Continue to Be Patient
“It is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”—Mic. 7:7.
1. What fine benefits have resulted from Jehovah’s exercise of patience?
PATIENCE does indeed bring rich dividends. God’s exercise of patience has opened up to mankind the grand opportunity of everlasting life as his approved servants. (John 17:3; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4) It has provided individuals with time to learn about his requirements and to begin conforming to these. Many have done so. As a result, these persons are even now enjoying a meaningful life, avoiding the frustrations and troubles that come upon people who ignore God’s righteous standards.
2. If we exercise patience in dealing with others, how are we benefited now?
2 On the individual level, too, exercising patience is rewarding. The patient person does not allow himself to get upset quickly and, hence, is less likely to act rashly. Thus he preserves a good conscience and avoids needless quarreling and fighting. There is also a health benefit. A Bible proverb says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Prov. 14:30) Calmness and patience, even in the face of trying circumstances, further the well-being of the entire body. On the other hand, continued upsets and irritations are like a disease that can weaken the human frame. In view of the benefits that come from showing patience, we should certainly want to display this fine quality.
3. Why should we view being patient with others as an obligation?
3 There is still another good reason for being patient. We should consider it an obligation. Why? Note the principle stated by Jesus Christ: “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12) Now, do we not want men to be patient with us? We appreciate it when others listen to us patiently regarding important matters. There is pleasure in associating with those who patiently explain things that we do not understand. It is much easier for us to deal with people who are willing to overlook our minor shortcomings, who are patient with us despite our repeated failings. So, then, are these not also areas in which we should want to exercise patience?
4. What should be our prime reason for wanting to be patient?
4 For us Christians, the strongest reason for wanting to be patient should be our desire to please Jehovah God. Since he is patient, we are called upon to imitate him in this respect. The Bible urges us: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1) But what will help us to reflect God’s patience to a greater degree?
RECOGNIZE THE SERIOUSNESS OF IMPATIENCE
5. With what undesirable trait does Ecclesiastes 7:8 associate impatience, and how may this manifest itself?
5 We should avoid viewing undue impatience lightly. The Bible says: “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.” (Eccl. 7:8, 9) Note that the patient person is here contrasted with the one who is haughty, proud. The proud person may reason: Why should I have to put up with irritations and annoyances caused by the stupidity and selfishness of others? Who do they think I am? Also, the haughty one is quick to take everything personally and to lash out against anyone who might correct him. He nurtures resentment, keeping it close to him as if in his own “bosom.”
6. Why can it be said that the haughty, impatient person is also “stupid”?
6 Truly, such a person is “stupid.” His haste in taking offense results in rash words or actions, to his own hurt and that of others. He is also unbalanced in his view of himself. This is evident from the apostle Paul’s counsel at Romans 12:3: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind.” Furthermore, the person who permits haughtiness and impatience to gain the mastery over him may jeopardize his standing with Jehovah God. Why? “Because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Pet. 5:5.
7. Should we attribute all impatience to pride? Why, or why not?
7 Of course, not all forms of impatience are rooted in pride. For example, a family may have an appointment for dinner at a specific time in the home of friends. The father and mother may be ready to go in ample time to get there without hurrying. However, the daughter, because of not being enthusiastic about going, or for some other reason, may have delayed making the needed preparations to leave. The parents may, therefore, urge her to get ready more quickly so that they will not be late. Any impatience they may reflect in their tone of voice cannot be attributed to pride. Rather, they may be troubled about their daughter’s failure to be considerate, and they may be concerned about the disturbing effect that their being late could have on their hosts. This also illustrates the importance of avoiding situations that could give valid reasons for others to become impatient with us. Here, too, the principle applies: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31.
8. What do we learn from 1 Samuel 13:3-14 about the danger of impatience?
8 So while there may be just cause to become impatient at times, we need to recognize the seriousness of impatience that stems from pride or that can cause us to act rashly. The danger of allowing impatience to get the better of us is well illustrated in the case of King Saul. After Saul’s son Jonathan struck down the Philistine garrison at Geba, the Philistines, in retaliation, assembled a mighty force and encamped at Michmash. In the meantime Saul was at Gilgal in the Jordan valley, waiting for the prophet Samuel. When the prophet did not arrive at the expected time, Saul became impatient. He feared that the Philistines would come against him before he could secure the help of Jehovah by offering up a burnt sacrifice. Also, in view of the fact that his men were deserting him, he was concerned about any further delay that could lead to his losing the entire army. Yielding to impatience, Saul presumptuously went ahead with the sacrifice, disregarding the command of Jehovah, through Samuel, to wait. Soon thereafter Samuel arrived. (1 Sam. 13:3-12) That one rash act had serious consequences. Samuel told Saul: “You have acted foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God that he commanded you, because, if you had, Jehovah would have made your kingdom firm over Israel to time indefinite. And now your kingdom will not last.” (1 Sam. 13:13, 14) Think of it! Saul’s impatience, leading to a sinful act, was one of the principal reasons for Jehovah’s removing kingship from his line of descent. So we should never underestimate the trouble that undue impatience may bring upon us.
LEARN FROM JEHOVAH’S EXAMPLE
9. (a) How does Jesus’ illustration about the two slaves and their debts illustrate a relationship of forgiveness to patience? (b) What can we not expect Jehovah to do for us if we become impatient and merciless toward our brothers?
9 Our being patient often involves a willingness to forgive others’ trespasses against us. In this regard, our reflecting on Jehovah’s example of forgiveness can help us greatly in being patient with fellow humans. An illustration given by Jesus Christ makes the point very forcefully. The apostle Peter had raised the question: “How many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus replied: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” Then he related the illustration of two slaves. One of these owed the king 60,000,000 denarii. When time came for settling accounts, this slave pleaded: “Be patient with me and I will pay back everything to you.” Moved with pity, the king canceled the entire debt. But this slave then approached a fellow slave, demanding that he repay a 100-denarii debt. That slave pleaded: “Be patient with me and I will pay you back.” But the slave whose far larger debt had been canceled was unwilling to be patient. He had his fellow slave imprisoned. Hearing this, the king changed his mind and had the impatient, merciless slave committed to jail. Applying the illustration, Jesus said: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”—Matt. 18:21-35.
10. How should we view our brothers’ shortcomings in the light of God’s forgiveness of our sins?
10 Compared with the large debt of sin that Jehovah God has forgiven us on the basis of his Son’s sacrifice, whatever transgression may be committed against us by a Christian brother is small indeed. So if he is repentant, what right do we have to become impatient with him or to want him to suffer for what he may have done against us?
11. (a) What was Jehovah willing to do in order to provide the basis for forgiving the sins of humankind? (Rom. 5:6-8) (b) How should God’s example in providing a propitiatory sacrifice affect us? (1 John 4:11)
11 Never should we lose sight of the fact that the basis on which Jehovah God grants forgiveness was provided by him at great cost to himself. He loved his Son deeply. Jesus Christ himself said: “The Father has affection for the Son.” (John 5:20) Still, the Most High was willing to give him for the world of mankind as a “propitiatory sacrifice” for our sins. (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) No human has ever sacrificed that much in providing a basis for restoring good relations with someone who has sinned against him. What a superlative example Jehovah has set in encouraging us to be patient with those who may sin against us!
RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD OTHERS
12. (a) What lesson about our brothers can we draw from Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-26, and how can this help us to be patient with them? (b) How can the counsel of Philippians 2:3 aid us to be patient?
12 Also helpful in cultivating patience is the right attitude toward others. We need to take into consideration that people and circumstances vary. Some, for example, may be slow to grasp things, but others may comprehend detailed instructions very quickly. Yet, this does not make inferior persons of those who are slow or more methodical! They may well excel in other areas of life—kindness, friendliness and generosity. So we do well to look at persons as a whole. The apostle Paul’s counsel to the Philippians is most appropriate: Consider “that the others are superior to you.” (Phil. 2:3) True, no imperfect human has all the desirable qualities. If he is humble, he will readily see that others excel in areas wherein he is weak and that he, too, may try their patience at times.
13. What proves that Jesus was patient in dealing with his apostles?
13 Jesus Christ certainly demonstrated just what it means to have the right attitude toward others. He patiently put up with his apostles—their petty rivalries and their slowness to comprehend. Never did he lose his temper in dealing with them. Rather, he patiently illustrated lessons he wanted them to learn. (Mark 9:33-37; John 13:5-17) We have no record that Jesus Christ ever gave his associates a tongue-lashing. How fine it would be for us to imitate his perfect example!
WILLINGNESS TO WAIT
14. When it comes to congregation responsibility, why might some brothers become impatient?
14 However, it is not just the shortcomings of others or their limitations that may put our patience to the test. Often it is a matter of being willing to wait for what is desirable to take place. The question is: Will we be impatient like a child that wants everything right away, or will we be willing to wait patiently until the appropriate time? Perhaps you are a brother in the Christian congregation. Because of not being a ministerial servant, do you find it hard to wait until such time as you have truly been “tested as to fitness”? (1 Tim. 3:10) If you have been a ministerial servant for perhaps a year or so, do you feel that it is about time that consideration be given to recommending you as an elder? Or, are you willing to wait, using your time well in getting a deeper and better understanding of God’s Word and proving yourself to be cooperative, dependable, considerate and fully devoted to Jehovah’s service?
15. (a) Why does wanting to be entrusted with responsibility also call for sober self-examination? (Jas. 3:1, 2) (b) What might a brother desiring to share in shepherding the flock ask himself?
15 Of course, it is commendable when brothers ‘reach out’ for greater responsibility. The apostle Paul wrote: “That statement is faithful. If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Tim. 3:1) Nevertheless, with responsibility comes greater accountability. Jesus Christ stated the rule: “The one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.” (Luke 12:48) Hence, if you desire greater responsibility, you should first examine whether your life as a Christian could come under closer scrutiny by other members of the congregation without raising questions as to the kind of example you are setting. You might also ask yourself: Do I really want to serve my brothers? Do I have the godly wisdom and insight to judge matters involving people’s lives? Could I give sound Scriptural counsel that would help others with their personal and family problems? Do others really view me as an “older man” by reason of my experience in Christian living? Such sober self-examination may calm any tendency toward impatience. It may impress upon you the importance of waiting patiently until such time as you can really serve your brothers well.
16 It may also help you to consider the weighty responsibility that falls upon elders who make recommendations for brothers to serve as overseers. The apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself chaste.” (1 Tim. 5:22) If Timothy failed to make sure that the one appointed was really measuring up to the Scriptural requirements, he would bear a certain accountability for any wrongs that the unqualified man might commit. The same holds true today. So why not wait humbly and patiently until such time as others can see your fine works? Remember, just as wrongs eventually come to light, so, too, fine works will not remain hidden. The apostle Paul pointed this out to Timothy when he wrote: “The sins of some men are publicly manifest, leading directly to judgment, but as for other men their sins also become manifest later. In the same way also the fine works are publicly manifest and those that are otherwise cannot be kept hid.”—1 Tim. 5:24, 25.
17. What attitude of the prophet Micah should we seek to cultivate, and in what areas of life should we want to be patient?
17 Really, in all areas of life, we should want to heed the Scriptural encouragement, “wait for Jehovah from now on and to time indefinite.” (Ps. 131:3) Let us not become impatient because God’s great day for executing judgment has not yet arrived. Instead, we should want to voice the kind of confidence that Micah expressed: “It is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Mic. 7:7) Moreover, may we continue to show patience toward all, forgiving their minor transgressions against us and taking into consideration their limitations and circumstances. Yes, may we never allow impatience, coupled with pride, to jeopardize our relationship with our patient God, Jehovah.
[Picture on page 88]
Jesus set the perfect example in being patient, putting up with his apostles’ faults, even illustrating lessons he wanted them to learn