Is Patience Really a Virtue?

"Patience is a virtue."  How many times have you heard that said?  What does it really mean? Often the person who says it is talking about the ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset.  It is usually seen as a valuable quality in a person.  But we, as human beings, often find it difficult to wait.  The history of God's people throughout the Bible shows us that.  In chapter 32 of the book of Exodus (Exodus 32: 1)we find an example of this lack of patience.  Moses had just led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, seeing God defeat Pharaoh's forces and crossing the Red Sea on dry ground.  When they came to Mt. Sinai, God told Moses to come up on the mountain and He would give him stone tablets with the Law and commandments.  So, Moses went up on the mountain with God, and he was gone a long time.  The people got impatient and said, "As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."  And they proceeded to build an idol for themselves because they wouldn't wait for God to do His work with Moses.

In the New Testament, Jesus knew that people were impatient, especially with the unknown.  In Acts 1:4 we read that Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem after His death, but to wait for the gift he had promised them.  He knew that waiting even 50 days until Pentecost was going to be difficult for them once He was gone, so he reminded them to wait.  In both examples (along with many more) people were impatient because they lacked faith in what God promised them.  The book of Hebrews reminds us of God's promise to Abraham to bless him and give him many descendants.  That promise was made when Abraham was about 70 years old.  But it wasn't until he was 100 years old that Isaac was finally born.  Hebrews 6:15 says, "And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."  James reminds his readers "Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming." (James 5:7) In verse 8 he adds that we should be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.  In other words, don't be impatient -- God's promise will be fulfilled, just like it was to Abraham.  We must have faith enough to stay the course, even though God, like Moses when he went up on Mt. Sinai, remains unseen.  In our struggle with faith in an invisible God we look back to the examples of Moses, Abraham and other ancestors, to find the courage to continue to worship and believe in God in an age when God sometimes seems more absent than present.  So, yes, patience is a virtue.