The book of James begins with an invitation. “Count in all joy”, it says. “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” We might wonder why we should encounter trials with joy. But James is quick to explain. Through trials, God is producing steadfastness in His children. It produces a kind of faith that is determined, resolute, and firm. Furthermore, this kind of faith will help us to endure unto the end.
One thing is apparent. God has promised us that all of us who are in Christ will suffer hardships and that these hardships are designed by God.
There is a great difference between those hardships that come to all human beings, and those that come specifically to believers.
For Christians, our suffering is seen as a trial sent by a loving and kind God to produce steadfastness in us. In other words, we know that God deliberately allows this into our lives, indeed, He designs our days of suffering. A loving and heavenly Father would only ordain this for us because He is preparing you for the best possible eternity. We should rest secure in knowing that it is His loving hand we are encountering in the midst of our trials.
But what is the long-term benefit that comes from our suffering? Sometimes we don’t see it. I have heard many Christians say, “What good can possibly come of this?” But, Paul would say, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
James 5:7-12 teaches us 4 attitudes that are necessary to be faithful to the end, to help us keep perspective, and to win the race set before us. Over the next 4 weeks, I want to examine all of them.
The first of these lessons is that we learn in our sufferings to be patient and expect the Lord to be faithful. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient.” (James 5:7-8a)
The Greek word means to remain tranquil. Don’t become upset.
Be calm in heart, in attitude, and in faith.
It is a passive virtue. Sometimes, there is nothing to do but simply to wait. That’s why James gives us the example of the farmer. One of the things the farmer has no control over are the rains that come. Those rains will control his crops, his income, his harvest, and his future. In Palestine, the early rains came in late autumn and the late rains came in early spring. You would plant your crops before the winter season and then wait until the spring rains to see if they would germinate.
James says that is the same attitude we should develop about the coming of the Lord. When that day comes, the day of suffering and unrighteousness will end.
And so, one of the things that suffering teaches us is that in our trials, we learn to develop a deep, inner longing. Awaiting the coming of our Lord is no longer an idle intellectual study. Rather it is born out of a passionate desire to see the fruition of the promises of God. Suffering produces that longing. And that’s one of the reasons we develop a faithfulness to the end.
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