You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand…. My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke the Name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:8–11—NKJV)

Can you imagine any “prophet” of any other “religion” on this earth even remotely worthy to be upheld as a paragon of enduring patience? Consider the parade of claimants throughout history, whether Joseph Smith, Mohamet, Rasputin, Tenskwatawa, or Jim Jones. There is not a thimbleful of demonstrable fidelity to the God of the Bible between them (1 John 4:1–4, 5:10–12) but an ocean of ambiguity, fable, and vice. I can think of no man or woman worthy to be considered an authentic prophet outside the confines of the Bible. Not only do they all fall woefully short of the biblical test of a prophet from the True God (that all their prophecies, and all about them, come true—Deuteronomy 18:22) but they also fail in matters far more prosaic—simple matters of moral integrity in good times, let alone bad.

Apart from the grace of God, human nature can only take so much suffering before something breaks down within. Blatant denial of God, forsaking His moral standards, and withholding respect toward the vestiges of His image still latent within our fellow men fails to restrain the fallen nature. Selfish revenge wins the day. For the above listed “prophets,” it took far less than acute suffering for them to act upon the promptings of their unregenerate nature. None of those men should be accorded the title of prophet by any Christian, especially since God requires much more of those He really has commissioned as His prophets.

One cannot help but think of the instance of Moses’ single error, committed in anger, as he smote the rock so that water might come forth to the refreshing of God’s Chosen People. Moses was disallowed to lead the Jews into the land God gave to Israel since he failed to believe God and hallow Him before the people (Numbers 20:12). God holds high standards for His “mouthpieces,” because His holy Name is at stake.

As our text reminds us, those who represent the Living God have an obligation to be patient, waiting upon God. God will work all things according to His plan (Romans 8:28–34) in His time (2 Peter 3:8) and He will prevail (Revelation 19:11–16). He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11) and for the good of His own.

Job lived this belief. The words concerning Job have become a proverb for us. Even under horrible events and in dire conditions Job remained firm in his integrity and stayed upon his God bearing long in patient endurance. Job complained but he refused to renounce God (1:21, 2:10, 18:15, and 19:25). Though he never received the satisfaction of knowing why he suffered, we have the words of Scripture to shed light on our instances of suffering.

Several reasons are given in Scripture to explain the suffering of saints. Afflictions come so that God’s strength may be seen and your reliance on Him is increased (2 Corinthians 12:9), so that your faith may be refined (1 Peter 1:7), so that God may glorify Himself in you (John 9:1–4), so that sin may be judged (1 Corinthians 11:28–30), so that you may be disciplined and trained for future service (Hebrews 12:5–12), or so that you may be brought to maturity in Christ (James 1:2–4). These workings of the grace of God cannot be known apart from the tough lessons of life, as our text states, “we count them blessed who endure.”

The faith that carries God’s real prophets, and all His saints, through the tough times of adversity rests in knowing He is able and that He is with you. Verses 7–11 thrice call upon the saints to be patient in the trials of life and witness, and thrice remind us that the Lord, the Judge, is at hand. James, the physical and spiritual brother of our Lord, reminds the saints at the end of verse 11 that Jesus is compassionate and merciful. It is a comfort to know that the Lord feels our burdens and He acts in our behalf.

The action we need to take in all our trials, just as Job, is what verse 8 commands: Be patient (have “long spirit”, do not lose heart, long suffering) and establish your heart (be stabilized, resolute, have firm courage) because the Lord is coming alongside! What an exceedingly precious promise that our Lord is present in our times of trouble! Psalm 46:1–2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” Trust and obey.