In James 5:7, James gives us some specific instructions concerning being patient. It is said as a response to those whose patience was being inflamed by the sinful actions of those in James 5:1-6. In just a few words, James has some pretty exhaustive instruction.
He addresses the who—“Be patient brethren.” There’s an ethic and morality expected of those in God’s family that is more than for everyone else. Almost every use of the word “brethren” in the New Testament is addressed to Christians. As light-shiners and salt-spreaders, we must exhibit patience with others and especially other Christians.
He addresses the when—This command has a duration (an expiration date)—“Until the coming of the Lord.” How long are we to remember Christ in the Lord’s Supper? 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “Until He comes.” How long was Thyatira to hold onto what they had? Revelation 2:25 says, “Until Jesus would come.” How long was Corinth to refrain from unrighteously judging one another? 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Until the Lord comes.“ You don’t encounter this phrase very often, but every time it regards a matter of significance. There will not come a point in time when you can cease being patient—it’s as long as you live or until Christ comes again, whichever comes first.
He addresses the how—You’ve got to strengthen your heart (be inwardly committed, cause to be more firm in attitude or belief). James is saying, “Steel yourself because this is going to get hard sometimes.” When I think of people who have fallen away from the Lord, I think of conversations with people who say they gave up on the church or the elders or the preacher. They weren’t responsive enough, caring enough, or too nosy or not what they needed when they needed it. But ultimately this means these fallen ones weren’t firm and unchanging within.
He addresses the why—“The coming of the Lord is near.” Don’t focus on a time element here, but on the need to endure for as long as the time is. It’s constantly drawing nearer, not in a chronological sense, but an expectation and assurance that we expect it any time. I don’t want to be caught living in a state of impatience with my brethren. If I am, it means I’ve lost focus on Christ’s second coming!
I need to be convicted that impatience is not “no big deal.” James ties it to spiritual harmony, divine superintendence, and eternal safety. We can’t chalk up failure in this area as just our makeup, personality, and temperament. We must be obedient to the heavenly injunction and “be patient”!