James uses a variety of examples throughout his short epistle. In James 5:7-8, he writes, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. 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 near.” As we analyze these verses, we see at least three things.
Patience instructed. It’s interesting that James is urging us to be patient with each other as fellow Christians. Just read the rest of the chapter and it reads like an instruction manual for dealing with the internal problems we can have as a congregation of God’s people. This patience has a duration—until the coming of the Lord. Stay patient as long as you live or until Christ comes again, whichever comes first.
Patience illustrated. Patience is illustrated by the farmer. Notice:
- The farmer waits. Patience almost always involves waiting. Delayed gratification without the delay is something completely different. Sometimes waiting is necessary and it helps us develop character, if we let it. We have to fight that part of human nature that makes us impatient. These brethren in verse seven were being mistreated by rich, unfair brethren, and it apparently was hard on them to wait for justice to be served. But James says, “You just need to wait. God will ultimately make things right.” That is sage counsel for us in so many areas of life, to “hang on and let God work in His time.”
- The farmer waits for the harvest. When you put seed in the ground, you’re still a long way from harvest. Different crops take a different amount of time to come to fruition. Different conditions, like weather, effect the time of harvest. But harvest is always the goal. Why do you keep planting seed, the seed of Scripture in the fields of evangelism or the seed of service in others’ lives or the seed of spiritual fruit in sometimes infertile fields? Because harvest time is coming and the Lord will sort things out then (Mat. 13:30, 39).
- The farmer waits for what brings harvest. There are necessary conditions. James mentions the early and latter rains. In Palestine, farmers counted on the autumn and spring rains. Both were essential. There are going to be necessary conditions throughout our Christian lives. In the short-term and long-term, we will endure and experience things that help get us to harvest. See the blessings and the challenges of life as necessities which can help us go to heaven.
Patience imitated. James says, “You also be patient.” He says for Christians to be like those farmers. How? “Establish your hearts.” James focuses on the heart throughout this short epistle. Deception (1:26), jealousy and selfish ambition (3:14), impurity (4:8), and worldly pleasure (5:5) fattened and sickened their hearts. James is still working on their hearts at the end and connects patience with spiritual heart health. Why? “The coming of the Lord is at hand.” The harvest idea is wonderful for those who are prepared, but if we allow our hearts to stray and lose patience, the Lord’s coming won’t be a joyful occasion for us. Be ready for harvest by being patient whatever adversity arises.
If you are struggling with patience, look at the farmer. Both my grandfathers farmed, my mom’s dad for a living. They had to persevere. There are bumper crops and there are droughts. You keep farming whatever the conditions. Let’s approach the most important harvest with the same determination!