If they said it once they said it a thousand times, our elders instructions about learning and practicing the patience of Job. In a life time of mostly missing the mark on that one, I've learned that patience probably wasn't the quality that set Job apart from so many other Bible heroes. It's just an opinion, but it wasn't endurance or long-suffering or stubbornness either, though he certainly demonstrated those traits at every turn. No, if Scripture is to be our sure guide, Job's responses to tragic life circumstances were the products of a steadfast spirit, the discipline of trusting God in all things. James wrote about it when he penned a letter to the dispersed tribes of the early church.
Behold, 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.
James 5:11, ESV
The word James used to describe the spiritual grace of steadfastness is one that is well known and easily translated. it is the Greek root hupomeno, meaning, to hyper-stay. The idea of steadfastness is to remain in place, be immovable, steady, or stayed. In the ancient world of Bedouin movement it perhaps reflected a pitching of the tents rather than the constant motion of nomadic travel. To be steadfast is to be fixed, focused on something or someone that remains consistently in place in spite of the temptations to move. Job may have demonstrated the spiritual fruit of patience. But, he remained steady in this troubles because of a steadfast spirit.
There's a warning here for moderns. We must learn to differentiate steadfastness and stubbornness, often confused. While steadfastness is a theo-centric spiritual virtue, stubbornness is more an egocentric vice. The former is a blessed construct, as indicated by James, and the latter creates an obstinate, resistant attitude fixed on self. Evidently James was guided to remember Job as a steadfast individual, immovable in his trust and reliance on God. We must avoid the temptation to translate this kind of attitude into hard-headed human stubbornness. Steadfast people can learn. Stubborn folks rarely do. They think they already know everything.
Isaiah provided another layer in understanding the ideal of steadfastness. He wrote---
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in
Isaiah 26:3, ESV
For me this provides a thrilling path to the peace that seems so elusive in these exponential times, fast and furious. It is the security of our minds being stayed on our faithful God. As a result, peace is the outcome of steadfastness. It is keeping our eyes on the one who is faithful and trustworthy in all things.
How does this steadfastness thing play out in life? Certainly Job had more than a few questions for God and desired a moment with him to air them out, a face to face to get some answers (see Job 23). In the end, however, there was a confession that registers with the steadfast spirit James mentioned in his epistle. Job said---
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered
what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had
heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I
despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42:2-6, ESV
And, then the summary. "And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (Job 42:12). He finished stronger than he started. His steadfastness kept him stayed, that is, secure in his trust and reliance on God.
I'm reminded of a theme verse that marks the heading on this web site, Philippians 1:6:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
You know, we should be sure and certain he will finish what he started. Which gives me the joy and blessing of being steadfast, immovable, and stayed.