Difficult circumstances, conflicts, and abuses are an inevitable part of life in a world infected with sin and evil. Job wrote, “Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Jesus warned us in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation.” Paul added, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
And Peter exhorted us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet 4:12–13). How is the believer expected to respond in these trials?
James condemned the rich who took advantage of or persecuted some of the poor (James 5:1–6), and he described the rich as abusing, taking advantage of and even murdering the disadvantaged (5:6). They knew how to passively respond, as did Jesus, who “while being reviled, did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23).
Abusive circumstances only escalate when the response is impulsive and reactive. In the previous verse, James mentions a farmer who works to plant the seeds of his crops and then waits patiently for the early and late rains (typical seasons in Israel) before the harvest (James 5:7).
Now James exhorts believers to respond to persecution by “immediately deciding to be patient,” which comes from a compound word composed of long (Gr. makros) and temper (Gr. thumos). The word conveys waiting a long time to demonstrate your temper or angry response, hence our word long-suffering. “Love suffers long” (1 Cor 13:4); the believer should not take the judgment of the wicked into his own hands but patiently wait for God to avenge.
Abused believers are not to give in to the world or give up in despair; they must “immediately decide to strengthen [their] hearts.” This command translates the Greek word sterizo (from which we get the word steroids), which means “to fix firmly, [or] establish,” our commitment to an attitude or conviction.
Obedience generates the strength to obey more. The believer’s greatest hope is that “the Lord’s return is near.” He will make all things right. We must trust Him and live as though He were coming today.
“Lord Jesus, the thought of Your return to earth is captivating and challenging to me. If You come today, I commit to be engaged in Your work when You call.”