"Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ." 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Quite a lot is said about the grace and duty of "patient waiting" in the Scriptures. Yet, there is comparatively little of it in the lives of most Christians, which fact is not only displeasing and dishonoring to God — but detrimental to their own spiritual condition. Few have any clear scriptural conception of what "patient waiting" actually consists, for there has not been sufficient definite and practical teaching on it. Consequently, the thoughts of few rise any higher than those of the natural man. We shall, therefore, consider something of what God's Word teaches on this most necessary fruit of divine grace.
The Savior himself exhorted us, "By your patience possess your souls," and His apostle declared, "You have need of patience." Patience is a most necessary grace for the Christian. This requires little proof, for the experience of every believer confirms it. Some difficulty accompanies every duty and the putting forth of every grace, not only because the commandments of God run counter to our corruptions — but also because they run counter to the spirit and course of this world. Therefore, patience is required to perform our duties consistently. To swim against the tide of popular sentiment, to be willing to be deemed singular, to plod along the narrow way (which is an uphill course throughout), and not to faint near the end, calls for much fortitude and endurance.
There is a threefold patience spoken of in Scripture.
First, a laboring patience, which consists in our doing the will of God in self-denying obedience, however irksome it proves to the flesh. In the parable of the sower, Christ defined the stony-ground hearers as those "who believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away." He described the thorny-ground hearers as they who "are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." But He declared that the good-ground hearers are they who "having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
Second, there is a suffering patience, which meekly bears affliction and does not rebel against whatever God has appointed for us. Where that grace is exercised, the soul does not faint in the time of adversity, nor turn back in the day of battle. When the dispensations of divine providence are most trying to flesh and blood, and we are tempted to resist them — we are enabled to say, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
Piety does not exempt any from trouble and sorrow — but it does enable us to make manifest the sufficiency of divine grace in all difficult conditions and circumstances. As God is honored by the exercise of our love and zeal in performing His precepts, so He is greatly glorified by our quietness and submission when He calls upon us to experience suffering. Our fidelity to Him must be tested by enduring evil — as well as in doing good; and the exercise of patience is as much needed for an uncomplaining and unflagging bearing of the one, as it is for the joyous and unremitting performance of the other.
The third is a waiting patience, which consists of quietly tarrying for God's pleasure after we have both done the preceptive will of God and fulfilled His providential will. Some find this more difficult to exercise than either of the former, yet it is required of us. "Be not slothful — but followers of those who through patience inherit the promises." "For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise." God has anticipatory mercies, which come without our tarrying for them. He also has rewarding mercies, which must be waited for. He is pleased to test our patience, and often there is no reward for doing His will, unless we wait. Though God is never behind his time, He seldom comes at ours.
This patient waiting for God's time to appear on our behalf, is as much the saint's duty as is a steady persistence in rendering obedience to God's commandments, and in meekly bearing His afflictions. It is the prerogative of God to date all events, as well as to do all things for us.
Our "times" as well as ourselves and all our affairs are in His hand. The Lord is the disposer of all things, in regard to not only their means and instruments — but also in regard to their seasons: "To everything there is a season, and a time unto every purpose under the Heaven." And God requires us to acquiesce to His timetable, defer to His good pleasure, bow to His sovereignty, confide in His wisdom, and to not fret and fume because He is slower than we desire in undertaking for us.
It is not sufficient that we make known our requests; we must also "rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him." We must realize that our welfare is in safer hands than our own, and behave ourselves accordingly, composing our spirit, stifling the unrest of our hearts, and resisting all the workings of unbelief.