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PATIENCE (μακροθυμία, G3429, forbearance, longsuffering, patience; ὑπομονή, G5705, endurance, steadfastness). The first word stresses great forbearance under suffering caused by other people. The second stresses patient endurance and steadfastness though kept waiting for a long time by God. Those possessing patience are free from cowardice or despondency.

Patience is an attitude of heart with respect to things. Makrothymia (“longsuffering”) is an attitude with respect to people. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5.22, kjv longsuffering); it is a virtue that God prizes highly in human beings and seems to be best developed under trials (Rom.5.3-Rom.5.4; Jas.1.3-Jas.1.4; Jas.5.11 kjv; niv perseverance). Both terms are used of God (Rom.2.4; 1Pet.3.20), apparently always in relation to persons.

Patience is often hard to gain and to maintain, but, in Ro 15:5, God is called "the God of patience" as being able to grant that grace to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it. It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly.

In the Old Testament and Apocrypha

The exact word "patience" does not occur in the Old Testament, but we have "patiently" in Ps 40:1 as the translation of qawah, "to wait," "to expect," which word frequently expresses the idea, especially that of waiting on God; in Ps 37:7, "patiently" ("wait patiently") is the translation of qul, one of the meanings of which is "to wait" or "to hope for" or "to expect" (of Job 35:14); "patient" occurs (Ec 7:8) as the translation of ’erekh ruach, "long of spirit," and (Job 6:11) "that I should be patient" (ha’arikh nephesh). Compare "impatient" (Job 21:4).

"Patience" occurs frequently in the Apocrypha, especially in Ecclesiasticus, e.g. 2:14; 16:13; 17:24; 41:2 (hupomone); 5:11 (makrothumia); 29:8 (makrothumeo, the Revised Version (British and American) "longsuffering"); in The Wisdom of Solomon 2:19, the Greek word is anexikakia.

God’s patience

God’s patient endurance of man’s rebellion extends to all mankind, and is evident today in that He still withholds His final judgment, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9; cf. Ps 86:15). The extension of God’s patience to Israel is expressed repeatedly (Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Ps 86:15; Jer 15:15, etc.). God endures the continued existence of the lost as “vessels of wrath” (Rom 9:22) but thus reveals His wrath against evil and sin.

The patience of the Christian

The believer is exhorted “to lead a life worthy of the calling... with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4:1, 2; Col 1:11; 3:12). This is possible only as a result of the Spirit-filled life (Gal 5:22; cf. Rom 8:3, 4).

Christ’s patience

Christ’s endurance is the Christian’s example. He must “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus... who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:1, 2). Christ’s patient bearing of the taunts of the chief priests and elders and even of the thieves on their crosses is referred to in this passage (Matt 27:38-44; Mark 15:28-32; Luke 23:35-39; cf. Pss 22:1ff.; 35:11-28; 69:1ff.).

Patience toward the trials of life

One trial of the believer is living among sinful men and seeing them prosper in spite of their wickedness. This is stressed in several Psalms (Pss 37:1; 73; Prov 3:31; 23:17; 24:1; Jer 12).

Patience under divine chastenings

To develop the faith and the character of those whom He loves, God chastens and tests His servants (Heb 12:5-13). This is for the believer’s profit and is a part of the “all things” that work for his good (Rom 8:28). The faith and patience entailed in bearing trials deepens the believer’s experience, and the trials themselves are therefore to be received and borne with joy (James 1:2ff.).