The literal meaning of the word translated patience is “abiding under”. Vine says, “Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3)”. It is not a passive attitude to trial or tribulation, it is more than that. It is not a mere sitting down with bowed head and folded arms in an attitude of resignation while the flood of events sweeps over you. It is that fortitude that stands up and bears troubles, that actively overcomes and conquers trials. It turns tribulation into triumph, it meets and conquers trouble, turning it into glory. It is commonly used in connection with tribulation. Tribulation worketh patience (Romans 5:3). The Christian must approve himself in much “patience” and in afflictions (2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:4).
James speaks of the patience of Job, and a reading of the early chapters of Job will reveal this quality which transmutes dark trial into glory. Scripture also speaks of the patience of Jesus Christ. You will, no doubt, be able to recall instances of this triumphant endurance in His life. Actually Scripture refers to it in two specific instances – “endured the cross”, “endured such gainsaying of sinners” (Hebrews 12:2,3).
As we reverently watch Jesus come bound from the garden, pass through His mock trial, and then tread, cross-laden, out of the city, what do we see? Weakness? Yes, but not only physical weakness, there is also power, the strength of divine compassion. I think that perhaps Paul meant just this when he wrote that strange word about the weakness of God being stronger than men. His enemies, the rulers, the people in general and even the disciples, saw only the weakness. On the way to the cross He turned and saw the women weeping and said, “Weep not for Me”. He was not an object of pity but was proceeding in a might and majesty which were shown by the fact that He consented to death, He could have escaped but He meekly submitted; but not with passive resignation.
Throughout every moment of His trial and crucifixion He was in absolute control. Listen to some of His sayings as men heaped their vilest insults upon Him. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. That is patience in its Scriptural sense at its most majestic. We have our ideas of greatness but none can compare with that. In His heart there was no resentment, no anger, no desire for punishment for those who so maltreated Him, but rising far above man’s degradation He prayed for their forgiveness. Perfect patience turning trial into triumph.
“And one of the malefactors … railed on Him, saying, Art not Thou the Christ? save Thyself and us”. But to the other malefactor who, recognizing that earthly power had done all that it could for him, flung himself on to the mercy of this amazing, forgiving Man on the central cross, there came this promise: “Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise”. Deserted by His disciples, the butt of the rulers’ cruel mockery, spat upon, scourged, rejected by the howling mob, the object of bitter insult, yet right there and then revealing the triumph of the cross by swinging open the gates of His heavenly kingdom to this dying criminal.
“And it was now about the sixth hour; and a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour”. Three hours of darkness and silence, with no record in the Gospels of what transpired. The most important hours of all man’s history enveloped in mysterious blackness. And then, with a loud voice, the cry, “It is finished”. We note it well and rejoice in the triumphant shout of victory. Not a weak trailing voice but the loud cry of the Conqueror; He had endured the cross, transforming trial into triumph and disgrace into glory.
O patient spotless One
Our hearts in meekness train
To bear Thy yoke and learn of Thee
That we may rest obtain.