The point is, how much more should devoted followers of Jesus Christ persevere under trial, trauma, and tumult. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

That is a beautiful outlook. That is a beautiful attitude. That is a beautiful

promise. Whatever affliction we endure here pales in light of the glory

which awaits us in the future. Amen?


In fact, James mentions this truth several times in his letter. He talks about having stable hearts. He talks about having stable minds. He talks about having a settled heart…a resolute heart…a committed heart. Time and time again, he says stand firm in the promise that Jesus is coming, and be patient. It won’t always be like this.


One way or another, whether Jesus returns or whether we die, we will see Jesus. Our trials and troubles will not have the last word. “Be patient, until the coming of the Lord.” Here’s something we can say together:

“IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS.”


Look at it this way. Whatever you endure in this life, don’t focus and obsess on it. Look to the day when you will see Jesus:

  • 1 John 3:3 – “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

  • 2 Peter 3:11-13 – “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”


Here’s a helpful mind exercise to practice. When you struggle with trial or trouble, worry or anxiety, consider the five-year rule. Will it matter five years from now? Build persevering patience into your life. How are you going to be patient in your trials?


Again, as James reminds us, consider Job. Satan went after Job. He was destroyed in every way possible. He lost everything he had…family, health, livelihood. Through it all, Job never wavered. He endured. He complained once or twice; he was only human. But he rebuffed the stupid and unfaithful advice of his friends and wife. She told him to curse God and die. Yet Job held fast. He said, though God slay me, yet will I trust Him. We sing a wonderful praise song with a line from Job. “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”


Job endured. He cried out to God in confusion. Still he endured. He listened to his friend’s garbage advice. Still he endured. Through it all, Job did not sin with his lips. In other words, Job did not charge God with wrongdoing. He stayed true to God. Job endured. Listen to this great affirmation from Job 19:25-27:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

We persevere.


Finally, we persevere because God has deep and abiding compassion. Deep and abiding compassion.

At the end of verse eleven, James says God is compassionate and merciful. The Greek word translated, compassionate, is another one of those compound words, “polysplanchnos.” You recognize the first part, “poly.” It means many. The second word, “splanchnos,” means “bowels.” Figuratively speaking, God is “many-boweled.”


Ancient people spoke of the bowels or the stomach as the seat of feeling. We have more feeling in the gut or the bowels than in the heart. We say we have a gut feeling about something. We get butterflies in the stomach. We say we’re all knotted up inside. To say the Lord is “polysplanchnos” {a word coined by James} is to say God cares deeply about us. We can be confident that God will bear our burdens. He will see us through. God will grant us victory over trial and tribulation.


Here's something you might want to write down:

WHEN WE ARE IN CHRIST, ALL IS WELL, ALL THE TIME.


Let’s Pray:

LORD, IT’S SUCH JOY TO LEARN YOUR GLORIOUS TRUTH. KEEP

US PATIENT IN TRIALS, BIG AND SMALL. GIVE US ENDURANCE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE. HELP US TO PERSEVERE IN A WAY WHICH BRINGS GLORY TO YOUR NAME. WE KEEP OUR EYES ON THE ETERNAL GLORY WHICH AWAITS US. IN THE POWER OF THE BROKEN BODY AND SHED BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, WE PRAY. AMEN.

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