There exist ‘Christians’ who attend church services, organize church events, provide financial aid to struggling families, mentor youth, host devotionals in their homes, and teach the plan of salvation to all who listen. However, these same Christians lash out in fits of anger when an elder, preacher, or young Christian steps out of line by mismanaging a church event, misprinting something in the bulletin, doesn’t speak to one of their guests in a crowded worship assembly, wears the wrong outfit for an occasion, or mispronounces someone’s name in a prayer. They sew discord behind the backs of the leadership or the babes in Christ because they heard a rumor about them using a curse word, being immodest, attending a drinking party, or offending a visitor. Essentially, they jump down their brethren’s throats at the first shortcoming they observe. These devoted Christians lack something in their faith, something very important! They lack PATIENCE!
James describes the behavior of a godly faith in writing, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). James notes that Christians receive patience when they maintain a godly faith in the face of temptation. Sometimes these temptations can be something as simple as being quick to anger or being prideful. James wishes for his brethren to have joy as Christians, and he proceeds to explain how such joy may be experienced if they simply learn patience! Without patience, a Christian can quickly become miserable in their personal work.
Patience must be added to a godly faith, and one must work to have patience. Patience doesn’t magically come to those who are saved. Peter writes that Christians must add to their faith patience if they are to never fall and be fruitful in the work of the Lord (2 Peter 1:5-10). Let us consider these two texts for the study of how patience becomes essential to faith.
James wrote of those occasions when a Christian would fall into “divers temptations” (1:2). A careful study of the context will lead to the conclusion that James referred to those trials that are external to the Christian life. Opportunities for growth and the proving of one’s faith can be chances for a Christian to learn about himself/herself and either find joy in the endurance of faithfulness or learn of their weaknesses and make changes. The Christian comes to understand that the way he/she views and handles the experience can produce something that is good. The words, “trying of your faith,” indicates a testing of one’s faith (1:3). Faith that is genuine will be demonstrated by how one handles the struggles of life.
The next part of verse three tells the reader that the trying of faith “worketh patience.” “Worketh” signifies to work out, to accomplish, to produce. The word “patience” in the text here means the ability to bear, to preserve, to endure. The verse is translated in the ASV as “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3). In verse four, “patience” is now repeated in the next sentence with the instruction to let patience have its perfect work. “Perfect” in this verse does not mean sinlessness but rather completeness. The message is that it – this patience, this endurance – has work to do. The work implied here may be further explained in 2 Peter 1:5-10.
Peter describes the Christians responsibility to grow in their faith (2 Peter 3:18). At the beginning of his epistle to the Christians, the apostle establishes how one is to grow in the faith and to what end (1:5-10). Peter explains what needs to be added to a person’s faith.
In verses 5-7, patience is to be added after knowledge and temperance. Christians must understand that they cannot learn everything all at once and some parts of the Christian walk will test and strengthen them, which is “temperance,” but only if a believer has “knowledge” can a Christian endure the temptations properly. Christians need to be patient with themselves and realize they will not learn everything all at once, and likewise, they must be patient with others who are not to their level of maturity in the faith.
The result is learning how to endure, which is “patience.” Christians can’t have it all, and they need to understand how to endure the hard times with the knowledge that God has given to them. The end and purpose of patience is “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:8,10). A Christian’s patience in the faith reflects their standing with God.
Ultimately, patience in faith is gained by assuming you have much to learn (Rom. 12:3). Understanding that you are still a work in progress, as well are others (2 Peter 3:18). Not giving up on the church because of a bad experience with a member or because the classes and sermons are difficult to understand or don’t move you (Heb. 10:24,25). Remaining devoted to God in spite of personal tragedies (Rev. 2:10). Staying steady with the commands of God and not giving in to the temptations of the world (1 John 2:15-17).