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The Patience-building Mechanism

by Nestor A. Toro

A Christian’s life hangs on his or her patience (Luke 21:19). The Bible speaks of a process necessary to develop this precious quality.

Complete the following statement: “Our God is a God of…”

As you attempt to fill the blank, think of the many biblical qualities a Christian is to develop during the process of salvation. These attributes are necessary for building godly character. In fact, the noun “quality” in English can also mean character.

Which particular trait or traits could be so important to God that the Bible says He is the God of it?

The answer, found in Romans 15:5, may surprise you: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus…”

God is identified as “the God of patience and consolation.” If we are to develop godly character, then we must grow in these attributes.

Both characteristics are huge topics within themselves. Extensive sermons or articles could be based on each of them.

This article, however, focuses on just one aspect of patience. More specifically, it details a biblical mechanism through which a Christian develops this most needed quality.

World’s Example

Successful leaders understand the importance of patience, even if they do not have God’s Spirit. The famous professional baseball player and manager Chuck Tanner (1928-2011) stated: “There are three secrets to managing. The first secret is have patience. The second is be patient. And the third most important secret is patience.”

No doubt, patience helped Mr. Tanner lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series championship in 1979. His unwavering determination helped lead the team to victory after falling behind three games to one at the beginning of the series.

Yet those who qualify to be in the Kingdom of God will manage much more than a professional baseball team! Therefore, we must develop patience—the kind that will build the godly character to help us manage our lives now, cities when Christ returns (Luke 19:17), and “all things” thereafter (Rev. 21:7).

In His explanation of the parable of the sower (Luke 8:15), Jesus stated: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

Put another way, slow and steady growth takes patience. Later in Luke 21:19, He instructed: “In your patience possess you your [lives].”

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines patience as, “The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness.” Patience involves suffering—all while not murmuring about the trial you are enduring.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines the Greek word for patience in Luke 21:19 as “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy.”

Would God tell us that our fruits have to be tempered with “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy”—and that our lives depend on it—and not give us a hint about how to obtain this all-important quality?

Of course not! How then does a Christian develop patience?

Mechanism for Growth

In the article “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” Mr. David Pack teaches that “pain kicks the mental learning mechanism into gear.” Likewise, it has been said that “giving kicks the blessing mechanism into gear.” These principles are both helpful and easy to remember.

A third “mechanism” can be inferred from another scripture. It is found in Romans 5: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience…” (vs. 13).

Strong’s entry for the word tribulation in this passage includes “pressure (literally or figuratively),” “afflicted,” “anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.” It comes from a root word that means “to crowd.”

Simply put, the word tribulation refers to trials. Just as pain is to learning, and giving is to blessing, so tribulation is to patience. In other words, trials kick the patience mechanism into gear!

Whenever a particular trial hits, we may feel pressured, afflicted, burdened and troubled to the point of feeling, or literally being, “crowded.” Yet it is important to ask God to help us see the big picture.

If we allow ourselves to develop a bad attitude because of a trial, we miss the point of it altogether! We must learn to see each trial as a unique opportunity to develop patience.

Laws of Trials

Since trials are a mechanism for building patience, it is worth reviewing what have come to be known as the laws of trials:

(1) Trials come to all Christians.

(2) You do not know when trials will start, when they will end, or what their severity will be.

(3) You do not know a coming trial’s nature, or even in many cases that it is coming at all.

The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians about trials by using an analogy: “Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Cor. 9:24-27).

The faithful apostle, who could speak with authority on the topic of trials since he had endured many difficult events throughout his life (Acts 9:16), likened being a Christian to being an athlete. Many competitors experience trials while qualifying to be part of their national sports teams. Just think of the personal sacrifices they make while training for the worldwide event, or even the injuries they may endure.

Imagine if you were an all-around track-and-field athlete preparing to compete at a world championship. You would have to prepare to run, throw and jump your way to victory in a series of events. These could include short- and long-distance races, hurdles, steeplechases, relays, long/high/triple jumps, pole vaults, shotput and even discus, javelin and hammer throws.

It would take a lot of self-discipline to train your body for it and you would most likely have to forego participating in various family outings or eating specific foods to ensure you were in proper shape for the competition. It would certainly be difficult to do and would involve personal sacrifices and keeping the big picture of winning the competition in mind!

It can be said that we are being tried to be part of God’s leadership team. Yet while Christians are likened to being athletes, our trials are much different. Those who are learning to be part of this team now have no idea of what each event—the trial—will be, when it will occur, or how challenging it will be.

In some cases, you may not have even heard of a particular event—or trial—before. But when the starting pistol fires, you are expected to “run, that you may obtain.”

In your life, some trials may feel like sprints while others feel like relays (which may affect multiple people simultaneously). A flat tire may feel like a hurdle. Persecution at work due to the Sabbath may feel like running a 10K. Dealing with a complicated health condition can feel like participating in a cross-country marathon.

Yet patience is built through each test. Completing a trial adds proverbial jewels to your incorruptible crown.

This is not a new concept. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who endured intense tribulation.

Look at the account in Hebrews 11: “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (vs. 32-40).

Past servants of God endured patiently. Now their position on God’s spiritual team is sealed forever. How about us?

Zero Complaints

Trials can fall into many categories. They can affect our health, spirituality, finances, relationships and more. They can come in seasons (pre-Passover or pre-Feast), or out of nowhere.

Yet all trials are a mechanism for building patience. Patience leads to character, which is what a Christian has developed throughout his or her conversion and can bring into God’s Kingdom!

With this in mind, determine to practice a “zero complaint policy” when a trial hits. Recognize that it comes with the territory. Be glad, be honored—it means you are a Christian!

Fight the urge to fall into a bad mood and instead grow from the experience. Complaining about a trial blocks our ability to see the intended blessings of it.

Take another look at Romans 5:3, this time continuing to verse 8: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ did not complain about His trials. Neither should we.

Bible prophecy shows that the coming years will be the most trying times for Christians alive today. We must remember that any trials we face are worth their weight in gold as they will help us develop patience.

And by enduring them, we will become more like God, who is, after all, a God of patience.