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The book of James: Waiting for Christ’s return

Christ is coming! That was the Old Testament believers’ great hope. He did come to lowly crib and cross to save the world.

Christ is coming! That is the New Testament believers’ glorious hope. He will come—visibly, suddenly, gloriously—to judge the world.

People have disagreed about Christ’s return, guessing about the unknown instead of gaining from the known. Not so with the practical James, who applies what is known to our daily lives. Listen as he speaks of a Christian’s active faith waiting for Christ’s return.

Exhortation to wait patiently

In James 5:7, James uses the word patient, suggesting meek submission that bears injury without hitting back. Our Lord is a perfect example of such patience. How slow he is to be angry with and to punish the sinner.

Such patience is easier to talk about than to practice. The Jewish Christians to whom James wrote knew this all too well. Afflicted by wrong and opposed by the wicked, they were “[grumbling] against one another.” Trials can quickly cause hurried complaint about one’s lot and unhealthy comparison with the lot of others. “Be careful,” James reminded them. “The Judge is standing at the door” (5:9).

It’s hard to bear up under the blows of life when all you can do is feel the bruises. James takes us beyond the bruises to the glorious end of it all, the return of the Lord. When he returns, it will be as our loving Savior to draw us from earth’s little while of pain to heaven’s eternal life of joy. But he will also come as judge to dispense proper judgment on the wicked. For Christians, patience now becomes more than some close-lipped, dumb despair under life’s trials. It becomes a sustaining, supporting force, built on the sure hope of his return.

Examples of patient waiting

For encouragement James uses the example of the farmer, who patiently plows his field, plants his seed, and then waits for the rain (5:7). The rain has come before and will come again from God’s goodness with the resulting harvest. So believers wait through the dry spells of anxiety, knowing God will gather them as his harvest.

In the centuries since James wrote, trials have not slackened for God’s children. Lest we lose hope, we need to remember that God does not measure with our impatient arithmetic. Our clocks and calendars cannot calculate his return. Each minute must be viewed as possibly the last grain of sand in the hourglass of earth’s time.

We don’t know when he will come in glory, but we know he came once in grace. And that’s the main point! We know why he came to the Bethlehem manger and the Calvary cross. We know his saving love, and so we also know that he, our loving Savior, controls all. The day of his return is coming.

As we in faith look back to his gracious coming and forward to his glorious return, patience during our earthly pilgrimage is the blessed result.

Digging deeper

    1. What do Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4; and 1 Peter 3:20 tell us about God’s patience? God’s patience in dealing with sinners comes from his loving concern that they be brought to repentance. When his patience is abused, judgment follows.
    2. How does God’s patience encourage ours? See 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 3:3. God’s patience does not mean he has forgotten us. We can trust his faithful promises to keep us safe against Satan’s attacks and to deliver us safely into the heavenly kingdom.
    3. How does 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 encourage us as we in faith wait for the Savior’s return? When life is tough and attacks severe, we fix our eyes on the eternal glory waiting for us. Life on earth is only temporary while life with the Savior is eternal.

This is the final article in a continuing series on the book of James.

Author: Richard Lauersdorf
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021

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This entry is part 22 of 63 in the series bible-study

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