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 autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
This is one of many passages that show that the early Christians expected Christ’s return to be soon. From our perspective we see that as not having happened, but for each of them individually, the Lord “came for them” within a few years. This is something every person needs to grasp, but that very few want to. Simply put, our time on earth is limited, so how are we going to use it? At the same time, the focus of what James is saying here is patient endurance. (The NIV focuses linguistically on patience, while the Japanese focuses on endurance.) The illustration of the farmer is particularly apt, though in our industrialized society we might fail to really understand it. Today if it fails to rain, we irrigate, but even as I write the Western US is experiencing a drought that is threatening all sorts of things. However much people talk about “man-made climate change,” we have no control over the weather. That said, a farmer who is waiting for rain still has plenty he can and should do. I recently saw a video of a man in Africa who is making a major difference in his country simply by arranging rows of rocks across slopes so that when rain comes it is slowed down to where it can soak into the ground, rather than just washing off the topsoil. He is also planting trees, digging deep for each seed, and the combination of those two activities is transforming the landscape. Patient endurance doesn’t mean inactivity! This passage isn’t an excuse for laziness, but rather an encouragement to hang in there and continue doing what needs to be done.
This certainly applies to me! Japan is notorious in Christian circles for a very low return on time and effort invested, to the point that some missions agencies no longer send missionaries here. However, it’s been 80 years since my father first arrived in Japan as a missionary, and I’m not about to give up! My father impacted many with the kingdom of God, and I believe I have too. I am to be active at all of the tasks the Lord sets for me, seeking His wisdom and guidance as to what to do and how to do it, exercising patient endurance as I leave the results in His hands. It’s definitely not been boring!
Father, as I am now more than a year older than my father was when You took him home, I am sharply aware that Christ’s return is not so far off, from my perspective at least. Help me make the use that You intend of each moment, in active patience, trusting You for the harvest, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!