“You too exercise patience.”—JAS. 5:8.
SONGS: 78, 139
1, 2. (a) What may cause us to ask: “How long”? (b) Why can we be encouraged by the examples of faithful servants in the past?
“HOW long?” That was the question raised by the faithful prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk. (Isa. 6:11; Hab. 1:2) When composing Psalm 13, King David four times likewise asked: “How long?” (Ps. 13:1, 2) Even our Lord Jesus Christ asked this question when confronted with the faithless attitude of those around him. (Matt. 17:17) So we should not be surprised if we find ourselves at times asking the very same question.
2 What can cause us to ask: “How long”? Perhaps we have had to deal with some form of injustice. Or maybe we are enduring old age and sickness or the pressures of living in these “critical times” that are so “hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Or maybe the wrong attitudes of those around us are wearing us out. Whatever the cause, how encouraging it is to know that Jehovah’s faithful servants in the past felt free to express the same question that may loom in our minds, and they were not condemned for asking it!
3. What can help us when we face difficult circumstances?
3 But what can help us when we come face-to-face with such difficult circumstances? The disciple James, Jesus’ half brother, was inspired to tell us: “Be patient then, brothers, until the presence of the Lord.” (Jas. 5:7) Yes, we all need patience. But what is involved in having this godly quality?
WHAT IS PATIENCE?
4, 5. (a) What is involved in being patient? (b) How does the disciple James illustrate one aspect of patience? (See opening picture.)
4 According to the Bible, patience is a product of holy spirit; without God’s help, imperfect humans cannot be patient to the degree needed. Patience is a gift from God, and being patient is a key way to show our love for him. Patience is also an expression of our love for others. Persistent impatience weakens the bonds of love; patience strengthens them. (1 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 5:22) Patience involves a number of other vital Christian qualities. For example, it is closely connected with endurance, which enables us to put up with difficult circumstances while maintaining a positive attitude. (Col. 1:11; Jas. 1:3, 4) Patience can also involve suffering without retaliating and remaining firm and steadfast no matter what may come our way. Additionally, the Bible urges us to accept willingly the need to wait. This aspect of patience is highlighted at James 5:7, 8. (Read.)
5 Why must we be willing to accept the need to wait for Jehovah to act? James compares our situation to that of a farmer. Even though a farmer works hard to plant his crop, he has no control over the weather or the growth of the plants. He cannot speed up the time. He accepts that he needs to wait patiently for “the precious fruit of the earth.” In a similar manner, there are many factors that are beyond our control as we wait for the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises. (Mark 13:32, 33; Acts 1:7) Like the farmer, we need to wait patiently.
6. What can we learn from the example of the prophet Micah?
6 The conditions we face today are similar to those in the days of the prophet Micah. He lived during the reign of wicked King Ahaz, a time when all sorts of corruption prevailed. In fact, the people had become “expert at doing what is bad.” (Read Micah 7:1-3.) Micah realized that he could not personally change these conditions. So, what could he do? He tells us: “As for me, I will keep on the lookout for Jehovah. I will show a waiting attitude [“I will wait patiently,” ftn.] for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Mic. 7:7) Like Micah, we too need to have “a waiting attitude.”
7. Why is more required of us than just waiting for Jehovah to fulfill his promises?
7 If we have faith like that of Micah, we will be willing to wait for Jehovah. Our situation is not like that of a prisoner who is waiting in his cell for his execution. He is forced to wait, and he is not looking forward to the outcome. How different things are for us! We are willing to wait for Jehovah because we know that he will fulfill his promise to give us everlasting life at exactly the right time, the best time! So we “endure fully with patience and joy.” (Col. 1:11, 12) To do otherwise—to wait while complaining and grumbling that Jehovah is not acting fast enough—would be displeasing to our God.—Col. 3:12.
FAITHFUL EXAMPLES OF PATIENCE
8. What do we need to remember as we meditate on the examples of faithful men and women of old?
8 We will be more willing to wait if we remember faithful men and women of old who waited patiently for Jehovah to fulfill his promises. (Rom. 15:4) As we meditate on their examples, it is good for us to remember how long they had to wait, why they were willing to wait, and what blessings resulted from their patience.
9, 10. How long did Abraham and Sarah have to wait on Jehovah?
9 Consider the example of Abraham and Sarah. They are among “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” The Scriptures tell us that “after Abraham had shown patience,” he obtained the promise that Jehovah would bless him and multiply his offspring. (Heb. 6:12, 15) Why did Abraham need to show patience? Simply stated, the fulfillment of the promise would take time. The covenant Jehovah made with Abraham started to take effect on Nisan 14, 1943 B.C.E. That was when he and Sarah along with their household crossed the Euphrates River and entered the Promised Land. Abraham then had to wait 25 years before his son Isaac was born in 1918 B.C.E., and he had to wait another 60 years before his grandsons Esau and Jacob were born in 1858 B.C.E.—Heb. 11:9.
10 How much land did Abraham inherit? We are told: “Yet, he [Jehovah] did not give him [Abraham] any inheritance in it, no, not even enough to put his foot on; but he promised to give it to him as a possession and after him to his offspring, though as yet he had no child.” (Acts 7:5) It was not until 430 years after Abraham had crossed the Euphrates that his descendants were organized into a nation that would take possession of the land.—Ex. 12:40-42; Gal. 3:17.
11. Why was Abraham willing to wait on Jehovah, and what blessings will he see as a result of his patience?
11 Abraham was willing to wait, because his patience was based on his faith in Jehovah. (Read Hebrews 11:8-12.) Abraham was happy to wait, even though he did not see the complete fulfillment of the promise in his day. But just imagine Abraham’s joy when he is resurrected back to a paradise earth. He will be surprised to see how much of the Bible was used to record his personal story and that of his descendants. * Just imagine how thrilled he will be to understand for the first time his vital role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose with regard to the promised offspring! No doubt, he will feel that the long wait was worth it.
12, 13. Why did Joseph need patience, and what fine attitude did he have?
12 Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph also showed a willingness to be patient. He was the victim of some outrageous injustices. First, his brothers sold him into slavery when he was about 17 years old. Then, he was falsely accused of trying to rape his master’s wife and ended up in irons in prison. (Gen. 39:11-20; Ps. 105:17, 18) For his righteous actions, he seemed to be punished rather than blessed. But after 13 years, everything changed very quickly. He was released from prison and promoted to the second-highest position in Egypt.—Gen. 41:14, 37-43; Acts 7:9, 10.
13 Did the injustices make Joseph bitter? Did he lose confidence in his God, Jehovah? No. What helped Joseph to wait patiently? It was his faith in Jehovah. He saw Jehovah’s hand in matters. Notice how this is reflected in what he told his brothers: “Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? Although you meant to harm me, God intended it to turn out well and to preserve many people alive, as he is doing today.” (Gen. 50:19, 20) Ultimately, Joseph realized that the wait was worth it.
14, 15. (a) What is outstanding about David’s patience? (b) What helped David to wait patiently?
14 King David was also the victim of many injustices. Although anointed by Jehovah at an early age to be the future king of Israel, David had to wait some 15 years before he was made king over his own tribe. (2 Sam. 2:3, 4) During part of this time, unfaithful King Saul pursued David, seeking to kill him. * As a result, David had to live as a fugitive, at times in a foreign country and at other times in caves in the wilderness. Even when Saul was eventually killed in battle, David still had to wait about seven more years before he was given the kingship over the whole nation of Israel.—2 Sam. 5:4, 5.
15 Why was David willing to wait patiently? He gives us the answer in the very psalm in which he four times asked: “How long?” This is what he says: “As for me, I trust in your loyal love; my heart will rejoice in your acts of salvation. I will sing to Jehovah, for he has richly rewarded me.” (Ps. 13:5, 6) David trusted in Jehovah’s loyal love. He joyfully looked forward to deliverance, and he reflected on how Jehovah had dealt rewardingly with him. Yes, David felt that the wait would be worth it.
With regard to exercising patience, Jehovah does not expect us to do something that he is not willing to do himself
16, 17. How have both Jehovah God and Jesus Christ set excellent examples with regard to being willing to wait?
16 With regard to exercising patience, Jehovah does not expect us to do something that he is not willing to do himself. He has set the supreme example of being willing to wait. (Read 2 Peter 3:9.) Jehovah has been waiting patiently for thousands of years so that the moral issues raised in the garden of Eden could eventually be settled beyond a doubt. He is “waiting patiently” and “keeping in expectation” of the time when his name will be fully sanctified. This will result in unimaginable blessings for those who are “eagerly waiting for him.”—Isa. 30:18; ftn.
17 Jesus likewise has been willing to wait. Although he passed the test of integrity here on earth and presented the value of his ransom sacrifice in 33 C.E., he had to wait until 1914 before commencing his rule. (Acts 2:33-35; Heb. 10:12, 13) It will not be until the end of his Thousand Year Reign that all his enemies will be completely destroyed. (1 Cor. 15:25) It will have been a long wait, but we can be sure that the wait will be worth it.
WHAT WILL HELP US?
18, 19. What will help us to be willing to wait patiently?
18 Without a doubt, therefore, each one of us needs to be willing to wait, to show a patient attitude. But what will help us to do this? Pray for God’s spirit. Remember, patience is an aspect of the fruitage of the spirit. (Eph. 3:16; 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17-19) Plead with Jehovah to help you to endure patiently.
19 Remember, too, what helped Abraham, Joseph, and David to wait patiently for the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises. It was their faith in Jehovah and their trust in his dealings with them. They did not focus just on themselves and their personal comfort. As we contemplate how well things worked out for them, we too will be encouraged to show a waiting attitude.
20. What should be our personal determination?
20 So even though we face tests and trials, we are determined to show “a waiting attitude.” Yes, at times we might cry out: “How long, O Jehovah?” (Isa. 6:11) But with the strengthening power of God’s holy spirit, each of us is determined to echo the words of Jeremiah: “Jehovah is my share . . . That is why I will show a waiting attitude for him.”—Lam. 3:21, 24.
^ par. 11 Some 15 chapters of the book of Genesis are devoted to the account about Abraham. Additionally, the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures refer to Abraham more than 70 times.