"Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time." (James 5:7-8)
James uses the word patience (or a variation of it) three times in these two verses. I'd say patience is pretty important, wouldn't you? And so many of us completely lack this fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We live in an impatient time. We rarely have to wait on anything. Have you noticed? I'm waiting on an important email? It's delivered immediately to my phone while I'm away from my house. I hear a song that I like on the radio? I can just download it instantly to my phone. I feel like having pizza? I place an order online and then walk in and pick it up. There is virtually no waiting for anything anymore. We are an impatient generation and the next one will likely be even more so.
But patience is vital to our faith. James says it in those verses. So how do we develop patience in a completely impatient world? That's a great question that I really can't answer on my own. Let's keep reading this passage and see if we can come up with any more answers:
"Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner." (James 5:9)
Hmm. What do our friends have to do with patience? Why is this verse here in the midst of a passage on patience? In praying about it, I think our friends are the key to practicing and building our patience. God has placed us in fellowship with other believers- and even several nonbelievers- for many reasons. It's my belief that developing patience within ourselves is one of those reasons. Think about it. Every single person was created in this world to look differently, act differently, sound differently, believe different things. Everyone possesses different personality traits and quirks. We have habits- good and bad.
We will never get along with another human being 100% of the time. Everyone disagrees on occasion. Some people actually enjoy disagreements and seek them out. How do we correct an issue with a friend? How do we resolve a conflict? One of the key ingredients is patience. Sure, there is empathy in there as we strive to understand the other person's point of view and compromise as you work to come to a happy conclusion, but one of the most important elements is patience. We can't approach a disagreement that we hope to resolve without possessing a good deal of patience for the other person. Impatience only leads to more anger and hostility. Patience helps to bring the level of anger down several notches. Patience says, "I want to hear what you have to say even if I have to wait to share my side."
My oldest son is the most patient person that I have ever met in my entire 35 years and counting. Honestly, he has the patience of...I don't know...someone with a lot of patience. Just trust me. He's very patient. He is rarely in a disagreement with anyone because he is so patient with everyone. In our house, there are little spats amongst three of our four kids constantly. They always want their own way and are always trying their hardest to get it. But not my oldest. He rarely tries to get his own way. He puts others first often. He is optimistic about their motives almost always. And he is so, so patient. When he plays a video game with "the baby," who is seven now so not an actual baby in any way, he patiently teaches him how to work the game, what the buttons do, what the best way to get through a level is, and he even lets him win sometimes. Patient. He doesn't care how long it takes for the baby to understand what he is saying and instructing. He just waits for him to get it. It's awesome.
Let's keep reading and see if we can glean anything else from James' words:
"Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail." (James 5:10-11)
And here's another way for us to learn to be patient: by studying those who came before us. James describes "the old prophets" here as great mentors who have put up with a ton, gone through everything under the sun, and persevered despite it all. And they did it all to the glory of God. We can still read about and study the lives of those "old prophets" by opening our Bibles. When James wrote this, the Bible was several books in the old testament. The new testament wasn't a thing yet. It was still being written in the form of letters to the various churches throughout the known world. So when James says to study under the old prophets, they are men from old testament times.
These verses may point to another group of people as well- our elders. People who are older than us have more life experience. It's just a fact. Finding someone who has lived on a similar path to yours and could give you their thoughts and experiences would be a great way to build up your skills, including your patience. So often I think we disregard the older generation as out of touch with current times and lacking in anything more to offer. They are full of knowledge and should continue to be valued until the Lord welcomes them home with the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Finally, James has an important warning for us to end this portion of his letter:
"And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you." (James 5:12)
God operates on his own timetable. He will not be rushed or challenged into moving quicker. You cannot force his hand or make things happen that he isn't prepared to see come to fruition. He is God and he is in charge. Pushing for something to happen rather than patiently waiting on God to do it will only lead to heartache.
When we bought our first house as a married couple, I wasn't in love with it. In fact, I didn't really like the place much at all. It was in the general area where I wanted to be but the layout was strange (our master bedroom was a walk-through to our oldest son's bedroom) and the yard was small. It was the best that we could afford at the time and my husband swore we would only be there five years. Mistake. Five years came and went. At seven years, I wanted to put the house on the market. Neither of us felt like God was leading us to go yet, but I wanted to go so we listed. And guess what? Our house didn't sell and we didn't find another place to move either. Total heartache. So we stayed five more years. In those years, I did my best to be patient and to remember that where we lived didn't matter. It was how we lived and what we did with what God had BLESSED us with that mattered. My focus shifted. And then, all of a sudden, we found a house we wanted and a buyer for the old place and we were moving! It happened so fast after we had waited so long!
My question for you is this: What has God placed in your life to teach you patience? Who has he placed with you to teach you patience? Now that you recognize these things and people as valuable resources in your life, what are you going to do differently?
As always, it is my prayer that these words somehow change your perspective in both an earthly way and an eternal way. May God bless you as you go forward today.