As Regards Patience

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; (Romans 2:6-7)

Patience is an undervalued Christian virtue. Especially in modern day America where efficiency, speed, and convenience are seen as the greatest cultural values. But I suspect it has always been undervalued. Writing in the 1400’s, Thomas a’ Kempis said the following:

“Do not say, I cannot endure these things from such a man, or things of this kind are not to be suffered by me, for he has done me a great injury and accuses me of things I never thought of; but I will suffer willingly from another, and as far as I shall judge fitting for me to suffer……Such a thought is foolish, which considers not the virtue of patience, nor by whom it shall be crowned, but rather weighs the persons, and offenses committed.” (Imitation of Christ Book II Chapter XIX)

Peter tells us to humble ourselves before God and wait for the proper time to allow God to bring about situational resolution of conflicts and accusations. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) The old colloquial phrase that was passed down to us from our elders, who lived before our microwaveable and DoorDash induced culture of impatience, tells us to wait because, “Patience is a virtue.” I once asked my children in a family worship setting where our forefathers got such an idea. After surveying their faces for a few moments and allowing them time to give an answer, I quoted the well known fruits or virtues of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Patience is a virtue that the Holy Spirit is birthing and developing within His people. And suffering, physical and emotional suffering, is the chief means He uses to shape us in this virtue. Life will see us be passed over for promotions. We will be falsely accused of wrong doing by a friend our colleague at some point. Prolonged sickness and the eventual weakening of our bodies as we age tests our patience. As we watch a dream or dreams die because of responsibilities that we must fulfill rather than pursuing self gratification, long suffering patience will be needed to maintain a godly course in life. As we mature we become aware of the short comings of our parents, spouses, friends, and neighbors. The reality that we are completely powerless to bring about change in them sets in and then we are faced with the hard truth that we must live in close proximity to them because we have natural obligations to them we can’t simply ignore. All these can severely test the patience of a believer. The Holy Spirit brings us to the perceived limits of what we believe we can endure and then opens a door to us so that we learn that we can endure more than we ever imagined. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Let us pray then the prayer that Thomas a Kempis prays in the same chapter of the “Imitation of Christ” that I quoted from above. He prays, “Make, O Lord, that possible to me by grace, which seems impossible to me by nature.” (Imitation of Christ Book II Chapter XIX) As a fast-paced modern American man who struggles mightily with patience, let me close with a phrase that is fitting from my generation and also a Scripture text that we need to return to often. First I only say, “Thomas, I feel ya.” And then from James the Lord’s brother receive this reminder.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

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