Who hasn't heard about the patience of Job? Even more, who hasn't been challenged to express the patience of Job in their everyday life? Sixty-five years later I can still hear my grandmother Holmes telling me I had ants in my pants and needed to learn the patience of Job. Like I had already developed this wait problem at age 5 or something!!! Give me a break!
But, that line of thinking is usually the launch point of studying Job, the first of the Old Testament wisdom books. Let me admit, up front, that Job is mysterious to me. The lessons of God to this Old Testament hero and his so-called friends are numerous and often perplexing. Eventually the Book of Job covers much of our systematic theology, the truth of God expressed in both Old and New Testaments. Still, the presumption about patience usually outranks all the others. Perhaps because most of us are so impatient. And, that is a point he addressed in one of his first responses to Eliphaz, the Temanite. Job said---
What is my strength , that I should wait? And, what is my end, that I should be
Job 6: 11, ESV
Evidently Job wasn't all that eager to sit patiently idle and contemplate the harsh experiences the sons of God and Satan (see Job 1: 6) planned to tempt him. It is true, at the loss of his wealth, the catastrophic destruction of his children and family, Job gave glory and honor to our Heavenly Father. You know his response---
Naked I came from My mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the
Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1: 21, ESV
Evidently, however, patience wasn't on his class schedule at that time. Job was predisposed to action and answers, like many of us. Apparently from the texts he was engineered to probe the situation and discover the wrongdoing in his personal life that produced such catastrophic results. You see, in their ancient belief system good things followed the good life, and bad things trailed bad living. Searching out his error or sin would have been his natural inclination. Then, again...
Patience is a spiritual virtue but isn't a learned discipline of faith. Contrary to popular belief, patience isn't a reward for living right or one of the benefits of withstanding hard times. Yes, we can learn several closely related attributes like endurance and perseverance when we're up against it. Hard times truly develops these strengths. At times, also, the three terms for patience, perseverance, and endurance are interchangeable in Scripture. Still, the New Testament certifies that patience is a fruit of the Spirit, the natural growth of a person living life according to Spiritual direction. The Apostle Paul wrote this truth to the church at Galatia----
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5: 22-23, ESV
This is the natural fruit of living the spirit-filled life. As the label clarifies, it should grow naturally as the outcome of my Christian faith. That is a personal challenge since my wait problem is so clearly defined and exhibited. My personal faith should grow patience in me. Patience should be the natural outgrowth of my Christian life. And, if it is not, then there's a problem. That may be the most enduring constant in my personal prayer life, the prayer to grow more patience.
In my personal opinion, Job wasn't learning or exemplifying patience. Again, personally, patience isn't the character building lesson of Job. The Book of Job is about personal faith, the essential belief element's of walking with God. Genuine faith involves trust at a deep, personal level, a truth that enables us to join the author of job in declaring----
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job 1: 22, ESV
At the deepest level, patience involves trusting God. Job exhibited that level of trust in the first chapter of his epic Old Testament story. His absolute trust in God's word and ways enabled him to endure personal tragedy that few of us can imagine. In the length
and breadth of this great Old Testament book is the truth that Job's trust in God grew the fruit of patience in him and produced the perseverance and endurance he would need in the taxing days ahead. Job is an affirmation of trusting God.
Even more, Job's personal character is a tutorial in dealing with the temptations and attacks of the adversary, Satan. His absolute trust in God, and unwillingness to challenge God as a result of his great loss are central to the ultimate lesson of Job. Life in a broken world is about dealing with temptation, facing trials of loss and sorrow, and regulating our own human sinfulness. Yes, we should grow patience and all of the other spiritual fruit. Yes, we should allow God to teach us endurance and perseverance. More than anything, we should trust God. It was Job's primary lesson, trusting God.
And, that 's a lesson we all need to learn. I'm first in line.