The Power of Patience
The Hebrew phrase ’erek ’appayim is translated “patient,” “long suffering,” or “slow to anger.” Usually used in reference to God, such patience characterizes the wise person and the peacemaker. A person who excels in this quality may even have the ability to persuade the powerful. Proverbs 25:15 says that “Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones.”
In the New Testament, the Greek verb makrothymeō and the noun makrothymiea are usually translated as some form of “patient endurance.” As William Mounce indicates, “From macros, ‘long’ (in terms of time), and thymos, ‘the soul’ as the seat of feelings and passions (including anger, temper), this word group suggests the same as the Heb., ‘to be long of feeling, delay one’s anger’ (as in ‘longsuffering’).”1 God is calling us to be long or large in Spirit, willing to exercise faith while we wait for him to act.
To those who ask why God allows the wicked to go unpunished, God indicates that justice will eventually be done. Meanwhile, he wants as many people as possible to repent and come into his kingdom. Just as the Lord has been patient with us, we are called to be patient with others. Like Abraham, we need to exercise patience when it comes to waiting for God’s promises. (Hebrews 6:15), and we need patience in awaiting Christ’s return (James 5:7-8).
Patience is not primarily a matter of temperament but rather a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Exercising patience takes courage and faith, without which waiting can become unbearable. God will grow this fruit in us as we wait upon him, increasing our wisdom and enabling us to do his will and reflect his character to others.
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, William D. Mounce, General Editor (Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 2006), 501.