Humanity is constantly on the move. We want fast food, fast service, and fast resolutions to high profile controversial court cases. When we do not get what we want, we get impatient and want somebody to pay for not doing something when we want it to be done. As we struggle with our own impatience, there is much we can learn by looking at three Bible stories about patience.
What is the common definition of the word patience?
The common definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”(1). It is interesting that the word has the same root as the word “patient” that means suffering. For those of us that are impatient, it is clear that we often think that we are suffering when we have to be patient. The following three stories demonstrate what patience is all about.
Abraham and Sarah
God promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:1-6). This was despite the fact that Abraham and his wife Sarah were unable to have children when they were younger and were too old to have children at the time of this promise. However, we do know that Abraham believed God and God accounted it to him as righteousness despite this fact (Genesis 15:5-6).
Despite God reinforcing the promise over several years, when the promise was not fulfilled right away, Sarah suggested that Abraham take Sarah’s handmaid Hagar to have a child (Genesis 16). Abraham took her advice and the resulting child was Ishmael. It was not until many years after the original promise when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 99 years old that the promise was fulfilled by the birth of Isaac through Sarah (Genesis 17:15; Genesis 21:1-8).
Because Isaac was the child of promise, not Ismael, it caused strife in the household because the inheritance of Abraham went to Isaac. The fallout from this decision continues to this day through descendants of Ishmael (Arabs) and the descendants of Isaac (Jews) as they continue to fight over who should own land in the area of Palestine.
Cornelius (Acts 10)
Cornelius was a Gentile who believed in God and lived a life that reflected a deep faith in God, but did not personally know God (Acts 10). Because of his faith, God sent and angel to speak to him and tell him to send men to Joppa to get Peter and to bring him back to Cornelius’ house. Cornelius believed what God had said through the angel and sent the men
In the meantime, Peter was on the roof of his house praying and God gave him a vision of different types of animals, both clean and unclean according to the law. God told Peter to take and eat, but Peter responded by saying that he would never eat and unclean thing. God responded by telling Peter not to call something unclean that He, God, calls clean.
About that time, the men from Cornelius’ house showed up and Peter went down to meet them. The men, along with Peter and some of Peter’s men, left to go to Cornelius’ house. When Peter and the men arrived, the house was full of people waiting to see Peter. After some initial introductions and clarification of who Peter was, Peter preached the gospel of salvation and everyone in the house believed it and was saved by God. Of particular note was that immediately after they believed, they spoke in tongues (probably Hebrew, but we do not know), which proved to Peter’s men and later the other Apostles that the God had given the gospel to the Gentiles.
Job was probably known the most as a person of patience in the Bible. In fact, the saying “the patience of Job” is commonly referred to in some circles when talking about someone with patience. A brief summary of the book of Job shows us that God considered Job to be a man who was perfect and upright in all his ways (Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3).
Satan discussed this with God and tried to explain Job’s faith as a byproduct of God’s protection. However, God allowed Satan to test Job by attacking Job’s livelihood, his family, and his physical body. Satan’s attack was so vicious that even Job’s wife told him that he should curse God and die. Despite this, Job rebuked his own wife, and refused to curse God (Job 2:9-10).
Throughout the book of Job, we find that Job search for answers as to why this had happened to him. His friends tried to advise him but, their advice was somewhat contradictory and accusing of Job of deserving what had happened. It was not until Job examined himself and cried out to God that God answered Him and set Job straight. Job believed what God said, and God blessed Job abundantly above and beyond what he had done in the past.
What can we learn from these stories?
The common thread in each of these stories is that each of these persons believed what God said. However, we also see three levels of patience. In the account of Abraham, he and Sarah had patience to a point, but because of their impatience over how long it was taking, they decided to take matters into their own hands to produce a child. The result of their impatience is directly responsible for conflict today between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac. This teaches us that not having patience can sometimes have long lasting effects that affect many generations (Isaiah 30:15-18).
In the account of Cornelius, we see a man who had patience enough to follow what God said to do even though there was no mention as to why he was to send men to get Peter. Without knowing even if Peter would come, he called his family and friends to his house to wait for Peter. The result of this was that everyone who had patience with Cornelius to wait and see what would happen were saved. This teaches us that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we not only must have patience with God, but also have patience with each other (Romans 12:10-21).
In the account of Job, we see a man who had patience to continue to trust that God would give him an answer to his trials. Job had the patience to listen to the advice of his wife, his friends, and even his own self-examination, yet decided to wait upon the Lord for His answer. His won wife and friends tried to offer an answer for why God allows him to go through a trial, but Job waited for God’s answer. This teaches us that when we go through times of testing we often do not see why God allowed it to happen until many years later when we can look back and understand exactly why God allowed it in the light of God’s calling for today (Ecclesiastes 7:7-10).
Patience really does entail suffering on some level. However, when we continue to seek God’s intervention in the matter instead of our own, He blesses us and shows us at some point how He uses it to our good and to His glory (Romans 5:3-5; Galatians 6:9).
Another Patheos Reading: How Does The Bible Define True Beauty?
Dr. Michael L. Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor who has served in ministry since March of 2000. Dr. Mike holds under-graduate through post graduate degrees in Christian Education and formerly worked as a nurse. Dr. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March of 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (selahmountain.org). In addition to counseling, he teaches how to overcome life issues Biblically on topics such as anger management, marriage, addictions, and other subjects typically referred to as mental illnesses. Dr. Mike is also a writer at What Christians Want To Know. Dr. Mike lives with his wife Pamela Rose and adult daughter Hollie Rose. He and Pamela have other adult children and several grandchildren as well. Learn more about Dr. Mike at his personal ministry web site Wisdom4Today
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2014). “Patience”. Retrieved from Google, https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=patience