Gleanings from Paul
by A. W. Pink
31. Prayer for Patience
2 Thessalonians 3:5
"The Lord Direct Your Hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ." The Greek verb here rendered "direct" occurs twice elsewhere in the New Testament: in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, and in Luke 1:79 where it is translated "to guide our feet into the way of peace." Literally the word signifies "to make thoroughly straight what has gone awry, to turn back or straighten what has become crooked." The Christian’s heart is apt to return to its old bias and become warped: this prayer is for the righting of that fault. We are prone to allow our affections to wander from God and make an idol of some creature; therefore we constantly need to beg Him to bind them to Himself, that our love may be unalterably fixed upon its true and only worthy Object. We are also prone to grow slack in the performance of duty, to become weary in doing good, especially when we meet with opposition and affliction; therefore we need to earnestly ask God for the grace of endurance, that our knees do not become feeble and that our hands do not hang down, but that we "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
Consideration of the Meaning of "Patient Waiting"
Quite a lot is said about the grace and duty of "patient waiting" in the Scriptures, though there is comparatively little of it in the lives of most Christians, which fact is not only displeasing and dishonoring to God but detrimental to their own spiritual condition. Few of them have any clear scriptural conception of what "patient waiting" actually consists, for there has not been sufficient really definite and practical teaching on it; consequently the thoughts of few rise any higher than those of the natural man. When commenting upon Colossians 1:11, we threw out some general hints on this subject, and expressed the hope of later supplementing them. We shall therefore consider something of what God’s Word teaches on this most necessary fruit of Divine grace. The Savior Himself exhorted us, "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19), and His apostle declared, "Ye have need of patience" (Heb. 10:36). Patience is a most necessary grace for the Christian. That requires little proof, for the experience of every believer confirms it. Some difficulty accompanies every duty and the putting forth of every grace, not only because the commandments of God run counter to our corruptions but also because they run counter to the spirit and course of this world. Therefore patience is required in order to perform our duties constantly, and to continue in the exercise of that grace. To swim against the tide of popular sentiment, willing to be deemed singular, plodding along the narrow way, which is an uphill course throughout, and not fainting near the end, calls for much fortitude and endurance.
This patient waiting for Christ may be defined as "the grace of hope fortifying our resolutions for God and His way, that we may be steadfast till our work is finished and our warfare is ended." There is a threefold patience spoken of in Scripture. First, a laboring patience, which consists in our doing the will of God in self-denying obedience, however irksome it proves to the flesh. The same Greek word rendered "patiently waiting" in our text is translated "patient continuance in well doing" in Romans 2:7, which is in contrast with those whose "goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hosea 6:4). Christ defined the stony-ground hearers as those "which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." He described the thorny-ground hearers as they who "are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." But He declared that the good-ground hearers are they who "having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:13-15). "Many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66), but of the apostles He said, "Ye are they which have continued with me" (Luke 22:28).
Second, suffering patience, which meekly bears affliction and does not rebel against whatever God has appointed for us. Where that grace is thus exercised, the soul does not faint in the time of adversity nor turn back in the day of battle. When the dispensations of divine providence are most trying to flesh and blood, and we are tempted to resist them, we are enabled to say, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). Piety does not exempt any from trouble and sorrow, but it does enable us to make manifest the sufficiency of divine grace in all conditions and circumstances. As God is honored by the exercise of our love and zeal in performing His precepts, so He is greatly glorified by our quietness and submission when He calls upon us to experience suffering. Our fidelity to Him must be tested by enduring evil as well as in doing good, and the exercise of patience is as much needed for an unrepining and unflagging bearing of the one as it is for the joyous and unremitting performance of the other.
Third, a waiting patience, which consists of quietly tarrying for God’s pleasure after we have both done the preceptive will of God and fulfilled His providential will. Some find this more difficult to exercise than either of the former, yet it is required of us. "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through patience inherit the promises." "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 6:12; 10:36). God has anticipatory mercies which come without our tarrying for them; He also has rewarding mercies which must be waited for, for He is pleased to test our patience, and often there is no reward for doing His will unless we do wait. Though God is never behind His time, He seldom comes at ours. "It came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all of the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night much to be observed unto the LORD for bringing them out" (Ex. 12:41-42). That great promise of deliverance was performed punctually, not only to the day but to the very hour. Those four hundred and thirty years expired during the hours of darkness, and God did not wait till the morning light.
We read of the "shortening" of evil times (Matthew 24:22) but not of their lengthening! God never keeps His people waiting for good any longer than He has purposed or promised. But though He keeps His time exactly, and works just at the moment He has ordained and made known, yet we are apt to antedate the divine promise and set a time before His. As one of the Puritans quaintly expressed it, "We are both short-sighted and short-breathed." That which is but a moment in the calendar of heaven seems an age to us, and therefore we have need of patience in referring all to God’s pleasure. "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). There appears to be a verbal contradiction there: "though it tarry" and "it will not tarry"; yet the meaning is simple. Though what is promised may tarry beyond our time, it shall not beyond the hour God has prefixed. There is no remedy or relief for us but in patiently waiting, calmly but confidently expecting the divine performance.
Waiting God’s Time
This patient waiting for God’s time to appear on our behalf is as much the saint’s duty as is a steady persistence in rendering obedience to God’s commandments and in meekly bearing His afflictions. It is the prerogative of God to date all events as well as to do all things for us. Our "times" as well as ourselves and all our affairs are in His hand (Ps. 31:15). The Lord is the Disposer of all things in regard to not only their means and instruments but also in regard to their seasons: "To every thing there is a season, and a time unto every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And God requires us to acquiesce to His timetable and defer to His good pleasure, to bow to His sovereignty and confide in His wisdom, and not fret and fume because He is slower than we desire in undertaking for us. It is not sufficient that we make known our requests; we must also "rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him" (Ps. 37:7). We must realize that our welfare is in safer hands than our own, and behave ourselves accordingly, composing our spirit, stifling the unrest of our hearts, and resisting all the workings of unbelief. "I waited patiently for the LORD, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry" (Ps. 40:1).
It is extremely painful not to wait patiently, for it points out our unwillingness to accept God’s timing, which is really a spirit of insubordination. Fretful impatience takes issue with God’s authority and calls into question His goodness. Solemn indeed are the sins of this nature recorded in the Word. "When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (Ex. 32:1). And Aaron yielded to their evil demand. When the servant of God bade Saul tarry seven days at Gilgal until he should come and offer sacrifices and show the king what he should do (1 Sam. 10:8), because the prophet did not appear when Saul expected, he impatiently and impiously took matters into his own hand, and in consequence lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 13:8-14). Fearful also was the wickedness of that king who asked, "Should I wait for the LORD any longer?" (2 Kings 6:33). He grew weary of tarrying for the Lord and opposed his own will against Him.
Let the reader perceive what an evil thing it is not to quietly wait the Lord’s time. Once we give way to a spirit of impatience, we open the door to many dangers. Those who do not tarry for God take things into their own hands, which is not only highly dishonoring to the Lord but attended with disastrous consequences for themselves. Thus Abraham found it. At the outset the Lord declared, "I will make of thee a great nation" and "Unto thy seed will I give this land" (Gen. 12:2, 7). Years later, when the patriarch told the Lord, "I go childless," he assured him, "He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir" (Gen. 15:2, 4). Nevertheless, because Sarah remained barren, Abraham yielded to her suggestion of obtaining a son by Hagar. Though that carnal plan resulted in the birth of Ishmael, Abraham’s impatience was a source of domestic trouble for years to come. Impatience leads to setting aside God’s means and employing our own: "They said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices" (Jer. 18:12). Alas, many organizations are, with their worldly methods, doing so today.
On the other hand, it is highly beneficial to us to exercise this grace: "Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you . . . blessed are all they that wait for him" (Isa. 30:18). "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is" (Jer. 17:7). "The LORD is good unto them that wait for him . . . It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation [deliverance] of the LORD" (Lam. 3:25-26). Waiting is not only a duty but a benefit. This waiting patience is termed by Christ a "possessing" of our souls (Luke 21:19). Whatever title we have to our souls, we have no possession of them without patience. As faith puts us in possession of Christ, so patience gives us possession of our souls. The soul of an impatient person is dispossessed, for he no longer acts as a rational creature. The exercise of patience enables us to preserve a holy serenity of mind, keeping under the tumults of passion, so that neither terror nor grief prevents the dominion of reason. By resigning ourselves to God’s will and confidently awaiting the fulfillment of His promises, we are kept calm and cheerful, and have a considerable enjoyment of His mercies amid trouble and tribulation.
Patience Exercised in Afflictions
It is impossible but that affections and passions will be stirred in a season of trial and affliction, but patience takes off their excess and fierceness, calming the storm within. It subdues the violence of emotion which rends the soul and distracts reason, enabling its possessor to rule his own spirit (Prov. 16:32), instead of roaring "as a wild bull in a net" (Isa. 51:20). Patience checks angry murmurings and brings us to acquiescing silence before God: "I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it" (Ps. 39:9). Since impatience proceeds from self-love and is a species of self-will, patience works the soul into a self-denying frame or attitude. When providences cross our designs or impede our expectations, we are provoked and restless; but when the trying of faith works patience, the heart is more weaned from the creature and brought to rest in God. Thus it produces a spirit of quietness and submission, causing us to realize that the trial is of our Father, and that when He deems best He will deliver us from this trouble or supply that which will be most for His glory and our highest welfare. We shall be able to say, "It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good" (1 Sam. 3:18).
Such a thing is beyond our powers, out of reach of attainment, something contrary to flesh and blood. Yet it is not beyond the power of God to bestow or the sufficiency of His grace to effect. That is why we find the apostle here making supplication for these sorely tried saints that the Lord the Spirit would "direct their hearts into the patient waiting for Christ." Our feet have to be guided into the way of peace (Luke 1:79), for it is a track completely hidden from the natural man, even from the wisest of this world: "The way of peace have they not known" (Rom. 3:17). Equally so, none but God can rectify our evil proclivity to impatience. The plainest and most earnest sermons preached cannot, of themselves, effect it. What we have written will not do so unless God is pleased to apply and bless the same to the reader, by convincing him of his sinful failures, moving him to confess them and cry to Him for His quickening power, "that he may incline our hearts unto him" (1 Kings 8:58) and that He will graciously stay our minds upon Himself (Isa. 26:3).
While our sense of weakness and inability should ever drive us to our knees for divine enablement, prayer is not to be substituted for diligence in other directions. It is our responsibility to avoid everything which hinders the exercise of patience, and to make due use of those means which promote it. It should also be remembered that in the answering of such prayers, God will not cease dealing with us as moral agents. God indeed "draws" us, but it is "with the cords of a man, with the bands of love" (Hosea 11:4), working upon us as rational beings. As the phrase "guide our feet into the way of peace" is preceded by "to give light to them that sit in darkness" (Luke 1:79), so Christ explained the expression "draw him" by adding "they shall all be taught of God" (John 6:44-45). We are not forced but directed. God’s "drawing" is by teaching, without doing violence to the liberty of man. He convinces the judgment that it is fit and proper that we submit to and wait for Him; the will accepts the verdict of the understanding; then the affections are brought under the authority of the Word.
God Alone Can Direct Our Hearts
"The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ." There is both a general and a particular "directing." In His Word God has declared His mind to us through His statutes: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Yet, so intractable are we by nature that something more is necessary before any of us renders to God His due, namely, the inward operations of the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to apply the rule to the details of our lives and in the orderly exercises of our graces. God can direct our hearts, incline our minds, move our wills, without any violence done to our free agency. He will do so in answer to fervent prayer, yes, He has already begun to do so if our prayers are sincere. These prayers are really the breathings of holy desires which He has worked in us by the efficacy of His grace, by making attractive and desirable the duties to which He calls us.
There is a very close connection, in fact, an inseparable one, between the two things Paul here prayed for. Not only is patience an effect of love, but our patient waiting for God will be in proportion to our love for Him. Love to God produces patience; rather, faith working by love does so. "The trying of your faith worketh patience" (James 1:3), yet whenever spiritual faith operates, it "worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). Love to God makes the soul cleave to Him and bear up under all the dispensations of His providence. "Blessed is the man that endureth [patiently bears] temptations [or trials]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (Jam. 1:12). That identifying mark is mentioned because it is love which enables one to meekly submit to the most painful trials. "What mean ye to weep and break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). It was love to Christ which fired Paul, as it was love to Him which caused Bunyan and a host of others to endure lengthy imprisonment not simply with unrepining patience but with triumphant joy. Love makes the will of God and the glorifying of Him in Christ dearer to us than all other aims.
How essential it is then that we should use our utmost endeavors for the quickening, strengthening, and increasing of our love to God; for if that cardinal task is neglected, it is certain that our patience will weaken and flag, whether in a steady continuance in performing God’s preceptive will, meekly bowing to His providential will, or quietly waiting the fulfillment of His promises and His answers to our prayers.
Waiting For Christ
Not only does the love of God promote patience toward Him in a general way, but also specifically in connection with "waiting for Christ." Those that love God will point all their thoughts and desires to one aim: that God may be enjoyed and glorified. It is the yearning of the new nature to delight itself in God to the fullest measure and manner of its capacity, and therefore the language of the saint is, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God" (Ps. 42:1). Yet how little is that longing realized in this life! How distant and how broken is our communion with Him! So much in our daily duties prevents the direct occupation of the mind with His perfections! But it will not always be so. A full, immediate, uninterrupted, and eternal enjoyment of God in Christ is promised His people. But that will only be at Christ’s coming. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). We shall be like Him both in holiness and in happiness. Then He will say to each of His faithful servants, "Enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:21), and then shall we be "for ever with the Lord."
Honor of the Lord’s Name
They that truly love God not only long for an enjoyment of Him but sincerely desire that He may be glorified. The honor of God’s name is valued high above that of their own. The publication of His gospel, the coming of His kingdom, the vindication of His truth, are what their hearts are most set upon. It is also the yearning of the new nature within which makes them strive to please Him. If the deepest aspiration of their hearts could be realized, never again would they do or say anything which might bring the slightest reproach upon God’s cause; they would rather "shew forth his praise" continually. Alas, how often this aspiration is thwarted by the activities of indwelling sin. How often they find that the good they would do is not performed, and that the evil they hate breaks forth (Rom. 7:19). And how often they are made to mourn over the corruption of the gospel and the dishonor done to God’s truth! But it will not always be thus. At the coming of Christ their longings will be realized. The divine promises and threatenings will be accomplished. "He shall come to be glorified in his saints" (1 Thess. 1:10), and all His enemies will then be His footstool.
Where there is true love for God there will necessarily be the same for Christ, His incarnate Son, the anointed One. "Christ" ever refers to Him in His official character as Prophet, Priest, and Potentate. As God loves His people in Christ (Eph. 1:3-5) and for His sake (Rom. 8:39), so we love God in Christ. God can neither be known, approached, nor loved apart from the Mediator, the Son of His love. God is fully declared in and by Christ (John 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6). They who imagine they love God, yet at the same time regard Christ as being merely a creature and do not rest their eternal hope on the sufficiency of His propitiatory sacrifice, are fatally deceived. Christ accounted for the hostility of the Jews toward Himself by saying, "Ye have not the love of God in you" (John 5:40, 42). And when they boasted that God was their Father, He told them, "If God were your Father, ye would love me" (John 8:41-42). Those who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts and do not render divine honors to Him are unregenerate and yet in their sins: "He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father" (John 5:23).
Christ the Mediator is the grand Object of His people’s affections. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" (Eph. 6:24). He is by way of eminence, He whom they love. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice [that is, ‘shall rejoice’] with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8). This is an essential element in the Christian character. When a soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit and brought to understand and believe the gospel, he perceives that in the Lord Jesus there is everything that is desirable, that in Him all excellencies center in their absolute perfection, and that the benefits that He has obtained for him are inestimable in value, countless in number, everlasting in duration. Contemplating His glory "(... the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth," the loving believer exclaims that he is "the chiefest among ten thousand" and "he is altogether lovely" (Song 5:10, 16). Reflecting on what He has done and suffered, what He has given and promised, he declares, "I love Him because He first loved me."
Intimate Communion with Christ
It is the very essence of love to seek union with its object, to be present with and have intimate fellowship with it. So it is with the Christian in reference to the Object of his affections. Yet such longings can be but very imperfectly gratified in this life, for though faith in exercise makes Him real and precious to the soul, the believer sees Him through a glass darkly. The regenerated one looks forward to the time when he shall "see the King in his beauty," see Him "face to face." He knows that his joy will be immeasurably increased when he shall be bodily "present with the Lord," when he shall hear His voice with his outward ear: "Sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely" (Song 2:15). Not only are believers now absent from their Beloved but they are most imperfectly acquainted with Him. They know Him and are following on to know Him, counting all things but loss "for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord." Yet, despite their best efforts in the use of means, they know only "in part" in reference to Him whom they love. It will be otherwise by and by.
Final State of the Christian
The final state of the Christian will be very different from his present one. Here he encounters trials, numerous and painful; there he shall enjoy the glorious and blessed effects of them (2 Cor. 4:17). Now, complete salvation—deliverance from the very presence of sin both internally and externally; full conformity to the image of God’s Son—is but the subject of hope; then it will be wholly realized. At present Christ is apprehended through the Word by faith, imperfectly and fitfully; throughout the endless ages of eternity Christ will be bodily present with His redeemed, and their knowledge of Him will be direct and immediate. Then the desire of His heart shall be accomplished: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me" (John 17:24). This is a "season of heaviness"; that shall be one of unclouded bliss: "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11). Here we follow after, that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has apprehended us; then each shall exclaim, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15).
Now this completion of the believer’s salvation and the consummation of his longings will be at the coming of Christ, which will be a personal and visible appearing of Himself: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:16-17). "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27). "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). In His glorified body Christ shall forever dwell in the midst of His people. His coming is also designated "the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13) to His people, which implies a fuller manifestation of His excellencies to them, when a clearer discovery will be made of His personal glory and mediatorial honors, and when they shall know Him far better and more extensively than they do now.
God’s Precious Promises
As faith lays hold of those precious promises and as love fires the heart, the believer yearns for the fulfillment of them. Both stimulate hope and give strength to patient waiting. Love craves Himself, and hope is fixed upon the realization. That expectation of hope and patient waiting is expressed in Scripture in three ways. Sometimes by looking: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28) —not as our Sinbearer, but as our Sinremover. Sometimes by longing and loving: "For in this [earthly house] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven" (2 Cor. 5:2); "Them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8). Sometimes by waiting: "Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:7); "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:9-10); "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Gal. 5:5). The waiting is in expectation of that which is confidently hoped for, and the longing is strengthened by the deferring of immediate realization: "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:37) beyond the ordained hour.
Nineteen centuries have passed since the Redeemer left this scene and took His place on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and scoffers still say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Daily there arises from the heart and lips of God’s people the prayer "Thy kingdom come," and as yet it remains unanswered. Many have been wrongly taught to base their expectations of the nearness of Christ’s return upon the conditions prevailing in this world, which are adduced as the fulfillment of prophecy, to the repeated disappointment of such an expectation. God’s people are to walk by faith and not by sight. "Signs" are "not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (1 Cor. 14:22)! Our Lord plainly declared, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). Faith looks upon Christ as if He had begun His journey and were now on the way, and makes the believer stand ready to meet and welcome Him. His coming is promised, and the time is certainly determined in God’s decree. This is enough for faith.
"He That Shall Come Will Come"
Why has the Bridegroom "tarried" (Matthew 25:5)? Because the ordained hour of His return has not yet arrived. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any [of them] should perish, but that all [of His ‘beloved,’ v. 9] should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). The full number of His elect must be gathered in before Christ shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Christ is now building the spiritual temple of the Lord (Zech. 6:13; Ephesians 2:21-22), adding stone upon stone (1 Pet. 2:5), and not until it is complete will He come and "bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it" (Zech. 4:7). Meanwhile the word to His people is "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:7-8): not "has drawn nigh," as men say, but "draweth nigh." His coming is ever getting nearer.
The similitude of the husbandman patiently waiting for the fruits of his labors is a very apt and suggestive one. He sows his grain in faith, believing that in due course his toil will be rewarded. He waits in hope, expecting the harvest at the appointed season. The fruit does not immediately appear: he waits for weeks and sees nothing, and long months pass before his crop can be garnered. But he will have a harvest, for God has promised it (Gen. 8:22), and then his hope will be realized. So it is with the Christian: "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart" (Ps. 97:11). When Christ appears to reward His people, the joy of harvest will be theirs. How long did the Old Testament saints have to wait for the first advent of Christ? By faith Abraham saw it "and was glad" (John 8:56). Even if there should be twenty thousand years before Christ’s second advent, what is that span of time in comparison with the endless ages of eternity? If our hearts are truly set upon His appearing, love will reduce the distance between our hope and its realization and enable us to "wait patiently" for Him.
The Greek may be rendered either "the patient waiting for Christ" or "the patience of Christ." Taking it as "the patience of Christ," the genitive case is virtually a descriptive adjective (as in "patience of hope": 1 Thessalonians 1:3), and thus signifies Christlike patience. In its full meaning, it is that patience which Christ requires and inculcated, which He personally exemplified and is still exercising, and of which He is the Author and Perfecter. During His earthly ministry Christ urged upon His disciples a working patience: "Son, go work to day in my vineyard" (Matthew 21:28). "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). He exhorted them unto a suffering or enduring patience: "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19); "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). He called them to a waiting patience: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord" (Luke 12:35-36); "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matthew 24:42).
Patience Exemplified in Christ
Consider Christ’s patience in well doing. At the age of twelve He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" (Luke 2:49). Throughout His public ministry, though constantly opposed, He continually went about doing good. At nighttime He did not refuse to see Nicodemus (John 3); and though "wearied with his journey," nevertheless He ministered in grace to the Samaritan adulteress (John 4). "The multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself" (Mark 3:20-21). Said He, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). With unflagging diligence and unwearied patience He continued, until at the close He could say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do"
Consider Christ’s patience under suffering: in enduring such contradiction of sinners against Himself. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (1 Pet. 2:23). How patiently He bore with the dullness of His apostles! How many a master would have grown weary with such pupils, but in infinite love He continued still to teach them though they were so slow to learn. How tenderly and longsufferingly He dealt with their unbelief! When they petulantly asked, "Carest thou not that we perish?" He said, "Why are ye so fearful?" When they were skeptical of His feeding the multitude, He did not upbraid them. How meekly He submitted to the dispensations of God: "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). Though He was complete in all graces and perfect in all active obedience, the glory of His perfections is clearly displayed in His patience under suffering. The Captain of our salvation was "made perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10). That unmurmuring endurance of afflictions enhanced and exalted His obedience: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
Consider Christ’s waiting patience. When His brethren according to the flesh told Him to go into Judea that His disciples might there witness His miracles, saying, "For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world" (John 7:4), He replied, "My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready." He would not then vindicate Himself by an open display of His glory. The appointed day when He would appear before the world in visible majesty and power was not then. It is written, "He that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. 28:16), and Christ rendered perfect obedience to that precept, as to every other. He was never in a hurry. When the sisters of Lazarus sent word saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3), instead of rushing at once to Bethany, "he abode two days still in the same place where he was." It was not through any lack of compassion for those tried sisters, but because the right moment for Him to act and show Himself strong in their behalf had not arrived. He sought "the glory of God" (John 11:4) and therefore waited God’s time.
With perfect composure and confident expectation He looked for a happy issue from His sufferings: "My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life" (Ps. 16:9-11). What is perhaps yet more remarkable, the Lord Jesus is even now exercising waiting patience. That little-understood expression "the kingdom and patience of [the ascended] Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9) is explained by "after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Heb. 10:12-13). The suffering Savior has been invested with unlimited dominion, and nothing now remains but the accomplishment of those results which His sacrifice was designed to procure, namely, the saving of His elect and the subjugation of all revolters against God. Christ is now calmly waiting the fulfillment of His Father’s promise, that day which God has "appointed" (Acts 17:31). Here too He sets us an example.
"The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," such patience as He Himself inculcated and exemplified and which He alone can bestow upon and perfect in us.