By Josh Winslett
At the close of his epistle, James gives a final exhortation for patience with these words, “Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7a). This is written to persecuted believers who needed encouragement in tribulation (James 1:1-3). It is hard for us to think about having to wait for anything, let alone deliverance from intense persecution. Our society has resources to address most needs at any given time. Yet, like these first-century believers, there are times when there is no immediate deliverance. This leaves us feeling trapped, longing for salvation. It is to people in these circumstances that James writes.
James reminds them that their experience, and history in general, is no different than seasonal farming, “the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receives the early and latter rain” (James 5:7b). In Israel, there were two main periods of rain. There was an early rain around October that prepared the ground for the initial planting and growth. The second rain came around March. Without the second rain, the crop would not mature for harvesting. Likewise, as applied to waiting believers who have experienced the early rain of being saved by Jesus Christ now look for the latter rain of his second coming.
This analogy is directly followed with the command to set our hearts, or affections, on Jesus Christ (James 5:8). The only way to not get discouraged at present circumstances is to focus your attention on your Savior. In other words, your outlook is only as good as your up-look. Looking up also helps eliminate anger over present situations because we know that Christ’s return is closer every passing moment (James 5:9).
James closes this exhortation with two examples of those who endured suffering, the prophets and Job. The persecuted prophets of the Old Testament make sense to us. They were persecuted for following God. However, the second example is troubling to us and resonates well with our own experience. Job was a good man and suffered great loss. He did not understand why he was suffering. Likewise, we generally have no idea why we may be suffering. With Job, we cry out to God with the begging question, “Why?”
In God’s infinite wisdom, he did not give Job an answer to every question. God answers Job, and us, in an unexpected way. He answers our question of “why” with a “who.” God directs our attention not to the reason for our trials, instead, he directs our faith to Jesus Christ. We may never know the ultimate reason for our suffering. However, if you have experienced the early rain of salvation in Jesus Christ then you will also experience the latter rain of everlasting rest. If nothing else, our present affliction will make us long for our final deliverance with greater joy and fervency (2 Corinthians 4:7).