Patience, we are told, is a virtue. Also, good things come to those who wait.
The Bible most certainly commends patience to us. God is the God of patience and comfort (Romans 15:5). Jesus describes the saints of God as good soil which produces fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). We are told to rejoice in suffering, because suffering produces patience and it is in patience that we will be made complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4).
Yes, God most certainly wants us to be a patient people, hoping and waiting.
But waiting for what?
Properly speaking, when the Bible speaks of patience and waiting, there is a definite direction for our patience, and it is for something specific for which we should wait. The Bible does not promise that simply waiting for the sake of waiting produces good things. One might wait for some dream or hope that never comes, and this would not make the Bible false.
Consider: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) and “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)
It is patience in waiting for God that the Scriptures specifically commend us towards, and it is in waiting upon God that one receives good things.
This is not to say that patience towards people is a bad thing. God is patient with us and directs us to be patient towards others, forgiving as we have been forgiven (cf. Ephesians 4:32) Yet it is quite possible, and it happens all the time, that our patience towards our fellow man goes unrewarded. People can fail to improve, fail to deliver, or fail to live up to our expectations for them. God has not promised that patience towards others will always produce the results we want, nor should we expect it. Our behavior should reflect who we are, not who they are.
Likewise, God does not promise us that if we are patient, things in this life will always work out the way we would like them to. Lest you think otherwise, consider the many in the scriptures who were patient, and who died not yet having seen the fulfilment of the promises (cf. Hebrews 11:35-39) Isaiah, we are told was sawn in half. Peter was crucified. The apostle Paul was beheaded. Jesus Christ himself was nailed to a cross and executed.
And yet the Bible tells us to be patient with God and that such patience will surely be rewarded. And God, who promised, cannot lie.
Indeed, this is the patience that God wants, and that God promises to reward. This was the patience of David, who wrote, “Yes, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) God wants individuals who trust in Him, even when death is imminent, who have no fear, because they are patiently waiting on the promises of God.
One of the things about Biblical patience we should also understand is that it is not simply a patience that sits back and waits. We’ve all done that kind of waiting, for instance at a visit to the doctor’s, where while the doctor is otherwise engaged, we simply sit there, and wait, and wait, and then wait some more.
Waiting on the Lord is not the same as inactivity. Consider also: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God is going to reward the faithful, and the faithful are those that are faithful to the work He has called them to do. The workers have not got their reward yet. Yes, there are benefits that accrue in this life, but the reward to come, that eternal reward in which those who have waited on the Lord shall cease from their weariness, and be renewed in their strength – that is something we must wait for. But the workers know that their waiting is not in vain. Their dedication to God will not go unnoticed.
So, produce your fruit with patience. Understand that it is in patience you will be made complete, lacking nothing. Wait upon the Lord and there will come that day when He will renew you completely, and strengthen your heart according to His word.
If you would like to learn more about how to wait on the Lord, and of the reward He has promised to His saints, the church of Christ invites you to come worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.