Monday, February 7, 2005

Faith Partners With Patience

Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12)
Faith and patience go together. That is part of the nature of faith. Faith is not about what you can see right now, it is about what you cannot yet see. Remember, “Faith is the substance of things hoped [expected], the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is expecting that which you do not yet see, and so it takes some time between the believing and the seeing.

Faith is a seed. Have you ever heard of a seed that you can plant and immediately see harvest? Of course not. You plant the seed, then go about your business, letting the seed do its work in the soil. It germinates, then it sprouts, then it comes up on stem, then it puts forth its leaf, then it flowers, then it comes into fruit, and then the fruit is ready for the harvest. The rate at which this all happens varies from seed to seed, but every seed goes through this process. That takes time, and so what really we need is patience.

Hebrews 11 is often called the “Hall of Fame of Faith” because of its litany of Old Testament saints who walked by faith and saw it through to the end. But did you know that the context of this great chapter is about patience?

The author of Hebrews was writing to scattered Jewish believers who were suffering persecution because of their faith in Christ. They were severely tempted to give up and go back to their old ways. Hebrews was written to encourage them to continue in their faith. That’s why, in chapter 6, the author called for them to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Directly on either side of Hebrews 11, almost serving as bookends, we discover the theme of patience still at work. We find it under the term “endurance.” The Greek word is hupomone, which is elsewhere translated “perseverance” and “patience.”

Near the end of chapter 10, we find:
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance [hupomone], so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
Then immediately after chapter 12, we read:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance [hupomone] the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Patience is very important to the faith process. When Jesus spoke to the fig tree, in Mark 11, He immediately received what He said. For Jesus said, in that same passage, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (v. 24). Notice that “receive” is in the present tense. The NASB says, “have received.” In any case, the receiving is not future tense.

So Jesus immediately received what He said. But He did not immediately see what He said. Seeing it would come later. So Jesus, knowing that faith requires patience, simply went on about His business, and continuing to believe what He said. It was not until the next day, when He and the disciples were passing by again, that they saw that the fig tree had indeed withered.
  • When did Jesus receive what He spoke it out in faith? Immediately.
  • When did Jesus see it come to pass? Not until the next day.
  • In between there was patience.
If you believe the Word and walk by faith, exercising patience, you will eventually see the fulfillment of what you have believed. But if you walk by sight, letting circumstances and emotions dictate how you are going think and what you are going to expect, then you will probably never see what you believed for come to pass — all for lack of patience.

When you have exercised your faith in the promises of God, keep yourself focused on His Word. Don’t let anything else that you see or hear move you or trouble you in any way. Your circumstances must eventually line up with the Word of God and your faith in it, so be patient, knowing that you will see it happen.