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Patience in Suffering November 1, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on James 5:7-12.

Summary: James begins by exhorting his readers – in light of the preceding passage – to be long-suffering until the next manifestation of God’s judgment. To encourage them in this regard, he cites the example of the farmer, who waits for:

  • the land to yield its fruit – through hard labor
  • the rains that fall a little before sowing
  • the rains that fall a little before the fruit ripens.

Thus, they should be immovable in the faith and hope of Christianity, since the next manifestation of God’s judgment is at hand. Also, they should not injure each other over the topic of circumcision – or God will punish them; His judgment is at hand for those who injure each other in this regard.

James then exhorts his readers to imitate the prophets who were authorized to speak to the people in God’s place, since they endured their afflictions. Indeed, those who show fortitude in misery are declared to be happy by the whole Christian church; for example, Job showed fortitude in his misery, and God produced a happy outcome for him. The story of Job demonstrates that God overflows in His pity and pardon for the sins of believers.

James concludes by emphasizing the importance of not taking an oath by a creature; their affirmations and negations should be firmly grounded in simple truth – lest God judge them.

Thoughts: In this passage, James exhorts his readers to be patient in the midst of their afflictions. Manton offers some interesting thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 11:

We would never have heard of Job if he had not been brought so low. Affliction makes saints eminent; Job’s poverty made him rich in honor and esteem. Stars shine only in the night; the lower we are made by providence, the greater we are made. God’s children never gain so much honor as in their troubles. Many people whose names now breathe out a fresh perfume in the churches would have lived and died obscurely, with their bones thrown into some unknown charnel, undistinguished from other relics of mortality, if God had not drawn them to public notice by their eminent sufferings.

While I assert that a believer does not need to be afflicted in order to gain great renown, God can certainly use afflictions to bring believers great renown. For example, as a believer in a First World country, I am acutely aware of the struggles of believers in Third World countries – especially when they face persecution for their faith. I have heard of believers who lost their possessions – and even their lives – for their faith. Now Manton’s point also raises the following questions: how many believers throughout history will live and die “obscurely?” Will I live and die in obscurity as a believer? Will those believers who endure great afflictions in this life be granted a higher place in heaven as a reward for their faithfulness? Regarding my third question…I assume that most of these afflicted believers do not seek out troubles that will earn them greater honor in the next life, as troubles are painful. Yet when believers remain patient in the midst of great afflictions, it would seem that God should reward them for their faithfulness. I suppose that I will have to wait until the next life to see if my hypothesis is correct.

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