Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark, Sr. and John D. Clark, Sr.
“You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the outcome from the Lord, that He is compassionate and merciful.”
Patience is not the absence of complaint but a determination to do the will of God regardless of circumstances. At times, even the most patient characters in the Bible complained, but in the midst of their trouble and grief, they continued doing the will of God. Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, complained in earnest prayer to God, and what was God’s response? He heard her complaint and gave her a son. Job, the epitome of patience, said, “I will speak in the anguish of my spirit. I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
It is true that those who habitually complain are condemned as “complainers” (Jude 16); however, those who complain to God in times of suffering are not numbered in that group. God invites His children to come to Him with their complaints. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” He said, “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” Asaph responded to God’s invitation: “I sought my Lord in the day of my distress . . . . I remembered God, and groaned. I complained, and my spirit was fainting away” (Ps. 77:2–3).
No, my dear friend, complaining to God is not impatience. In fact, it is the right thing to do when we need help, for it demonstrates faith that God cares and is able to deliver. King David was not ashamed to complain to the Lord. “Evening, and morning, and at noon,” he declared, “I will complain and groan, and He will hear my voice.” Surely, David’s faith pleased God, and it would no doubt please God for all His children to share in David’s faith in God’s love for them, and in His power to deliver.
Some of God’s dear children consider themselves impatient when wickedness irritates them, but God considered Lot to be righteous even though he was vexed with the wickedness of Sodom (2Pet. 2:8). God Himself “feels indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11), and yet, He is also “the God of patience” (Rom. 15:5). Hatred of evil is not impatience. Impatience is to turn to doing evil in response to difficult circumstances in order to obtain a desired result, for it indicates a lack of faith in God’s care and power. No matter how much Job suffered, for example, he was determined to do things God’s way. “My foot has held fast to His steps,” he said, “I have kept His way. I have not turned aside. Nor have I turned away from the commandment of His lips” (Job 23:11–12). This determined obedience was the patience of Job.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is coming to try you,” wrote Peter, “as though a strange thing is happening to you” (1Pet. 4:12). Without exception, God tries the faith of His children. May we be among those who are faithful when their trial grows hot; those saints will be made even purer by the heat. We should never doubt God’s love for us, even, “if need be, you are in distress because of trials” (1Pet. 1:6). We should not be discouraged by the Lord’s discipline, “for whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5–6). Remembering that during difficult times can be very comforting.
It is also important to know that, while God does try our hearts, He never tempts us to do evil. In our trials, God tempts us to do good. As James says, (1:13–14), “Let no one say, ‘I am being tempted [to do evil] by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself tempts no one [with evil], but every man is tempted [with evil] when he is drawn away by his own lust.”
You have heard the encouraging phrase, “Something good is going to happen to you!” That saying is true. But it is not the whole truth, for it is also true that something bad is going to happen to you. Here on this earth, good and bad things happen to everybody. So, the real issue of life is, will either the good or the bad things that happen to us lure us away from doing what is right?
Many seem to think that faith is tried only when difficulties come. Not only is that wrong but that kind of thinking also blinds one to the fact that prosperity, not adversity, is the harder trial. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower and the Seed, he taught that those who overcome adversity may afterwards be overcome by prosperity (Mt. 13:1–9, 18–23). Failing to see earthly ease as a trial, some actually believe that earthly wealth is a mark of righteousness (1Tim. 6:5). Consequently, worldly success becomes for them a goal to pursue. There is nothing holy about either wealth or poverty. Both are mere earthly conditions which believers must overcome in order to mature in faith and please our heavenly Father. May we always maintain God’s standard of holiness regardless of our earthly status, financial or otherwise!
The greatest people in the Bible were those who obeyed God both before and after God blessed them with great earthly wealth and status. For example, in slavery, then in prison, and finally on the throne of Egypt, Joseph remained determined to do the will of God. And Moses, as a prince in Pharaoh’s palace and as a fugitive from Pharaoh’s wrath, always strove to please God. David loved God and kept His commandments when he was forced to hide in caves from mad King Saul, and he loved God and kept His commandments when he sat on Israel’s throne. At times, Jesus had multitudes singing his praises, even demanding that he be their king (Jn. 6:15). At other times, he was cursed by the people. But whether praised or cursed, Jesus’ mind was set on doing the will of God. That is patience.
When we lose patience, we try to fight our spiritual battles with carnal weapons. Patience enables us to fight spiritual battles with the weapons that really avail: faith, love, and truth. Without patience, we will resort to partisan political action, social programs, or even violence. Dear friend, “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,” wrote Paul. Amen! Our hope is in Christ, and when the upright wield them, the weapons of the Spirit are “powerful through God for the tearing down of strongholds.” May God give us the patience to trust in the weapons of the Spirit, the only weapons that can forward the cause of Christ.
Through the power of the Spirit, Jesus enables us to be faithful in every circumstance. The lowly Lamb of God, as we know, endured all manner of temptations while on this earth, yet without sin. All that people could do for him and against him, they did, from demanding that he be their king to cursing and crucifying him, but through it all, he continued doing the will of God. His testimony is captured in these verses from Psalm 119: “My persecutors and adversaries are many, yet I have not strayed from your testimonies. . . . The proud derided me greatly, but I did not turn aside from your law . . . . The proud smeared me with a lie, but I keep your precepts with all my heart . . . . They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts . . . . Rulers assemble and speak against me, but your servant meditates on your statutes.”
This is patience: unrelenting obedience to God’s will. It is not a stoic denial of one’s true feelings. There are very few of us, if any, who have not at some time thought, “What’s the use of doing right? It isn’t doing any good.” Let’s not be hasty, my friend. You may be accomplishing more than you think. Do not grow weary in well doing. If it is right, you must do it, regardless of the cost or opposition. The crown of life is not given to those who begin the race but to those who run it until the end. Jesus emphasized the need for patience often, but in no way did he more clearly do so than when he said, “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13). And in Luke 21:19, he told his disciples, “With your patience, win your souls!” My friend, keep doing what is right. The wages of sin is still death.
An appreciable quantity of this enduring power comes by possessing the right attitude. The Preacher tells us (Eccl. 7:8), “A patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.” This, of course, we all know. What some do not know, however, is that the one who is proud in spirit is not, and cannot be patient. Patience and pride are never found residing in the same temple. They are antonymous in every sense of the word. Often in the scriptures, the proud are described as wealthy, satisfied, and popular. Malachi lamented that “We call the proud blessed; evildoers are exalted, and those who tempt God are delivered.” But one thing is consistently absent from the life of every proud person, and that is patience. Watch them, and you will see how quickly they become angry and lose self-control, often causing very unpleasant situations for others.
A simple truth, yet difficult to grasp, is this: external circumstances do not make one impatient. Circumstances merely reveal the quality of our patience. To the mind of faith, external pressures are seen as opportunities to exercise and increase our patience, not as threats to it.
Faith generates patience, for “faith is the certainty of things hoped for.” Faith “waits patiently for the coming of the Lord.” Faith rejoices in “hope of the glory of God” as well as “in tribulations . . . seeing that tribulation produces patience.” Faith deems the end to be of greater importance than the beginning, and it never loses sight of the promised reward. By faith, Noah patiently built the ark. By faith, Abraham went out into the unknown, and “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” And “By faith, Moses, when he was grown, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with God’s people than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season.”
Faith in God produces the patience required to overcome the world – and to overcome it with joy! Abraham would have patiently waited another twenty-five years for a son if that had been the trial God chose for him. Joseph would have continued doing the will of God two more years in prison. And if God had desired it, Jesus would have continued to labor among men who scorned and abused him, and in the end, he still would have prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they do.”
The suffering of righteous men does not exhaust their patience; it perfects it. Indeed, the greater the suffering, the more patient they grow. From that perspective, suffering can be seen as a gift from God, a precious opportunity, and the Bible’s righteous characters seemed to sense that truth. For they gave living expression to the eternal principle voiced by Paul, when he said, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time, we shall reap if we do not faint.”