Ye have need of Patience. Follow after Patience. Run with Patience.
In that little room of Interpreter’s house there sat two little children, each on his own chair, the eldest, Passion, and the other, Patience. Passion was the one who would have his good things now in this world to come to have his good things. These children you see as twins, but about as much alike as Esau and Jacob. They come from the same natural origin, the same parent-stock. Their names come from the same Latin root, patior, suffer. Passion can be both active and passive suffering. Think of the suffering of Christ. Patience is also passive and active in suffering. “Patience is the passive endurance of the evils to which man is liable.” The word has “an active force denoting uncomplaining steadiness in doing.”
Rarely one comes across a really good dictionary. In the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary, 1913 edition, there is a rare work, indeed, of somewhat encyclopedic proportions. How do you acquire such a treasure? The easiest way, I suppose, is to inherit it from grand- or great grandfather’s generation. In our volume of this dictionary there is a special page describing it as a special copy dedicated to a certain member of our “family tree.” In this volume there is also this smiling inscription: “If you don’t know where you can find sympathy, turn to page 2,445.” Patience, says this dictionary, is “the exercise of unfaltering endurance and perseverance in pursuit of a desired end.” For example, “patience in study is constancy and perseverance at the task.” The meaning is then pointedly illustrated by a quotation from none other than Darwin’s Descent of Man, “He may be said to possess genius – for genius has been declared by a great authority to be patience, and patience, in this sense, means unflinching, undaunted perseverance.” Then, as though the lexicographer had read Bunyan, he writes, “Patience is the ability to await events without perturbation or discontent.”
It is said that Samson was the strongest man that ever lived, that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, that Moses was the meekest man that ever lived, that Abraham was the most faithful man that ever lived, and the Job was the most patient man that ever lived. But what does this mean? The Apostle James reminds us, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” But he was not thinking of patience according to the common, colloquial usage of the term. For there were a number of times when Job in that sense was not patient. James really uses two different words, both translated patience. He says, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of (the) suffering affliction (what is bad), and of (the) patience (longsuffering). Behold, we count them happy who endure. Ye have heard of the patience (endurance) of Job” (mas.. 5:10-11). James, urging patience, spoke of the patience of prophets, and of the endurance of Job. Patience in verse 10 for the most part refers to persons, and means longsuffering. In verse 11, patience refers to a person’s attitude toward unfavorable circumstances, and means endurance, with the idea, literally, of ability to stay under longer. The university Phys. Ed. Swimming instructor has his pupils swim prescribed lengths of the pool under water, or he has them to learn to sin, down to the 12-foot bottom. These pupils know something of what it means “to stay under.” So, carrying over the idea from the physical to the spiritual, enduring means staying under, and so enduring the ordeal of life. Job is not so particularly noted for his patience in the sense of longsuffering, for there were times when he made rash statements and spoke ill-advisedly. But he did endure; he held out under the most trying circumstances. The precious truth that we find in the book bearing his name is the patience of God and the endurance of Job! You could say that the relation between the two is that of cause and effect. The patience of God will result in the endurance of man. The divine preservation of the saints is the cause, the perfect, perpetual and personal perseverance of the saints, the effect. Peter said, “the longsuffering (patience) of our Lord is salvation” (II Peter 3:15).
Patience, then, in the light of the Scripture examined, is not so much a kind sufferance of others, as a discipline of self. Patience is usually taken to mean the bearing and forbearing of family strife, imperfections and annoyances, or the gracious toleration of the slow, stupid and less gifted; whereas, it is a kind of self-discipline. “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). There you have a man of patience, endurance. He knows how to be patient with himself, how to endure. It was not that Patience had to be able to stand the gloating scorn of Passion that made him Patience. It was that he was able to “stay under” the evil things. Some of those evil things he found in himself. Many of those evil things in himself he found in themselves overwhelming enough. But he was in the business of ruling his own spirit. He was not only flesh. He was spirit. John 3:6. Galatians 5:17. True, he was in his flesh no good thing. But in his spirit he saw no bad thing (I John 3:9). With the mere natural man, there is nothing but the flesh – sinful flesh. There is no battle between flesh and spirit, there is no conflict between the old man and the renewed man, and there is no antithesis between a wicked and perverse generation and regeneration. The natural man, catching a sight of that horror that is himself, and, unable to endure either himself or the things he has brought upon himself, oftentimes rushes into the jaws of death. Plunging into a Christ less eternity is no escape from self. Hell is hell because of unending remorse. But there are moral weaklings, moral cowards and moral suicides who throw overboard the faith, the hope, the patience and the endurance of a Christian. Why do they do this? It is because they are evil and have lived an evil life. They never learned to overcome evil with good. They never knew how to pray, “deliver us from evil,” not knowing that in part that means, “deliver us from ourselves,” help us rule our own spirits. Look around and see how many enemies there are to endure. But look within. Can you endure the enemy within? What enemy is so bad, so treacherous, as that within ourselves? Enduring the enemy does not mean tolerating him. It means outlasting the enemy, persevering beyond the enemy. He who endures to the end shall be saved.
With James “we count them happy who endure.” Patience is one of those we must count happy. Not so, Passions. In the end he had nothing but rags. Patience, like Christian, is to be seen, when we first meet him, a man clothed in rages. With his rags and his burden he runs from the town of Depravity with his fingers in his ears crying, Life! Life! Eternal life! That’s the way he kept on, enduring, to the heavenly city which hath foundations. Therefore his end is not in rags, but in that robe which he received and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Ye have need of endurance. Follow after endurance. Run with endurance. Look! We count them blest who endure! Who endure what? Temptation! That is, trial! Do we agree with James, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation” (trial)? Why is this man blest? “Because when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them who love Him.” Endure what? Chastening! “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.” Your persevering endurance is over against chastisement. What is chastisement? It is our Father’s painful disciplining of us, and so painful it may be called scourging. “Despise not the chastening of the Lord” is the negative way of saying the positive, “Appreciate the Lord’s chastening,” which you cannot do if you desire to be rid of the chastisement. Therefore, endure chastening. It is a proof mark of your sonship. Enduring what? Afflictions! “Watch! Endure afflictions!” (II Tim. 4:5), that is, as in the James passage, suffer the bad. The meaning is that you endure the hand of God upon you – very really, and strikingly enough – you learn to be patient with God. As Job put it, “What! shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?” Endure what? “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (II Tim. 2:3). The expression here, endure hardness,” literally means “suffer the bad together with” the good. This is enduring the hand of God upon you. This is the endurance and the faith of the saints. This is keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Endure what? “Sound doctrine!” (4:3). This is the day “when they will not stand up for healthy teaching,” but they rather swallow and swill teaching which is the opposite – diseased, deformed, sick. Here the word endure means “will not have up for themselves,” that is, as to sound, healthy teaching, they will not have it up in the place of authority, in office, in the pulpit, in the ministry. They are church killers, and they are sick! Quite a bit to endure, then, in this biblical sense of “patience”! Anything else? Yes, endure all things! “Love endures all things.” That is, it takes love to have patience. That is the secret of Patience – love! Love sustains every attack of the enemy, bears up under every stormy wave, and holds out against all sufferings and persecutions. That’s what made Patience sit there so “very quiet” and calmly upright – love!
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 3 May 1970