Patience for Today

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Patience has always been an important ingredient in the Christian life. It is an interesting observation that patience (or endurance) is not mentioned in the Old Testament, although doubtless that quality was necessary and exercised among Old Testament believers. For example, Abraham was not given an inheritance in this world — “not so much as to set his foot on” (Acts 7:55And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. (Acts 7:5))—and he waited patiently for it in resurrection. However, in this dispensation of grace we are given far greater promises — promises of heavenly blessings—and are exhorted many times as to patience in waiting for the fulfillment of them. Yet how often this necessary virtue seems to elude us!
No Complaining
Patience may be defined as the enduring of that which is uncomfortable or painful, without complaining. This is a quality that is fast disappearing in the world of today — a world that is fast-paced and more and more self-centered. Of course, on the surface, there are many reasons for us to be impatient today, and all of us could make a list of what aggravates us the most. For some it might be something as simple as telemarketers; for others, it might be constant glitches encountered in navigating websites. Others find traffic jams to be a real problem, or long lines that must be endured in order to get necessary things. Still another frustration is that often people do not do what they are supposed to do, thus causing delays and a wasting of others’ time. The present COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the problem greatly, as long lines have become even longer, goods are often not available, and restrictions on our socializing, travel and entertainment have become routine.
Many in this world are ready to be patient, as long as everything works out well within a reasonable time. Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” However, everyone has his own definition of how long he can wait for something to happen, and we are now witnessing how the patience of many is, as the saying goes, “wearing thin.” COVID restrictions have, for the most part, been respected in Western countries, but as time goes on, more and more people are flouting the law. The problem has been exacerbated by multiple examples of leaders who impose regulations on others while secretly disregarding the same rules themselves. The usual apology and explanation is supposed to cover the matter: “I was acting with my heart, not my head.”
Defiance and Anger
Far more serious than these responses are the extreme reactions of a few, who, filled with impatience and frustration, assume an attitude of either despair or defiance, coupled with anger. This results in such entities as domestic violence, rude behavior, road rage, and, in some cases, mass shootings, often associated with suicide on the part of the perpetrator. This kind of behavior in turn is causing concern among many, as they perceive the world descending into chaos.
All of this is felt by believers as well as unbelievers, but surely our reactions ought to be different. Yes, we do feel the condition of things in this world, and we are surely sensitive to the general incivility, anger and impatience that are overtaking this world. The world around us may exercise a degree of patience, but eventually it will “wear thin,” for the horizon of this world is only the life down here. If the affairs of this life are impacted too severely, frustration erupts into disobedience and eventually violence.
Many verses in the New Testament bring patience before us. It is one of the positive results of tribulation (Rom. 5:33And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (Romans 5:3)); it is one of the results of having a firm future hope (Rom. 8:2525But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Romans 8:25)); it is one of the qualities that approved the Apostle Paul and others as ministers of Christ (2 Cor. 6:44But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, (2 Corinthians 6:4)); indeed, it was one of the cardinal signs of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:1212Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12)). It was one of the characteristics of believers in the face of persecution (2 Thess. 1:44So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (2 Thessalonians 1:4)); it is how we run the race of the Christian pathway (Heb. 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)); finally, and most important, it is characteristic of our blessed Lord and Master (2 Thess. 3:55And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5) JND). In view of all this, patience should be part of us as Christians, for we have a hope beyond this world, and “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:1818For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)). It is only a “little while” until the Lord will come for us, and then eternity will overtake time.
Indolence or Indifference
However, it is important to note that patience (or endurance) is not indolence or indifference. Sometimes what passes for patience is really an “I don’t care” attitude, where laziness overtakes us, and we have given up. Thus, we do nothing positive in our lives. No, patience for the believer is not passivity or resignation. Rather, the believer who is walking with the Lord will be steadily enjoying the Lord in His soul, while at the same time willing to do the Lord’s work down here, whatever that may be. His heart, soul and mind will be active, even if he may temporarily be immobilized as to active service, as was Paul when he was in prison. He accepts with patience what the Lord allows in his life, but waits in dependence for doors to be opened for him.
The End Reward
Most of the false religions in this world also emphasize patience, as if it were a virtue in itself, even though there is nothing to be gained by it. This is what Satan does; he advocates patience, but there is nothing at the other end. It is like waiting in a long line, only to find that when you finally get to the head of the line, there is nothing for you. It is this mentality that has caused many in this world to adopt the attitude laid out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3232If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. (1 Corinthians 15:32): “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” If there is nothing beyond this world and the future appears bleak, then by all means let us recklessly enjoy the moment. But Christianity is all about giving up present gratification in order to have future gain. The Apostle John exemplifies this attitude when he says, “I John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience, in Jesus” (Rev. 1:99I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9) JND). Tribulation, the kingdom, and patient waiting for it are all tied together, and in the name of our Savior — Jesus. The Christian’s patience will be well rewarded! “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thess. 3:55And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5) JND).
W. J. Prost