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Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

There is a passage found in James 1:2-4 that reads: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. These verses give us a lot to unpack, but in order to better understand them, I wanted to first start with a point of clarity as it pertains to the trials referenced. These trials aren’t the ones that we cause; they are ones that find us. The unforeseen and oft unexpected. We know this because the scripture says – count it all joy. Only what is meant to bring us closer to God can truly bring us joy in the long run. In these trials, we can find strength in knowing that overcoming is supposed to be part of the process. Resolution is achievable.

On the other hand, there are the trials that we face due to our own mistakes. These trials should foster humility, as it is God’s mercy and compassion that take us through to the other side. Nevertheless, the other side may not equate to overcoming. Not everything that is done can be undone. Too often, we navigate as though we have a rewind and rewrite button. We do not. Forgiveness from others isn’t mandatory and the past isn’t so easily forgotten. We can be the bearers of pain in this world, and when we make the choice to do so, we also have to deal with the consequences. 

Faith Produces Patience.

Yet for the trials that test our faith, the book of James tells us that this testing of faith produces patience. Often, we see patience as something we should just have, yet the scriptures teach us it is produced through experience. Consider Google’s definition of patience which is: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”. I see it a bit differently. Patience is the ability to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without acting from a place of anger or pain. We’re human. We’re going to feel what we feel, but we don’t have to make decisions based on those emotions. Self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and for good reason. These traits are learned and developed over time when we allow the Holy Spirit to influence our actions, instead of self.

It’s also important to consider the reverse of this scripture. Patience needs faith, and sometimes, we struggle to be patient with others simply because we don’t have enough faith in them. We don’t believe enough in their intentions, skillsets, or ability to make the right decisions. It is true that faith requires trust, and when trust is broken, our patience also suffers. It makes us question the outcomes and tire from the disagreements. We see other’s actions as selfish, causing our tolerance to decrease. So, what do we do when we can’t trust others?

We trust God.

When we place our faith in others, they will inevitably disappoint us. The pain can feel overwhelming, and at times – suffocating. Brokenness and sorrow have the power to cripple us when they exist in our souls for longer than they should. There is no magic trick that immediately eradicates them, but movement will damper them. Whether it be a loss of a loved one or a job layoff, it is natural to feel pain. We do not just get over it. Even Jesus felt immense sorrow, but He understood the power of movement. In His pain, Jesus moved by first praying. He taught us that we have to lean on God to manage through those emotions while we keep pressing forward, even if forward is crawling 1mm a day. 

Let Patience Have its Perfect Work

And then, we let patience do what needs to be done. We let patience have its perfect work. What does that even mean? Let’s first consider the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-3). Think of the time between Abraham getting the message and having to bind up his son. At any of those moments in between, Abraham could’ve turned away and rejected God. Instead, he remained obedient. Hebrews 11:19 provides insight into Abraham’s thinking during this time, as he concluded that God was able to raise him [Isaac] up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By accepting this “trouble” and placing his trust in God, Abraham would end up cementing his relationship, and that of his descendants, with God in an even more meaningful way.

Patience is what allows us to wait upon the Lord. When we are met with trials, if we have the attitude of Abraham, believing that somehow God will deliver, then we are increasing our faith by exercising it. In doing so, we become more patient, and in that time, God is able to refine us even further. It is Satan’s trick to make us think we are running out of time. I’ve even heard it preached from the pulpits… well if you don’t get married by this time, or accomplish your dreams by this time, but God is not one to operate from a place of fearmongering. God created time, therefore He owns it. He knows what to do and when will maximize the results. If we are to be complete and lacking nothing, then that means we’re operating on God’s time – not our own.

The Gift of Patience

We’re permitting God’s work to be done in our lives so that we can arrive to our next seasons in the way that God needs for us to show up. Consider Peter, and his denial of Christ. When Jesus told Peter he would deny Him, Jesus also said: But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32) It was the patience of Christ that allowed Peter to return and continue the mission. Imagine the mercy and grace Peter felt when Christ restored him.

We too have the power to give the gift of patience. By being patient, we allow room for others to better themselves, to live in faith, and to exercise trust that God will deliver. If patience can have its perfect work in us, then we have to believe it can help others as well. And if we move as the Holy Spirit bids us, then we can be certain that we’re becoming more complete, and God in ensuring we lack nothing.

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