Run with Patience

“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.” —Hebrews 12:1

EARLIER CHAPTERS IN Hebrews give us an overview of the “great cloud of witnesses” whom Paul mentions in our theme text. And we have been told about “the sin which doth so easily beset us,” as well as all mankind down through the ages, which is a lack of faith. Paul also told us how we must lay aside all earthly encumbrances or weights, that hold us back from completely doing God’s will in our lives. With this background in mind, we will look at the method which we must use in order to run this Christian racecourse successfully—Paul says we must begin, and continue on, in our engagement, with patience.

These words of Paul exhort us to look backward in time, as it were, at the trying experiences that the Ancient Worthies endured. He had just recounted in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews some of the tremendously difficult experiences in which they triumphed through exercising a sufficient degree of faith in God. (vs. 13) We are aware from the apostle’s statement that there were many more faithful men and women whom he has not brought to our attention by name due to the lack of time and space to list them all. (vss. 32-38) The apostle recommends that we consider the severe trials these faithful Ancient Worthies endured, and he praises their stirring examples of faith and loyalty which made them so very pleasing to God.

Paul suggested that it would be profitable for us to consider this great cloud of witnesses, all of whom possessed a steadfast and unmovable faith, and to emulate their fine examples. He wrote this epistle for the very purpose of encouraging all of us toward faithfulness and patient endurance, who—during the entire Gospel Age—have been running together on this even greater racecourse than the path which the Ancient Worthies followed.

After bringing the faith and courage of the Ancient Worthies to our attention, Paul then spoke about Jesus, who he said was the “author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) Jesus is our leader, our guide—it is in his footsteps that we are endeavoring to walk. Paul related how Jesus himself trod this very same course that is set before us, and it is only because of him that we are privileged to run this race.

Jesus was divinely inspired as he looked forward to the finish line which lay far ahead of him, and to all that reaching the goal would mean. He knew that in order to reach that goal it would mean that he must lay down his earthly life. To contemplate this goal was a great ‘joy that was set before him’ by his Father. Reaching that finish mark would mean that once again he would be with his Heavenly Father, as he had been for endless eons of time before his human life began in Bethlehem.

But one of the principal joys that Jesus had as his goal was the privilege of inheriting the promise made to father Abraham, of blessing all the families of the earth. (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:14) To Jesus, this was what it was all about! We, too, have been called now, in advance of the world of mankind to receive the merit of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, so that we ultimately might be instruments to bless all the families of the earth, if we run with patience and reach our goal.—Gal. 3:29

The Apostle Paul briefly described Jesus’ loyalty to God and all the suffering that he endured as a result of this loyalty. We might say that Paul summarized it all in the illustration of the ‘cross’ and its ‘shame’ which our Lord Jesus so patiently endured. After reminding us to set aside every hindrance to the running of a triumphant race, he exhorted us to run, just as Jesus ran—with patience and with constant endurance. Our goal, then, is to be made copies of God’s dear Son, by following so very closely in his footsteps that we too will share his victory. Surely, if we are to be successful and hope to win this crown of victory we must, just like him, delight to do the Father’s will.

The scripture says, “He was tested in all points like as we are.” (Heb. 4:15) But, conversely, we could also say that we are tempted in all points that Jesus was tested. So, clearly, brethren, it is only those who are tested in all points as he was, and who prove their full loyalty and devotion—to the Heavenly Father, to the Truth, and to the brethren, also—who will be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. Thus we understand that all the trials and difficulties are to be borne in the right way and with the proper spirit in order that the development of a Christ-like character will take place in each one of us. That is the very purpose of having trials and testings.

Who could know better than the great Apostle Paul the method that the Lord is using to prepare true, loyal characters and to establish them in righteousness in order to be prepared to be administrators with our Lord Jesus, in his kingdom. He suffered and endured so much, and we must expect the same experiences in order to be useful to our Master. Such a character as God is looking for, Paul pointed out to us, can only be developed through becoming ‘more than conquerors’ in those trying experiences which divine wisdom decrees are necessary.—Rom. 8:37

When we consider the great wisdom and love of the one who directs our paths, who are we to question the wisdom which calls upon us to endure trials. We have been exhorted to look unto Jesus and to consider the marvelous example that he set for us, as he faithfully endured each severe experience along his pathway. We must continually keep our eye upon Jesus—who is standing at that finish line, at the goal—encouraging us lest we grow weary and faint in our minds.

There once was a fine Christian who expressed the danger that each of us might fall into lethargy, and that therefore we might not receive our full reward at the end of our lives. He expressed it in this way: “On the Plains of Hesitation lie the bones of countless millions who, at the very dawn of victory, sit down to rest, and resting, die without reaching their goal.” We do not want to grow weary and sit down to rest just short of reaching the mark. The apostle has reminded us that we are to run this race with patience all the way to the end! On the surface this sounds rather easy, does it not? But let us see what this matter of patience entails.

In the New Testament we find two Greek words which have been translated by the English word patience. The first word is makrothumia and that word actually corresponds to what we commonly think of today as patience. It simply means ‘longsuffering’, and it is usually translated ‘longsuffering’ or ‘endurance’. It usually expresses patience with respect to people—that is, the ability to bear with people even when they are wrong, or when they are insulting towards us, perhaps.

On the other hand, the Greek word hupomone is a noun which is almost always translated ‘patience’. The verb form of this word is usually translated ‘endure’, but in either instance it is used in respect to things or conditions. There is a natural overlapping of these two thoughts, because when we consider persons and how they can have an influence upon conditions or circumstances, we realize that there is a similarity of thought in the two words.

But as we examine particularly the second Greek word, hupomone, we see that there are some wonderful truths that emerge—truths which really should be an inspiration to us in our consideration of the theme text which we are considering. We will look at several definitions that have been given to us by some of the authorities on the Greek language. One says that the word describes “an element of character which manifests itself in an endurance of wrong or affliction, with contentment.” That word ‘contentment’ is most important. Then he says, “but without rebellion of our will, and with full acquiescence in the divine wisdom and love. It tells of persistent endurance whether in action or suffering—it tells of the brave patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions and trials that befall him in his conflict.”

Thayer’s Lexicon defines the word endurance in this way, “Basically it means to ‘remain under’, the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose, in his loyalty to faith and piety, by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” So with these definitions in mind, let us apply them to our text. We have a goal set before us by God, and we are to keep our eye upon it. Regardless of what happens to us we are not to swerve from our straight course toward that goal. Someone else defined patience in this way, “Not accepting God’s will with dumb resignation but with joy; not only with the absence of murmur, but with the sword of praise.”

How many of us can really lift up the sword of praise when we are undergoing trials and our afflictions? But if we can praise the Lord for those difficult experiences which try and test us, then, and only then, will we have the proper perspective in our Christian lives. Briefly summarized, we would say that makrothumia is patience exhibited under ill treatment by persons.

However, this is not the word that we wish to consider primarily, because the word ‘patience’ in our theme text is the other Greek word—hupomone—which means patience shown during trials, difficulties and hardships.

We want to keep in mind that our trials in general are not concerned with persons, but rather with circumstances, hardships, and difficult conditions that come into our lives. This word is commonly used in connection with tribulation. In the 5th chapter of the Book of Romans we notice the words of Paul, “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” There is contained in this verse a reference to the faith—the Truth—not simply any faith or any truth. We know it is possible to have faith in many things. But here the apostle spoke about faith in the Truth—the plan of God as outlined in his Word. And he said the reason that we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God is because we have faith in his Word. Then he continued, saying, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience: and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”—Rom. 5:2-5

In this passage there are a number of words which most of our modern translations render differently than the King James Version. Reading from the Diaglott, Wilson translates the passage in this way, starting with the third verse, “Not only so, but we triumph also in afflictions, knowing that affliction works out endurance: and endurance, approval; and approval, hope; and this hope is not put to shame, because the love of God has been diffused in our hearts, through that Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” What Paul said here was that our faith does not give us a false hope. It does not deceive us. Why? Because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”

Paul sought to convey the thought that he did not exult because he was enduring tribulation or distress or burdens themselves, but because of the beneficial effect they had upon his Christian walk as he learned to place his trust in the Lord. This is something we must learn, also. We must learn to look upon these trials and testings as assets, allowed to come to us to develop our Christian character. Paul said that the patient endurance which we develop, when we have been put to the test, brings our Heavenly Father’s approval, and this, in turn, increases our hope.

Again, Paul said, “Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are [rightly] exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11) Now we can see more clearly the thought of the Greek word, hupomone, which means ‘to remain under’—not to try to escape the trial just because it is not pleasing to our flesh. Rather, we are to look for a lesson in the trial.

In Romans 12:12, Paul again impresses upon our minds strongly, that those of God’s family are to be patient in tribulation. It reads this way: “Rejoicing in hope; patient [or, ‘we triumph] in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” This is the same lesson: we are to be submissive to the tests, as we have mentioned, not seeking to escape them, but eager to learn the lessons which they were sent to teach.

In all of these difficult times, we need not have any fear that the trials will harm us as New Creatures, because we have been assured that God will not test us beyond the limit of our endurance. (I Cor. 10:13) Instead, all of life’s experiences are under his direction and control. These are certainly amazing and encouraging thoughts to our hearts!

Indeed, Paul said further, that Christians establish themselves as ministers of God through much “patience and affliction.” (II Cor. 2:4) Just preceding these words he had been telling the Corinthians that in the work of the ministry we must try not to put obstacles in anyone’s way by exhibiting a lack of faith, but to show that we are God’s servants by enduring our hardships and difficulties with great patience. These are not idle words that Paul spoke. Again, in II Timothy 2:7-12 (J.B. Phillips Translation), Paul showed how Christ is the “center of everything,” and was “raised by God from the dead according to the Gospel. For preaching this I am having to endure being chained in prison as if I were some sort of criminal. But they cannot chain the Word of God, and I can endure all these things for the sake of those whom God is calling, so that they too may receive the salvation of Christ Jesus.” Then Paul added, reassuringly, that “If we die with him we shall also live with him: if we suffer we shall also reign with him.”

We read in II Thessalonians 1, how Paul commended the Thessalonians for their patience and faith despite persecution and tribulation. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.”—vss. 3-5

Paul commended the Thessalonians for their patience and endurance and strong faith during all the persecution and suffering they were experiencing. He told them that he was happy to inform other churches he met with, about the proper response they had made to their experiences, as an example and encouragement to others.

We find other scriptures where this word endurance is used in connection with faith. The Apostle James said that the testing of faith produces patience. He used the expression “divers temptations,” and we realize that in using this phrase, he was indicating that they had endured successfully a number of different kinds of trials, not just one particular sort of trial. In James 1:2-5 he said: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying [or proving] of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”

Here is an example of the idea of ‘divers temptations’, and the primary thought of this passage concerns trials and testings which are directed toward a particular purpose. Of course the end which God has in mind is that we make our calling and election sure, that we be conformed to the image of his dear Son, and thus, eventually will be able to perfectly glorify and honor our Heavenly Father and his Son.

These trials are not given to us to seduce us away from the faith—No! Of course not! They are permitted with the one thought and purpose of strengthening us, and purifying us, despite the fact that many of these trials bring us sorrow and disappointment as human beings. But as New Creatures our characters and our devotion are crystallized and made sure because of our positive reaction to difficult experiences. We must never grumble nor complain no matter how difficult an order this is for us. We should not murmur or complain, but we should rejoice in our trials. We read about many of the martyrs who did not die grimly—some even died singing, praising God!

Paul wrote concerning athletes in training. The greater and more severe an athlete’s depth of training in his chosen field, the better fitted he will be to complete his effort victoriously. Likewise, your training and mine, if it is rightly borne by us, will give us the strength to bear further trials if and when they come. Each victory prepares us for new victories, and eventually the winning of not only each battle, but the war!

In James 1:2, the Phillips Translation, we read, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character (men of integrity, lacking nothing.)”

Often we find, as in this case, that patience is connected with a goal, a glory, or a greatness. In Luke 21:19 our Lord said, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Just what did he mean by this? We think a better translation of this would be: “By your patient endurance gain your lives.” This is a similar thought to the one Jesus gave us in Matthew 24:13, when he stated, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

We know that we must endure ‘unto the end’. John the Revelator said that we must be faithful even unto death. (Rev. 2:10) Our faith and our trust in the Lord and in his gracious promises should be so strong that they will more than counterbalance the opposition of the world, the flesh and our Adversary, the Devil—not only at the beginning of our Christian walk, but right up until our very last breath.

Let us take a look at the parable of the sower as recorded in Luke 8:5-8, to see what it has to teach us in connection with this lesson. “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus gave us the interpretation of this parable, starting with verse eleven, saying. “The seed is the Word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the Devil, and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” Then those that fell “on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to perfection. 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.” How do they bring forth fruit? ‘With patience’. They have developed patient endurance.

Here is the lesson Jesus wished to teach from the parable of the sower. We must cultivate patient endurance if we are to be pleasing and acceptable to our Heavenly Father. The parable teaches that we must do much more than just receive the Word, even though we do receive it with joy. This parable mentions some who receive this seed with joy and give evidence of growth, with vigor, but when the sun of opposition and persecution came out, they withered in the heat.

Jesus explained that this class of hearers did rejoice greatly in the truth but they had no endurance; they became discouraged because life was difficult. Discouragement is a negative feeling which we must battle against. Those who become discouraged and wither away are not pleasing to God. The parable shows us definitely that the final test of victory depends upon patient endurance under affliction.

In Romans 15:4 Paul wrote, “What so ever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have [possess] hope.” We have been offered a great hope. It is the goal that we have been running toward since we first began to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

The Apostle Paul pointed out to us that we are able to reach our goal, not in our own strength, but only through the help of the light of the Holy Spirit shining upon God’s Word. And God’s Word includes all the precious promises of the Scriptures, including the examples of the Ancient Worthies, and the example of Jesus, and of Paul, and of all the Lord’s faithful who have gone before us. It includes even those who are among us today who have been examples to help us in our walk in the narrow way during our lifetime; all these help us to maintain a brave and a cheerful spirit among all the sufferings and reproaches of life.

James, like Paul, also points to those faithful Ancient Worthies as patterns for us to closely follow. In James 5:10,11, he told us to remember “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.” He reminds us of Job in particular: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job,” and how the Lord blessed him richly in the end. He was faithful, even though enduring much suffering. The Lord, who is full of mercy and compassion, blessed him by giving him much more than he possessed before his losses, as a reward for his enduring faith.

I Peter 2:19-23 we learn that the Apostle Peter also understood the importance of patient endurance. His words recorded there, say: “This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 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: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself [Margin, “his cause”] to him that judgeth righteously.”

This passage of Scripture can also teach us some very practical lessons. Jesus committed his cause to the Heavenly Father, and since he was the perfect example, and we are striving to walk in his footsteps, we should do the same in our trials and testings. Peter understood this. He saw what an all-important part that patient endurance played in pleasing the Heavenly Father, and in developing the fruits of the Spirit in his people.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13) The Weymouth Translation renders this last verse, “I stretch forward” to reach the mark. We have all seen races where runners, as they near the finish line, stretch forward, putting forth every last ounce of energy and every last effort they possess to reach the goal. So Paul, as a mature Christian, explained that we are to walk in his, Paul’s, footsteps as Paul walked in Jesus’ footsteps—forgetting all past accomplishments, as well as all past failures, and just pressing on toward the mark in faith.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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