What to Do in the Meantime | James 5:7-11

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  • What to Do in the Meantime | James 5:7-11
  • The headline read: “Sick of Waiting, Patient Sues Doctor.” Ken Fleckenstein arrived on time for an appointment with his podiatrist, Dr. Robert Taylor. He was forced to sit in a waiting room for 87 minutes. On his next visit, Taylor made Fleckenstein wait 51 minutes. The self-employed handyman claimed the wait cost him time, money, and customers. So he sent his podiatrist a $92 invoice. When Taylor refused to pay, Fleckenstein sued for time wasted and $1,755 in attorney’s fees. In court, Taylor admitted to double booking, sometimes triple booking patients. But he claimed emergencies took priority. The doctor also gave Fleckenstein a verbal and written apology. The jury sided with the doctor. But Fleckenstein maintained he should have been informed the doctor was running late. 

    Fleckenstein’s lawsuit may seem frivolous. But his concern was legitimate. Time is our most precious commodity, more valuable than money. You can make more money; you cannot make more time. We rightly guard our time. We are always in a hurry. We hate to wait – be it in a doctor’s office, at a restaurant, or on the freeway. We hate waiting on people. Truth be told, we hate waiting on God. 

    • Have you ever been in God’s waiting room? 
    • Are you there now? 
    • Do you wish you could sue God for making you wait so long? 

    If so, don’t call your lawyer just yet. Consider the fact that God’s waiting room is God’s examination room. Your ability to wait on God is a true diagnosis of your spiritual condition. That’s the message of James 5:7-11. Genuine faith is demonstrated by how you respond when God puts you in his waiting room. 

    James 5:1-6 is a warning of the impending judgment against wicked rich people who oppress godly poor people. This warning to the rich is good news and bad news for the suffering saints to whom James writes. The Lord will right the wrongs they have suffered. But justice, deliverance, and vindication will happen according to God’s timetable, not theirs. What are these troubled saints to do in the meantime?

    • James 5:1-6 is a word of caution to the rich. 
    • James 5:7-11 is a word of comfort to the suffering. 

    Here are three spiritual disciplines to practice when God places us in his waiting room. 

    Be Patient. 

    Verse 7 begins with a command: “Be patient.” The verb means to be long-tempered or slow to anger. 

    • It is the opposite of anger. 
    • It is self-restraint that is “longsuffering.”
    • It is to hold one’s spirit in check. 
    • It is to have a long fuse. 
    • It is not letting people push your buttons.

    Patience here is not about how you deal with difficult times. It is about how you respond to difficult people. We should not become angry, lash out, or get even. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Be patient with them all.” Patience is the gracious attitude of God toward us. God the Father is slow to anger. Concerning Christ, 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Galatians 5:22 calls patience “the fruit of the Spirit.” James 5:7 makes us responsible for cultivating patience in our own lives. 

    Why should we be patient? Verse 7 says, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” We must be patient until the coming of the Lord. Those who teach you to live your “best life now” do a great disservice. Some things won’t get better until the coming of the Lord. “Coming” is the most common word for the end of time, the return of Christ, and the consummation of the kingdom. It implies arrival and presence. The term was used to describe a king who visits one of his cities. James says, “Be patient. The King is on the way!” The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. The Second Coming is the basis of Christian patience. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

    What does it mean to be patient? Verse 7 says: “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until the receives the early and the late rains.” 

    The farmer works

    • The field does not plow itself. 
    • The seed does not plant itself. 
    • The harvest does not reap itself. 

    The farmer has work to do. Christians also have work to do. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” As we wait on God to fix this world, we are to make more and better disciples in our sphere of influence and throughout the nations. 

    The farmer waits. The farmer waits for the fruit. James calls it “the precious fruit of the earth” because it provides, sustains, and blesses the farmer’s family. Likewise, the farmer waits for the rain. Three-fourths of Palestine’s rain fell from December to February. But the farmer waited for “the early and the late rains.” Early rain, between October and November, germinates the seed. Late rain, between March and April, matures the seed. The farmer plows, plants, and prunes. But he must wait for the early and late rains. This is what it means to wait in God. Work as if it all depends on you; wait as if it all depends on God. 

    How do we cultivate patience? Verse 8 exhorts: “You also, be patient.” Like the farmer, we are to work and wait. What do you do when it gets hard to wait? Verse 8 says: “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” “Establish” means to make steady, stable, or strong. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” God uses suffering to establish you. You must also establish yourself by remembering the coming of the Lord is at hand. The hope of the world beyond you establishes the world within you to be patient in the world around you. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

    Do Not Grumble.

    Verses 7-8 tell us what to do in the meantime. Verse 9 tells us what not to do: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” The New Testament records more than thirty “one another” commands. Most of these directives for Christian fellowship are stated in positive terms – love one another, serve one another, or forgive one another. Verse 9 records a “one another” command in negative terms: “Do not grumble against one another.”

      “Grumble” means “to sigh or groan inwardly out of pain, grief, or sorrow.” It is the sighing of the soul. It is the word used in Romans 8:23 that says we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” The word is also used in Romans 8:26: “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” James uses it here to describe bitter words.

      We cannot take out our frustrations on the Lord. So, we take them out on one another. But we must not grumble against one another. Roger Ellsworth writes: “When we are inclined to be critical and grumpy about a brother in Christ, we would do well to remember that he is our brother in Christ!” This prohibition against grumbling is in a grammatical emphasis that issues a cease-and-desist order: “Stop grumbling.” What we have here is a call to repentance. God says, “Stop grumbling. Stop complaining. Stop whining.”

      James warns the brothers to stop complaining for a specific reason: “So that you may not be judged; behold, the judge is standing at the door.” It is bad when a church does not confront sin. It is worse when a church only confronts certain sins. But grumbling lips invoke divine judgment just as much as sexual immorality. Numbers 11:1 says, “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”

      • Christians are saved from the final judgment of sinners. 
      • We must face divine inspection for how we live our lives.

      2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Frank Gaebelein comments: “A proper understanding of the inescapability of the believer’s judgment before the Lord Jesus Christ is the scriptural remedy for the careless living that enfeebles many a church today.”

      Follow Godly Examples. 

      • Verses 7-9 instruct the suffering to look to Jesus. 
      • Verses 10-11 instruct them to follow godly examples. 

      Mark Twain said: “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” But we need godly examples to follow. James exhorts us to follow two examples. 

      The example of The Prophets. Verse 10 says, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” We need godly examples of patience in suffering. James presents the prophets. He does not look around and point to so-called prophets around him. He looks back and points to the Old Testament prophets, those anointed mouthpieces of divine revelation. The prophets literally spoke for God. Yet they suffered, even though they spoke in the name of the Lord. 

      • Anointing does not guarantee blessings. 
      • Obedience does not guarantee success. 
      • Faithfulness does not guarantee favor. 

      You can speak in the name of the Lord and suffer for it. But the prophets continued to do the will of God. They did not stop speaking in the name of the Lord because they suffered. Do not let suffering silence you. Do not let suffering scare you. Do not let suffering stop you. Matthew 5:11-12 declares, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

      The example of Job. Verse 11 begins, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” This is an affirmation of James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” This is a wonderful but neglected beatitude. You are blessed if you hang in there when tests and trials come! 

      Verse 11 says: “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job.” This is the only place in the New Testament where Job is mentioned by name. He is commended because of his “steadfastness.” The KJV renders it “the patience of Job.” But do not misunderstand the term. Job did not sit and wait for things to change. He practiced ruthless, stubborn, indomitable trust. Job 13:15 says, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” Job remained faithful to God no matter what. But the Lord remained faithful to Job no matter what. Verse 11 says, “You have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Don’t just consider what the Lord took Job through. Consider how the Lord brought Job out.  

      John Calvin commented, “Afflictions ought to be estimated by their end.” Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for Good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The end of verse 11 may be a loose translation of Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Life is unfair, unkind, and unjust. But life is not God. God is God, and God is good. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

      The Chinese bamboo tree has an interesting process of growth. The planted seed is watered and fertilized. But nothing happens the first year. It is watered and fertilized in the second year. Still, nothing happens. Nothing happens in the third or fourth years. But during the fifth year, the bamboo tree grows to roughly ninety feet in about six weeks. Did it grow ninety feet in six weeks or five years? It grew ninety feet in five years. The sudden growth would not have occurred if the seed had not been watered and fertilized each year.


      H.B. Charles Jr.

      Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.