Our "great phrase" for discussion today comes from something said by Jesus that's recorded in Luke 21:19. Prior to that verse He's been giving His disciples some warnings about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. In that verse He utters the phrase that brings about our lesson: "In your patience possess ye your souls." Let's study for a few moments some thoughts inspired by that phrase.
The word "patience," as it's used here by Jesus, means long-suffering or endurance. Another definition would be perseverance. That reminds me of a line from one of my favorite cowboy movies, "The Outlaw Josey Wales." The old Indian chief in the movie is telling Josey about having been to Washington DC with other chiefs and had been told by the President that they must "endeavor to persevere." But really, doesn't several scriptures tell us pretty much the same thing? IE: To be patient?
"Patience" is something to be worked for and, as each one of us have our own individual personalities and make-ups, wouldn't you say that some have to work a little harder than others in gaining "patience?" I do. If a lack of "patience" seems to be a particular stumbling-block in our lives, then we should strive (or endeavor) harder in that area of our Christian virtues. Some of us need to pray for "patience" but not like a man was once heard praying: "Lord, give me patience and I want it right now."
Here's another little thought I had on "patience." I don't think it's an accident that the older we get the more "patience" we seem to have. Now, I grant you that in some areas that might not be the case, but generally speaking, I think that we're just not as "impatient" as we used to be.
How many times do you recall admonishing your children to "just be patient?" It just seems to me that youth and impatience go hand in hand, don't they? The famous author, Sir James Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, once told a young actor who was criticizing everything about a play, "My boy, you will have to be more patient with us. After all, we're not young enough to know everything."
But, I still say that age seems to give us more "patience." And furthermore, I believe that is in keeping with what God intended. A famous man once said that "patience is the art of hoping" and I think we can turn to a scripture that shows us that the famous man's words fit with God's intentions. In Heb. 6:11-12 we find this being said: "And we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
And we can go to Rom. 5:2-5 and read these words: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
In support of my opinion of age bringing "patience," I think the above passage, by itself, shows that it's no accident that we should gain "patience" as we grow older. And why I can say that is, because God tells us that it's the "tribulations" of our lives that creates "patience" in us. And don't overlook the part "experience" plays in this equation. It brings about "hope."
Why are the young so impatient? Simply because they haven't lived long enough to experience the trials and tribulations of life that bring about "patience and hope." As a next step in our lesson, perhaps we should look a little bit into this "hope" that's brought by "patience."
The first thing to understand is, that "hope" is a belief in something "unseen." A scriptural reference to that point is found in Rom. 8:24-25 where it says: "For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope for what a man seeth, why doeth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
Okay, so by our scriptural references so far, we see that it's our "patience" that leads us to "experience" which leads us to "hope" and that "hope" is what saves us. In other words, a belief in something that we can't see, hear, feel or taste is the essence of "faith." And our "faith" is in the promises of God and Jesus Christ. It is our "patience" within us that enables us to wait for those promises.
When we study about "patience" there is one thing that I feel must be mentioned and that is, that many people believe the old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" comes from the Bible. That is not so. However, the Bible does tell us what is next to godliness and when we turn to 2 Pet. 1:6 we find that it is "patience" and not cleanliness.
One of the things that I see as detrimental about the age we now live in is the effect it has on our "patience." Due to technology, we've learned faster ways of going places and doing things and our "patience" suffers because of it.
One thing - computers - can serve to make my point here. We just can't wait an extra 5 or 10 nanoseconds to get something up on our screen, can we? We have to run out and buy the latest and fastest-operating giz-whizzy on the market because we can't wait that interminable amount of time.
Can't our "societal impatience" carry over into our Christian life? I think that it can and we need to guard against that happening just as we need to guard against any other detriments society throws at us. And why it's so important that we guard our ourselves from allowing the world to effect our "patience" is because it puts our souls at risk. The loss of "patience" can result in the loss of our soul.
Let's recall what the President told the Indian Chiefs; that they must "endeavor to persevere" and apply that principle to ourselves. We must develop endurance to persevere through the tribulations we all face in our lives and when we do, we can then truly understand what Christ meant when he said, "In your patience possess ye our souls."