We have been making our way through the passage of Scripture found in 2 Peter 1—Peter’s ladder. Centuries before, Jacob, when fleeing from Esau, laid his head on a rock, weary from the flight. There, in visions of the night, God gave Jacob a dream of a ladder that extended from the earth to heaven. The ladder was meaningful to Jacob. It assured him that God was with him; it encouraged him that there is indeed a ladder extending from earth to heaven. Peter picks up where this dream left off by presenting the idea that Jesus is coming again and that we need to get ready for that wonderful and great event by climbing the ladder. Sister White makes it very clear that each rung of that ladder is important to us in reaching the kingdom of heaven.
“The apostle Peter presents before us the ladder of progress that we must climb round by round in order to meet the approval of God. [2 Peter 1:5–7 quoted.] Those who would make men of honor, men of trust, men of fidelity, must begin to be faithful in the smallest matters, and they must begin at home. Everyone who would be perfect must mount this ladder of progress. Many have neglected to put their feet upon the first rounds of the ladder. They want to mount to the topmost rounds without the trouble of climbing, but the only sure way is to take the painstaking way of going up by gradual advance, round after round.” Signs of the Times, May 25, 1891.
“According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience ….”
2 Peter 1:3–6.
The Climb Gets Harder
When we arrive at patience, we find that we are half way up the ladder in the goal that leads to Christian perfection of character. The climb does not seem to be getting any easier. As a matter of fact, it is getting somewhat more difficult. There are some folks who are afraid of heights. They do not like to climb very far for fear of falling.
The rung of this ladder, called patience, is one that speaks to every one of us—so elusive and yet so desirable. Webster defines patience: “The state, quality, power or fact of being patient.” It does not say a whole lot to us, does it? What is patience? Further research results in three meanings that come to bear on our climb:
- bearing pains or trials calmly without complaint,
- manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain, and
- being steadfast, despite opposition, difficulty or adversity.
I would like to suggest that each one of these meanings has an application to the Christian today, as he is looking for the soon return of the Lord Jesus in the clouds of glory. Revelation 14:12 serves as a hallmark for Seventh-day Adventists. After having outlined the events that will surround the last generation just before Jesus comes, the proclamation of the Three Angels’ Messages, John wrote, under inspiration, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
It is marvelous to see the harmony of the words of inspiration. Peter must have known that patience was a necessary part of character development for the last generation. He gave direction through the Spirit of God that patience was a part of that development. Then, through the same Spirit while John sees the culmination of all the events of earth’s history, he writes, “Here is the patience of the saints.”
Someone once said that, “Patience is the guardian of faith, the preserver of peace, the cherished of love, the teacher of humility. Patience governs the flesh, strengthens the spirit, sweetens the temper, stifles anger, extinguishes envy, and subdues pride. Patience bridles the tongue, restrains the hand, tramples on temptations, endures persecutions, and consummates martyrdom. Patience produces unity in the church, loyalty in the state, harmony in families and societies. She comforts the poor and moderates the rich. She makes us humble in prosperity, cheerful in adversity, and is unmoved by reproach. She teaches us to forgive those who have injured us and to be first in asking forgiveness of those whom we have injured. She delights the faithful and invites the unbelieving. She adorns the woman and approves the man. Patience is beautiful in either sex and every age.” The Royal Path of Life, © 1997 Bud and Debbie Neptune, R. R. 1 Box 131a, Dawn MO 64638 <http://www.royalpath.com/pat.htm> (cited March 26, 2002).
It is a little better than Webster’s definition, is it not? This is what Peter is telling us that we need to add to temperance. I believe there is significance to the order in which these Christian graces were given. Add to temperance, patience. Did you know that we cannot have patience without temperance? What affects the body affects the mind.
Continuing the Climb
What we fail to provide for physically we cannot expect to reap spiritually. On the other hand, it is also apparent that we can climb on to the rung of temperance and not climb any higher. We might be exercising all sorts of temperance in our lives; we may be eating all the right kinds of foods; we may have never violated any of the rules of health; we may be exercising, getting proper sleep; our temperance may be impeccable, yet we may lose eternal life, because we have not climbed any higher in the development of our Christian character.
This is what happened to the Pharisees. They were perfectionists in all their physical aspects—those things that could be seen, felt, and heard—but they were lost because they did not develop spiritually. They did not climb, as they should have. We have many Christians today who are classed in the same group as were the Pharisees. They are doing everything right as far as temperance and health reform is concerned, but they have not continued to climb higher.
Peter says that God’s plan for us is to climb that ladder, round by round, ultimately stepping off into the Promised Land. I hope that you have not stopped in your climb.
Bearing Pains or Trials
Have you added to your temperance, patience—the ability to bear pains or trials calmly without complaint? If things do not go just the way you want them to go, do you lose your patience? It is quite a trial. When you are crossed, do you fly off the handle? Do you lose control of yourself and perhaps rant or rave just a little bit? What would a non-Christian think if he were to come upon you then? What is the angel writing down? Sometimes our lack of patience causes us to say things that will condemn us in the judgment, because every word is recorded.
Have you been able to manifest forbearance under provocation or strain? I remember a neighbor of ours who, when I was just a boy, had an old Packard car. The old Packard engines were straight eights, and they had a long hood on them. It was in the wintertime, and he had run the battery down trying to get the car started, so he tried starting the engine by using a crank. He cranked and cranked, but it still did not start. So, in his lack of patience, he pulled the crank out of its place and began to beat it across the hood, the fenders, and the headlights. When that did not produce the amount of satisfaction he wanted, he shattered the windshield with the crank. But that did not start the car either.
He was not a Christian, but surprisingly there are Christians who display similar behavior. Patience. Oh, golden patience. Have you been able to be steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity? If you have not developed patience, what do you suppose it is going to be like when you find yourself in the throes of the events that are going to transpire just before Jesus comes?
Steadfast Despite Adversity?
I do not know whether you sense it or not, but it seems to me, at least in these last few years, that the intensity of everything is growing. How are we going to fare? Are we going to be steadfast despite opposition and difficulty or adversity? As we have heard, we have not yet seen anything compared to what is coming. Do you have the patience of the saints that will see you through those times?
The apostle Peter is not the only one who understands the need for patience as a Christian virtue. Paul, writing to the Romans, tells them something similar. “Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” Romans 12:9–12.
As a matter of fact, Paul mentions patience in his writings more than all the other Bible writers put together. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:36, 37.
Paul tells us here that the kingdom of God comes with patience. We cannot rush ahead of God; we need to have patience. We might consider ourselves ready, but while He is working for the salvation of others, we need to have patience. If we are not ready to meet the Lord with peace in our hearts, we need to commit ourselves to Christ today.
Not the Only One
You are not the only one with whom Jesus is working. You are not the only one with whom the Holy Spirit is striving to bring to a knowledge of salvation. While we may be ready, there are others who are not, and it calls upon us for patience to wait for God’s timing.
Patience calls for us to wait upon the Lord to do His will. Deliverance will come; Paul says it will come with patience. In the meantime, there are things in our lives on which we need to work.
Moses Makes a Mess of Things
The Bible tells of a man who thought that he knew more than he did about the situation in which he found himself, and he did not exercise patience when he should have. It did not prove to be very healthful for some people. The children of Israel went into Egypt to keep from starving to death during a famine. Joseph made provision for them under the guidance of God, but finally Joseph died, and they were still in Egypt.
“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.” Exodus 1:8–12.
God’s plan did not provide for them to remain in bondage. So a deliverer was born—born with a destiny to free God’s children from their bondage. “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian . . . .” Exodus 2:11–15.
Moses, because of a lack of patience, made a mess of the whole plan of God. We should each ask ourselves: Am I working in the plan of God, or am I working in a frustrating, impatient way against the plan of God? Moses had every advantage, but the thing that he lacked was patience.
There is no question in my mind that Moses knew that God had something special in mind for him to help his people. There was too much connected with his life, too many providential leadings, for him not to know. But Moses was not a man who was a patient man. According to Acts 7:22, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Interestingly, all that wisdom, all that might in words and in deeds, all that he could do was not enough to undo what he had done through lack of patience.
“The elders of Israel were taught by angels that the time for their deliverance was near, and that Moses was the man whom God would employ to accomplish this work. Angels instructed Moses also that Jehovah had chosen him to break the bondage of His people. . . . In slaying the Egyptian, Moses had fallen into the same error so often committed by his fathers, of taking into their own hands the work that God had promised to do. It was not God’s will to deliver His people by warfare, as Moses thought . . . .” Patriarchs and Prophets, 245, 247.
Are there times when you think that God has a plan of which you are to be a part, and you are determined to do it your way? Your way may have been the way you were taught and trained and the way that you have always done it, so you think that is the way it always has to be. You might be surprised. Moses was. Moses was trained; he had all the skill and wisdom of the Egyptians. He thought he would do things his way! Lo and behold, it was not God’s way at all. Why? Because God was patient; Moses was not.
“It was not God’s will to deliver His people by warfare, as Moses thought, but by His own mighty power, that the glory might be ascribed to Him alone. Yet, even this rash act was overruled by God to accomplish His purposes. Moses was not prepared for his great work. He had yet to learn the same lesson of faith that Abraham and Jacob had been taught—not to rely upon human strength or wisdom, but upon the power of God for the fulfillment of His promises. And there were other lessons that, amid the solitude of the mountains, Moses was to receive. In the school of self-denial and hardship he was to learn patience, to temper his passions.” Ibid., 247.
Moses, at 45, was a young man in his prime. He was in the first one-third of his life. It took him almost the same amount of time, another 40 years, to unlearn what he had learned in the courts of Pharaoh.
What have you learned in the first one-third of your life? Have you been adding those virtuous graces to your character, or will you need to unlearn what you learned before? Do you wonder why things are going so slow, why things are not progressing as rapidly as they should?
Sometimes it is much more difficult to use a used ball of string than a ball of string that is new, because a used ball of string can snarl easier. If you have ever tried to unsnarl a ball of string, you know what it is like. That is your life. That is what God is trying to work through now. For Moses, who had all the skills, all the background, all the wonders of education and experience, God had to take his life and unsnarl it. God said, “Now, I will give you some sheep to herd; let that unsnarl your mind.”
If there is anything that can teach a person how to be patient, it is herding sheep. Reflect back upon what God did with David and Moses and other sheepherders. What a marvelous lesson in the school of self-denial and hardship—you will learn patience, control of your temper.
During the next 40 years Moses learned patience. He learned meekness, and finally, when he had gone through a transition and change, God called him back to deliver Israel. Exodus tells the story: “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Exodus 4:10.
Moses did the job that the Lord had called him to do, and he was able to do the job because he had learned patience. How many of us have felt a calling to do a job for the Lord, but we find that many times we have run ahead of the Lord, that the timing just was not quite right? Do we stand back and learn the lesson that we failed to learn, to do it in God’s time? Or do we just shove ahead? This is a question we need to ask ourselves. Moses stood back and learned God’s lessons.
Is God calling you to do a great work? How is your patience with your wife? How is your patience with your husband? How is your patience with your children? Do you say mean and passionate words to them? Are you in the Lord’s will? Are you in a position that will provide avenues for the Lord to use you?
If not, the Lord may have to deal with you in a way that may not at all be pleasant. The Bible says that the Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (See 2 Peter 3:9.) If you are impatient, there is no way that the Lord can take you to heaven. God forbid that we should ever reach a point, like the children of Israel of old, who, seeing they see not; hearing they hear not. (See Matthew 13:13.)
A Last Day People
The word patience is used more in the book of Revelation than in any other book of the Bible. Paul used it more, totally, but as far as books are concerned, it is used the most in the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is the book of last things, the special book that has been given to guide God’s people through the last days.
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. I get the distinct impression that unless we are able to have patience—patience that is developed through association with family, church members, jobs, business associates, the trials that come day by day—we are not keeping the commandments of God nor are we able to have the faith of Jesus.
That becomes pretty serious, does it not? The question that we need to ask ourselves then, is this: Can we afford to give vent to our impatience and to forfeit our growth in this area and lose out in the end because we have not been able to climb any higher in the ladder of character development?
God has made every provision for us to go higher. We will never be able to stand before the Lord and say, “Well, you know, it was not possible, Lord, for me to obtain patience.” Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. “I overcame impatience,” He says, “and you can, too.”
He was tempted in all points just like we are tempted, yet without sin. (See Hebrews 4:15.) He had no advantage over us—we are starting at the same place Jesus started, but He has walked the road before us, and He says, I am by your side, My grace is sufficient, you can add to your temperance, patience.