“You too exercise patience.”—JAMES 5:8.
1, 2. (a) What may cause us to ask: “How long?” (b) Why can the examples of faithful servants in the past encourage us today?
“HOW long?” That was the question the faithful prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk asked. (Isaiah 6:11; Habakkuk 1:2) When King David wrote Psalm 13, he asked that same question four times. (Psalm 13:1, 2) And when Jesus Christ was surrounded by people who had no faith, he asked: “How long?” (Matthew 17:17) We too may find ourselves asking the same question today.
2 What could make us ask: “How long?” Perhaps something unfair has happened to us. Or perhaps we are sick or are getting old. Maybe we feel stressed because we are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Or it could be that the wrong attitudes of people around us are causing us to feel tired and discouraged. No matter the reason, it is encouraging to know that Jehovah did not condemn his faithful servants who asked that question in the past.
3. What can help us when we are in a difficult situation?
3 What can help us when we are in a situation that is difficult to endure? Jesus’ half brother James was inspired to tell us: “Be patient then, brothers, until the presence of the Lord.” (James 5:7) So we all need to be patient. But what is patience, and how can we show this beautiful quality?
WHAT IS PATIENCE?
4, 5. (a) What is patience, and how can we be patient? (b) How does James explain patience? (See opening picture.)
4 The Bible says that patience comes from God’s holy spirit. Without God’s help, it can be hard for imperfect humans to be patient in very difficult situations. Patience is a gift from God, and we prove our love for Jehovah and others when we show it. When we are not patient, the love between us and others weakens. (1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:22) What does patience involve? It involves enduring difficult situations while still having a positive attitude. (Colossians 1:11; James 1:3, 4) Patience also helps us to remain faithful to Jehovah no matter what problems we have. It will help us to avoid retaliating when we suffer. The Bible says that we must willingly accept the need to wait. That is an important lesson we learn from James 5:7, 8. (Read.)
5 Why must we be willing to wait for Jehovah to act? The disciple James compares our situation to that of a farmer. Even though a farmer works hard to plant his crop, he cannot control the weather or how fast the plants grow. He needs to wait patiently for “the precious fruit of the earth.” In a similar way, there are many things that we cannot control as we wait for Jehovah’s promises to come true. (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 prophet Micah had to endure difficult situations, even as we do today. He lived during the time that King Ahaz ruled. Ahaz was a very wicked king. As a result, there was a lot of corruption in the land. Things were so bad that the Bible says the people had become “expert at doing what is bad.” (Read Micah 7:1-3.) Micah knew that he could not change that situation. So, what would he do? He tells us: “As for me, I will keep on the lookout for Jehovah. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7) Like Micah, we too need to show “a waiting attitude.”
7. Why must we do more than simply wait 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 the day of his execution. He is being forced to wait, and he is not looking forward to that day. Things are much different for us! We are willing to wait for Jehovah because we know that at exactly the right time, he will fulfill his promise to give us everlasting life! So we “endure fully with patience and joy.” (Colossians 1:11, 12) While we wait, we are careful not to complain that Jehovah is not acting fast enough. If we did that, he would not be pleased.—Colossians 3:12.
FAITHFUL EXAMPLES OF PATIENCE
8. What do we learn from faithful men and women who lived in the past?
8 What will help us to be more willing to wait? We can think about faithful men and women who lived in the past and waited patiently for Jehovah to fulfill his promises. (Romans 15:4) As we think about their examples, it is good to remember how long they had to wait, why they were willing to wait, and how Jehovah blessed them for their patience.
9, 10. How long did Abraham and Sarah wait for Jehovah?
9 Consider the example of Abraham and Sarah. Because they showed “faith and patience,” they inherited “the promises.” The Bible tells us that “after Abraham had shown patience,” Jehovah promised that he would bless him and make him the father of a large nation. (Hebrews 6:12, 15) Why did Abraham need to show patience? Because it would take time for that promise to be fulfilled. On Nisan 14 in the year 1943 before Christ, Abraham and Sarah and all the people in their household crossed the Euphrates River and entered the Promised Land. But Abraham then had to wait 25 years before his son Isaac was born and another 60 years before his grandsons Esau and Jacob were born.—Hebrews 11:9.
10 How much of the Promised Land did Abraham inherit? The Bible says that Jehovah “did not give him 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 crossed the Euphrates River that his descendants became the nation that would live in that land.—Exodus 12:40-42; Galatians 3:17.
11. Why was Abraham willing to wait, and what blessings will he see as a result of his patience?
11 Abraham was willing to wait because he was sure that Jehovah would keep his promises. He had faith in Jehovah. (Read Hebrews 11:8-12.) Abraham was happy to wait even though he did not see all of God’s promises come true before he died. But just imagine Abraham’s joy when he is resurrected back to a paradise earth. He will be surprised when he reads about the story of his life and his family in many parts of the Bible. * (See footnote.) Just imagine how happy he will be to learn of his vital role in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose with regard to the promised Messiah! We can be sure that he will feel that those blessings were worth waiting for.
12, 13. Why did Joseph need patience, and what positive attitude did he have?
12 Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph was also willing to be patient. He was the victim of some terrible injustices. First, his brothers sold him as a slave when he was about 17 years old. Then, he was falsely accused of trying to rape his master’s wife and ended up in prison. (Genesis 39:11-20; Psalm 105:17, 18) Even though Joseph was a faithful servant of God, he seemed to be punished rather than blessed. But after 13 years, everything changed. Joseph was released from prison and became the second most powerful ruler in Egypt.—Genesis 41:14, 37-43; Acts 7:9, 10.
Joseph understood that Jehovah was in control and that blessings from him were worth waiting for
13 Did those injustices make Joseph bitter? Did he feel that Jehovah had abandoned him? No. Joseph waited patiently. What helped him? It was his faith in Jehovah. He understood that Jehovah was in control. We see that from what he said to 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.” (Genesis 50:19, 20) Joseph knew that blessings from Jehovah were worth waiting for.
14, 15. (a) Why is David’s patience impressive? (b) What helped David to wait patiently?
14 King David also suffered many injustices. Jehovah anointed David to be the king of Israel when he was young. But David had to wait 15 years before he became the king of even his own tribe. (2 Samuel 2:3, 4) During some of that time, David had to run and hide from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. * (See footnote.) As a result, David did not then have a home of his own. He had to stay in a foreign country or in caves in the wilderness. Eventually, Saul was killed in battle. But David still had to wait about seven more years before he finally became king of the entire nation of Israel.—2 Samuel 5:4, 5.
15 Why was David willing to wait patiently? He gives us the answer in the same psalm where four times he asked: “How long?” 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.” (Psalm 13:5, 6) David knew that Jehovah loved him and would always be loyal to him. He thought about the times when Jehovah had helped him in the past, and he looked forward to the time when Jehovah would end his trials. David knew that Jehovah’s blessings were worth waiting for.
Jehovah has not asked 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 in being willing to wait?
16 Jehovah has not asked us to do something that he is not willing to do himself. He has set the greatest example of being willing to wait. (Read 2 Peter 3:9.) For example, thousands of years ago in the garden of Eden, Satan accused Jehovah of being unfair. Jehovah is “waiting patiently” for the time when his name will be fully sanctified. The result will be wonderful blessings for those who are “eagerly waiting for him.”—Isaiah 30:18; footnote.
17 Jesus too has been willing to wait. When he was on earth, he was faithful until his death. In the year 33, he presented the value of his sacrifice to Jehovah in heaven. But he had to wait until 1914 to start ruling as King. (Acts 2:33-35; Hebrews 10:12, 13) Even so, Jesus still has to wait until the end of his Thousand Year Rule before all of his enemies are destroyed. (1 Corinthians 15:25) That is a long time to wait. Yet, the blessings will be worth waiting for.
WHAT WILL HELP US?
18, 19. What will help us to be willing to wait patiently?
18 Clearly, Jehovah wants us to be patient, willing to wait. What will help us to do this? We need to pray for God’s holy spirit. Remember, patience comes from God’s holy spirit. (Ephesians 3:16; 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19) So beg Jehovah to help you to endure patiently!
19 Remember, too, what helped Abraham, Joseph, and David to wait patiently for Jehovah’s promises to come true. It was their faith and trust in Jehovah. They did not think only about themselves and what they wanted. When we think about how well things turned out for them, we too will be encouraged to show a waiting attitude.
20. What should we be determined to do?
20 So even though we may struggle with trials, we are determined to show “a waiting attitude.” Sometimes we might ask: “How long, O Jehovah?” (Isaiah 6:11) But with the help of God’s holy spirit, we can imitate the prophet Jeremiah and say: “Jehovah is my share,” and “That is why I will show a waiting attitude for him.”—Lamentations 3:21, 24.
^ par. 11 About 15 chapters of the book of Genesis discuss Abraham’s life. Also, the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures refer to Abraham more than 70 times.