One of the hardest things for me to do is wait. Whether it is at a stop light, at the grocery store, or for things to develop at the church. Waiting seems to produce in me an anxiousness which is not always helpful or healthy. The ultimate waiting game is waiting for the return of Jesus to establish the fullness of the kingdom of God.
In the Western world I am not sure we anticipate this quite the same as other places. In our comfy Christian worldview we are not challenged much for holding to Christianity. Sure there may be criticism and name calling. I know people who have lost jobs because of the faith relationship with Jesus. Yet, I am not sure there are many people in the Western world who are at risk of their life because of Christ. Often it is not felt that we need Christ to return because we are doing just fine on our own. And they say people don't believe in myths anymore. For the audience James was written to this was a huge issue, an issue of life and death.
Most of the early followers believed they would see Jesus return in their lifetime. Couple that with a culture that was hostile to those who followed Christ, and you have a lot of suffering. People would hold fast to Christ, the government and other religious organizations would pressure and persecute the followers. All of the persecution would have gone away if they would simply give up on their Jesus. James reminds them to stay strong, and be patient in waiting for the Lord.
I wonder how many people think Jesus will return in their lifetime? I mean not as a theological possibility, but as an actual belief. Do we live our lives with a patient endurance, ready for that day at any given moment? How might we live differently if we truly expected Christ to return in our lifetime. What would life be like if we lived in a place where our life was in danger because of that belief? Funny in a place and time when there is room for people to safely hold that belief many have abandoned it, and in the time and place where it was not safe, many clung to it for life.