Q&A: The Patience of Job

The Patience of Job

Question

Did Job really have all that much patience?

Answer

Job suffered for a long time. He lost everything, health, wealth and family. I think he did admirably well for what he went through and suffered, but I don’t think it’s very biblical to speak of his exellent patience. Why? Well, first James speaks of his steadfastness not his patience (Jas. 5:11). And second, while at first Job bore all his calamities with amazing submission (cf. Job 1:21-22), in time he also defended his character against the false theology of his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. And in his discourses he said some things about God that were simply not true. He even defended his own righteousness at the expense of God’s pure righteous justice. It’s rather difficult to miss. Let’s look at a few passages as an example:

Job 9:21: I am blameless; I regard not myself; I loathe my life. It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’

Job 10:2-3: I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you [God] to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?

Job 10:7-8: … although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand? Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether.

Job 16:11: God gives me up to the ungodly and casts me into the hands of the wicked.

Job 19:6: … know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me.

Christians are a lot like Job; this includes me especially. We get some things right and others we simply mess up! Sometimes we get impatient. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Moses defied one of the greatest rulers on earth (Exod. 4:18-14:31) and did many other mighty works. He was a man of faith (Heb. 11:23-28). He was entrusted with God's Law – The Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21). Despite all this, Moses never stepped foot in the Promised Land; rather, Joshua led Israel into Canaan (Deut. 31:1-8). Why? Moses was instructed to "tell the rock before [Israel's] eyes to yield its water" (Num. 20:8), but instead he disobeyed God and struck the rock twice (Num. 20:10-11). See Deuteronomy 32:51-52. But Moses never lost faith.

Job was steadfast too. He didn’t lose faith. What did he say? “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). That’s pretty amazing isn’t it! What Job positively demonstrates for us is that God welcomes faith, earnest pleas, and prayer in the midst of trails. Did Job do this perfectly? No! But he never lost his God-given faith (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). And in finality God revealed his patience and merciful compassion to him (cf. Jas. 5:11). God restored what Job lost and then some. And God himself rebuked Job’s friends; Job didn’t need to correct the record.

I've talked about how Job responded to trials and suffering. What about you? What about today's world? Trials are a normal part of life. Stuff – bad stuff – is going to happen. People are going to lie about you. The world hates Christians (cf. 1 John 3:13), and if you’re not unjustly hated by someone then you better check out what you’re doing wrong. Sooner or later your body will fail you. And you’re not getting a new one until Christ returns (cf. Phil. 3:21). Yes, stuff – bad stuff – is going to happen. But God grants us faith and joy in trials.

So, how do we mature in being patient? Notice I said "mature". You’re not going to mature overnight. It takes time and hard work. Patience is something that must be learned over time and through trials. And God does not leave us without instruction. James gives us guidance on how to seek it.

First, God’s future reward for patience is greater than your present pain. And while I don’t know your present suffering, I do know the Jesus is coming back. He is bringing with him his reward(s). Just as a farmer waits for fruit in season, we can be assured that the Lord is preparing for us a harvest from our godly suffering (cf. Jas. 5:7). We will reap the fruits of our endurance. Remember suffering, even death itself, is temporary, but God’s blessings are eternal.

Second, we should nurture our faith during trails. James puts it this way, “be patient and stand firm” (cf. Jas. 5:8). While it’s easier said than done, don’t give in to doubts. Suffering brings with it its close friend called temptation. But the Christian hasn’t just been given mere faith; it's a living faith. Living faith is meant to endure. It is nurtured by the Word of God, exercised in prayer, fed by the Lord’s Supper, strengthened in community and demonstrated as we walk in love towards one another. A nurtured faith will resist that temptation and turn toward God and embrace Crist’s love and grace and mercy in its midst. Dwell upon and in Christ.

Third, certain trials can bring the temptation to grumble about one’s circumstances, All of us have a tendency to do this especially when it seems like the body of Christ itself lacks empathy, fails to serve and love us, and seems to just not care. It happens doesn’t it! But James warns us against this. He says, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door" (Jas. 5:9). Suffering is not an excuse to sin. There are no excuses to sin. Don’t bite off a piece of this forbidden fruit.

Lastly – and as it is related to a living faith – have hope during trails. Look at the positive examples we have in Scripture and how they endured suffering (cf. Jas. 5:10). Look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. The prophets were in general much more persecuted than we are. And if the prophets suffered then it may be expected others such as we will also. Each of the prophets are a model for us. Of course, the greatest Prophet was Jesus. As Peter states in 1 Peter 5:7-11:

… casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

While none of this will take away the present pain of suffering, it helps one have joy, faith, and hope in the midst of it. We live on this side of the cross and the incarnation of Job's Redeemer. How much more this should help us to persevere, be mature and steadfast, and fight the good fight. Because in the end we will win.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).