“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7–8
“Therefore be patient…”. As James begins the conclusion of his letter he adds this exhortation, but he could have just as easily stated it as a prohibition, “Therefore do not be impatient.”
If we were to be impatient who would we be impatient with? It appears from the verses following James exhortation that one individual we could become impatient with is God, and the reason for our impatience is his failure to return as soon as we expect him to.
Preparedness for the return of Christ, according to James, requires both patience and expectation. We believe that Jesus is coming soon, that his return is at hand, and hold on to that expectation through a life time of delay. This has been the experience of every believer since the time of James which makes his admonition all the more appropriate. Like the first century believers, James was writing to, we in the twenty first century need to hold onto our faith and belief in God’s promise in spite of the the fact that our definition of “soon” isn’t the same as his.
But God isn’t the only one we need to be patient with. As he continues James does exchange his exhortation with a prohibition, “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.” It appears that even in James’ day patience was required in dealing with fellow believers.
It’s been said that life in the church would be much easier if it weren’t for all the messed up people. Relationships in the church are just like relationships in any family group, sometimes wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking. But friends, don’t be too quick to grumble and complain. It may be that the Lord’s decision to delay his returning has everything to do with our impatience with each other and the attendant grumbling and faithlessness. Too much we focus on the dysfunctions of our brothers and sisters, acting as if it were a surprise that they were as messed up as recovering sinners ought to be expected to be, when when ought to be focusing on cooperating with the work that God is trying to accomplish in our own lives.
Friends be patient with each other and be patient with God. We’re all a mess but God’s perfect plan still calls for him to enlist us in being his agents in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. Grumbling and complaining about each other”s shortcomings will only add to the difficulties. Be patient. Jesus is coming soon, which means that soon he will accomplish his greatest work and transform this group of delinquents we call the church into the unadulterated body of Christ and his work will then be complete.
Our impatience will never help to bring this to pass. Be patient.