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Wait And Watch With Patience

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Waiting is a familiar experience, so much so that it is often found in writings and sayings Thus Longfellow wrote, “All things come round to him who will but wait,”1 a saying which is commonly rendered, “All things come to those who wait.” Several old well-known songs speak of waiting. For example: “Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie,” “Wait For Me Mary,” and “Waiting For The Robert E. Lee.” Likewise watching is often found in lyrics, such as in the hymn “My Father Watches Over Me.” As well, patience is often cited. Thus a character in Shakespeare’s King Henry The Fourth said, “I am poor as Job, my lord, but not so patient”; or as Tolstoy wrote, “The strongest of all warriors are these two—time and patience.”2 As well, the Chinese often spoke of patience. For example: “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life”; and “A second’s patience can save you months of trouble.”3

In what follows we shall note significant scriptural passages in which waiting, watching, and/or patience are featured. A summary together with their importance will conclude the study.

Scriptural Lessons Concerning Waiting

Old Testament

In Psalm 27 David concludes his teachings by saying,

Wait for the LORD;
Be courageous and let your heart be strong.
Wait for the LORD. (Ps. 27:14; HCSB)4

Despite life’s many difficulties, the believer finds courage and strength to meet them in waiting on the Lord, for “God is our strong refuge” (Ps. 46:1).5 A practical lesson for doing so is found in Psalm 104, where all creatures are said to wait for the Lord, “to give them their food at the right time” (v. 27; HCSB), for “You give them food and they receive it; you open your hand and they are filled with food” (v. 28). Such may well be a good lesson for humans, As Vance Havner said: “Simply wait upon Him. So doing, we shall be directed, supplied, protected, corrected, and rewarded.” 6

Psalm 33 is designed for readers to give full praise to the Lord. David gives many reasons for doing so. He begins his psalm with a call to rejoice and praise the Lord (vv.1-3). He follows this with several reasons to praise the Lord (vv. 4-9). He then proceeds to contrast the Lord’s dealings with both the unrighteous and the righteous (vv. 10-12), before once again magnifying God’s sovereign control over all the earth (vv. 13-19). He brings the psalm to a climactic conclusion by urging all believers to place their full trust in the Lord and to pray for His continued and everlasting faithful love:

We wait for the LORD;
he is our deliverer and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in him,
for we trust in his holy name.
May we experience your faithfulness, O LORD,
for we wait for you. (Ps. 33:20-22)

David’s declaration of waiting for the Lord (v. 20) emphasizes the need for complete dependence on God. In so doing a believer can rejoice and trust “in his holy name” (cf. vv. 1-2).

By God’s “name” the psalmist intends complete trust in the Lord himself in accordance with what the term “name” entails when referring to God as the eternally existing source and sustenance of life. For as Strong declares, “God is the infinite and perfect Spirit in whom all things have their source, support and end.”7 Christians may join with David’s praise because of all that they have in their Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Thus Martin remarks in his hymn,

The name of Jesus is so sweet,
I love its music to repeat;

It makes my joys full and complete,
The precious name of Jesus.8

David ends his psalm by beseeching the Lord, “May your faithful love rest on us” (v. 22; HCSB). By ”faithful love” (Heb. ħesed) is meant God’s loving-kindness toward mankind (cf. Pss. 116:1-2; 136), and especially his covenant people, Israel (cf. Deut. 7:9, 12; 1 Kings 8:23). God’s love is often attested in the Scriptures (e.g., Ps. 36:7). It is better than life itself” (63:3). It is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) so that God’s people may always call on Him with confidence in all circumstances (Ps. 86:7). The Lord is also faithful to His person and standards, and also in His promises to His people...Because of His faithfulness, God’s people may rejoice in His presence and praise Him with joyful hearts (Ps 92:1-4).9

If God displays such concern and affection for mankind, should believers do less? Certainly not! Even all nature waits on God;

All of your creatures wait for you
to provide them with food on a regular basis.
You give food to them and they receive it;
You open your hand and they are filled with food. (Ps. 104:27-28)

Believers may also be assured that the Lord’s help and strength are available for any and all situations. Thus Isaiah observes:

He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power he gives renewed energy.
Even youths get tired and weary,
even strong young men clumsily stumble,
But those who wait in the LORD’s help find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagle’s wings,
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired. (Isa. 40:29-31)

Accordingly, Smith remarks that believers should and need to exercise genuine hope:

This hope is an active dependence on God that patiently awaits his timing with confident expectation. This trust in God will replace any false leaning on a person’s own strength. Placing hope in God implies that a spiritual bond exists that allows people to admit their own helplessness and commit their welfare completely into the hands of his strong power.10

The psalmist gives an example of the need of putting hope in the Lord in times of trouble:

I long for your salvation; I put my hope in your word.
My eyes grow weary looking, for what you have promised;
I ask, “When will You comfort me?”
Though I have become like a wineskin dried by smoke,
I do not forget your statutes. (Ps. 119:81-83; HCSB; cf. Ps. 38:15)

As Leupold observes, till help comes he fixes his hope on the Word in which God has promised His children such help as may be needed by them.11 Quite obviously the psalmist is in deep, troubling circumstances, but he knows that his only hope of deliverance lies with the Lord. Therefore, he puts his full trust in the Lord and remains faithful to God’s revealed standards. It is a good lesson for all believers.

Such is clearly expressed by the prophet Micah as well (Micah 7:1-6). Micah points out further that even the members of family or the best friends we may have may not be able to alleviate fully the overwhelming difficulties that may come upon us. Ultimately, it is the Lord in whom we must put our full confidence:

But I will keep watching the LORD;
I will wait for the God who delivers me.
My God will hear my lament. (Micah 7:7)

Micah’s trust was not in self—whether power, prestige, or wealth but in God. It was the Lord in whom he put his trust, for God was his help (cf. Pss. 27:9-10; 33:20: 40:17; 46:1; 63:7; 121:1-2). Without going into the specific background of the setting and or occasion of Micah’s prophecy, we nonetheless conclude that Micah reinforced the truth that the Lord is a God who cares for his own and is available for help in all circumstances.

We note that Micah goes on to say:

My enemies, do not gloat over me!
Though I have fallen, I will get up.
Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. (Micah 7:8)

Likewise, though we may feel humbled or crushed by life’s unexpected or even unprecedented happenings, we can rest assured that the Lord is with us through it all.12 Indeed, the spiritually wise will not live for self or conduct themselves unethically toward others, but live in close fellowship with the Lord. Their desires will be fulfilled when they are in harmony with God’s desires for them.

The author of Proverbs gives a further lesson, “Do not say, ‘I will pay back evil!’ Wait for the LORD so that he may vindicate you” (Prov. 20:22). As McKane points out, the truly righteous man, the genuine believer, “Has no need to take the law into his own hands, since he can rely on Yahweh to avenge evil and should await his retributive action.”13

In so doing believers may then echo the psalmist’s testimony:

I waited patiently for the LORD,
and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD. (Ps. 40:1-3)

No situation, however desperate, is beyond the Lord’s sustenance for those who wait patiently for the Lord’s intervention and help. As John Sammis remarks:

Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He does richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.14

David’s praise of the Lord and petition to him in Psalm 25 (a psalm that is built around the Hebrew alphabet) demonstrates the high value of waiting for God’s assistance. Having declared his hope and confidence in God, (vv. 1-3), David prays to the Lord that in accordance with His “faithful love” (vv. 6-7) God will enable David to understand his situation and fully rely on the Lord (vv. 4-5). Thus David declares, “I wait for you all day long” (v. 5b; HCSB). David continues to point out his full trust in the Lord’s leading and help in the following verses (vv. 8-14), in which he says,

All the Lord‘s ways show
faithful love and truth
to those who keep his covenant and decrees. (Ps. 25:10; HCSB)

The Lord is indeed a God who teaches his faithful followers “the way they should live” (v. 12), with the result that they only live so as to experience God’s favor and guidance (vv. 13-14).

David begins the final section of the psalm (vv. 15-22) by reaffirming his continued confidence and dependence on the Lord: “I continually look to the LORD for help, for he will free my feet from the enemy’s net” (v. 15). Therefore he can pray for God’s help in his present distress (vv. 16-20). He caps all of this off with a petition to the Lord for so living as to gain God’s protection (v. 21a), for indeed, “I wait for you” (v. 21b; HCSB). David closes his psalm with a plea to the Lord that not only David himself but all Israel will be rescued “from all their distress” (v. 22).

Psalm 25 thus stands as a strong acknowledgement of and testimony to the necessity and high value of waiting in full reliance on the Lord as well as the need to live in compliance with the Lord’s revealed standards. As Perowne rightly observes, the psalm is also that “God is the teacher of the afflicted and the guide of the erring.”15

Psalm 27 serves as a fitting conclusion and climax to Old Testament instances of the necessity and importance of waiting on the Lord (cf. vv. 1-9). It also confirms the basic underlying source of being enabled to do so, namely, living out a faith that is permeated by a whole soul commitment to God: intellectually (v. 3), emotionally (v. 4), and volitionally (vv. 5-6). Our mind, emotions, and will should be in full compliance with the Lord’s will as revealed in his Word. When such is the case, the believer may “wait confidently for him” (v. 7). As I have pointed out elsewhere,

When real faith resides in an individual, it enables the believer to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7; NASB; NKJV). Where such strong faith and trust exist there is a proper perspective on the issues of life. Rather than envying the seeming successes and state of the wicked or worrying needlessly concerning various matters, the believer can be assured that the Lord’s way is the best way. God’s plans will ultimately succeed and the believer’s faith will be fully rewarded.16

In distinction from the unbeliever or unfaithful (vv. 8-10), “The oppressed will possess the land and will enjoy great prosperity” (v. 11). Indeed, a bright and glorious future awaits the faithful believer who lives in full faith and compliance with the Lord’s revealed standards. Thus the Old Testament teachings display the necessity and blessings associated with living a life in full dependence on the Lord, namely in genuine, continuous waiting on him. Such becomes magnified in the New Testament, especially in association with faith in God’s Son and man’s Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

New Testament

Paul tells the Philippian Christians that in sharp contrast with those who are anxious and obsessed with the things of this world, “Our citizenship is in heaven—and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Why should believers, then, be overly concerned with things that ultimately will not endure? Quite the opposite, we believers await the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will “transform theses humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself” (v. 21). Indeed, when Jesus returns and sets up his eternal kingdom, believers will share in a glorious everlasting life with him (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-17). As O’Brien remarks,

The particular of the Lord’s saving activity at his parousia here singled out by the apostle is his transformation of our weak mortal bodies into the likeness of his own glorified body…. So in place of earthly bodies characterized by frailty, physical decay, weakness, and mortality, believers will have bodies that are suitable to the life of heaven (1 Cor. 15:38-49 and thus imperishable, spiritual, glorious and powerful.17

What a blessing awaits us! This does not mean that we should be idle. Quite the opposite, Paul reminds his readers that even a chosen apostle like himself needed to keep spiritually maturing while living in consecrated, dedicated service to the Lord: “I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let those of us who are ‘perfect’ embrace this point of view” (Phil. 3:14-15a; cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:3, 13-18; Col. 3:17). As the hymn writer expresses it,

Give me a faithful heart, likeness to Thee,
That each departing day, henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, some deed of kindness done,
Some wandr’er sought and won, some-thing for Thee.
All that I am and have-Thy gifts so free—
In joy, in grief, thru life dear Lord for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, my ransomed soul shall be,
Thru all eternity, some-thing for Thee.18

Elsewhere Paul commends the Thessalonian believers for their salvation and service to God, while watching for Christ’s return: “For… you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:9b-18). As Comfort reports, “This categorically expresses the fervent expectation of the early Christians who believed the Jesus, who only recently ascended to heaven (20 years prior), would soon return (1 Thess. 1:3; 2:19; 3:13; 4:14; 5:10, 23; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:1,8).”19 It is of further interest to note as Morris observes, “The word for ‘to wait’ is found only here in the New Testament, and Grimm-Thayer suggest that in addition to the thought of awaiting someone expected, it includes ‘the added notion of patience and trust.’”20 As Fanny Crosby asks in song,

Have we been true to the trust He left us?
Do we seek to do our best?
If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,
We shall have a glorious rest.
Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching,
In His glory they shall share;
If He shall come at dawn or midnight,
Will He find us watching there?21

As we shall note below, a dedicated believer not only waits for the Lord but watches patiently for Christ’s blessed return. How is this accomplished? Peter gives his readers a splendid example. It is found in no less than God himself. After Peter Speaks of Christ’s self-sacrifice for the sins of mankind, he tells of Christ’s preaching to a generation of disobedient people in the days of Noah:

Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust,
to bring you to God by being put to death in the flesh
but by being made alive in the spirit.
In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
after they were disobedient long ago
when God patiently waited in the days of Noah
as an ark was being constructed. (1 Pet. 3:18-20)

For our purposes it is important to focus on God’s great patience with those who were disobedient during the 120 years of Noah’s constructing of the ark, before the flood overwhelmed the earth.22 Thankfully, the Lord still exercises patience with mankind. If God can be patient with mankind, should not believers show great patience, regardless of their trouble, as they await the second coming of Christ and his putting an end to sin? Moreover, as they do so believers should display a distinct contrast with the disobedient (cf. 1 Pet. 4:7) even in the midst of any possible suffering as did their Savior. Then, they may “rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad” (1 Pet. 4:13). As Osborne observes, “We never enjoy our afflictions, but we rejoice because God is in charge and because we know what the future holds.”23 May we bear this in mind so as to reflect God’s “awaiting patiently” for the Lord’s return.

Moreover, as Jude challenges his readers, believers should reflect God’s love in their relations with one another:

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. (Jude 1:20-21; NLT)

Living a Christ filled life thus has great benefits not only for this earthly life, but “The believer receives eternal life at the Second Coming (also Matt. 19:29; Rom. 2:7; Titus 3:7).”24 Thus regardless of our tribulation here and now,

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.25

Scriptural Lessons Concerning Watching

Old Testament

Solomon advises his readers to:
Watch the path of your feet,
and all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
turn your foot from evil. (Prov. 4:26-27)

Beneath the surface reading of these words lies the deeper wisdom that Solomon wishes to convey. As Schwab points out, “Understanding circumstance and situation, one puts this into practice, actually doing the deeds consistent with wise counsel (4:26), careful not to turn aside to the right or left (4:27).” 26 Thus Solomon challenges people to consider carefully the things they do and places where they go. One is reminded of the song that encourages people (especially the young ones):

Be careful little feet where you go,
Be careful little feet where you go,
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love,
So be careful little feet where you go.

We should put a watch not only on our feet but all of our being. As David says,

“I will watch what I say
and make sure that I do not sin with my tongue.
I will put a muzzle over my mouth
while in the presence of an evil man. (Ps. 39:1-2)

The psalmist in Psalm 141 pleads with the Lord:

LORD, set up a guard for my mouth;
keep watch at the door of my lips. (v. 3)

The psalmist was apparently in some great difficulty, in which only God could help (cf. vv. 1-2, 8-10). The psalmist’s prayer to the Lord is that he would keep the psalmist from responding rashly or in an ungodly fashion (v. 4). Cohen suggests that, “His enemies had resorted to language of a blasphemous character; may God withhold him from allowing similar words to pass his lips!”27 May this be a timely warning for all of God’s people. One must trust in the Lord and not speak or act rashly even in the most oppressive of situations, such as being accused falsely of some sinful word or act. The believer must seek never to bring discredit to the Lord or worship any other god (cf. Deut 4:23). Indeed, “When harassed, the wise trust in the Lord as guard ‘Over the door’ of their lips.”28

This in turn is reminiscent of Job’s pleading with the Lord: “

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
Watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me Your target,
so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave,
You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone. (Job 7:20-21; HCSB)

Job is concerned. Has he committed some sin so that the Lord has brought on his troubles? Is this the reason that the Lord, who supervises all things, is treating him this way? Later Elihu will remind Job of his further remarks, which have been misguided (cf. Job 33:8-11):

I tell you that you are wrong in this matter,
since God is greater than man.
Why do you take Him to court
for not answering anything a person asks? (Job 33:12-13)

After all, Job is a mere human being and as such had no right to summon God to court. Moreover, if he has sinned, he cannot find fault with God. Still further, God is gracious and forgiving to all who follow Him (cf. vv. 14-31). Let us learn a lesson from Job. Rather than living self-righteously or failing to follow God’s will and revealed standards, let us live in close fellowship and dependence on the Lord. Assuredly, the song writers are correct in affirming:

I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land on the rolling seas,
For come what may, from day to day,
My heav’nly Father watches over me.29

The old proverb is also most specific: “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who watches his way preserves his life” (Prov. 16:17; NASB). Living in accordance with God’s standards is a key to a far better life, even here on earth. As Kidner remarks, ”The highway consists in shunning what is wrong; and by keeping on this straight course, one is guarding one’s whole being.”30 This includes one’s social life and especially one’s spiritual life, which is infinitely most important. As McKane remarks, “The upright man who walks along a road with an even surface, built up from a good foundation, keeps out of harm’s way.”31

The psalmist adds to this truth that not only should a person watch his course of life, but even more so he should look to God for guidance and strength, even in the face of harsh adversaries:

I will keep watch for you, my strength,
because God is my stronghold
My faithful God will come to meet me;
God will let me look down on my adversaries. (Ps. 59:9-10; HCSB; cf. Ps. 18:1-3).

Thus after God had delivered Israel from the mighty Egyptian army that had pursued them, Moses could sing, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Exod. 15:2). Moses’ song of redemption (Exod. 15:1-18) is echoed in several other scriptural texts (cf. especially Ps. 77:16-19: Hab. 3:3-15). Similarly David declares:

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?

Though an army is deployed against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though war break out against me.
still I am confident. (Ps. 27:1, 3; HCSB)32

The prophet Habakkuk, having uttered two complaints to the Lord (cf. Hab. 1:5-17),wisely steps aside and looks to God for wisdom:

I will stand at my watch post;
I will remain stationed on the city wall.
I will keep watching, so I can see what He says to me
and can know how I should answer
when He counters my argument. (Hab. 2:1)

As I have commented elsewhere, the prophet

is not so much challenging God with a complaint as he is desiring to have his perplexities alleviated and his viewpoint corrected.

Habakkuk also probably wanted to know God’s will and wisdom that he might respond properly to God’s correction and also communicate God’s intentions to others.33

Knowing that God is keeping watch over all things, including our lives, believers should be encouraged to seek God’s wisdom and his approval in all that they do. As in the case of Habakkuk, such will have a proper effect on their spiritual condition and their daily lives.

New Testament

The theme of watching is also found in the New Testament. One of the most significant places is in association with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was just after what has become known as the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-35) that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him as he went into the garden to pray. Having told his disciples to “remain here and watch with me” (v. 38; ESV), Jesus went apart from them a little way and began to pray for the Father’s will with regard to his own life (v. 39). After doing so for awhile, he came to the three and found fast asleep: “And he said to Peter, ‘So you could not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak’” (vv. 40-41; ESV). Not only should they have been concerned for their master’s life but their own spiritual condition, especially at this crucial time. Interestingly, France suggests: “To his earlier instruction to ‘keep awake’ Jesus now adds “Pray.” Their prayer is not to be for him but for themselves, who have been shown to need it even more than he does.”34

Believers should learn from all of this that being spiritually alert and prayerful are key elements in spiritual growth. Where such is realized, “A sure remedy is set before us, which is not far to seek, nor sought in vain. Christ promises that [people] earnest in prayer, who can fully put away the idleness of their flesh, will be victorious.” 35 Let us, indeed, be faithful and consistent in our prayer lives.

The author of Hebrews says that such is particularly essential for Christian leaders. For it is their responsibility to, “Keep watch over your souls and will give an account of their work” (Heb. 13:17; NASB). Thus Bruce remarks, the

Readers are invited to cooperate with their leaders, to make their responsible task easier for them, so that they could discharge it joyfully and not with sorrow… [for local leaders] had a real concern for the welfare of the church and a sense of their accountability to God in this respect. If the discharge of their responsibility and the ultimate rendering of their account were made a burden to them, the resultant disadvantage who fall on those who were led as well as on the leaders.36

Although this was designated especially for conditions in the early church, where good leadership was an essential commodity, it is still applicable to today’s churches. Such should be accompanied by Christian love and fellowship in the assembly, which radiates in the community. Where such is the case, “It will be found that not only does love promote fellowship but also that fellowship stimulates love, because it is by meeting together as a true community that Christians have the opportunity for encouraging one another by mutual support, comfort, and exhortation.”37

Underlying the command is the spiritual truth that in good and proper Christian living, especially in the church in its work and witness, is the need for spiritual togetherness. Where a genuine concern for God’s name and standards is lived out, there will doubtless be spiritual growth in the church, in the community, and in personal lives. Thus the author’s closing charge is still relevant today:

Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip you with every good thing to do his will working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. (Heb. 13:20-21; cf. 2 Pet. 3:18)

Spiritual Lessons Concerning Patience

The high value of patience has often been attested. An old Chinese saying declares, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”38 Tolstoi remarked that, “The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and Patience.”39 Ste. Theresa adds that, “Patient endurance attaineth to all things.’40 The high value of patience is also mentioned in the Scriptures. Thus it is listed among several fruits of the Spirit such as, “Joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Paul points out that not only is personal patience an admirable quality (Col. 1:11), but living in loving unity entails honesty, gentleness, and a patience while, “bearing with one another” (Eph. 4:2; cf. Col. 3:12).

As noted above, such a character quality originates in God himself (1 Pet. 3:20). Indeed, “Patience is a characteristic of God we may often overlook, yet…God’s patience with his people is an outstanding example of the virtue.”41 Personal patience may be said to begin with a person’s constant waiting for the Lord’s guidance. Thus having reminded his hearers of the necessity of a whole-soul committal to the Lord (Ps. 37:3-6), David adds: “Wait patiently for the LORD! Wait confidently for him! (v. 7).42

While instructing Timothy, Paul points out that a good Christian, especially a leader, should show distinct patience with all people, including those who oppose him (2 Tim. 2:24). Lashing back when wronged or criticized by others is not a proper response. Thus Laansma remarks,

Quarreling is beneath the dignity of the King’s representative, it misrepresents and demeans the Good News, mistakenly believes that the power resides in us rather than in God’s work, empowers the lie, distracts from the truth, and entangles and discredits the messenger. In every way it is counterproductive.43

A fitting example of human patience is that of Abraham:

When God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by, He swore by Himself:
I will most certainly bless you,
and I will greatly multiply you.
And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. (Heb. 6:13-15; NASB)

God had promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation that would prove to be a blessing for many (Gen. 12:2-3). The citation here in Hebrews 6, however, is from Genesis 22:16-17, where God promised him that because he had not withheld the possibility of sacrificing his only son, Isaac, “I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore” (v. 17; NASB). So it would prove to be that while he was still alive that Abraham began to see the fulfilling of God’s promise (cf. Heb. 6:15).

The author of Hebrews goes on to say that God’s promise through Abraham is available also to Christian believers. For as Westcott points out:

This promise partially, typically, yet not exhaustively fulfilled, has been handed down to us doubly confirmed so that we cannot doubt as to its uttermost accomplishment (16-18); an accomplishment which is presented to us in the exaltation of the Son, whom hope can follow now through the veil (19-20).

Moreover, that promise has eternal rewards. As Olivers declares:

The God of Abraham praise, at whose supreme command,
From earth I rise, and seek the joys at His right hand.
I all on earth forsake, it’s wisdom, fame and pow’r;
And Him my only portion make, my shield and tow’r.44

Such may include helping others in their time of need. As Paul tells the Thessalonian believers, “Admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Morris makes Paul’s instructions very explicit by saying,

The Christian should not be putting his own interests first, and taking a strong line with those who do not agree with him. Rather, must be patient with all men, bearing their manners and patiently seeking to lead them in the way of the Lord. It is more important for him that he be able to render some service than that his ego should be satisfied.45

Rather than satisfying our own desires, above all else we would be advised to follow the time honored observation of C.T. Studd: “Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Indeed, it has often been said, “Patience is an admirable quality.” May it be one that believers seek and is vastly appreciated by all.

James (probably the brother of Jesus) urges his fellow believers to be patient, “Until the Lord’s return” (James 5:7). As a further encouragement he adds, “Be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near”(v. 8). Theirs was to be a warm fellowship (v. 6) despite whatever they were experiencing. Still further, he reminds them of the old prophets: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name” (v. 10; cf. Heb. 11:32-38). No matter how difficult the times, believers may rest in the Lord, while waiting patiently for Christ’s return, which can come at any moment. James’ advice serves as solid instruction to serve in the face of whatever good or troubles they encounter. The believer may indeed endure all things with patience, confident of a blessed future with the Lord Jesus Christ. “The path to blessing, therefore, is patient endurance.” 46 As the hymn writer expresses it:

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.47

Concluding Thoughts

We noted above that there is a distinct need to wait confidently for God at all times, especially in times of trouble (Mic. 7:1-7; cf. Ps. 40:1-3). Indeed, God is ever available to all (Ps. 104:27-28). Therefore, we may take courage and find our strength in God, for he alone can provide true deliverance and protection, A we saw in Psalm 33, David serves as a prime example of one who placed full trust in a holy, righteous and sovereign God. The Apostle Paul points out the high value of waiting expectantly for Christ’s return to set up his everlasting earthly kingdom (1 Thess. 4:16-17). In support of all of this, David clearly points to the need for believers to wait in full reliance on the Lord and live in accordance with his standards (Pss. 25:27:1-9).

The Scriptures also challenge believers to watch how they carry on their lives before God, for the Lord watches over all things (cf. Ps. 141:1-3; Prov. 4:26-27). Such will enable believers to fulfill the charge that God communicated through the author of Hebrews to do the Lord’s will (cf. Heb. 13:20-21).

Waiting and watching should be accompanied by distinct patience, even as exemplified in the life of Abraham (cf. Heb. 6:13-15). This entails not only striving to live a righteous life before God, but doing so in whole-soul committal to him, as well as desiring to be of help to all, especially to those in need. Because true patience and strength exist and originate in God, believers should “also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near” (James 5:8). This should be done with a whole-soul commitment to God in genuine heart-felt patience (Ps. 27:1-7).

What great truth underlies all of this? It is simply that believers should wait for the Lord’s guidance and direction, keep a distinct watch to be certain that they reflect the character of God and his holy standards, and live patiently and expectantly before Him who is their deliver, refuge, and guide as they await Christ’s return.

1 See John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, ed. Justin Kaplan, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 16th ed. (1992), 431: note 2.

2 See further, ibid. 183;510.

3 Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books (1989), 276.

4 Unless otherwise cited (as here), all scriptural citations are taken from the Net Bible.

5 See further, my remarks in, “The Source of True Strength,” Biblical Studies Press, 2013.

6 Vance Havner as cited in Quotable Quotations, 421.

7 Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press (1907), 52.

8 W. C. Martin, “The Name of Jesus.”

9 Richard D. Patterson, “Singing The New Song: An Examination of Psalms 33, 96, 98 And 149,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (2007), 419.

10 Gary V. Smith, “Isaiah 40-66,” in The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman and Holman (2009), 122.

11 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House (1969), 841.

12 See Richard D. Patterson in “A God Who Cares,” Biblical Studies Press (2014), 13.

13 William Mc Kane, Proverbs (Philadelphia: Westminster Press (1970), 548.

14 John H. Sammis, “Trust and Obey.”

15 J.J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1966) 2 vols. in one) 1: 258.

16 Richard D. Patterson, “Rest in Troublesome Times,” Biblical Studies Press (2014), 6.

17 Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, in The New International Greek Testament, eds. I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, `991), 463, 465.

18 Sylvanus D. Phelps, “Something for Thee.”

19 Philip W. Comfort, “1-2 Thessalonians” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary; 18vols. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008) 16: 340.

20 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 63-64.

21 Fanny J. Crosby, “Will Jesus Find us Watching?”

22 For a full discussion concerning the problems associated with these verses, see E. Schulyer English, The Life and Letters of Saint Peter (New York: “Our Hope,” 1941), 202-212.

23 Grant R. Osborne, “James, 1-2 Peter, Jude,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 18 vols. (Carol Stream, Il: 2011) 18:248.

24 Osborne, op.cit., 389-90.

25 Esther Kerr Rusthoi, “When We See Christ.”

26 George M. Schwab, “The Book of Proverbs,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House (2009) 7:495.

27 A. Cohen, The Palms, in Soncino Books of the Bible (London: Soncino Press, 13th ed. (1985), 458.

28 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 5:972.

29 W. C. Martin and Chas. H. Gabriel, “My Father Watches Over Me.”

30 Derek Kidner, The Proverbs, in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: InterVarsity (1964), 120.

31 McKane, Proverbs, 500-501.

32 The psalmist’s words have been adopted and set to music. See, Frances Alliston, “The Lord is My Light.”

33 Richard D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Richardson, TX. Biblical Studies Press (2003), 150.

34 R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, in The New International Commentary on The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2007), 1005.

35 John Calvin as cited by Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, in Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan (2010), 980.

36 F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to The Hebrews, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1964), 408.

37 Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1977), 408.

38 See Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations (Wheaton: Victor Books,1989), 276.

39 Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, “War and Peace,” in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 510

40 Ste. Theresa, as cited in James Dalton Morrison, Masterpieces of Religious Verse (New York: Harper, 1948, 39.

41 See Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 632.

42 For further details, see, Richard D. Patterson, “Faith, Hope, and Love,” (Richardson TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2016), 3-4.

43 Jon C. Laansma, “2 Timothy, Titus,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale House, 2009) 17:180.

44 Thomas Olivers, “The God of Abraham Praise.”

45 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 169.

46 George H. Guthrie, “James,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 13: 267.

47 Katharina von Schlegel, trans Jane L. Borthwick, “Be Still, My Soul.”

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