JAMES 5:11: James seems to be remembering the Beatitude
given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew
5:11-12) as he writes. The thought now moves slightly from
patience as a nonretaliatory spirit to patience as
steadfast endurance. Patience can be described as passive
endurance; by contrast, perseverance is the active
determination of a believer whose faith triumphs in the
midst of affliction.
Few men, apart from Jesus Christ, were made to be the
innocent suffer like Job. He lost his servants, livestock,
property, and finally his children in death. Then Job
himself was smitten with sore boils from the soles of his
feet to the crown of his head.
How did Job handle this? Not with patience! But with
endurance! The prophet does not extol the patience but
righteousness as Job’s qualifying virtue (Ezekiel 14:14,
20). Even in the Book of Job, patience is not one of his
outstanding characteristics. For instance, Job betrays his
impatience when he curses the day of his birth (Job 3:1)
and when he says that the “long-winded speeches” of his
three friends never end (Job 16:3). He showed himself to
be very human in his feelings of frustrations.
The important point to note, however, is that his basic
faith in God did not waver. He never succumbed to his
wife's suggestion to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9). He
endured incredible suffering, insensitivity from his
counselors, and misunderstanding at home, but he continued
to trust God through it all. With wife, friends and
circumstances against him and seemingly God, Job cried out
for answers to his questions, and there was no reply from
heaven. Yet, Job endured; he remained
steadfast—persevering in faith—that’s what make Job
Few men have spoken such passionate words as he did;
but the great fact about him is that in spite of all the
agonizing questioning which tore at his heart, he never
lost his faith in God. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope
in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job
13:15). “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is
on high” (Job 16:19). “I know that my Redeemer lives, and
that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my
skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I
myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). Job
struggled and questioned, and sometimes even defied, but
the flame of his faith was never extinguished.
“You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen
what the Lord finally brought about,” that is telos,
which can mean either "goal, purpose" or "end, result,
outcome." The outcome for Job meant great blessing for him
and was also a refutation of Satan's accusation. The
anguished sufferer learned that "the Lord is full of
compassion and is merciful." Even though circumstances
seemed exactly opposite to this, Job's endurance enabled
him to see that God's blessings were abundant if one was
willing to let God choose the time to bestow them.
Eventually God doubled Job's possessions and doubled the
number of his children, for the original ten were not
permanently lost to him and would be restored at the
resurrection (Job 42:12-17).
It is always a comfort to feel that others have gone
through what we have to go through. Job stands in a long
line of men from righteous Abel to Christ to the present
who have been attacked by Satan. When Satan attacks us, it
is easy for us to get impatient and run ahead of God or
from Him and lose the Lord’s blessing as a result.
James reminds his readers that the prophets and the men
of God could never have done their work and borne their
witness had they not patiently endured. He reminds them
that Jesus himself had said that the man who endured to
the end was blessed for he would be saved (Matthew 24:13).
If God permitted Satan to take everything Job
possessed, if God allowed the rich people to oppress the
poor in the days of James, is He at all concerned about
man’s lot on earth? Yes, God is concerned about His
people; James writes, “The Lord is full of compassion and
mercy.” James alludes to at least two passages (Exodus
34:6; Psalm 103:8). Here James coins a Greek word (polusplagchnos,
“full of compassion”) that does not occur anywhere else in
the NT. God is more than compassionate: he is filled with
compassion. His heart goes out to the person in need of
help. What is compassion? It is a feeling; the word is
best translated “heart.” Furthermore, compassion is
synonymous with mercy. Mercy is God’s external aspect of
compassion, touching man with goodness and kindness.
In the midst of affliction, God taught Job not to
center his thoughts on himself but his Creator (Job
38:1-42:6). The very purpose of trial, according to James,
is that faith in God’s goodness should become stronger and
conquer the troubles themselves (James 1:2-4), even up to
the coming of the return of Christ (James 5:7-8). Those
who are steadfast under affliction until the coming of the
Lord can look forward to being blessed like Job.
When do “blessings” come? In the midst of trials we may
experience God’s blessings. Job encountered God in the
midst of his affliction as did the three Hebrew friends of
Daniel in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). James taught with
Job that there is a blessing after we have endured. James’
messages in these two verses is Trust God and keep on
patiently enduring, for the Lord is incredibly concerned
about you, He will sustain you, and bless you.
My prayer is that you have passed James’ test of
Genuine Faith and you have found that your faith works!