The Patience of James

“The Patience of James.”
--from November 26th  --
Days 3-5 written by Pat and Liz Neuschwanger

Day 1

Read James 5:7-12

Be patient. The work and reward of life is not meant to be immediate.  Life is a really long game when you are looking forward into it, but it seems so short when you are looking back on it.  So as I am looking forward at life and making plans, I can get impatient because of all of the ideas, dreams, and hopes I can have.  But as I am looking back at it, I can grow inpatient as I look back on what I could have done or should have done.  That is my best attempt at thinking through the idea of patience and why we struggle with it.  

Have you ever been in one of those types of situations where you can be patient, but you just need to know how long for?  If you had a time scale, I could judge the ability of my patience and how long I had to be whatever that looked like.  James doesn’t really offer much help here with the simple answer of “until the coming of the Lord.”  Which, if you don’t know, we do not get a timeline on.  That brings me back to my original struggle with patience…how much time is there to be patient?  Why do we ask that?  Because I am struggling if it will be worth that much waiting and struggle.  

And there is where we land at the end of James’ whole point.  It will be worth it.  It will be worth how much?  Whatever it is that you endure, it will be worth it.  That’s the glorious promise of the word of God!

Where specifically do you struggle to be patient in your life?

How does this passage in James help you at the current stage in life you are in?

Who is someone around you that you would encourage with this passage and how would you apply it to their life?

How does this become your prayer today?

Day 2

Read Hebrews 11:17-12:2

The reason we are here, after this sermon on James 5, is because this is part of what James is referencing. I was always taught growing up that the Bible is a big book with a lot of stuff in it, and unless you are a scholar or going for a doctorate in college, your best strategy for studying the Bible is to aim at the New Testament.  It is all of the post-Jesus stuff and that applies more than the other.  So button down and have a bit of back-of-the-head knowledge about that Old Testament, but really focus on the more relevant New Testament. 

If you have been around Keystone for any amount of time, you surely know that I think all of that is just pure stupidity.  James did too.  He referenced the prophets as examples of suffering and even patience that we should pay attention to.  He even talked about that famous guy of patience, Job.  Those stories are not just stories.  They are key helpful tools for giving us understanding and perspective right now.  

Which of the stories referenced in today’s reading helps you in the situation you are currently in?

How has the Old Testament shaped your ideas about faith and steadfastness?

How would you explain what Hebrews 12:2 means to someone that is new to church and the BIble?

How does this all fit into your prayers for today?

Day 3

Read James 5:7, 1 Thess 5:14, Galatians 6:9
Devotion theme:  We’ll need to be patient.
James calls out a farmer as an example of patience.  That patience is born out of knowledge of a process (planting, nurturing, waiting, harvest), a process that has likely been passed from generation to generation.  But during the nurturing and waiting phases of the process, exercising patience (at times) is not easy.  Even secular society, though, has realized its importance and reinforces such via scores of applications and expressions like, “Don’t give up!”, “Don’t quit!”, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”, and there are countless more examples. 
But both James and Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 specifically call out patience toward others.  Hmmm…  This makes things a bit harder.  Exercising patience with people is different and (I’d suggest) a bit more difficult than waiting on the seasons, as the farmer must do (I’m not AT ALL minimizing anything that farmers must work through.  I grew up in “farm country” and have the utmost respect for families who, for generations, have provided not only for themselves, but for the rest of us.).  Similarly, in Galatians (6:9, NKJV), the Word suggests to “…not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
In self-evaluation, and even better, with your spouse, accountability partner, or other brother or sister in Christ, ask yourself where in life your patience needs work?
Why not try making that area your prayer/study topic and ask God for ideas/thoughts to make progress?

Day 4

Read James 5:7-8, Philippians 2:14, John 16:33, Job 42 (the whole chapter as you choose to take the time…)
Devotion theme:  Keep going.
It has been helpful to me to refresh myself on the context of the book of James and his target audience.  James is writing to the believers who have been dispersed due to struggles of various types, possibly the martyrdom of Stephen (stoned to death due to his belief) or persecutions at the hands of Herod Agrippa.  Imagine the state of mind of this population of Christians.  Can you imagine how you’d feel if you had either witnessed or heard of a fellow believer being stoned to death for his beliefs (the same beliefs that you have taken to heart)?  Or if you had to take your family and flee from the king’s soldiers who were capturing, imprisoning, and torturing your fellow believers for the same reason.

A reminder of what they believe in and what God has in store when he returns is James’ message to the church.  And further, this message is coming from the brother of Jesus.  Other than Christ Himself, there were not many of similar credibility.  James says in chapter 5 verse 8, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  My study Bible describes this phrase as “a call for resolute, firm courage and commitment.”  So keep going.  Be strong and resilient in your faith.  We have no idea what God’s timing for His triumphant return.  But if we’re taking steps to build our faith through regularly studying God’s Word, memorizing scripture (so we’ll have it in our hearts during the most trying moments), and meditating on it, we’ll find comfort and confidence in whatever God’s timing is.

Is there a change in your regular routine that might help you “establish your heart…”?

How can you pray for yourself and others through this theme today?

Day 5

Read James 5:8-9, Phil 2:14, Heb 6:13-15 (and further study to Genesis 15-21 of Abraham’s patience)
Devotion theme:  Be patient with others.
The situation that the church was in as James wrote his message bears revisiting again.  Try to put yourself in the situation as a member of the church at that time.  Having to literally run for your life is a situation that, thankfully, most of us will likely never have to experience.  But being there would create some pretty extreme circumstances (thoughts/feelings/etc.).  To attempt to draw a parallel to our own situations, periods of extreme stress, uncertainty, personal or family health struggles, etc. might be in the same ballpark.  The natural tendency during times like these could be to be “short”, terse or even nasty to those closest to us.  James takes it a step further, however, as he makes reference to Christ, the Judge, “…standing at the door”.  The suggestion is to guard our behavior and conduct because we know that Christ’s return is imminent, but still uncertain as to the timing.
We, in the current day, are blessed with such abundance (freedom, societal “norms” that protect and guide us, food/water/shelter) that is readily available to us that we can easily take what we have for granted.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, probably more than we’d care to admit, if we’re honest with ourselves.  This mindset can lead to loss of humility and thankfulness, resulting in becoming short with family, friends, coworkers, etc.  James reminds us NOT to succumb to the pressure of whatever our current situation is, be reminded that the Judge (Christ) is coming soon, and have patience with our fellow man.
Is there a situation in your life/marriage/family/work where you’ve “grumbled against” another close to you?  Do you need to seek that person out and ask forgiveness?
If you were reminded that Jesus was personally observing every moment of your day today, would you approach the day, and those who are part of it, differently?  Would you take time to make this part of your prayer today?

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