It can be safely assumed that all students of the Bible, and in particular of the New Testament, know that in the latter the Greek word "hupomene" occurs frequently and is of great importance. It occurs 30 times and is generally translated "patience", but this does not give its full meaning. The verb that corresponds occurs 15 times and is normally translated "endure". Thus, we have become accustomed to "patient endurance" being nearer the true meaning. In this study, however, we hope to see that it's even fuller significance will be discerned by its close association with other Christian virtues. That our subject deals with a very important Christian quality is stressed by such words as: "Ye have need of patience" (Hebrews 10:36) and "Let patience have her perfect (maturing) work". (James 1:4).
Paul taught that "tribulation (affliction) worketh patience". (Romans 5:3). He also commended one assembly for their "patience" and "faith" in persecutions and tribulations (2 Thess.1:4). The Book of Revelation (13:10) in depicting persecution to be the experience of God's faithful people adds: "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints". Not only here is faith closely associated with patience, but James (1:3) reminds us "that the trying of your faith worketh patience", and that if we let "patience have her perfect(‑ing) work" we shall become "perfect and entire wanting nothing".
Patience is also associated with "hope". It is "through patience and comfort of the scriptures" that hope results. (Rom.15:4). Outstanding characteristics displayed by the assembly of the Thessalonians and praised by Paul in 1 Thess.1:3 were their "work of faith", their "labour of love" and their "patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ". This association of "patience" with "hope" is also seen in Rom.8:25: "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it".
Patient endurance is also associated with "joy". Part of Paul's prayer for the church at Colosse (Col.1:10,11) reads: "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord...Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness". This is expressive of following the example of our Saviour, "who for the 'joy' that was set before him endured (patiently) the cross, despising the shame" (Heb.12:2). His followers had just been urged by the writer to the Hebrews to "run with patience the race that is set before us, looking (away) unto Jesus…"
There is a beautiful prayer offered by Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians (3:5): "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ". Here the Greek word "hupomene", to which we have referred earlier, is translated "patient waiting" but it should read "patience" or "patient endurance". Thus the expression becomes "the patience of Christ". His was the perfect example of patient endurance, and it is into this, in addition to our exhibiting divine love, that Paul would have our hearts directed. Peter added his testimony to our Saviour's steadfastness, when he wrote in 1 Pet.2:23: "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously".
Patient endurance, then, is an absolute necessity in Christian living. It is vital in our fruit bearing spiritually; as Jesus said: "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with 'patience'" (Luke 8:15). Similarly, it is required when divine discipline is introduced into our lives: "If ye endure (patiently) chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons" (Heb.12:7). Peter also declares that patience, together with other spiritual characteristics, will correct spiritual short‑sightedness or blindness: "But he that lacketh these things (as in verses 5‑7, where 'patience' is included) is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins" (2 Pet.1:9)
Finally, we quote from William Barclay, who elaborates on the fuller meaning of the Greek "hupomene" (patience): "It is not the patience which can sit down and bow its head, and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm is past. It is the spirit that can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope; it is not the spirit which sits statically enduring in the one place, but the spirit that bears things because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory; it is not the patience that grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn." He also quotes from an early father, Chrysostom, who calls 'hupomene' "a root of all the goods, mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that can never taken, a harbour that knows no storms; the queen of virtues; the foundation of right actions; peace in war; calm in tempest; security in plots; and neither the violence of man nor the powers of the evil one can injure it. It is the quality that keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory, because beyond the pain it sees the goal." Barclay also refers to George Matheson, who stricken in blindness and disappointed in love, wrote a prayer in which he pleads that he might accept God's will 'not with dumb resignation, but with holy joy, not only with the absence of murmur but with a song of praise'.
The Forest Gate Church Bible Monthly