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Patience

In James 1:2-4 we read:

James 1:2-4
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing"

To be perfect and complete, we need the perfect work of patience. I would like therefore today, to have a closer look at patience and its importance.

1. Patience: Why do we need it?

To start we will go to Hebrews 12:1-2. There we read:

Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down on the right hand of the throne of God."

There is a race that we should run, and we should run it WITH PATIENCE, looking unto Jesus, who also patiently suffered the cross for the joy that was after it. Really, think of the patience of Christ. He never did evil to anyone. On the contrary, He healed the lame, He raised the dead, He did the will of God in all its greatness. If nothing else, the miracles that He did made void all his persecutors' excuses. Yet, He was persecuted and tortured more than anyone else, to the point of being crucified. Did Christ have reasons to be angry and want to quit because the people who He served behaved to Him so terribly? Well, even ifHhe had he never did it. Instead, HE ENDURED. You endure when you consider the aim that you want to accomplish much more worthy than the pain that you are in now. This is what Jesus did. He endured the pain and the humiliation, looking at what would follow, at our salvation that His pain would make available. It is He our bright example of patience and it is He the one that we should look upon, running our race with his patience as an example. As Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-25:

I Corinthians 9:24-25
"do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we FOR an imperishable crown."

The reward of our race is not a perishable crown on a perishable body given by a perishable hand. In contrast, it is an IMPERISHABLE crown on an IMPERISHABLE, spiritual, body, given BY AN IMPERISHABLE HAND: the hand of JESUS CHRIST. And Hebrews 12 goes on:

Hebrews 12:3
"For consider him who ENDURED such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls"

And Hebrews 10:35-36
"Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For YOU HAVE NEED OF PATIENCE, SO THAT HAVING DONE THE WILL OF GOD, YOU MAY RECEIVE THE PROMISE: "For yet a little while and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul."

Our patience and confidence have great reward. Jesus Christ is coming back with crowns, with rewards to those of us that endured and did not draw back. Sometimes, we are so brash. We think that here is our permanent home and we are going to stay here forever. However, our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are men called by God to know Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the knowledge of whom all else is rubbish (Philippians 3:8). It is he the author and the finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). It is our home in heavens, our real and permanent home (II Corinthians 5:1). This is the reality, as reality is the prize that we do not see now, yet we endure for it, exactly as the athlete does not see his own prize but he endures and prepares himself to acquire it.

2. Passive patience and fighting patience

Since we speak about patience, I would like to make clear for what kind of patience we speak about. The reason is because there are two kinds of patience: the passive patience and the fighting patience. The passive patience just consumes the time, waiting passively for the end. Such for example is the patience of the prisoners, the captives and generally those who have been captivated in a situation that accept passively.

The opposite of the passive patience is the fighting one, the patience of the fighter who, aiming at the victory, endures all the hardships and wounds that a fight may imply. He may be hurt but he endures everything for the sake of his mission. I believe, it is this kind of patience that God speaks about in His Word. It is not a hopeless, aimless patience that God asks us to have. As we read in Hebrews 12:1-2: "RUN with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith". We are patient, RUNNING (action), a race and LOOKING (action) unto someone: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH. God did not make us prisoners of war nor soldiers that march from time to time and then return to their camps. He made us spiritual marines, in an all out war "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). We do not parade in a friendly ground, but we fight in a real war in the enemy's territory. We are not here just to show off our weapons, to say that we have them, but to USE them in all their terrific power. Of course, as in any war, we may suffer hardships and wounds. But so what? Shall we be afraid of them? Shall we allow the devil to keep us in prison under the threat of the consequences. As far as God is concerned:

II Timothy 2:3
"You therefore endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ"

The good soldier endures hardship. For the sake of his mission he is ready to sacrifice everything. He obviously has the mind of his Commander:

Philippians 2:5-11
"LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS, WHO, BEING IN THE FORM OF GOD, DID NOT CONSIDER IT ROBBERY TO BE EQUAL WITH GOD, BUT MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION, TAKING THE FORM OF BONDSERVANT, AND COMING IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN. AND BEING FOUND IN APPEARANCE AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME OBEDIENT TO THE POINT OF DEATH, EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those in earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The good soldier has the mind of his commander. He is obedient, even to the point of death if it is needed. He has made himself available to his Lord and though he may face hardships, he endures them, looking unto Him.

On the other hand, there is the soldier that is afraid of hardships. In their prospect, he becomes tremulous and he prefers to recede back to the prison. The prison keeper that roars like a lion (I Peter 5:8) terrifies him. He has deceived him to believe that he has some power over him, so that he may hide the truth that "GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN YOU, THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD" (I John 4:4). May this soldier also understand the truth. May he breaks his chains, the strongholds and the thoughts of the mind (II Corinthians 10:4), that keep him captive in the false security of the prison, and walk out, in the battle, as a good soldier that denying self fights fearlessly and patiently. Yet, no longer with a passive patience, but with a FIGHTING one.

3. Other examples of patience

 

3.1 The example of the farmer and the seed

Apart from Jesus' example, more examples of patience are given in James 5. There, starting from verse 7 we read:

James 5:7-8
"Therefore be patient, brethren until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer WAITS for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand."

Does the farmer see the fruit for which he labors? NO. However, he expects it. He endures all the toilsome and costly work, so that at the end his farm may produce as much fruit as possible. We would say that the fruit of his farm is in perfect correspondence with his patience. Really, imagine a careless farmer that neglects the necessary works for his farm. Compare now him with one that despite the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, he takes care of his farm by doing all those toilsome works that the first one avoids. Why does he do it? Because he aims at something that he does not see right then, but for which he endures: the fruit. It is this farm that will bring forth much fruit, and it is this good and patient farmer the example that is given to us. As the Lord said in the parable of the sower:

Luke 8:11-15
"Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones thatfell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, KEEP IT AND BEAR FRUIT WITH PATIENCE"

The Word of God has been sowed into our hearts. As the farmer does not see the fruit of his farm yet he endures for it, so we, as good farmers, we should keep the seed of the Word in our heart WITH PATIENCE. In the parable, the seed was always the same. However, only one farmer was PATIENT. He kept the seed in his farm (heart) and in return he bore much, very much fruit, even a hundredfold (Matthew 13:9). And most important, he bore fruit that lasts forever, in heaven.

3.2 The case of Job

Another example that is given in James 5 is the example of Job. Thus in verse 11 we read :

James 5:11
"Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job and seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy"

The complete story of Job can be read in the respective book. He was tried by the devil with severity. In fact all that a man considers as blessings were taken away from him. His children were murdered. His property was lost. He himself was heavily ill, and his wife scorned him, telling him to curse God and die. And as if these were not enough, he had three friends that though they came to comfort him, they were trying to persuade him that it was his fault that all these were happening to him. Yet, the Bible tells us that Job was patient. As it can be seen at the end of his book, despite all the adversity, Job passed the test of his faith successfully.

Following his example, our faith should not depend on the things we have or on the satisfaction of the things we do not have. Such a faith is a conditional one. In contrast, we should make the Lord responsible for every section of our lives. For Him, we are "COMPLETE IN HIM" NOW (Colossians 2:10)! What is your problem? Your health, your loneliness, the such and such problem? For God you are "COMPLETE IN HIM (Christ)" NOW. Before He give you any other blessing, He pronounced you COMPLETE, because you believed in His Son.

For many churches the blessings one has is a meter of his faith. Thus when something is lost as the health or the property, we find it difficult to help him. We become like Job's friends that instead of comfort offered condemnation. Of course it is lawful to be very blessed in everything. But our completeness does not depend on how many and how much material blessings we have. "No good thing will God withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalms 84:11) says the Word, and He "has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). At the end, God restored what Job lost (Job 42:10). Really imagine his gladness when he was healed, when he got back his property double, his children etc. Imagine the gladness of Christ when He saw us confessing him as Lord. Christ suffered the cross, Job lost everything, but none lost his patience, which in turn gave its good fruit.

3.3 The prophets' example

Another example in the epistle of James is the example of the prophets. Thus, in verse 10 we read:

James 5:10
"My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience."

Sometimes we think of the prophets and generally of the people of God for whom we read in the Bible, as supermen. That they could do so much, but we.......... However, the truth is different. Really, who of the Old Testament prophets was a son of God as you are (Galatians 4:1-7)? Who of them was born again of His incorruptible seed (I Peter 1:23)? Did Paul and Peter or any other man of the New Testament have more than you have? The holy spirit that God gave to them, He gave to you as well. The promise for even greater works than Christ's was not made to some supermen of that age, but to ANYONE THAT BELIEVES IN JESUS CHRIST:

John 14:12
"Most assuredly, I say to you, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THE WORKS THAT I DO HE WILL DO ALSO; AND GREATER WORKSTHAN THESE HE WILL DO, BECAUSE I GO TO MY FATHER"

Returning to our subject, the prophets are really a very lively example of patience and suffering. Really, think about Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah, and the others that instead of relaxing, chose to suffer, to fight, to endure. Instead of governing themselves, they made them a vessel in the hand of their Lord. But also in the New Testament, think about Paul for example. As he says for himself.

II Timothy 3:10
"But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, LONGSUFFERING, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra-what persecutions I endured. And ouT of them all the Lord delivered me. "

Also, II Corinthians 6:4
"But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: IN MUCH PATIENCE......"

There is a spiritual battle that implies suffering and hardships and we need patience to fight it. As far as Paul is concerned, he said towards the end of his ministry:

II Timothy 4:7-8
"I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing."

Christ also said, speaking to God:

John 17:4
"I have finished THE WORK which you have given me to do"

Christ, Paul, the prophets were not masochists that liked suffering. They were WARRIORS, SPIRITUAL MARINES, that were ready to suffer and do whatever was necessary for the fulfillment of the mission, for the work of the Ministry. Then it was Paul and the others, today it is we, that we fight the same fight UNDER THE SAME COMMANDER: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. May we walk like them. May we fight the good fight and finish the race. It is not an easy race, but certainly is the best race we can run and with the best end: the Lord Jesus Christ waiting to honor our patience with the crown of righteousness, exactly as he will do to many others, that through the centuries chose to fight the same fight, denying their own self and putting it under the command of their LORD.

4. Patience: How is it produced?

Having seen how much important is patience, we will close having a look at how it is produced. Thus, in Romans 5:3-5 we read:

Romans 5:3-5
"And not only that but we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience; and patience proof, and proof hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the holy spirit which is given to us"

And James 1:2-4
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing"

Really, who would expect that what we need so much to do the will of God, to be fruitful and run the race i.e. patience, is the result of tribulations and trials? Probably it is because of this reason that both the above passages tell us to glory in tribulation and be joyful in temptations!! For if we remain faithful, then this will produce patience, which in turn will produce proof, hope, perfect work! If therefore we suffer "according to the will of God let's commit our souls to him" - "the God of patience and comfort" (Romans 15:5) - "as to a faithful Creator" (I Peter 4:19). Let's submit ourselves to Him and let's allow Him to do to us WHATEVER HE WANTS. "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (II Timothy 2:4) says the Word, and we are soldiers of Jesus Christ. Let's cast therefore all our cares, all "the affairs of this life", on God. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith"

Anastasios Kioulachoglou