Image: Holly berries, Sanford, North Carolina, November 2020
Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on James 5:7-10.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (James 5:8).
In v. 8 James exhorts: “Be ye also patient.” In v. 7 he offered the mini-parable of the patient farmer: “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth….” James is saying look to the farmer as an example of one who is longsuffering even though he does not see any immediate growth on the surface, but also, most importantly, learn from the patience of the Lord himself.
He adds a second exhortation: “stablish your hearts” (v. 8b). The verb here is sterizo, meaning to strengthen. Make strong and vigorous your hearts, the center of your affections. The Christian faith is for those who know that when they are weak, then he is strong, but the Christian life is not for the spiritually faint-hearted, for spiritual weaklings. In Christ’s parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the shallow soil did not last (Mark 4:5-6).
There are just too many difficult things one will have to encounter in this life to think that he can breeze through it all without ever exercising the spiritual disciplines that will result in the strengthening of his heart. Why are we baptized? Why do we come to the Lord’s table in the context of God’s people? Why do we read and memorize God’s word? Why do we attend to the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures? Why do we learn the practice of prayer? It is so that we might have our hearts strengthened, so that, by God’s grace, when we face resistance, obstacles, setbacks, opposition, and suffering our hearts are strong. It is so that we might face such things and not be undone and destroyed by them, but that we might be patient even in afflictions.
Finally, James adds at the end of v. 8: “for the coming of the Lord drawth nigh.” I’ve mentioned before driving once on some back roads towards the beach in NC and passing a sign that read, “Jesus is coming soon!” The problem was that the sign was faded, the paint was peeling, and the sign board was warped. It was a mixed message at best.
But we must remember what Peter said: “one day is with the Lord like a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4).
Our job is not to know when he coming. Christ himself said that no man knows that day or that hour (Mark 13:32-33). Our job is to know that God is at work in the world and that he is coming and that in the meantime (the in-between time) we are to be found faithful, so that we are not ashamed when he does come.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle