Read James 5:10-11(ESV)
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
When we think about the suffering of the Old Testament prophets, why does James say that we consider them blessed?
When James opened his letter, he penned these words: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2:4).
Now, as James is wrapping up and nearing his conclusion, he returns to the theme of steadfastness. This time, he asks his readers to remember the example left by the prophets who often endured great suffering because of the messages they spoke in the Lord’s name. Despite the trials and backlash many of them faced, they steadfastly obeyed God. They sought to always live in the center of God’s will. As we look back on those prophets, we honor them for their commitment to do God’s will even in the face of persecutions.
You see, we have hindsight. We can look back on their lives through the pages of Scripture and see, at least in part, the fruit of their obedience. But they were living in real time. They had to live by faith in the moment. Check out Hebrews 11, often referred to as “The Hall of Faith.” You can read example after example of the faith and perseverance of the Old Testament saints.
In Hebrews 11:32-38, we can read just a small sample of what God accomplished through them and what they had to endure: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
These are the people that James wants us to consider as examples of patient suffering. But he also asked us to consider Job. When we read the book of Job, we see that he is described as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1). Satan claimed that Job was only faithful to God because God took care of him and blessed him. He told God that if Job was allowed to suffer, “he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). So God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith to see if it would stand up to affliction.
Satan killed Job’s livestock, his servants, his ten children, and struck him with horrible sores all over his body. He was in immense grief and pain. His wealth was gone. To make matters worse, his wife’s response was “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). His friends tried to be supportive but largely failed. They argued that he must have done something to deserve it and Job was forced to endure their lectures. But despite all of that, Job knew that God was his only hope. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19:25-26). We consider the Old Testament prophets blessed because they looked forward to God’s promised Redeemer and obediently trusted Him for it. We know that because of their faith, they get the promise of eternal life. They will see God’s face.
Friends, we are not promised a cake walk in this life. But James reassures us that even in our suffering, God has purpose and a plan. He is compassionate and He is full of mercy. We can rest assured that no matter how much pain we have to endure this side of heaven, our reward is coming. Remain steadfast and we’ll be blessed.
Lord, thank You for the example of the saints that have gone before. Help me to follow their lead and walk faithfully obedient to You no matter the trials and persecution I face in this life. I know that in the end, You will reign and I will see Your face.