Two Helpful Examples
James commends patience in both senses of the word: maintaining our composure and being steadfast. To help us learn patience, he points us to two valuable Old Testament examples.
“As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 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” (James 5:10-11).
The prophets and Job teach us three valuable lessons.
One, suffering is at times the lot of God’s people. It was an honor to be a prophet, an inspired spokesman for God. That does not mean, however, that the prophets were always treated honorably. They were not. In fact, some of them met with the greatest indignity and mistreatment at the hands of their own countrymen, usually because of the message they preached. Stephen asked the Sanhedrin, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).
Job’s suffering was different; it was a direct assault from Satan. At the time, however, Job was in no position to see the reason for it. That lack of insight brought much of his angst. Whether we understand why or not, the fact is that God’s people, even the best of them, often suffer.
Two, we must endure through suffering. The prophets did. The kept right on preaching, despite being discouraged by the conditions they faced, the judgments they foretold, the rejection of their work, and the personal attacks on them. Habakkuk asked, “How long?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Jeremiah complained that he had become a laughingstock (Jeremiah 20:7). Elijah felt as though he was the only one trying to do right (1 Kings 19:10). Yet they kept on. They had to. Jeremiah likened the word to a fire in his bones that he could not hold in (Job 20:9).
Job endured, too. Job was not always patient in the full sense of the word. He was at times irritable, angry, and complaining! But he was also steadfast. He said of God, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).
Three, it is all worth it in the end. The prophets who endured were blessed. Jesus reminds us that when we are mistreated, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). Job was blessed, too. At the end of his story, after he confessed his inappropriate remarks, the Lord restored all that he had lost twofold (Job 42:10).
Earlier, James assured us that the crown of life awaits those who endure (1:12). Current suffering is not worthy to be compared with coming glory (Romans 8:18).