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Be Patient and Persevering

James 5:7-12

by
Chris Herd

The book of James has been referred to in the past as a book of practical instruction.  This is an appropriate title for a book of the Bible as it deals with Christian living.  Peter in his second epistle refers to Scripture as, not being of private interpretation but rather the work of holy men who were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21-22).  Paul said to Timothy that all Scripture was All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Therefore, James provides vital information, which harmonizes beautifully with the entirety of God’s all inspired word.  As the words of God are revealed throughout this epistle, it will help to define the difference between a child of God and a child of Satan.  It will help equip the Christian to give him or her what is needed to successfully complete their journey and arrive safely upon Heaven's shore.  As James begins to end his epistle, he sees the importance to comment upon the Christians need to give all diligence to add patience as one of the characteristics which will dominate his life.  There exists a desperate need for more teaching and emphasis to be placed upon the vital subject of Christian endurance.  Right now is as relevant a time to teach on this topic as it was back then in the first century.  The topic at hand is the need for patient endurance during oppression.  This study will deal with both patience and swearing (James 5:7-12). 

Do you feel or have you ever felt like someone is out to get you?  That they are trying to take advantage of you?  That you are being oppressed?  What should you do when you are oppressed?  What should you not do?   In James chapter five, we find James giving instructions to those who appear to have been oppressed by the rich.  This is made evident in certain verses.  “ But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?” (James 2:6).  “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.” (James 5:4).  “Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”  (James 5:6).

Apparently the rich had been holding back their wages and they had been guilty of oppressing the righteous.  What were the oppressed Christians to do?  Thankfully we find within the contents of the epistle of James, certain principle qualities that will help to mould the Christians into vessels for their beloved Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t forget, oppression and persecution is a part of the Christian life, so we had better get used to handling it the right way.  As the word of God is living and vibrant, these principles are just as applicable today when others oppress us.  Those principals are firstly, don’t resist.  If we recall the earlier words of James dealing with those in his day  “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. “  And “Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” (James 5:4,6).  The attitude they possessed was even though they were treated unjustly, they did not resist.  The characteristic of not resisting is consistent with the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles.  Consider some other passages of Scripture that enforce this fact, (Luke 6:27-30, Romans 12:19-21, 1 Peter 2:18-23).

Admittedly, not resisting is often a difficult command, as it is contrary to human nature and wisdom.  Human nature moves one to react in "justifiable anger" and there is little thought of justice belonging to the Lord.  The application of human wisdom calls for "standing up for one's rights" and this means taking the necessary steps to retaliate those who try to oppose us.  However, not resisting is based upon two things.  Firstly we have awareness, a strong acknowledgement that the Lord is coming to judge; in fact He is standing at the door.  “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.  Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” (James 5:8-9)

So we have an acknowledgement that the Lord will come and judge and secondly we have a “willingness” to allow Him to be our avenger and vindicator (Luke 18:7-8).  It is not easy to keep one's self from resisting, and to wait for the Lord to take care of it.  That is why James addresses the next principle.

The epistle of James calls us to be patient.  There are two words found in this epistle that deal with patience.  First of all (James 1:3) the word is "hupomone", which means to bear up under trials.  Which normally means to be patient in reference to things or circumstances.  However in (James 5:7-8,10) the word used for patience is "makrothumia".  This means to suffer long.  It normally means to be patient in reference to people and in this case, those who oppress you.  Thayer’s Greek N.T. Lexicon renders this word;  “To be patient in bearing the offences and injuries of others; to be mild and slow in avenging; to be long-suffering, slow to anger, slow to punish”, As you can see the thought links itself naturally with that in the preceding verse (James 5:6) " and he doth not resist you".  Within the epistle, three examples are given to encourage us to be patient. 

1.  The FARMER
James 5:7 " Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."

2. The PROPHETS:
James 5:10 “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”

3. JOB:
James 5:11 “ Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

Each of these examples are perfect and teach us the need to place our trust in the hands of an all powerful God.  He will reward us “if” we trust Him at His word.  We need to be stable, hard working until that time in our service to Him.  But such patience or long-suffering is not easily acquired.  Therefore, we also have a need to apply the third principle in this passage.

James calls his readers to “stablish your hearts” (James 5:8). Here we have the word stablish or establish in reference to the heart of the believers.  The word, establish means "to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix" (Thayer’s).  This word is translated as "strengthen" in other places.  To establish one's heart involves strengthening our heart in a certain way.  Here, it means to strengthen our heart so as to be patient and not resist the evil being done.  The key to establishing our hearts is none other than the Word of God.  “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” (2 Peter 1:12).  It is through constant and careful study of God's Word that our faith in God and His eventual justice is made stronger.  Patience and strength to not resist is developed only in this manner.  If you are not practicing this basic principal then you cannot expect to grow in this much needed quality.  “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4).

The key to establishing our hearts is none other than full submission to, and Total submersion in the all inspired Word of God.  With hearts rooted and established in God's Word, we are more likely to act as we should, that is displaying the needed patience when oppressed.  But there are some things we face in this life will prove to be unjust.  When we are faced with such treatment, we might just find that we do certain things that we should not.  This can be caused by the pressure that we feel when are under stress due to unjust oppression.  James goes on to mention two things that we are to avoid.   The first, of which James draws our attention, is something that we need to keep close to our hearts. 

James 5:9 “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.”

The word grudge comes with the understanding of grumbling.  It is to grumble or sigh, to murmur, with grief to groan.  I have heard it said “we all need a good whinge every now and then”.  Hopefully a Christian did not suggest this saying.  We are told that when we suffer, we should bear it patiently, which suggests a waiting attitude, trusting that the Lord will deliver us as our faithful Creator.  “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”  (1 Peter 2:20).  “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:19).  Sadly, when others oppress us, we are likely to vent our frustrations as those closest and dearest to us.  A man under stress and oppression from others perhaps encounters a bad day at work might come home and takes it out on his wife and family.  In a similar fashion, brethren are likely to direct their frustration towards each other when being oppressed from outside.  To be this way would take away from the essential nature of the body of Christ, which is to be conformed after it’s Head, Jesus Christ Himself.  “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”  (1 Peter 2:21-23). Besides the fact that we need not grumble so that we can be like our saviour, we have another good reason not to, “lest ye be condemned”, (James 5:9).  The sin of grumbling is a serious one and even though we are oppressed and even though we suffer for unjust reasons, we must refrain from grumbling.  “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:5-11).  Looking back in history we see that the same God who judges those who are oppressing others, also destroyed those who murmured or grumbled.  Grumbling is a sin, so don't let the oppression of others cause us to be condemned by our mistreatment of our brethren.

Finally we have a strong warning from James regarding swearing or making oaths. 

James 5:12 “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”

According to James, this is also something that we tend to do when we are oppressed or facing trouble.  To swear can also be explained as to make rash promises, promises which God will hold us to even if we are not serious.  “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). 

As James mentions in this passage “let your yea be yea”, be people of your word.  This charge not to swear relates to the use of frivolous oaths.  In Jesus day, many of the Jews were known to swear in this fashion.  They made a distinction between oaths using God's name and other oaths (those using His name were considered binding, while the others were not).  Both Jesus and James condemn this distinction between different kinds of oaths.  “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37).  “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth  the gold?  And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?  Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.  And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.” (Matthew 23:16-22).

The solution is to refrain from oaths altogether, and stand by your word.  Honest and truthful people need no more than a simple “yes” or “no” to convey the truth to others.  The best guarantee of any statement is not an oath, but the good character of the man who makes it!  As Christians, no one should ever think of demanding an oath from us because they would be certain that we always tell the truth!  The New Testament view is that every word is spoken in God's presence and should therefore be true.

CONCLUSION

Surely patience and profane swearing are subjects which deserve our serious meditation,  otherwise they would have received no mention in Scriptures.  The Psalmist valued patience and understood the benefits thereof when he stated: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3). 

Therefore, remember, when we are being oppressed don't resist, be patient, establish your hearts, don't grumble and don't swear.  Because when we react this way to oppression, we follow the example of Jesus Christ and the early disciples.  Who committed themselves to God who judges righteously.  Let us write upon our hearts and practice in our lives the psalm;  “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10).  James when dealing with the afflicted encouraged patience combined with prayer and praise.  The combination is a formula that will never fail to bring comfort to those who wait upon the Lord. 

P  =    Prayer
A  =    And
T  =    Trust
I    =    In
E  =    Everything
N  =    Nearby
C  =   Christ
E  =   Empowers

Hebrews 10:36   “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

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