Pastoral Exhortation

A Man of Faith Patiently Endures

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 19 March 2017

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The patriarch Abraham’s life was a life of great faith; hence he was regarded as a hero of faith. His faith has been the subject of scrutiny of believers of all ages, and even today he continues to be a pattern for all of us who are in this journey of faith. I would like to consider an elucidation of Abraham’s faith, which the Spirit of God recorded in Hebrews 6:15 – “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” It is a concise commentary on Abraham’s long wait for the fulfilment of God’s promise, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee” (Hebrews 6:14).

Have you noticed that Abraham’s remarkable faith is succinctly explained with a short phrase of just two words “patiently endured”? This phrase is the translation of one Greek word, makrothumeo, which is made up of two words – makros (meaning “long” or “far”) and thumeo (meaning “agitated”, “be angry”, etc.) So, the word means “bearing up under provocation”, “have long patience”, “bear long”, “suffer long”, “be longsuffering”, “patiently endure”, etc. The word depicts a man persevering patiently and bravely in the midst of difficulties and troubles. It also demonstrates patience in bearing the offences and injuries of others. So Abraham, the man of faith, was characterised by two essential virtues – patience and endurance. Let us now briefly consider those remarkable natures of heroic faith.

Patience

This word emphasises the longsuffering nature of faith. It is not a passive response to challenges and sufferings that come against one’s pursuit, but an active effort to bear with the difficulties while pressing on to the final destiny

Patience does not allow the man of faith to run out of enthusiasm and determination. Though it accepts pains and failures, it rebounds to keep the whole being in pursuit of the ultimate goal. In its attempts to rejuvenate the already battered and weary soul, it also has to bear additional pains and stress. O how important it is that our faith is willing to suffer long that we may not give up our faith and its final victory!

Normally, the journey of faith is long and arduous. The end may be nowhere in sight. Doubts from within then may rise to mock his own readiness. Soon others’ doubts may also hinder his progress. But by faith in the One who called him, he will bear all these and more. He is ready to suffer long as he eagerly awaits the fulfilment of God’s promises. As Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” His attitude is: “Well, I have suffered much and I am ready to suffer more if need be.” He will not allow his journey of faith to halt. He refuses to quit. This kind of patience that faith produces is a powerful active force that also generates “endurance”, the second essential element of faith.

Endurance

It gives “legs” to patience. It brings about progress in what God has called him to do. It refuses to stay down. It fights off dejection, pushes off sluggishness and walks over disappointments. Nothing stands in its way. If anything persists in stopping him, his endurance will sure to make him an overcomer.

ride to the end nor an easy grab of the ultimate. Instead, the enduring faith is all about an arduous and long effort in accomplishing all that God has set before us. In its pursuit, there is no hastiness. In its persistence, there is no murmuring. In its patience, there is no quitting.

The man of faith endures everything in his journey to make progress in the will of God. He endures in submission to God’s sovereignty. He endures in the hope of God’s good providence. He endures until he obtains the promise of God.

Patiently Endured

What do you get when these two amazing virtues are put together? A strong faith! A victorious faith! A heroic faith! A faith that conquers! As Abraham patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Abraham was 75 years old when he departed from Haran (Genesis 12:4). When he was 100 years old, he still did not have a child. Genesis 17:17 records: “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” Yet, his faith rises above doubts and difficulties. He waited for the fulfilment of God’s promise. Abraham’s faith of having a child at such an advanced age of 100 was not a fancy of his own mind. He did not believe in the imagination or ideas of his own mind, but in what God has promised. It was not easy for Abraham to have confidence in what a human mind thinks is an impossibility.

We are mindful of Abraham’s failure when he listened to the counsel of his impatient wife Sarah. He took Hagar to bring forth a child. It was not to be the child of promise. God is so merciful to forgive Abraham and to renew his covenant again (Genesis 17). In this New Testament commendation of Abraham, God says nothing of His servant’s shortcoming. What a merciful God! Praise the Lord!

Now, think of the other aspect of God’s promise to Abraham – the land. When he was told to go to a far country, he had to overcome many hindrances from his father and relatives. Every time when a struggle emerges, he would ultimately get to the path which God has outlined. He exhibited attitudes and actions which endured delay and pressure.

Finally, Isaac was born. Then, Jacob. Then, Christ – the Seed by whom we all became Abraham’s children. Has he seen all that coming to pass? No! Nonetheless, Abraham did not faint, neither his faith waned! He saw Isaac, and he knew the rest of the truths of God’s covenant will unfold in His time. Abraham remained steadfast in faith.

He also “patiently endured” his journeying in this world until the age of 175 (Genesis 25:7). “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). Abraham’s faith looked beyond the physical aspects of God’s covenant with him. From the earthly promised land, he looked intently for a heavenly land.

It is this exercise of hope unto the end which Scripture is calling all of us to emulate. They who professed to be Abraham’s children, let them manifest Abraham’s enduring faith.

“He obtained the promise” by instalments!

Having set out from among the heathen in accordance to God’s call, Abraham was blessed by the Lord with guidance, protection, promises, etc. God blessed his soul with special times of communion with Him, as well as peace, joy and victory. His eyes saw a son born of Sarah, according to God’s promise. But by faith, he saw Christ’s day, and was glad. Jesus testified, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Having also reached the land of the Canaan and living there under God’s special providence, he yet again looked beyond to a heavenly city (cf. Hebrews 11:10). All these were an earnest or down payment of better things to come. Finally, he received a more complete blessing of God when he left this world of sin and sorrow, and departed to be with Christ, which is “far better” (Philippians 1:23). Abraham had now entered into the peace and joy of Paradise, having obtained the Heavenly Country (Hebrews 11:16). ■