“Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.”—2 PET. 3:15.
1. What do some faithful ones wonder about?
A FAITHFUL sister who endured many challenges throughout several decades humbly asked, “Will I see the end before I die?” Some who have long served Jehovah wonder about the same thing. We yearn for the day when God makes all things new, removing the problems we now face. (Rev. 21:5) Though we have ample reason for believing that the end of Satan’s system is very near, it can be difficult to wait patiently for that day.
2. What questions about godly patience will we consider?
2 Yet, the Bible shows that we must have patience. Like God’s servants before us, we will receive what God has promised if we have strong faith and wait patiently for his time to fulfill those promises. (Read Hebrews 6:11, 12.) Jehovah himself has been patient. He could have put an end to wickedness at any time, but he is waiting for the right time. (Rom. 9:20-24) Why is he so patient? How has Jesus been an example of godly patience? What benefits will come to us if we cultivate godly patience? The answers to these questions can help us to build patience and strong faith, even if it might seem to us that Jehovah is delaying.
WHY DOES JEHOVAH SHOW PATIENCE?
3, 4. (a) Why has Jehovah shown patience in carrying out his purpose for the earth? (b) How did Jehovah respond to the rebellion in Eden?
3 Jehovah has good reason for showing patience. It is true that he holds ultimate authority over the universe at all times; still, the rebellion in Eden raised questions of universal importance. Jehovah has been patient, knowing that it would take time to answer those questions perfectly. Having thorough knowledge of the deeds and attitudes of individuals in heaven and on earth, he certainly is acting in our best interests.—Heb. 4:13.
4 It was Jehovah’s purpose that the descendants of Adam and Eve fill the earth. When Satan seduced Eve and then Adam disobeyed, God did not abandon his purpose. He did not panic, make hasty decisions, or overreact, giving up on the human family. Instead, he conceived a way to accomplish what he purposed for humans and for planet Earth. (Isa. 55:11) To fulfill his purpose and vindicate his sovereignty, Jehovah has exercised great self-control and patience, even waiting thousands of years for some aspects of his purpose to work out the best way.
5. Jehovah’s patience allows for what blessing?
5 Another reason why Jehovah has waited patiently is so that more people can have everlasting life. Right now, he is making preparations to save “a great crowd.” (Rev. 7:9, 14; 14:6) Jehovah reaches out to people by means of our preaching work, inviting them to learn about his Kingdom and his righteous standards. The Kingdom message is the best possible news for humankind—yes, it is “good news.” (Matt. 24:14) Each person whom Jehovah draws becomes part of a worldwide congregation of genuine friends who love what is right. (John 6:44-47) Our loving God helps such ones to gain his approval. He has also been selecting from among humankind prospective members of his heavenly government. Upon gaining their heavenly position, these devoted ones will help obedient humans to reach perfection and endless life. Clearly, even while he is patiently waiting, Jehovah has been working to fulfill his promises—for our good.
6. (a) In what sense did Jehovah show patience in Noah’s day? (b) How is Jehovah showing patience in our day?
6 Jehovah is patient despite extreme provocation, as we can see from the way he dealt with wickedness before the Flood. The earth was then filled with immorality and violence, and Jehovah was “hurt at his heart” because of the degenerate condition of man. (Gen. 6:2-8) He would not tolerate that situation forever, so he determined to bring a flood upon disobedient mankind. While “the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days,” Jehovah made preparations to save Noah and his family. (1 Pet. 3:20) At the appropriate time, Jehovah informed Noah of this decision and assigned him to build an ark. (Gen. 6:14-22) In addition, Noah was “a preacher of righteousness,” telling his neighbors of the impending destruction. (2 Pet. 2:5) Jesus said that our time is similar to the days of Noah. Jehovah has decided when he will bring this wicked system to an end. No human knows the “day and hour” when that will come. (Matt. 24:36) At this time, we have the God-given work of warning people and telling them how they can be saved.
7. Is Jehovah slow to fulfill his promises? Explain.
7 Clearly, Jehovah’s patience does not mean that he is simply waiting for time to pass. No, we should never confuse his patience with inattentiveness or apathy! Realistically, though, it can be challenging to keep this in mind as we grow older or suffer in this wicked system. We might become discouraged or feel that God is slow to fulfill his promises. (Heb. 10:36) Never forget that he has good reasons for being patient and that he is employing the intervening time for the benefit of his loyal servants. (2 Pet. 2:3; 3:9) Consider, too, how Jesus exercised godly patience.
HOW HAS JESUS SET A FINE EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE?
8. Under what circumstances did Jesus show patience?
8 Jesus is doing the will of God and has eagerly done so for untold millenniums. When Satan rebelled, Jehovah decided that his only-begotten Son would come to earth as the Messiah. Think of what that meant for Jesus—patiently waiting thousands of years till the time had come. (Read Galatians 4:4.) He was not passively waiting all that time; rather, he was occupied with the work that his Father assigned him. When he eventually came to earth, he knew that he would have to die at the hands of Satan, as prophesied. (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 16:21) He patiently submitted to God’s will, though this meant suffering agonizing pain. His was loyalty of the highest kind. He was not focusing on himself and his position, and we can benefit from that.—Heb. 5:8, 9.
9, 10. (a) What has Jesus been doing while patiently waiting for Jehovah to act? (b) How should we view Jehovah’s timetable?
9 After his resurrection, Jesus received authority in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18) He uses that authority to accomplish Jehovah’s purpose according to the timetable God has set. Jesus patiently waited at God’s right hand until 1914 for his enemies to be placed as a stool for his feet. (Ps. 110:1, 2; Heb. 10:12, 13) He soon will go into action to bring an end to Satan’s system. Meanwhile, Jesus patiently works with people and leads them to “waters of life.”—Rev. 7:17.
10 Do you see in Jesus’ example the way you should view Jehovah’s timetable? Jesus was no doubt eager to do whatever his Father asked of him; still, he was willing to wait for God’s time. As we await the end of Satan’s wicked system, we all need godly patience, never running ahead of God or giving up because we are discouraged. What can we do to build such godly patience?
HOW DO I CULTIVATE GODLY PATIENCE?
11. (a) In what way is there a connection between faith and patience? (b) Why do we have valid reasons for having strong faith?
11 Before Jesus came to earth, the prophets and other faithful servants set an example of how even imperfect humans can endure patiently. There was a direct link between their faith and their patience. (Read James 5:10, 11.) If they did not truly believe what Jehovah had told them—if they lacked faith—would they have waited patiently for the fulfillment of his promises? Time and again, they met frightening or challenging tests of faith, confident that God would eventually do what he had promised. (Heb. 11:13, 35-40) We have even more reason for having solid faith, for Jesus now serves as the “Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) He fulfilled prophecy and revealed God’s purposes in a way that gives us valid reasons for having faith.
12. What might we do to build our faith?
12 What practical steps can we take to strengthen our faith, building up our patience? It is key that we apply God’s counsel. For instance, reflect on reasons that you have for putting the Kingdom first in your life. Can you put forth increased effort to apply the counsel found at Matthew 6:33? That might mean spending more time in the ministry or adjusting some aspects of your lifestyle. Do not overlook how Jehovah has blessed your efforts up till now. He might have enabled you to conduct a new Bible study or helped you to receive “the peace of God that excels all thought.” (Read Philippians 4:7.) As you thus focus on benefits that you personally have received from following Jehovah’s instructions, you will increase your appreciation for patience.—Ps. 34:8.
13. How might we illustrate the process of building faith and patience?
13 This process is similar to the cycle in the natural world of sowing, cultivating, and reaping. Each time a farmer reaps bountifully, he becomes more confident about sowing seed the next season. Of course, he then will have to wait patiently for the harvest, but that will not hold him back from planting seed, perhaps even sowing seed in more fields than he did the season before. He trusts that he will reap. Similarly, as we repeat this cycle of learning Jehovah’s counsel, following it, and then reaping the benefits, our trust in Jehovah grows. Our faith likewise grows, and it becomes easier to wait for the blessings we know will come.—Read James 5:7, 8.
14, 15. We need to have what view of human suffering?
14 Another way to develop patience is by considering how we should view the world and our personal circumstances. Try to look at matters as Jehovah does. For example, think about how he views human suffering. He has long been pained when humans suffer; yet, he has not been overcome with grief, incapable of doing good. He sent his only-begotten Son “to break up the works of the Devil” and undo all the damage Satan has brought upon humans. (1 John 3:8) In reality, the suffering will prove to have been temporary, but God’s solution is eternal. Similarly, instead of letting ourselves become overwhelmed by the present wickedness of Satan’s rule or impatient about when it will end, let us put faith in the unseen things that will last forever. Jehovah has set a specific limit for wickedness, and he will act right on time.—Isa. 46:13; Nah. 1:9.
15 During these difficult final days of this system of things, we may experience special challenges to our faith. Instead of responding angrily if we become victims of violence or when our loved ones suffer, we need to be resolved to trust completely in Jehovah. We are imperfect, so it is not easy to do that. Recall, though, what Jesus did, as recorded at Matthew 26:39.—Read.
16. We need to avoid doing what during the time that remains?
16 Something that interferes with our manifesting godly patience is a wait-and-see attitude. What does that mean? Well, a person who lacks confidence that the end is near might start to make alternate arrangements, so to speak, in case things do not work out as Jehovah said they would. In other words, he might be thinking, ‘I will wait and see if Jehovah really is true to his word.’ He might then try to make a name for himself in this world, to seek financial security instead of putting God’s Kingdom first, or to trust in higher education to secure a comfortable life now. Really, though, would that not be evidence of a lack of faith? Remember that Paul urged us to become imitators of those faithful ones who received promises from Jehovah “through faith and patience.” (Heb. 6:12) Jehovah will not allow this wicked system to exist any longer than is absolutely necessary according to his purpose. (Hab. 2:3) In the interim, we must avoid just going through the motions of serving Jehovah. Rather, we need to remain alert and work diligently at preaching the good news, which is a source of incomparable satisfaction even now.—Luke 21:36.
WHAT BLESSINGS DOES PATIENCE BRING?
17, 18. (a) We now have what opportunity involving patience? (b) We will receive what blessings from manifesting patience now?
17 Whether we have served God for a few months or for several decades, we want to serve him forever. Patience helps us to endure until we gain salvation, no matter how much time remains in this system. Jehovah is now giving us the opportunity to prove our complete trust in his decisions and—if necessary—to be willing to suffer evil for the sake of his name. (1 Pet. 4:13, 14) God is also giving us training that can help us to have the patience needed for salvation.—1 Pet. 5:10.
18 Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and nothing can snatch you away from his protective care—except you. (John 10:28, 29) There is no need to fear the future or even death. Those who patiently endure to the end will be saved. So we must make sure that we do not allow the world to seduce us and make us stop relying on Jehovah. Instead, we must be determined to grow in faith and use the time of God’s patience wisely.—Matt. 24:13; read 2 Peter 3:17, 18.