The most important things for us to think about are practical things for our lives. There are many character traits that the Bible commends very highly that are important and necessary, but particularly one that I would call the essential character trait. It is singled out as a defining mark of the people of God throughout history and in the last days. What is this essential character trait?
All character traits can blend into one in the exemplification of our Savior’s life.
In Revelation 13:10 it says, “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” John has just described in symbolic terms the Dark Ages and the persecutions that were to take place during that era. He then described the closing of that era. He says, “The one that kills with the sword will be killed with the sword; the one that leads into captivity will be led into captivity.” Then he looks away from the persecution and the difficulties of the ages and he says, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
The description of the people that give the Three Angels’ Messages and experience these messages in the last days is found in Revelation 14:12 which says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
One essential character trait of the saved is faith. I have often wondered about the meaning of the verse in Philippians 4:5. Paul was a prisoner while he was writing this book; however, his theme for this book was to rejoice. Jails are not usually a place of rejoicing but Paul, as a prisoner, rejoiced. Paul says in Philippians 4:4, 5, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Paul insists on the importance of rejoicing. Then he says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”
What does Paul mean? Elsewhere in the Bible the word moderation can be translated patience or gentleness. I believe this is the only place it is translated moderation. Here Paul is in prison and he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice; and let your moderation be known unto all men.” Doesn’t it make a lot more sense for him to say, “Let your rejoicing, your moderation, your gentleness, your patience be made known unto all men in all things?”
Patience is the specifically singled out character trait necessary for the saved and Paul says it is to be known by all men.
Patience is a learned characteristic. In Romans 15:4, 5 it states, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.” God is a God of patience. Peter tells us in II Peter 3:15, “We account the patience of God to be salvation.” Without the patience of God there would be no salvation and this is something He wants His people to exhibit. The greatest call to patience that God has given was in the life of Jesus. We never find a time in which Jesus became impatient with those around Him. In circumstances to teach lessons, as in the driving out of the money changers, etc., He exhibited an attitude of authority, but not impatience. He desired God’s glory to be seen but He was not giving way to irritation.
Jesus had many opportunities to exhibit impatience in His life. He had at least four older brothers and two older sisters, and His brothers were constantly giving Him some trouble. There were opportunities to manifest impatience with the priests, the rulers and the leaders as they were tracking Him and trying to find fault. There would have been opportunity to manifest impatience with the dullness of His disciples and their incomprehension of what was going to take place, but Jesus’ patience was never ruffled.
Considering the word ruffled I think of a bird getting its feathers out of order or something like that. Jesus never allowed His feathers to get ruffled. Peter tells us how to learn patience in I Peter 2:20, 21. He says, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” We are to follow Jesus’ direct example in patience. In verse 20 He says that if you are at fault and you suffer patiently for it, what is that? But if you do well, and you suffer for it patiently, that is acceptable to God because even Jesus gave us an example of this and we are to follow in His steps. Jesus is to be our example in everything, and as pointed out here, He is to be our example in patience.
How serious is impatience? “The man who yields to impatience is serving Satan.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 607. “Would that you could understand that all this impatience and irritability must be overcome, or your life will prove an utter failure, you will lose heaven, and it would have been better had you never been born.” Ibid., 84. That is a very strong statement!
We can manifest impatience by a raised voice or unkind words or by becoming irritated at something or someone by never opening the mouth. Often it is better to keep the mouth shut, but in some instances that still manifests impatience. In I Corinthians 13:5 it says that, “Love is patient” or “love is not easily irritated or provoked.” That is something worth contemplating. Patience is waiting without worrying, not being on pins and needles worrying about what may never happen. Sometimes rushing without waiting on God can be a manifestation of impatience.
Abraham, who had proved to be so faithful to God, became impatient. He and Sarah wanted a child; they had waited for maybe 50 years. Abraham was 86 and Sarah was 76, long past the age of child- bearing. God had promised that they would receive what they had been hoping and praying for, but their patience ran out and they decided to help God. Sarah came up with the plan that her handmaid could bear the promised child for her. Here we see an important principle. Whenever we decide to help God out it always causes problems. Abraham and Sarah did not wait on the Lord to fulfill His promise in His time and in His manner. As soon as Hagar conceived, her relationship with Sarah changed. No longer did she see herself as just the handmaid, and Sarah’s behavior also changed to one of irritation and impatience.
Waiting is never easy. Waiting for years is especially not easy. God asks us to wait on Him. This waiting is necessary to develop an experience in our lives to teach us patience. In Gethsemane Jesus said to His disciples, “Tarry ye here and pray” (Mark 14:34, 38). Before he ascended to heaven He said to “tarry in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:49). Jesus says to “go ye” (Mark 14:13), and He also says to wait. As Jesus was ascending into heaven He told the disciples to “go ye into all the world; but first tarry ye in Jerusalem.” Jesus wanted them to realize that no matter how big the task, there was a more essential task of waiting upon God for His power and blessing to make it take place. Throughout the Psalms, over and over again, it says to “wait on the Lord.”
We need to wait on God and to trust in the fulfillment of His promises. There is a time for action but we also need to learn to patiently wait with God.
To find out why there is so much impatience today, it would be beneficial to identify our own impatient triggers and guard against them. Some people are adversely affected by loud noises, or continual noises, or bumper to bumper traffic. There does not need to be anybody else in the car for you to get impatient. You can be silent and still be impatient. It could be others’ tardiness or maybe our will is crossed that triggers impatience.
Most of us are very good at justifying the reasons for our impatience e.g., that guy cut me off in a line of traffic! But that is not the real reason for the impatience; it was just the stimulus that led to it.
When we are impatient, what are we doing? Abraham and Sarah became impatient waiting for the promised heir because they took their eyes off God. Impatience is a form of discontent of the situation around us. We are impatient with someone because we are discontent with what they said or what they did. We are impatient with the bumper-to-bumper traffic because we are discontent with the situation we are in. We are impatient waiting on God’s promise because we want it now. Impatience is a manifestation of discontentment. So what is the root cause of impatience? In Isaiah 26:3 it says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Perfect peace is perfect contentment. Patience is having complete peace and trust in God at all times. Impatience is losing that contentment, peace and trust in God. When somebody says something and we want to respond with impatient words, it means that, in reality, somebody has done something or said something that we are discontent with. Impatience is a lack of complete trust in God.
We live in an impatient society. In the ’80s there was an interview with a president in which a reporter asked this former president, “Do you think this will have an effect on the state of affairs?” This former president said, “We as Americans have many virtues; patience is not one of them. The Russians think in terms of decades, the Chinese think in terms of centuries and we think in terms of months or maybe a year.” Statistics show that if people have to wait too long at a store, 50% of them will not go back to that store.
Sometimes we think that this is just the way I am, I was born this way; some are born patient and others impatient, and that is true to an extent. Some are born with more placid natures than others and some do have a tendency to be more impatient; but, can patience be learned? Not only can it be learned, but it must be learned. This is one of the characteristics of those who are waiting for the Lord to come. “Here is the patience of the saints.” Revelation 14:12.
There is another story in the Bible of a very impatient man who became very patient. While still living in Pharaoh’s palace, Moses was out riding one day and he saw an Egyptian beating one of his Israelite people. He was so angry that he murdered the Egyptian. Afterwards he said we have a job to do; we have to free the captive people of Israel, so let’s start it right now. We are told that Moses was naturally impatient before God took him to the university of patience where he graduated after 40 years working with sheep. This was to prepare him for the next 40 years leading the children of Israel through the wilderness. The Bible records that Moses was meek above every man upon the face of the earth. This is a real testimony to the power of God to bring forth meekness out of impatience.
Many have heard the statement or quip that says, “I want patience, and I want it now!” This statement is not totally wrong. Read the following statement: “Some of us have a nervous temperament, and are naturally as quick as a flash to think and to act; but let no one think that he cannot learn to become patient. Patience is a plant that will make rapid growth if carefully cultivated.” My Life Today, 97. If you want patience to rapidly grow in your life, then you need to carefully cultivate it. Ellen White continues: “By becoming thoroughly acquainted with ourselves, and then combining with the grace of God a firm determination on our part, we may be conquerors, and become perfect in all things, wanting in nothing.” Ibid.
How can we carefully cultivate the plant of patience that it may make that rapid growth in our lives? The patience chapters in the Bible are found in Hebrews 12 and James 5. “… let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1. “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 5:11. Job is an example of patience. The two Bible characters named in the Bible as examples of patience are Abraham and Job.
There are seven points in the Bible on how to learn patience. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” James 5:7. The Father has patience.
God’s original occupation for man was farming. God knew that mankind would have a problem with patience so He gave them something to help them. This does not mean that we all need to become farmers to become patient but there is strong evidence that gardening and other similar activities are beneficial for man. Could it be that God wants us to learn patience by working with the soil? You have to learn patience when planting a garden and be even more patient when planting an orchard, as there are never immediate results. God has given us this activity to help us to learn patience.
Most farmers today have to go into debt just to buy their seeds, and then their entire year’s livelihood as well as the repayment of their loan depends upon that crop. In any other occupation there are other ways to make income if something goes wrong but when you are farming and there is no rain, the only thing you can do about it is to learn to wait upon God. Job was involved in agriculture and livestock on a big scale with 500 yoke of oxen (equivalent to 250 tractors) that were plowing.
In II Peter 1:5, 6 it says: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.” Temperance comes before patience. If you have ever experienced being hungry you will know that it is a little bit more difficult to be patient during those times. When you become very hungry it is very difficult to eat slowly, because you are even impatient to eat the good food. Also when you become very tired, it is easy to become impatient, something you often see with children. Adults are just grown up children and when we become tired, overworked and hungry or when we eat the wrong types of food, that affects our mental state, giving us a tendency to become impatient.
In Job’s experience, though he was not feasting himself, the Bible says that Job prayed and offered sacrifices for his children in case they cursed God while they were feasting. Job understood the principle of temperance in order to be patient. We do not know how long of a time period the story of Job spans, but we do know that when his friends arrived they sat silently for at least a week. Basically the whole book of Job is a test on patience. All of Job’s friends accused him of doing wickedly. Nobody wants to listen to their friends tell them how bad they are while suffering with sickness and in great pain, but notice what Job says in Job 16:1, “Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.” That was an understatement. The point made here is that Job patiently listened even though he did not want to listen to them. One way we can learn patience is by listening even though we do not want to listen.
The second point necessary in learning patience is temperance.
The third point is listening.
The fourth point is found in Job 42:10: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” The Lord turned Job’s captivity when he prayed for his miserable comforters, his friends. Would you feel like praying for somebody who had just spent days or weeks trying to convince you that you were a wicked person? Patience is learned as others who have wronged you are forgiven. The very crux of all of Job’s friends was: “We don’t know what you have done, but the very fact that you are suffering this entire calamity is proof positive that you have sinned.” He was wrongly accused again and again. Job had much opportunity to learn patience.
God has instructed us that gardening, temperance, listening even when we do not want to, forgiving when others wrong us or doing good and suffering for it or being wrongly accused teaches patience. Look in Job 19:25–27 to see why Job could endure here: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job saw his Redeemer by faith and hoped for what he did not see. We need to hope for what we do not see.
Job certainly went through some trials! When we think we have a bad day, consider Job and see that our day is not as bad as Job’s day was. Job 13:15 says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Trusting in God through trials will develop patience. No trials, no patience!
Moses endured with the children of Israel for 40 years. He had practice with the sheep for the first 40 years, but the sheep were easy in comparison with the people of Israel. The secret of Moses’ success was that every time he was wrongfully accused, He went into the tabernacle, fell on his face and sought counsel before the Lord. When accused of bringing the Israelites out into the desert to die, he does not say, “Look, I did not do this,” but he went and he fell on his face before the Lord. Before he responded to his accusers he made it a matter of prayer. Tragically, due to one manifestation of impatience and lack of faith toward the end of his life he was prohibited from leading his people into the Promised Land.
Impatience is serious. Moses realized he had done wrong striking the rock when told to talk to it and pled for forgiveness and that his sentence would be reversed but the Lord said, “Don’t ask me another time.” If Moses had not repented it would have cost him eternity. Once impatient words are spoken their damage is done and cannot be taken back.
There are disastrous consequences with impatience. Where Moses failed, Jesus overcame. Where Moses failed, the final generation who will be saved will, at last, overcome. The final generation will not get to the borders of the Promised Land and be guilty of impatience. They will have overcome. In Revelation 14:5, in speaking of that final generation, it says there shall be no guile in their mouths. God is going to have a patient people. When we come to the close of the third angel’s message, God says, “Here is the patience of the saints.” Revelation 14:12. Patience will be manifested under every circumstance by this group of people who will have been bombarded by the devil with every imaginable trial.
“Here is the patience of the saints.” In order to be among that group we have to allow God to develop patience in our characters now.
Lest we become discouraged, in Messages to Young People, 136, it says: “Under its [the Holy Spirit’s] influence the hasty temper is subdued, and the heart is filled with patience and gentleness.
“Hold firmly to the One who has all power in heaven and in earth. Though you so often fail to reveal patience and calmness, do not give up the struggle. Resolve again, this time more firmly, to be patient under every provocation. And never take your eyes off your divine Example.”
God wants to teach us patience. Though we fall ever so many times, let us never give up the struggle. Let us strive to demonstrate our patience and that it be known to all men that God may say of us, “Have you seen my servant Job?” In the final generation He can say, “Here is the patience of the saints.”
May the Lord grant to each of us a patient-building experience now so that we can be among the patient saints of the final generation.
Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.