“Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! the farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain.”—Jas. 5:7.
1. Who is the God of patience, and how does he show it?
JEHOVAH is the great God of patience. This patience is based on his great love and mercy. He has demonstrated his undeserved kindness and forbearance on many occasions. He showed it by giving warning to the people of Noah’s day who were filling the earth with violence, by putting Pharaoh on notice by means of Moses and sending a series of plagues before bringing death to the first-born of Egypt, by angelic messengers to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, by prophets to Israel, and finally by sending his own Son. The patience of Jehovah has been demonstrated many times within the short history of man. Time and again men have turned from the paths of righteousness, but Jehovah has patiently given correction and warning and thus displayed his undeserved kindness, love and mercy toward men throughout the centuries.—1 Pet. 3:20.
2. How was Jehovah’s patience illustrated by Jesus?
2 Jesus well illustrated this by his account of “a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and erected a tower, and let it out to cultivators for hire, and traveled abroad. When the season of the fruits came around, he dispatched his slaves to the cultivators to get his fruits. However, the cultivators took his slaves and one they beat up, another they killed, another they stoned. Again he dispatched other slaves, more than the first, but they did the same to these. Lastly he dispatched his son to them, saying: ‘They will respect my son.’ On seeing the son the cultivators said among themselves: ‘This is the heir; come let us kill him and get his inheritance!’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”—Matt. 21:33-39.
3. What did Jeremiah record regarding the patience of God toward Israel?
3 In like manner Jehovah as the owner of the vineyard has shown patience on many occasions. But, as Jeremiah said of Israel, “they did not listen, neither did they incline their ear, but they went walking in the counsels in the stubbornness of their bad heart, so that they became backward in direction and not forward, from the day that your forefathers came forth out of the land of Egypt until this day; and I kept sending to you all my servants the prophets, daily getting up early and sending them.” Still Jehovah continued to give them warning, saying: “And you must speak to them all these words, but they will not listen to you, and you must call to them, but they will not answer you. And you must say to them, ‘This is the nation whose people have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah its God, and have not taken discipline.’” Even then Jehovah showed patience by sending his Son, who was killed as he had foretold in the parable.—Jer. 7:24-28.
PATIENCE TOWARD WICKED ONES LIMITED
4. Is God’s patience unending? How do we know?
4 However, Jehovah’s patience does not run on forever. This Jesus showed in connection with his illustration; he asked: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those cultivators?” The Jews said to him: “Because they are evil, he will bring an evil destruction upon them and will let out the vineyard for hire to other cultivators, who will render him the fruits when they become due.”(Matt. 21:40, 41) Although Jehovah has shown similar forbearance to the present wicked world, his Word shows that he will shortly bring upon it the recompense that is due it for forsaking him. God did not hold back on a previous occasion from punishing even the angels that sinned in the days before the Flood, reserving them for judgment and destruction. He did not restrain himself from bringing due punishment upon the entire wicked world of Noah’s time by a global flood. And he purged the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by a consuming fire. He led the nation of Israel into captivity to Babylon and later permitted Jerusalem to be razed by the Roman soldiers as his patience reached the limit of his appointed time.
5. Does the present system merit Jehovah’s patience?
5 There is good reason to believe that the patience of Jehovah toward this present world is running out; for, as Paul foretold under inspiration, men have become “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, without gratitude, with no loving-kindness, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with self-esteem, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:2-5) Certainly Jehovah has every reason to be impatient with people like this and to take action against the present world system with its wrangling nations and divided international blocs of power and with racial and religious enmities.
6. For what reasons has Jehovah tolerated wickedness so long?
6 Jehovah has shown such patience that many people disbelieve in his existence. However, Jehovah has a reason for his patience, even as he told Pharaoh by his representative Moses: ‘So that all will come to recognize my supreme power and so that my name may be declared in all the earth.’ He is permitting time now for a warning to be given before the end comes to this present system, a time in which his name Jehovah may be made known, people of faith gathered out and the good news regarding his kingdom preached.—Ex. 9:16.
7. What work will God accomplish despite the scoffers?
7 Even now Jehovah is proceeding with the dividing of the people, sifting aside those who, like chaff, are fit only for destruction, but preparing to preserve those who love righteousness and truth and who abide by godly principles. (Matt. 3:12) Among those facing destruction are the ones who constantly question even the existence of God. They say, If there is a God, why does he not do something about the conditions in the earth? They are like the scoffers that Peter foretold would come with ridicule, saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” However, the end of this system will come all too soon for such scoffers. For 120 years God restrained his anger at the wickedness in the preflood days and then brought the Deluge upon that ungodly system. God’s patience toward that wicked world ran out. In the same way, Peter comments, ‘The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for a fiery ending, being reserved to the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly ones.’—2 Pet. 3:3-7.
THE NEED OF PATIENCE
8. (a) Why can it not be said that Jehovah is slow? (b) What attitude did Noah manifest?
8 Men with their brief life span of approximately seventy years sometimes get impatient with the carrying out of Jehovah’s purposes. They want to see immediate action. But viewed from the timeless standpoint of the Almighty God, only a brief period of six 1,000-year days, less than a week, has elapsed from the creation of mankind. Peter explains: “However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:8, 9) Noah also understood this in the preflood days when wickedness was so rampant in the earth. He must have had all kinds of opposition from the scoffers of his day as he went about building the ark, but Noah had confidence in Jehovah. He was not one to say, ‘Well, Lord, here it is another year and nothing has happened; if you do not bring the end by A.M. 1641, I quit.’ No, but he continued patiently with faith until the Deluge came over a decade later.
9, 10. What is the wise course to follow now?
9 The Scripture record shows that we are now living in the time of the end of this system of things when Jehovah’s wonderful purposes will be finally carried out by means of his kingdom and paradise conditions be restored upon the earth for those having faith. As the psalmist David wrote under inspiration of God: “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers. Do not be envious of those doing unrighteousness. For like grass they will speedily wither, and like green new grass they will fade away. Trust in Jehovah and do good; reside in the earth and deal with faithfulness. Also take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart.”—Ps. 37:1-4.
10 In view of this, what course of action should people now living take to merit Jehovah’s favor and protection such as he showed to Noah, Lot and to Jerusalem’s survivors? (2 Pet. 2:5-9) A wise man will imitate Jehovah by demonstrating patience himself, especially putting time and effort into fathoming the riches of God’s Word, which will mean life to him. So if you are the kind of person who is inclined to be short-tempered and impatient, stop and consider the wonderful example of patience that the Almighty God has shown toward us. If you are overly quick to say and do things, then strive to cultivate the quality of patience. It is a virtue or godlike quality that a Christian needs to have, particularly in this time of the end. Just as Jehovah has shown patience with us, we can show it to others in our home life and with friends, at work or among strangers.—Matt. 18:23-35.
11. Why is patience a sign of wisdom?
11 Patience is regarded by many as a sign of weakness. In this age when everyone is in a hurry people frequently become impatient with others. But God’s Word counsels us: “Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit. Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” A wise man will be quick to learn of Jehovah and his purposes and lead himself and his family in the way that will merit God’s favor and protection instead of being quick to take offense.—Eccl. 7:8, 9.
PATIENCE IN THE MINISTRY
12. (a) What great work needs to be done? (b) What preparation is necessary?
12 Jehovah’s patience is not to be confused with slowness. Just as he took action to cleanse the earth in the days of Noah, so he has now purposed to bring to ruin those ruining the earth. But before the end of this system of things comes a great work has to be done. Just as Noah served as a preacher of righteousness in the days before the flood, so Jesus foretold that the good news concerning the established kingdom of Jehovah would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a warning to the people before the end of this system would come. This good news is now being brought to the attention of the people of all nations by the active united ministerial efforts of Jehovah’s witnesses. Their ministry can be likened to the work of a farmer in some ways, and the illustration helps to emphasize the great patience that is needed in the ministerial service that God has assigned to true Christians today. A man who has never farmed would not dream of going out and buying land and starting to farm it without learning something about the methods of farming and getting instructions first. In like manner a period of study, congregation instruction and training are necessary before an individual can take up the ministerial service. Jesus recognized this need for training, and he sent his disciples out by twos so that they could profit by the association and helpful suggestions of each other.
13, 14. How can the ministry be compared with the work of a farmer, and why is patience required?
13 A farmer does not go out one day and plant the seed and then come back the next week and harvest the crop. Instead, he has to build up the soil, fertilize it, plow it, harrow it, plant seed, cultivate and weed the ground and keep the birds away. Then perhaps he has trouble with a plague of bugs, so he has to spray the crop. Yet, after all that, he encounters drought, and the crop may be wiped out. Will the farmer give up and go to the city for a job or get other employment? Not if he is a real farmer. Instead, the next year he will go through the same thing again. He may plant a windbreak to hold down the dust. He may put in a deep well to get water to irrigate the land. But he does not give up. He has patience and keeps working until he finally receives the fruitage of his labors and reaps a crop, thanks to Jehovah’s blessing.
14 A real Christian who wants to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, shares the truths he has learned with others. He finds that, first of all, he must cultivate the ground. This can be done by setting a good example in the neighborhood as a Christian. People take note of one’s course of conduct and way of speech, and if it is in accord with Scriptural principles, then they will more readily listen to the message one brings. Even so, after many visits and talking to them about the Scriptures, there may not be much response. But do not get impatient. Remember, the walls of Jericho did not fall the first time around, either. Instead, the Israelites had to walk around the walls for six days and on the seventh day they walked around seven times, and finally the walls crashed down. We should not think we are going to break down the wall-like barriers of religious teachings and creedal traditions that have been built up over the centuries the first time we speak aloud the message of truth. But appreciating the importance of the message we bear, we need to be courteous and patient and show love. We are not dealing in crops like a farmer, but in lives; so there is need for even greater patience.
15, 16. (a) Why should a Christian not be easily discouraged in his service? (b) What good counsel did James give?
15 After visiting the people of good will, planting a seed of truth here and there, watering it with incidental witnessing now and then or by back-calls, when the minister finally notices a little interest being manifested, like a plant beginning to put its head above ground, then he tries to help it grow and become strong spiritually, cultivating the new interest with a Bible study. But if the plant weakens or the interest dies, will he say, ‘That is enough for me, I cannot be a teacher’? Not if he has really dedicated himself to Jehovah God and wants to serve him with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. The world is the field and the harvest is great; so there are plenty of opportunities to try again and show patience.
16 James stressed this point, saying: “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! the farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You, too, exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.” (Jas. 5:7, 8) James recognized that after the planting the early rain is necessary to germinate the seed and again the later rain is necessary to bring the planting to fruition. So it is with the ministry. The waters of truth help the appreciation of God’s Word to germinate and spring into life in the heart and mind of a person, but only continued watering and cultivating will help the individual to become like a plant of righteousness, ready to bear fruit to the praise and honor of the Creator.
17. What is outstanding about the time we live in?
17 James told the early Christians to exercise patience until the presence of the Lord. At Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Jesus for the sign of his presence or parousía, and he gave them manifold evidence in a composite sign with at least thirty-nine distinct features. (See “Make Sure of All Things,” page 337.) Part of this sign, which has been in course of fulfillment since 1914, was that this good news of the Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations. This has been literally fulfilled in our day as Jehovah’s witnesses, young and old, men and women, actively share in the preaching and teaching work world-wide in 179 countries and islands of the sea. The evidence of the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose can be seen in the continued expansion and growth of the New World society. In 1914, when the second presence of Christ began invisibly, there were only a few thousand publishers active in the ministry. In 1938 there were 59,000. Now there are over 916,000. Jehovah’s blessing has been on the planting and watering work, and he has given the increase.
PATIENCE WITH ACTIVITY
18. How can Christians exercise patience now?
18 Although we are no longer looking forward to the presence of the Lord since the start of the sign’s fulfillment in 1914, still we do need to exercise patience until the preaching work is thoroughly accomplished and Jehovah says it is enough at Armageddon. When James said we should exercise patience, this was not meant to be an inactive period of waiting, but instead should be an exercise of faith and hope by sharing with others the truths we have learned, at the same time having confidence in Jehovah’s Word and the early carrying out of his purposes. As the psalmist foretold, Jehovah’s people are willing in the day of his power. (Ps. 110:3) They are happy to be able to share in his service, and many families have even sold their homes and given up their secular work and moved out to new territories where their ministerial activity has been greatly appreciated by the people of good will they now serve.
19. What good Scriptural counsel should we follow, and why?
19 These sincere Christians realize the wisdom of the counsel given by Jesus: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) So instead of looking back at the old-world system and the temporary advantages or promotions that it offers, they look ahead to the blessings of the new world and keep their eye on the Kingdom goal, putting forth every effort to advance the Kingdom interests by ministerial activity. They follow the counsel: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls [or, ‘future lives’].” (Luke 21:19) They realize that the wonderful gift of life in the new world is worth working for patiently, so they are not discouraged. They understand that even though many Bible studies may need to be conducted before one comes to appreciate the truth, this is all a part of the work, the dividing of the sheep and the goats, that Jesus foretold, and they are happy to have a share in it. They look forward to the time when this work will be done and when all who live will know Jehovah.—Jer. 31:34.
20. What is involved in obtaining Jehovah’s blessing on our preaching work?
20 As long as a person keeps doing the preaching and teaching work the way Jehovah directs through his organization, it will not be in vain but will have Jehovah’s blessing. Always look to him for guidance and pray for his assistance by means of his spirit. As Paul explained the minister’s relationship to God: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” The scripture goes on to explain that one will reap from the ministry according to what he puts into it, saying: “But each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” Do you value the privilege you have to be one of God’s fellow workers? If so, put forth every effort to make your ministry good in his sight. “For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:5-9) As a part of God’s field under cultivation, are you making growth to spiritual maturity? Do not be like a sucker on a vine, always taking in nourishment, but never producing fruitage; but rather study, attend congregation meetings, and put forth real effort to be a good teacher, growing strong in the truth, prepared to produce fruit as a fellow worker of God. Then the words of Paul will apply to you: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
21. Why should we no longer follow the lead of the old world?
21 There is every reason to be patient and steadfast in our ministry now that the Gentile times have passed and we are living in the time of Christ’s second presence. Instead of proceeding in a course of debauchery and loose conduct, following the lead of the nations of this old-world system, a Christian has something better to live for. (1 Pet. 4:3) He wants to work for the advancement of the Kingdom interests. He has the wonderful Kingdom hope and all of its blessings that Jehovah has promised, and he knows that God’s word never returns to him empty. (Isa. 55:11) With the tremendous increase in the New World society, let each one move ahead with it by increasing in spiritual maturity, progressing to maturity of understanding of God’s Word and sharing fully in his service.
22. What counsel did Paul give the Colossians?
22 As for those who say they will “wait and see,” manifesting lack of faith, they are of the same class as those who waited outside the ark of Noah’s day to see what would happen. They had no confidence in God’s Word or purposes, and they drowned because of it. The true faith of a Christian combines knowledge and hope. It requires patience and endurance. Writing to the Colossians, the apostle Paul stressed the need for patience in everyday life. He mentioned that he did not cease praying. He wanted to see the Colossians filled with accurate knowledge, and he knew that that would take time and effort. He encouraged them to go on bearing fruit and to increase in accurate knowledge, becoming spiritually strong and powerful, enduring fully all opposition and showing themselves long-suffering. He said that if they did these things they would be walking worthily of Jehovah, fully pleasing him by bearing fruit in every good work, and this is certainly the goal of all true Christians. (Col. 1:9-11) There is every reason for us to be thankful that Jehovah is patient in working out his purposes, for it means an opportunity for us to serve now, and a future of everlasting life in a new world of righteousness.—2 Pet. 3:15.