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Most of us remember, as children, being told to be patient. That was the signal that we had to reign in our excitement and “settle down”. We had to sit still and wait, and then wait some more. We had to put our excitement on hold.
Told this enough times, we came to see patience as something that got between us and what we wanted. We started to see patience as our enemy. We didn’t want to be patient; we wanted what we wanted, and we wanted it right now.
Fast forward to today, to our born-again adult selves. Yet again we are being told to be patient, but this time by scripture. As followers of Jesus, we are to be patient in suffering and to have the patience of the saints, because in our patience (we’re told) we possess our souls.
Patience is the unsexy eldest daughter of the virtue family. She’s the plain one who sits in the corner by herself at parties, hair tied back, no make-up, and no skin showing below the chin. Patience is not the one you automatically gravitate toward. She’s easy to overlook and in fact prefers it that way. She just sits there quietly and waits.
When Jesus first appeared on the scene 2000 years ago, he was likewise unassuming. Instead of a wealthy charismatic military leader of noble birth, Jesus was a humble and (mostly) quietly-spoken carpenter, the son of a carpenter. In fact, he was so unlike what people expected the Messiah to be that nearly everyone rejected him for that very reason. But Jesus, as we now know, was very much the Messiah and had the power, under his unassuming exterior, to change all things for all time.
Patience is similarly underestimated.
There’s a part of us (our inner five-year-old) that squirms when we’re told to have patience, even when it’s God and Jesus telling us. But what exactly do they mean when they talk about patience? Is it the same dreaded patience our parents told us to have when we were children, or do God and Jesus mean something else?
I believe the patience spoken about in scripture is something quite different. Yes, it does include the element of waiting, but more importantly it signifies our unwavering and unconditional commitment to God. The patience that God and Jesus want us to practice as their saints is this: standing firm in God’s Commandments as a follower of Jesus, and refusing to budge, no matter what.
If we practice this kind of patience, we will endure to the end, and Jesus said we need to endure to the end to be saved. We’re not saved just by being born-again; we’re saved by being born-again AND enduring to the end. But we’re not going to be able to endure unless we practice the patience of the saints by refusing to compromise our loyalty to God. If we practice this kind of patience, we’ll keep our soul.
So Patience, far from being the wallflower of the party, is actually the guest of honor. Patience is the one holding it all together, even if her understated appearance and murky reputation are misleading. Jesus was the same during his time on Earth – understated and misinterpreted, but still the very Lion of the tribe of Judah and God’s one and only Messiah.
My grandmother used to say: “Appearances are deceiving”. The patience we need to practice as born-again believers is not the same patience we hated as children. If we are to be saved, we must stand firm and we must stand strong, knowing that Jesus is standing with us.
And we must never exchange our souls for anything.
That, my friends, is the patience of the saints.
Do you have it?