Real, godly patience is vitally important in overcoming the trials of this life and qualifying for God's Kingdom. Here's how to have this patience.
Patience, you tell yourself. You were just cut off on the freeway by another driver, and you missed your turn. Your first urge was to blast your horn at him or call him some name. He was speeding anyway. Why couldn't he have just eased into the lane behind you? But then you catch yourself, and begin looking for the next exit. You're in the supermarket. You just stopped in to pick up a couple of items — you're due somewhere and are already behind schedule. And wouldn't you know it? Only one check stand is open, and you're the fourth person in line. You have several options. You can leave in disgust and come back later to get your groceries. You can find the store manager and, fuming, give him a piece of your mind. Or you can calmly wait your turn and be cheerful about the whole thing. Patience. We all need to develop more patience to deal with problems in our everyday lives — disagreements with our mates, annoyances from our children, unfair treatment from employers and fellow workers, inconsiderate acts of our friends. But, as Christians, we have an even greater need to develop real godly patience, living, as we do, in the pulsating pressure cooker that is this end time. We are challenged to endure to the end, and to patiently wait for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us, "But if we hope for that we see not [our birth into God's Family], then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:25). So what exactly is true, effective, godly patience? And how can we develop more of it, to better deal with everyday trials and to endure until Christ's return?
Hebrews 12: 1 tells us to "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." Patience is one of the virtues Peter tells us to "add" to keep from falling away from the faith (II Pet. 1:5-10). James writes that Christians should "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (Jas. 1:2-4). In all the verses referred to above, the word patience is translated from the Greek word hupomone. This Greek word means "cheerful or hopeful endurance, patience, patient continuance or waiting." People with real patience bear trials calmly. They are steadfast in the face of adversity or strain. Patient people are not hasty or impetuous, but act with wisdom and discretion. The Bible gives many examples of people who were shining examples of patience. God's Word also records the failures of some others to exercise this godly trait.
Real patience — and the lack of it
The ancient Israelites' lack of godly patience caused them no end of troubles. They saw God's direct intervention to help them with miracle after miracle. Yet they became impatient and rebelled time and again rather than trust God for food, water, protection from enemies and proper leadership. But notice why ancient Israel's example is recorded for us: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). By studying the examples in God's Word and using God's Spirit to help us avoid the mistakes recorded there, we can develop more godly patience. The prophet Samuel had arranged to meet King Saul at Gilgal and offer sacrifices there before a battle with the Philistines. When the appointed time came and went and Samuel didn't appear, Saul began to worry. Saul and the people with him grew more and more impatient and fearful, until Saul decided to offer the sacrifices himself, in direct contravention of God's command. Immediately after Saul's sin, Samuel appeared (if Saul had only waited a while longer!). The prophet condemned the king's act, and informed Saul that God had rejected him from being king of Israel (I Sam. 13:7- 14). Jesus Christ told a parable about a servant who owed a great debt to a certain king (Matt. 18:23-25). When the servant begged for mercy, the king, in an act of patience and kindness, released the servant from the debt. But then this same servant went out and cast into prison a man who owed him far less than he had owed the king. The punishment for his lack of patience? "Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, 0 thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as 1 had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him" (verses 32-34).
Wait for the Lord
The servants of God throughout history have manifested this trait of godly patience. Abraham patiently waited a quarter of a century for the son God promised him from his wife Sarah. Abraham's patience is one of the many reasons God considered Abraham His friend. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (Heb. 6: 13-15). Remember the patriarch Job? God allowed Satan to utterly destroy everything Job had and then to rack his body with severe pain. Yet Job set a tremendous example of patience, which James later made a special point of referring to (Jas. 5:11). King David, unlike Saul who preceded him, had great patience, which was linked with an abiding faith in God. David's psalms are filled with expressions of this attitude of patience: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry" (Ps. 40: 1). "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.... Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee" (Ps. 25:5, 21). "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope" (Ps. 130:5). "Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation" (Ps. 62:1). The apostle Paul, in the service of God's Work, underwent hardships that we today can scarcely imagine (II Cor. 11:24-33). Yet he endured patiently, and exhorted others to do likewise: "But we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:3-5). "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ" (II Thess. 3:5). "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:12). The greatest example of patience was set by Jesus Christ, who, as an innocent Lamb, died a hideous death to make possible mankind's reconciliation to God: "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Heb. 12:3).
Here, then, are several ways to develop godly patience. • Keep your eye on the overall goal. All of us are forced to deal with trials and problems. When we're trying to reason with unconverted mates or striving to please unfair bosses or struggling to make financial ends meet, it's sometimes hard to keep our minds on our ultimate destiny — birth into God's Family and co-rulership, with Jesus Christ, of the universe. But that's exactly what we must do — keep our minds on that great, overall goal. James wrote that Christians should focus on, and conduct their lives in expectation of, Christ's Second Coming and the Kingdom of God: "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord … Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jas. 5:7-8). The most important thing on God's mind right now is the restoration of His government to this earth and the eventual establishment of His Kingdom throughout the universe. And that has always been His goal. But consider that a thousand years to God is like a mere day (Ps. 90:4) — consider the great patience of God! We are to emulate that patience in constantly looking forward to God's Kingdom. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (Hab. 2:3). • Think before you act. There is an old saying that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." A person who jumps to conclusions is likely to end up at the bottom of a cliff. Your husband or wife made an unkind remark to you? Don't snap back with something you'll later be sorry you said. Rather, concentrate on glorifying God. You're sick and tired of standing in line at a church function or at the Feast of Tabernacles? Occupy your mind with something else! Don't dwell on your consternation about the long line, or you'll end up saying or doing something that will set a wrong example of God's way of life. • Concentrate on giving. Impatience is many times rooted in selfishness. Paul said, "Be patient toward all men" (I Thess. 5:14) — the slow bank teller, the small child who can't understand an instruction, the rude gas station attendant, the person who drones on and on with the most boring story you ever heard. Overlook the shortcomings of others (you may have a few of your own). Forget yourself and be concerned with their welfare. "The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit" (Eccl. 7:8). Sincerely love the other person and look upon him as a future God — it will drastically change your perspective. • Talk out tensions. Does a mate, a fellow employee or a friend have an annoying habit that is about to drive you up the wall? Well, if you simply cannot overlook it any longer, tell the person about it and talk out your feelings. In almost every case, the other person will not have even realized his habit bothered you, and will make an effort to stop, if you approach him with tact, meekness and sincere concern. Ask God to grant you favor in his eyes. Don't let the impatience and resentment build up inside you until you explode into rage or retaliate some way — you would certainly not be setting an example of godly self-control or patience then. • Rely on God for strength. Our Father in heaven is the very God of patience, and He can help you have a mind like His (Rom. 15:5). When you think you're at the end of your rope — you just can't grin and bear it any longer — ask God for more of His Holy Spirit — His strength. Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has always glorified God as the source of his continued drive and perseverance, referring to-God's promise in Isaiah 40:29-31: "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." David wrote, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Ps. 27:14). God can give you the patience you need to overcome.
An incredible future
If we do wait on God — if we practice godly patience and endure to the end of this age, an incredible future awaits us. "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God... and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:19, 23 , Revised Standard Version). Even God's very creation sets an example of patience for us as it awaits the fulfillment of God's plan of reproducing Himself through us! "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, 0 God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him" (Isa. 64:4). Patience is a vitally important commodity in the makeup of the future children of God. We must have godly patience if we are to rule with Jesus Christ! "For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth" (Ps. 37:9). Make every effort to build this trait of godly patience into your character — it is necessary if you intend to overcome the trials of this life and endure until Christ's coming. "[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath" (Rom. 2:6-8). "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36).