Monday, June 1, 2009


We recently completed the Book of Job on our journey of reading through the Bible in 2009. In James reference is made to the "patience of Job". Two Greek words are used throughout the New Testament for two different concepts most generally translated "patience". The one we are all most familiar with is "hupomoneo" which Strong translates as "cheerful endurance, constancy, continuance, waiting. Isaiah 40:31 in the Septuagint uses the same Greek word for "they that WAIT upon the Lord..shall renew their strength..." In my particular case this would be the ability to cheerfully sit at a stop-light for 2 minutes without maligning the electronic controls. Remember, during his afflictions, when Job said, "I wish I had never been born"? (Job 3:3) The cheerful or hopeful attitude of patience in Job was influenced by his circumstances. "...pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance". (Rom 5:3b)

The other Greek word is "makrothumia", which Strong translates as "longanimity, forebearance, fortitude, and longsuffering. Recently, my wife and I were the "prayer persons of the week" at the Church we attend. A lady sitting next to me leaned over and asked how she could pray for us. By this I assumed she meant to ask if there was anything in particular or specifically that she could pray about for us. After a few moments of contemplation I handed her a note requesting she pray for us as Paul did for the Colossians in Chap 1 verses 10&11, "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." That is continual "spiritual maturity"!

The word makrothumia (longsuffering) is most often used as an attribute of God. Therefore, it is not surprising that it would also be listed as a fruit of the Spirit. Theologians would call this one of the "communicable" attributes of God. Certain attributes of God cannot be shared, such as His "aseity", His "self-existence" or His "infintitude". Other attributes are shared such as love, mercy, grace, and longsuffering. L. Berkhof defines longsuffering: "It is that aspect of the goodness or love of God in virtue of which He bears with the froward (stubborn) and evil in spite of their long continued disobedience". In 2009 Paul’s question is still applicable, "..despiseth thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom 2:4)

Before I retired, I worked for a major banking firm. Occasionally we would come accross a term in loan documents known as "forebearance". Forbearance in the banking business means "the act of declining, for a period of time, to enforce the legal right to require payment of a debt". God’s forebearance or longsuffering with us resulted not in an extended period to repay, but in the full payment and satisfaction of the debt through faith and repentance. It was Augustine that prayed, "command what you will, and grant what you command". Isn’t that exactly the way God deals with us? God commands, "thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thine heart..", which we cannot do unless God grants to us a new heart. What God commands, God grants. ) "A new heart also will I give you..’ Ez 36:26 "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast". It is a God-given faith that produces works in the grantee. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10)

Paul tells us how makrothumia is worked outwardly when he says that it is part of the love without which all else is meaningless: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (I Cor 13:4-7) As patience (hupomoneo) relates to things and circumstances, longsuffering (makrothumia) exhorts us to cherish and show love to God and to one another, endlessly.

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