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Patience, or long suffering, is that attribute of God which is found in the "image of God" found in mankind. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [1] and is the first attribute of love listed by Paul in his discussion of spritual gifts[2]. Patience is the accepting the faults of others without complaining. It often requires waiting for long periods of time. A related attribute, endurance, is a close synonym and is sometimes translated "patience". This concept (Greek: ὑπομονή) literally means a state of remaining under a burden.

Definition

In the Old Testament, the attribute translated "slow to anger" (Heb.: אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם ) conveys the same meaning as the Greek μακροθυμία (literally, great passion). Related to this term in the poetic literature are אֲרִיךְ נַפְשִֽׁי ("long of soul")[3] and אֶֽרֶךְ־רוּחַ ("long of spirit")[4] Primarily an attribute of God in the Old Testament, patience is transferred to believers in the New Testament by way of the Holy Spirit as "to suffer long" (μακροθυμέω)[5] and "longsuffering" (μακροθυμία)[6].

Patience

Postphoned Justice

The last mention of the patience of God in the New Testament tells of God's waiting a very long time for the inevitable judgment that must come upon mankind[7]. In that passage, Peter tells his readers that time doesn't mean the same to God, but the very long history of disobedience among humankind will one day be dealt with severely. The Fall of Man (see also Mankind) brought the curse of certain death as its consequence[8]. However, from the very beginning, God showed mercy, waiting 930 years to bring about the death of Adam[9]. Nonetheless, judgment came to his descendants, with the exception of Noah and his family, in the Great Flood 1665 years after the creation of Adam and Eve[10]. It was to Moses that Yahweh revealed his patience (slowness to anger) when it came to His relationship to the new nation of Israel[11]. The gathered masses of the "sons of Jacob" would show themselves to be unworthy of such mercy, but God would show himself worthy of their worship[12]. About 500 years later, David reminded his readers in the Psalms that God had not changed. Yahweh remained "slow to anger"[13]. Jonah was well aware of this "tendency" with Yahweh[14] even in a time of relative peace in the northern kingdom. Other prophets reminded their errant hearers that there was still hope in an unchanging God[15].

The Gift of Patience

The earliest words written to Christians extolled the virtue of patience. James reminded his readers that man's anger was not suited for a Christian[16], while Paul lists patience as a virtue among the fruit of the Spirit[17]. Listing the fruit in opposition to man's tendency to sin[18], patience is listed fourth after love, joy and peace and before kindness in the nine virtues listed, it is apparent that patience is not an easy thing for most people. But over and over, followers[19] of Christ are admonished to put up with circumstances and people they would rather avoid[20].

Endurance

Endurance (Heb: עָמַד `amad) is promised to those who are obedient to God's commands[21]. Job knew that property and riches could not last forever[22], but the Psalmist was certain that God's Word would[23]. As long as the present world exists, the Psalmist expressed the wish that mankind would respect Yahweh[24]. Elsewhere another Psalm asks God to remember David, who went through a lot of trouble[25].

Who can endure?

The judgment of God comes upon all mankind at one time or the other. The prophets asked the question: "who can endure?"[26]. There is no escape from the justice system of the Almighty God. There must be a Savior to negotiate a release. Jesus Christ promises his followers that it is possible[27]. The salvation comes at a great price[28] so that His people can not only survive, but grow in the Faith. Although there will be suffering, character will be built in the enduring (Greek: υπομονη), which leads to a shameless hope in the work of Christ[29]. Many trials will come, some even might lead one to question God's love. But while facing the hardest times, the faithfulness of God to His promises will leave a way out[30].

Verses

  1. Gal. 5:22 (Link)
  2. 1 Cor. 13:4 (Link)
  3. Job 6:11 (Link)
  4. Eccl 7:8 (Link)
  5. 1 Cor 13:4 (Link)
  6. Gal 5:22 (Link)
  7. 2 Peter 3:8-16 (Link)
  8. Gen 2:11 (Link)
  9. Gen 5:5 (Link)
  10. Gen 7:21-23 (Link)
  11. Exo 34:6 (Link)
  12. Num 14:18 (Link)
  13. Psa 86:15; 103:8; 145:8 (Link)
  14. Jon 4:2 (Link)
  15. Joel 2:13; Nahum 1:3 (Link)
  16. James 1:19-20 (Link)
  17. Gal 5:22 (Link)
  18. Gal 5:20-21 (Link)
  19. Mark 1:17; 2 Tim 1:13; 1 Peter 2:21 (Link)
  20. Eph 4:2-3; Col 1:10-11; 2 Tim 3:10-11 (Link)
  21. Exo. 18:23 (Link)
  22. Job 8:15; 15:29 (Link)
  23. Ps. 19:9 (Link)
  24. Ps. 72:5> (Link)
  25. Ps. 132:1 (Link)
  26. Nahum 1:6 (Link)
  27. Mat 10:22; 24:13 (Link)
  28. Rom 5:8 (Link)
  29. Rom 5:3-5; 15:4-5 (Link)
  30. 1 Cor. 10:13 (Link)
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