“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” (James 5:10, AV)
I remember in my first church receiving one of those less than gracious email diatribes. It was down right hurtful. I had poured my heart out into this couple and they wrote something that truly hurt. I guess, I felt betrayed. They did not like a message I preached and proceeded to vent and make all kinds of accusations. I was distraught about the situation. I was teaching in an extension seminary on Monday evening when I happened to mention it to wife of the pastor who hosted the seminary at his church. She said, “Oh those, my husband has a whole drawer full of letters like that.” Honestly, her response made me feel a little bit better. While I knew better, I had been thinking that I was the only pastor who ever had that experience. It was comforting to know that I was not alone.
James wrote to a group of believers and exhorted them to wait patiently on the Lord. These believers were going through trials of their own. They were enduring forms of persecution. It is likely that they were under pressure to withdraw from the Christian community and move back to traditional Judaism. To encourage them, James reminds them that the prophets of the Old Testament had endured much persecution and persevered in the faith.
What did the prophets do to incur such mistreatment? They held firm to the purpose to which the Lord called them. They preached the word of God as He directed. In spite of persecution, they did not waver in their duty. For example, consider the prophet Jeremiah. He preached the word and the nation would not listen (Jer13:10; 17:23; 18:12). He was mistreated (Jer 20:1-2; 26:11; 38:6). It was not only Jeremiah who endured suffering, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as sons of those who killed the prophets (Matt 23:31). The prophets endured much suffering and yet, remained steadfast in their calling.
It is not unusual for pastors and Bible teachers to bear the brunt of attacks by parishioners. It is also likely that all believers will endure some form of suffering for their faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, AV). Do not be surprised when you suffer for your faith. People will look at you as if you are weird when you live a godly life. They may ridicule you. They may treat you unfairly. They may persecute you in many ways. Remain steadfast. Remember that the Lord knows your suffering and that He also knows those who are persecuting you. Take comfort in the fact that they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt 5:12).