Pressure cookers are little kitchen time bombs. They work by applying extreme pressure and steam into a relatively large pot. Heat is applied. Pressure forces the heat into the food. And, steam keeps the food from collapsing under the force. On the lid, there is a small valve that prevents the explosion by allowing it to let off some steam.
Pressure is something we all face in life. Eliphaz recognized this. When he counseled Job who was suffering, he said, “Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). In other words, as sure as the sparks from a fire lift into the air with the wind, man is born into a life of suffering. Jesus said it more plain, “In this world, you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33).
Life is full of moments that add unwanted pressure. When compounded, these trying moments cause us to build up so much steam that we want to blow gasket. Let’s face it, God didn’t make us with small valves on her heads. Instead, He commanded us to be patient.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.James 5:7–12
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
Trials are tools in the hands of God used to refine our faith. They approve the validity of our faith and improve the maturity of our faith. In the trial of suffering, God draws out the spiritual quality of patience and makes it more and more like that of Christ.
The Christians to whom James was writing were suffering all kinds of trials (Ja. 1:2). They were hated by both the world and their countrymen, since they were Jewish. In fact, they were being oppressed, dragged into court (Ja. 2:6), and murdered (Ja. 5:6) by the rich (Ja. 5:1).
Their instruction, and our instruction as we suffer trials of various kinds, is to exhibit the Christian virtue of patience. The idea is to be “long-tempered” as opposed to short-tempered, a term we often use to describe someone who is quick to blow a fuse and explode when pressure has reached its limits. The world, although able to exhibit a sense of forbearance, does not possess the grace God gives to be long-tempered. This is why suffering is a trial that validates and matures genuine faith in the life of a believer (Ja. 5:11).
Patience is a characteristic of God. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13). So, only those who have God in their hearts possess the capacity to be patient during times of suffering.
In this passage, James talks about patience commanded (Ja. 5:7-8), impatience judged (Ja. 5:9), patience exemplified (Ja. 5:10-11), and impatience condemned (Ja. 5:12). In what ways are you suffering? What is it that you identify as pressure in your life? During those moments, are you patient? Are you long-tempered? True faith is expressed through patience in suffering.
Articles in this Series
- Five Principles About our Christian Duty to be Patient — James 5:7-8
- Grumbling & the Judge Who is Nearby — James 5:9
- The Patience of the Prophets and the Suffering of Job — James 5:10-11
- Swearing & a Sure Condemnation for Impatience — James 5:12