10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
While all kinds of people experience suffering, James here specifically points us to the prophets as our example in enduring our afflictions. The prophets were, in general, a much-persecuted group of God’s servants. Though they were sent by God and had declared God’s Word faithfully in His name, they still suffered much in the midst of their ministry.
Our Lord Jesus, on several occasions in His preaching and teaching ministry, referred to the hatred and violence the prophets had endured. For instance, Matthew 5:12 records Jesus as saying, “for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” According to Matthew 23:37, Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee”. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews, while recounting the exploits of the prophets’ heroic faith, said that they “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:36-38). So, it is no wonder that we are pointed to the prophets as our example in the midst of our sufferings.
If the prophets were oppressed and abused, it may well be expected that other godly men will also be persecuted. Let us not yield to the suggestion that we suffer affliction because God has abandoned us, or that our woes prove that we are wicked men. Righteous and faithful people have always endured great hardships in this world. Let those who suffer as Christians rejoice that they are in the company of God’s honourable servants, like the prophets. If God has decreed that it is necessary (and even useful) that His faithful servants endure suffering, let us not grow despondent in the midst of our afflictions!
Let us conduct ourselves in patience, as the prophets did in their sore trials. Their afflictions were many and great, yet they bore them very patiently. Let us fill our minds with all good examples of those who were acquainted with hardships while they faithfully served the Lord, so that we may, like them, also exhibit enduring faith and ardour in our trials.