“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” (James 5:11, ESV)
When we are in the midst of suffering, it’s hard to get our bearings. It seems it’s all we can do to take one step in front of the other. James, however, wants to make sure we employ a kingdom perspective, one that seeks the King and serves His purposes.
When facing adversity, James tells us not to grumble and gripe. He told us early on in his letter to consider it all joy when we encounter trials of various kinds. Now as he urges us to patience in affliction, he cautions us against complaining to others. We need to press on in submission and expectation. Peter wrote similarly: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet. 4:19). Trust and obedience, tempered with joy – that’s what persevering faith looks like.
To guide us on our way, James holds up two figures, the Judge and Job. “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9). Again, James is looking to the return of the Lord Jesus who comes to judge the nations. He is calling us to exercise the obedience of faith as we look to the day when He comes in glory.
As preachers will use illustrations they will also use examples. “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 5:10–11).
James is not specific about the prophets who remained steadfast but there are many, such as Jeremiah and Elijah who faithfully exercised God’s call in the face of persecution and hardship. He does, however, mention a name we recognize – Job. James highlights the steadfastness of Job who remained undeterred and stalwart in allegiance to God. Though his experience gave evidence to the contrary, Job knew that his God lived and that He would stand upon the earth.
In our suffering, we don’t want our conception of God to be formed by our experience. Rather, we want to hold fast to what God has revealed about Himself. He is compassionate and merciful. His purposes are at work. When in doubt, we need only to gaze on the glory of God in the face of Christ.
1. What does it mean to be steadfast in suffering?
2. What steps can we take to remain steadfast?
“Father, grant me grace to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.”