Question: "What does the Bible say about patience?"

Margaret Thatcher once said, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.” When everything is going your way, patience is easy to demonstrate. The true test of patience comes when your rights are violated; when the sports car cuts you off in traffic; when a group of teenage boys are hogging the tennis courts; when your coworker derides your faith – again. Some people think they have a right to get upset in the face of irritations and trials. Impatience seems like a holy anger. The Bible, however, praises patience as a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) which should be produced for all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Patience reveals our faith in God’s timing, omnipotence, and love.

Patience Defined

Although most people consider patience to be a passive waiting or gentle tolerance, most of the Greek words translated “patience” in the New Testament (KJV) are active, robust words. Consider, for example, Hebrews 12:1: “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.”

Does one run a race by passively waiting for slow-pokes or gently tolerating cheaters? Certainly not! The word translated patience in this verse means endurance. A Christian runs the race patiently by persevering through difficulties in hope of heaven. In the Bible, patience is persevering towards a goal, enduring trials, or expectantly waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.

Patience Developed

1. God’s power develops patience. “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11).

2. Trusting God’s goodness develops patience. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

3. Allowing trials to purify character develops patience. ”Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4).

4. Resting in God’s timing develops patience. “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not yourself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth” (Psalms 37:7-9).

5. Waiting for Christ’s return develops patience. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits 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; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh" (James 5:7-8).

Patience Demonstrated

“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 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 5:10-11
1. Job (James 5:11)
2. Abraham (Hebrews 6:15)
3. Paul (2 Timothy 3:10)
4. Jesus (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
5. God (Romans 15:5)

Patience Displayed: responding correctly to irritations and trials

1. Thank God: A person’s first reaction is usually “Why me?”, but the Bible says to rejoice in God’s will (Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:6).
2. Seek His purposes: Sometimes, God puts people in difficult situations in order to witness. Other times, He might allow a trial for sanctification of character.
3. Remember His promises (such as Romans 8:28-29).

Patience Declared Worthy of Reward
1. Hope (Romans 5:3-4)
2. Inherit the promise, glory, honor, immortality (Hebrews 6:12-15; Romans 2:7)
3. Maturity (James 1:4)
4. Answered prayer (Psalm 40:1)
5. Pleasure of God (1 Peter 2:20)

The next time you’re in a traffic jam, betrayed by a friend, or mocked for your testimony, how will you respond? The natural response is impatience which leads to stress, anger, and frustration. Praise God, Christians are no longer in bondage to a “natural response.” Instead, they have the Lord’s strength to respond with complete trust in the Father, who uses trials for good (Romans 8:28). Through God’s power, purpose to be patient. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” (Romans 2:7).