Be Patient and Do Not Complain
The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
Intro. - We live in a day where great stress is placed on enjoying life and getting all you can as soon as you can. It is also a day of instant results. We expect things to happen quickly. We are told that we deserve to enjoy life. As a result we find it difficult to be patient when things are not going well.
James now addresses believers on the importance of patience in the face of difficulties. In 5:1-6 he gave a strong message of judgment to those who had given themselves to the pursuit of riches and self-centered living.
They had given themselves over to the amassing of riches on the brink of the return of the Lord. These riches had been acquired by the abuse of others (v. 6; cf. 2:6).
The believers, to whom James wrote, had evidently suffered in this way. Some of this may have been similar to the persecution that Saul led in Acts 8:1-3.
In the face of pressure and persecution, believers need to remember to be patient and fix their hope on the coming of the Lord.
Be patient (makrothumesate) literally means "long-tempered," and is the opposite of "short-tempered." It denotes an attitude of self-restraint which keeps a person from a hasty retaliation.
Patience is a characteristic of God in His dealing with sinful humanity (2 Pet. 3:9) and is to characterize us even when we are being treated unfairly (cf. 1 Pet. 2:20).
until the coming of the Lord - The focal point and goal of the believer is the return of Christ. We sometimes think we have been patient long enough, but we will know when the wait is over - we will be with Christ!
The word for the coming of the Lord (parousia) is used many times in the New Testament for the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:l; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4; 1 John 2:28).
The farmer is used as an example of one whose patience is rewarded at the proper time. In Palestine the autumn rains were necessary for the sowing of the seed, and the spring rains were essential for the maturing of the crop.
The farmer had to wait patiently through this period so that he could experience the blessing of the harvest. It was then that his patience was rewarded.
strengthen your hearts - This phrase calls Christians to be firmly established in their hearts. Instead of being shaken and confused because of the difficulties they are experiencing, they are to have a settled firmness within.
The reason they are to have this inner strength and firmness is because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Living our lives in the expectation of the imminent return of Christ will bring stability in the face of trials.
Christ commanded His followers to live with an alert expectation concerning His coming (Mark 13:32-37). Other New Testament writers encouraged this same kind of expectancy (cf. Phil. 4:5; 1 Pet. 4:7; 1 John 2:18).
The failure to keep the imminency of the Lord's return before us results in discouragement and worldly living (1 Thess. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:11; 1 John 3:3).
The word complain (stenazete) emphasizes the inner feeling of dissatisfaction or bitterness that may be expressed as grumbling or complaining against others.
against one another - Other believers become the object of our discontent, even when our problems are not their fault.
This complaining renders us guilty of disobedience and subject to judgment. The nearness of the coming Christ as the Judge should keep us from such activity (2 Cor. 5:10).
The emphasis on the fact that the prophets spoke in the name of the Lord reminds us of the exalted privilege they had. They were God's spokesmen, yet their ministry was carried out in the context of suffering. If they had not been patient in their suffering, they would not have been able to be used by God as they were.
There are frequent references to the sufferings of the prophets in the New Testament (cf. Matt. 5:12; 21:35,36; 22:6; 23:29-37; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51,52; Rom. 11:3; 1 Thess. 2:15; Heb. 11:32-38).
It is easy to lose sight of the fact that our greatest ministries are often carried out in the face of the greatest difficulties. We become so absorbed in the trial and in wanting God to remove us from the difficulty that we sacrifice the greatest opportunity for ministry.
Job is offered as an example of endurance and of the benefit of waiting on God. We have the opportunity of seeing Job's life from the beginning of his trials until God intervened in blessing.
Job's life demonstrates that God is full of compassion and is merciful. And yet, these are the very qualities of God that we begin to question and doubt when the suffering continues.
This brings us back to where James started in verse 7. We must be patient until the coming of the Lord. That is when we shall receive all the blessings that He has promised to those who are faithful to Him.
Swindoll offers four lessons from this section:
The focal point of our lives as God's children must be on the coming of Christ. We must live expecting and anticipating His return at any time. If we do not live with this hope, we will be crushed and discouraged by the trials that come upon us.
The trials and the difficulties become opportunities for us to demonstrate patience and endurance as faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.