Meditations for Troubled Times
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, 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.” (James 5:7-11)
Earlier in chapter 1 of his letter, James instructs us about enduring patience. He then continues in chapter 5 to exhort us about both the enduring and the waiting aspects of patience through three examples: the farmer, the prophets and Job.
What do farmers do? They plant and till, but as Jesus tells us, the sower of the seed after doing his work goes to sleep and eventually there is some growth. First the blade, then the head, then the full grain. (See Mark 4:26-29.) Paul reiterates this in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Consider the prophet Jeremiah. His sufferings directly resulted from the message God commanded him to deliver (Jeremiah 11-12). “Your relatives, members of your own family even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you.” (Jeremiah 12:6)
Consider Job’s wife and her beratement of his patient resistance to sin with his lips. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Job exemplifies for us the exhortation in James 5:8 to establish our heart and stand firm until Christ returns regardless of persecution and suffering.
Sometimes our families exert pressure that conflict with our desire to serve God and the hope we have for his Kingdom. Remember the brief conversation Jesus had with his brothers in John 7? They were pressuring him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles to perform more miracles so He could make a name for himself (or probably themselves.) Jesus answered, “My full time has not come” (7:8). Later on Jesus appeared in the middle of the feast and taught in the temple. The Jews sought to grab him, but we are told His time was not at hand; therefore, they were unable to follow through with their evil plan (John 7:30). In Matthew 26:18, Jesus tells the disciple His time is at hand.
Do we know the outcome of the future? Can we make things change for our good? We are warned in Galatians 5:19-20 to avoid works of the flesh, such as sorcery, rages, jealousy, rivalries. These sins are in direct opposition to godly patience. These works of the flesh are actions that are bent on making us control our circumstance and become a god to ourselves. They are not Kingdom-oriented but me-oriented.
Is your family making it hard for you to be patient in following the Lord? Is it possible you have grown weary in your love for your family? Remember we are to love our spouse and children, love our neighbors, even love our enemies.
Paul challenges the spouse who has an unbelieving spouse: “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16)
Peter gives this imperative: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (I Peter 3:1-2)
There is hope. Jesus’ brother James is a testimony to the harvest God can produce in families. Acts 1:14 says, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Or the testimony of the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:34: “And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
Do you sing and pray this for your family?
O give us homes built firm upon the Savior,
Where Christ is Head, and Counsellor and Guide;
Where ev'ry child is taught His love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho' his footsteps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!