Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
James is speaking here again of patience. Remember earlier, way back in Chapter 1, James began the text of his letter by talking about patience and how it matures us in our walk with The Lord. James may have begun touching on this revisit to patience in verse 7 while he was discussing not holding grudges. Some of his teaching there may have been to show that we should not allow the trials we face to cause us to act out towards our brethren, but to be patient in the Lord. As we continue, he is obviously talking to us about being patient.
Once again, let’s take a quick look at a linguistic issue. The word translated patience commonly in the New Testament, and here as well, has a meaning other than what we might think. It combines a couple of words, long and temper to convey the one thought of patience. We are to be long-tempered; we are to be long-suffering. The emphasis is on the idea of patience evidenced by an attitude of non-retaliation. This means that when faced with difficulties we are not to strike back in the direction we think they may be coming from. If we think other people are causing them, we should not strike back at them; if we think God is allowing or causing them, we should not strike back at Him. We should be long tempered, long-suffering, and patient.
But that’s very difficult! Yes, indeed it is. It is also how God reacts to us. The following is from Vine’s Expository Dictionary regarding this word patient.
MAKROTHUMIA ( makros= long, thumos = temper) is usually rendered “long-suffering.” Long-suffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God. Exodus 34:6(Sept.); Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20
Let’s think about this topic of long-suffering and patience for a few moments. We are told to constantly look to the example of our Savior to guide our behavior. We are also to be long-suffering and patient both in the face of difficulties and never use them as an excuse to strike out against others. Sometimes we think it is no big deal when we fail in this area.
But what if God was not long-suffering and patient with us over history even in the face of our repeated rebellions against HIm and rejection of Him? What if Jesus had not been patient and long-suffering in the face of the trials and suffering He endured on the Cross as He died to pay our penalty? Where would we all be now?