Prayer is often regarded as one of the vital components of the Christian life. One hymnwriter puts it this way:
v 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Patience is mentioned as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, the implication being that it takes time to develop – fruit do not appear overnight in our lives! It is important to take note of the context in which patience is mentioned; the NIV translation heads the paragraph ‘Patience in suffering’, and that is what James is thinking about. The example he quotes is Job; chapters 1 and 2 of his book paint a picture of unrelenting disaster, culminating in total loss of health. James’ Jewish readers would immediately have had in mind verses 4-9 ‘Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”’ Everything seemed to point to the fact that God no longer cared about him, but his response is one of unwavering trust and hope in God. ‘ But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.’ How’s that for patient endurance in the face of loss and suffering?
As a nation we invest huge amounts in the Health Service in an attempt to banish ill-health, but the money will never be enough. God so often calls us to patient endurance – and James encourages us to set our sights high, to look at the culmination of all human history when Jesus returns.
How do you respond when the going gets tough and ill-health seems to dog your every footstep?