With Utmost Patience
When we think about the period immediately following Christ’s resurrection and ascension, when the apostles flourished in ministry and the church was born, it’s easy to imagine the “signs and wonders and mighty works” that were performed—and to wish we had been there to see them, to have our faith strengthened and our ministry furthered by them.
Without question, both the quality and quantity of supernatural events in that time were special and unrepeatable. The apostles were supernaturally gifted in a way that contemporary Christians are not. It is important to notice, though, that the early church did not make these experiences the touchstone of their faith. We can’t focus solely on the miracles and lose sight of their context: those who were filled with God’s Spirit were immediately concerned to understand and proclaim God’s word, which empowered them to have “utmost patience”—or, as some translations say, “great perseverance”—throughout their lives. What built the church was not so much the miracles of the apostles as the faithful, bold endurance of those apostles.
Paul did not want the focus of his ministry to be on the many marvels he performed or the significant trials he endured but on the resolute faith God had given him and the truths he preached. Observing Paul’s ministry, seeing his burdens, and hearing the cries of his heart, it’s easy for us to see that the signs and wonders God performed through him were not meant to be flashy exhibitions of Christian showmanship. Rather, they were born out of suffering and adversity, they took place in a life that was stretched to the limits, and they underlined the truth of the message that was being preached.
Knowing this context would have caused Paul’s followers to ask not so much how he did such miracles but how he could demonstrate such steadfast faith. How could he carry on with “utmost patience” while suffering? Only by his faith in Jesus Christ and his knowledge of God’s word.
What enables us to stand up to tests and to face challenges in the Christian life with patient endurance? Is it miracles? Signs? Wonders? No—while God’s special favor may be a help to us at some point, it’s actually a solid, experiential grasp of basic Christian doctrine that will undoubtedly be the light to our path when all else seems dark (Psalm 119:105), the root of faith that runs deep, the anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). When God’s truth settles in our hearts and minds, we can say with confidence, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word!”
What will sustain you? It is not outer experiences but inner faith. The Spirit’s work within you will always be a greater miracle than anything God may do around you. May others look at you and see not just the wonders He works in your life but also your utmost patience through trial and the power of His Spirit as you submit to the truth of His word.
Patience in Suffering
7Be patient, therefore, brothers,1 until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
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