Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, December 9 Edition

James, chapter 5, verses 7 through 11:
Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
"Lord, give me patience, and quickly, please!" A standard yuk-yuk in the evangelical world, that one is. I think there is a different shade of meaning attached to the term "patience" in this passage. In being told to be patient, we're also told to "strengthen" our hearts. Then, as if to make it clearer, we're pointed to the prophets as examples of patience and suffering. Clearly, this isn't preparation for a party, or a nice vacation. This is the sort of "patience" needed when sitting in the dentist's chair (back in the days when dental anesthesia wasn't so good, that is). It is, maybe, even the sort of patience required to undergo surgery, back when "anesthesia" consisted of (maybe) a swallow of whiskey and some strong men to hold you down. No fun at all, I'm sure.

Since James wrote in the immediate context of ferocious persecution of believers, both by the Jewish religious establishment and by Roman authority, I would suppose that the particular suffering he had in mind has already taken place. Still, the Lord's return (verse 8) was not consummated then (or since), and it won't come without plenty of trouble. So, preparation for patient suffering is very much in order for today's believer, too.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This suffering idea keeps popping up all over the place these days. As you imply, persecution will accompany the Lord's return, and I think God is trying to prepare us.