Heard it again this weekend from someone. Something to the effect that we need to be studying the end times right now ’cause we’re in the end times and need to be prepared for the end times. Maybe that’s why James’ words jumped off the page for me this morning. So, if I’m picking up what James is laying down, in light of being in the end times, at least part of what we need to do is to be patient, establish our hearts, and quit grumbling.
Whatever the circumstantial context of James’ letter, you sense there’s a lot of pressure being felt by the people of God. James comes out of the gate exhorting the brothers and sisters to “count it all joy” at the many and varied trials they are facing because, says James, “you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (1:2). He address trials (1:12), and he addresses temptation (1:13-14). He tells them it’s time for “pure religion” (1:27) to kick in, one where real faith is evidenced by actual works (2:18). He warns them about turning on one another, showing partiality (2:1,9), back-biting (3:9-10, 4:11), and quarreling and fighting among themselves (4:1). He speaks against oppression (5:1-6) and says it’s time for God’s people to humble themselves before the Lord (4:10).
You read James and it sounds like a really intense time for these believers. You gotta think that, whatever other “normal” burdens they are bearing from just doing life in a fallen world, things have been ramped up and the points on the stress chart are max’ing out. It had to make them think they were perhaps in the end times. Maybe even feeling like they were in the end times of the end times. So whaddya’ gonna do in the end times?
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.
(James 5:7-9 ESV)
The Lord is coming, says James, be patient. His coming is at hand, says James, establish your heart. The Judge is standing at the door, says James, don’t turn on one another.
Be patient. Things are going crazy and we wanna do something. React. Push back. Go back to the way things were. Rather, we’re to “be of a long spirit,” to “not lose heart.” Take a breath, a deep breath and look up, waaayy up! Persevere patiently and bravely. Be mild in manner and slow to act. Longsuffering. Tempering our temper. Trusting in the Lord who is coming soon.
Establish your heart. An active command, keep on establishing your heart. Keep it steady, keep it stable. Set it fast, fix it firm. Don’t tether it to the rollercoaster ride of the world but anchor it firmly on things above — on things revealed by the One above through His written word before us and through the Living Word within us. Know what you know. Remain constant in what you know. Keep doing what you’re supposed to being doing. Be salt in the earth. Be light in the darkness. Make disciples of all nations. Because the Lord is at hand, He’s coming soon, and time is limited to sow the seed of the good news of His kingdom.
And finally, brothers and sisters (James uses that term a lot in his letter, and really a lot in 5:7-12), don’t grumble against one another. Don’t sigh in exasperation against the people of God. Don’t groan, don’t murmur, don’t hold a grudge against one another. Because all people will know you are Jesus’ disciples if you love another (Jn. 13:35) — especially in a season where the stressors are straining civility. Why’s it so important not to grumble? The Judge is standing at the door. The Christ is ready to receive His bride. He doesn’t want to see her bickering at His return. He wants to find them behaving in a manner worthy of her calling.
James’ word is certainly not the final word on living in the end times. But, it is a word. A word worth chewing on I think.
Because of grace. For His glory.