James 5:7-8 “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the fall and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
James does more than tell us how to act. When we hurt, when we aren’t being treated right, or when something isn’t working right, we want a change! If things weren’t ever going to change, we would despair. We need something to hold on to. We need something to give us hope. We need something that makes patience possible.
James finds that something in our Lord’s second coming. He compares our patience in light of Jesus’ coming to a farmer’s patience waiting for the harvest. Farming is a risky business no matter where a person lives. There are so many things beyond a farmer’s control. Nowhere was this more true than in the Holy Land. When God led Israel into their new home, he told them that farming there would not be like farming in Egypt. Egypt relied on the annual flooding of the Nile River and the human ingenuity of irrigation systems to make the crops grow. Farming in Israel was somewhat unique because this dry part of the world relied upon two rainy seasons for its water. The farmer could plow and plant, but every year his harvest still relied on the Lord to send the former and the latter rains–the fall rains and the spring rains described by James. The harvest would come, but in the meantime the farmer was left with only two things to do–trust in the Lord and wait patiently.
Jesus’ second coming is like our harvest for two reasons. It marks a beginning and an end. It marks the beginning of all the rich rewards God has promised us in heaven–the glory, the perfection, the beauty, the plenty, the power, the reunion, the life, and especially the love. It marks the end of all the things that require us to live with patience now–the tears, the pain, the failures, the worry, the shortages, the sin, and especially the death. It promises us things are going to change. It enables us to trust in the Lord and be patient.
Our Savior’s second coming often occupies the attention of God’s people. Here James is teaching us that it is not just about our future. It is about our life every day. It is something for us to ponder and keep before our eyes all the time.
Why? None of us has life easy. We may look at someone else’s life with envious eyes and long for what they have. We do this just because we don’t always know what lies behind their smile on Sunday morning. But this promise of Jesus’ coming is part of how God’s people cope with life the way it really is. If we understand it, and believe it, it is a source of patience for our less than perfect lives with our less than perfect churches in our less than perfect world. The changes we all long for are coming. The better life and better things to come are on their way. In the meantime God says, “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”