When the term “patience” is used, we often consider it in the context of keeping our emotions and reactions under control, thereby exerting patience instead of impulsiveness. However, within the confines of Scripture the word under consideration is used in a very different way. Consider for a moment what it means to have Biblical patience.
Most people familiar with Scripture know James’ statement in James 5:11, where it is written, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James discusses the patience of Job, but he is not talking about his emotional control. In fact, if you read the book of Job, he is highly emotional throughout the ordeal.
The word translated “patience” comes from the Greek word hupomone, meaning “endurance, constancy, steadfastness.” The word is found 33 times in the New Testament and on 31 of those occasions it is translated in the King James Version as “patience.” Therefore, when considering patience from a Biblical perspective it must be understood that the attribute under discussion is endurance or steadfastness in one’s service to God.
From this perspective, Job is one of the greatest examples of endurance and steadfastness in Scripture. He lost everything from his wealth, to his family, to his health; yet with all of his losses he never lost his faith in God and his willingness to obey his commands. Job endured great hardships, but always retained his integrity before God (Job 2:9).
It is this form of patience that Christians are to have. Yes, Christians are to control their emotions and reactions: but in Scripture this attribute is described as temperance or self-control. For Christians to have patience, they must be steadfast and endure the trials of life. For just such a reason it is written, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Servants of God are to run the Christian race with endurance; not quitting or halting along the way, but constantly moving forward with their eyes on the prize (Phi. 3:13-14).
However, patience is not an attribute that just arrives one day. It must be cultivated and grown. This is accomplished in a number of ways, but the one most emphasized in Scripture is the acquiring of patience through trial and struggle. James wrote, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jam. 1:3-4). Additionally, Paul related to the Romans this message: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5). Patience is strengthened by our overcoming of the trials and struggles of life. When we are able to overcome one problem it gives us the courage to face the next and relays the confidence that any issue can be overcome.
If we are to have Biblical patience we must endure to the end, whether that end be death or the second coming of Christ (2 The. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:11). Let us move through this life with the patience of Job, endeavoring to clear the hurdles of life and steadfastly moving down the narrow way that leads to life eternal.