Although the word ‘patience’ suggests a state where you are sitting around waiting for something to happen, God’s version of patience demands a more active role. For example, if you lose your job, should you sit patiently at home in front of the TV waiting for the perfect job to fall in your lap? Or do you need to actively seek out new opportunities? If you are sick, do you shut off all access to doctors or other medical assistance, or do you try whatever it takes to get better?
Passive patience basically does little more than consume time. A good comparison may be a prisoner of war, waiting to be rescued. We are often captivated into believing that there is little more that we could or should do than to wait around for things to change.
Even a prisoner of war can do something. I love the story that James Ray tells about the six years he was a POW during the Vietnam war. During this time, the prisoners whispered Bible verses back and forth, an act that became vital to their daily existence. There wasn’t much they could do, but the prisoners did what they could, and the shared verses became constant assurances of God’s love and care.
Active patience, then, is to await without complaint, but always aiming for the victory. That’s why you find it described in the Bible as a race – where you never become hopeless, or even just try to hold your own. No, the goal with active patience is to make actual progress toward the goal every day.
…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… (Hebrews 12:1-2)
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13-14)