Scripture: You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 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. James 5:8, 10-11 ESV
Observation: For James, John, and Paul, the urgent tone of these apostles’ epistles indicates that they thought “the coming of the Lord” was eminent. Thus, similar to John and Paul’s writings, James’ urges the church to exercise patience in suffering—but not idly. Like the example of Job, who remained steadfast, James yearns for this spiritually young church to recall the purposes of the Lord worked out in their lives: “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (5:11). Hence, remembering how their heavenly Father has redeemed their suffering, Peter challenges the church to press on with godly living:
- Refraining from swearing (taking an oath) in the Lord’s name but instead speaking forthrightly (not equivocating) – 5:12
- Praying for one another when encountering suffering, whether persecution, sickness, or recurring sins – 5:13-15
- Confessing sins to one another while praying fervently for spiritual healing – 5:16-18
- And pursuing those who wander from the truth and leading them back to Christ – 5:19
James concludes his letter with a promise: when we pursue fellow Christians who stray from the faith, we participate (through the Holy Spirit) in the more excellent work of salvation from the power of sin (5:20).
Takeaway: The theme of remaining steadfast through suffering threads the entirety of James’ letter. Having addressed our propensity to go through the motions without transformation (chapters 1-2), resulting in indulgent, sinful behavior (chapters 3-4), James implores his fellow believers to turn away from their worldly coping mechanism and together steadfastly wait for Christ’s return amid suffering.
So how do we remain steadfast under fire? By cooperating with the Holy Spirit, who exposes our sins and sparks us to seek fellow believers’ physical and spiritual welfare. Indeed, this relational dynamic points us to one aspect of our sanctification: it is not in isolation. The way forward is together, knowing that when we pursue brothers and sisters of the faith who have strayed, we participate in the salvific work of Christ by “covering over a multitude of sins” (5:30). And, as we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, reaching out to others while steadfastly waiting for Jesus’ return, we too are set free from those self-absorbed sins outlined in James’ letter.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for pursuing us and covering over the multitude of our sins through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Would you please help us through the sanctifying work of your Holy Spirit to remain steadfast as one body in Christ, actively seeking the welfare of others? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling