And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
I was having coffee with a good friend this morning who I meet with a couple times a month for accountability and prayer. We got to talking about the subject of patience.
Patience is not a virtue that we see exemplified too well in our culture. I’ll admit I’m not a poster-child for patience. Traffic is trying. A long line at the grocery store is as well. I also struggle with patience in bigger areas. Waiting for God’s timing as He accomplishes a vision or mission that He has placed before me is something I think about daily. Waiting for seasons to pass or practicing steady discipline as my kids to grow out of behavioral issues or the latest phase they are encountering, are all things that try and require patience.
We often associate patience with the word “waiting.” Waiting is tough, because waiting seems to be pretty passive. But is patience passive?
This was the subject my friend and I were talking about this morning, and he brought out the point that being patient isn’t the same thing as being passive. I think as we look at the text above, the concept of patience is contrasted with the idea of being “sluggish.” Patience isn’t passive. In fact, biblical patience (a fruit or “result” of the Spirit of God being in someone’s life) is extremely active.
In Galatians 5:22 the word translated patience is “the state of being able to bear up under provocation, forbearance” (BDAG). Having patience isn’t about developing the ability to sit back and do nothing while the world spins. It’s not the art of thumb-twiddling. Patience isn’t another word for a Rip Van Winkle lifestyle that slumbers away as time passes you by. Having forbearance and bearing up under provocation require action. Patience is active.
As we wait for God’s timing on something, we must practice patience. This does not mean passivity or laziness, but a prayerful, intentional, hard-at-work-endurance as we wait for the answer to come.