Seminary Viewpoints

James’ Picture of Patience Under Pressure — for God’s Purpose

Sam Horn | June 29, 2023
Theology Thursday

All believers sometimes wonder “what in heaven” God is up to that we face pressures and challenges, whether financial, family- or friend-related, or even physical and psychological.

James reminds us of a biblical figure about whom that question is answered in amazingly clear terms. “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job,” he writes (a concept memorialized proverbially as “the patience of Job”). “(A)nd you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (5:11).

Pastor James gets to the protagonist of the ancient, eponymous book as his third and ultimate picture of saints’ patience in enduring the pressure of suffering for God’s purpose (telos, end).

First, the farmer who, with his life and livelihood in the balance, “waits for the precious fruit of the earth … until it receives the early and the late rains” (5:8).

Then the prophets who, Hebrews 11 tells us, suffered enormously: “tortured … suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment … stoned … sawn in two … killed with the sword.” And were “destitute, afflicted, mistreated.” All without “receiv(ing) what was promised,” though they were “commended for their faith.”

But Job alone is named specifically in this passage — because his patience under pressure, God’s purpose in his life and the principles to be absorbed by James’ readers are so matchlessly portrayed.

Intense Pressures

Was any believer put through the wringer more than Job? He endured:

Satan’s Ruthless Accusations and Relentless Attack (Job 1:9–11, 13–22; 2:7–10)

Unbeknownst to Job, Satan accused him of fair-weather faithfulness, that removing the hedge of protection around him would cause Job to “curse (God) to your face.”

So God authorized the evil one to unleash unimaginable afflictions against Job’s possessions (oxen, sheep, camels, servants destroyed), people (sons and daughters perishing) and person (loathsome sores and boils), leaving Job sitting in ashes, scraping himself with a piece of pottery and lamenting his birth.

Friends’ and Remaining Family’s Psychological Torture

Friends serially trash-talked him with charges of secret sin, even insisting that God was exacting “less than your guilt deserves” (11:6). Meanwhile, his wife demanded he renounce a God who would inflict such agony on them after a lifetime of obedience and die (2:9).

God’s Seeming Silence

Perhaps worst of all, his God appeared absent: “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him” (23:3).

Extraordinary Patience

Yet amid incomprehensible anguish, God’s ever-patient friend — while questioning his plight — did not “sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22), yet affirmed the Lord’s:

  • Providence: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
  • Goodness: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10).
  • Sovereignty: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (13:15a).
  • Faithfulness: “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (19:25).
  • Power and authority: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2).

Boundless Purpose

James closes his plea for patience through trial by sharing God’s purpose: the opportunity to show Himself “compassionate and merciful.” And the Lord does reward Job with double his previous possessions, the comfort of friends and family, more children and 140 additional years of life.

But the Lord doesn’t promise everyone material reward for our endurance. His boundless compassion and mercy — and sovereignty and power — are also vindicated by:

  • Proving, as with Job, our genuine faith: (Y)ou have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).
  • Further strengthening that faith: “(Y)ou know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3–4).
  • Deepening our intimate relationship: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).
  • Producing fruit through us: “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth … until it receives the early and the late rains” (James 5:7).
  • Ultimately, defeating and shaming Job’s Accuser: “(F)or the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down … . And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:10–11).
  • And most important, preparing His people for a Righteous Servant whose sufferings and faithfulness would be even greater than Job’s: “Christ Jesus … emptied himself … (and) humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:4–8).

Enduring Principles

So how can we too practice Job’s patience to serve God’s purpose? By “beholding” and “considering” (James 5:11) this faithful saint’s enduring example, and like him, with all of our might:

  • Turning to God: “Job … fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20).
  • Clinging to God: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And… I shall see God” (19:25–26).
  • And hoping in God: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

As discussed by Sam Horn on The Steve Noble Show on June 29