This is a very small verse, yet it contains enormous truth that will strongly impact our lives. The concordance defines patience as simply waiting, continuance. One of the most difficult things for us to do as humans is to wait. Especially when it involves waiting for something that we are really looking forward to. When something is strongly anticipated, time seems to slowly drag by. Theoretically, as we become adults we are supposed to learn to be patient. We need to remember that our perception of time and God's perception of time are far different. In the technologically advanced age we are living in, time is almost a commodity. We would do well to bear in mind that God has patiently been waiting for us far longer than we will ever wait for anything. When we consider God's perspective, our complaining starts to seem trivial and unimportant.
Our Lord made a specific statement concerning patience, and how important patience is. Why would He state that in our patience we possess our souls? Perhaps because impatience is such a normal human trait that we all must strive to overcome. Patience is listed as a virtue in Galatians 5:22. Another word for patience is longsuffering. Perhaps that better describes what it is like to try and be patient. One feels as though one is suffering simply because of the waiting.
The Lord has impressed upon me the significance of patience. There is a great danger to believers when we refuse to wait on God. The danger lies in our acting from our flesh rather than our Spirit; our falling out of step with what God is doing. In our flesh, when we see the needs all about us, we want to act, to do something to alleviate the suffering. We need to remember that God is the one in control. Suffering is a tool that is sometimes employed to bring about perfection. Though no one would choose suffering given the choice, yet we must admit that it often bears righteous fruit. Spiritually speaking, we all start as little children. Just as we warn our children not to touch the pan on the stove because it is hot, they inevitably will sooner or later, touch it and find out for themselves that we were telling them the truth. We are God's children, and though He has given us multiplied warnings and testimony's in the Word concerning our conduct and what He desires from us, we still from time to time have to try it our way. We have to get burned sometimes before we really believe.
The opening verse is placed in the middle of the signs of what shall be the indications of the second coming. Right there in the midst of warnings of a great falling away; persecutions by friends and family; natural disasters; betrayals; men's hearts failing them for fear; the Lord saw fit to insert this simple little statement about patience. In your patience possess ye your souls. In our patience, we possess our breath, spirit, life, mind, soul. In our willingness to wait, to continue in the knowledge that we have already received, we are able to maintain our spiritual life and our right standing with God. It appears that there is much more to this statement than we might have discerned on first reading it. If the Lord placed such strong emphasis on our maintaining patience, then perhaps we should look a little deeper.
From the opposite approach, would it mean that if we are impatient and refuse to wait on God we could lose our soul (breath, spirit, life, mind)? This statement was made as a statement of fact. Just as we meant it when we warned that the pan was hot; so does the Lord mean it when He states that in our patience we possess our soul. Therefore, if we refuse to wait on God, we are jeopardizing our entire walk. Consider for a moment the many examples in the Old Testament of those who stepped out in their own flesh and understanding, rather than waiting on and being obedient to the Lord God. What was the result of their actions? Why should we imagine that we are any different than them? Why should we think that God would approve and reward us for our disobedience?
For many years the Lord has been calling out to His Body. Those that have had ears to hear have hearkened to the call. Many have gone through the winepress. They have been processed and purged, suffered hardships and rejection. For years they have held on to their faith and belief in God's Word. Here is where the full importance of patience is revealed. Some have run out of patience. Though their intentions were good, they were unwilling to wait for God's timing any longer. They have accepted other doctrines, they have slipped off the path. God does not need our help. What God requires is our obedience. God's timing is perfect, and right on schedule. We need to get in step with what God is doing. It is very easy for us to see ourselves as being farther along in our walk than we actually are. It is very easy to imagine that we are ready to do great exploits for God. When God does not move, rather than wait on Him, we step out in our own efforts to try and make something happen. This is happening all around us. There are many who have compromised the Gospel of Christ, all the while convincing themselves that they have discovered a new revelation. What a tragedy to invest so many years of faithful service, and then because so many years have gone by and they still haven't seen the manifestation of their hearts desire, to place their hope in some purported new revelation. We should never forget that we can fall at any time in our walk, simply by taking our eyes off of Jesus. (Accepting another gospel other than the Gospel of Christ is taking our eyes off of the real Jesus and accepting a counterfeit Jesus). 2 Cor.10:9 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Bringing every thought into obedience takes continual diligence.
This is not anything new, it has happened throughout the ages. Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. He went on, For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. Vs. 13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
There are many of these false apostles actively at work in the world today. The only way that we will know those who are God?s and those who are not is by maintaining an intimate relationship with God. As we grow in our relationship, as we learn to be guided by our spirit and not by our own reasoning, our spiritual discernment will increase. Discernment is not a gift reserved only for a few, but is a tool that should be in the arsenal of every believer. Without spiritual discernment we have no way of knowing who is genuine and who is an imposter. We will all be confronted with false doctrines. We will all face the temptation to give in to weariness and grow slack in our diligent obedience. Now is not the time to let your patience waver. We must strive to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives:
Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, (Gal. 5:22,23).
Each and every one is important and deserves our attention. My prayer is that this may help to alert you to the subtle danger of letting your guard down for even a moment. The next time you feel frustrated or discouraged; remember Jesus' statement to us: