Thoughts on Patience
I’m simply baffled by the long-suffering God we have.
By Robert G. Wearner
“Ye have heard of the patience of Job” (James 5:11, KJV).
Really? In the only reference to the patriarch in the New Testament the author emphasizes his endurance and fortitude. However, in the early chapters of Job we see pictured a very impatient man asking why? why? why? (see Job 3:11, 12).
After Job’s long discussions with his so-called friends, the Lord answered him through a whirlwind, revealing His power. Only then did he learn patience. In my opinion, the One who was truly patient was God.
In the New Testament the word “patience” appears 34 times in the King James Version, translated from the Greek hupomone. However, it means much more than merely controlling one’s temper. The translators of the New International Version usually render it as “endurance.” In this modern version, a text familiar to us—Revelation 14:12 (“Here is the patience of the saints …”)—reads: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”
How do I attain this essential virtue of “patient endurance”? By following the example of our Father God. Just look how He molded the character of heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. According to the accurate record of their lives, recorded in the Old Testament, nearly every one had serious defects of character.
Abraham had problems telling the truth (Gen. 12:10-13; 20:1, 2). Jacob deceived his father (Gen. 27). Moses and David were guilty of murder (Ex. 2:11, 12; 2 Sam. 11:14-25). Gideon fell into idolatry late in life after God gave him a great victory over the Midianites (Judges 8:27).
Even Samson is included in the list of those “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises …” (Heb. 11:33). Certainly our Father God was very patient with him.
More on Samson
A messenger from heaven announced to Samson’s parents that their son would begin the deliverance of Israel. Reared by godly parents, Samson received God’s blessing. He was commissioned to call the chosen people back to true worship.
But he rebelled from the start. Falling in love with a pagan Philistine girl, Samson took the first step downward. His marriage ended in disaster. Year after year, murder and adultery marred the record of this strong man.
Samson’s unfortunate 20-year career came to a climax when he fell in love with Delilah, another pagan woman. He lost his hair and his strength. And falling into the hands of his enemies, he lost his liberty and his eyesight.
“But he did not know that the Lord had left him,” Scripture says (Judges 16:20, NIV). That sad statement gives me the impression that Samson was beyond hope, but God still loved him.
His eyes gouged out, Samson was treated harshly by his enemies. Set to grinding grain in prison, he finally repented of his sin.
What patience God demonstrated! If He could save such a rebel, He can save anyone. We too must say with Samson, “O Lord God, remember me” (Judges 16:28).
As my last example I point to Manasseh, king of Judah. His father, King Hezekiah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 29:2). But when Manasseh became king, he rebelled against God and “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen” (2 Chron. 33:2, KJV). He erected pagan altars in the Temple, consulted mediums, and sacrificed his sons—even doing worse than his pagan neighbors. Manasseh’s evil reign dragged on for a half century.
Conditions got so bad that God intervened, speaking to him and his people. But they paid no attention. So the Lord called in the army commanders of the king of Assyria to deal with the rebel. Taking the king prisoner, they put a hook through his nose, bound him with bronze shackles, and carried him to Babylon.
Finally, the king’s hard heart was broken. “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chron. 33:12, NIV).
The God whom the king had fought against for decades listened to his plea, returned him to Jerusalem, and reinstated him on the throne. What patience, what love!
The story of Manasseh’s conversion, and, indeed, those of the others mentioned, tells me that we should never give up on anyone. These words of Scripture say it all: “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17, NIV).
Robert G. Wearner writes from Collegedale, Tennessee (U.S.A.).