Redefining “The Patience of the Saints”

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Redefining “The Patience of the Saints”

I anticipate that some hairs might stand on end in reaction to the title of this article. Anyone who may have the instinct to warn me against rewriting Revelation 14:12, or any portion of John’s Apocalypse, would stand on legitimate ground.[1]

 

I assure you that I stand on the same ground and am emphatically uninterested in and unworthy to change anything bestowed to us by the Holy Spirit through the inspired prophets. Instead of redefining, maybe it is more accurate to say that I will be rephrasing, or at least reexamining, the profile of the patience of the saints from alternative angles.

 

The Patience of a Saint?

 

There is a circumstantial reason for why I am embarking upon this theological endeavor. Approximately three years ago, as I phased out of standard employment and into freelance editing and writing, I knew one of the issues with which I needed to wrestle was medical insurance.

 

However, I grossly underestimated how much of a hassle it would be. In short, I am thankful that everything resolved, though it was not before a three-way, four-plus-hour phone call with an agent from a particular carrier and, one by one, a multitude of agents from the marketplace.

 

It was the latter that roused my ire. The marketplace kept swapping agents until someone was finally competent enough to figure out my “unique” situation as if I was the only one who ever made this kind of occupational transition. The “how many ___ does it take to change a light bulb” joke popped into my head more than once.

 

It was a completely different matter with the carrier agent. He was a gem of a man and a consummate professional throughout this, prior, and follow-up phone calls. We had mutual respect, which he confirmed about halfway through our mini-marathon by thanking me for having “the patience of a saint.” This was possibly the most mind-stirring compliment I ever received.

 

On the outside, I simply thanked him for the kind sentiment. On the inside, it was a different story; not completely different, for I did genuinely appreciate what he said, though, being in the know, I disagreed with it.

 

As composed as I may have seemed (by the grace of God), I was silently boiling. I had so many better things I could do with that much time besides frittering it away with a phone glued to my ear. I definitely did not regard myself as a patient saint.

 

With that said, beyond thinking, ‘Thanks man, but you are so wrong,’ I did process his comment on another level. I was convinced that this was not an accident, but instead an unexpected opportunity for Jesus to teach me a lesson.

 

Perhaps it is time that I, and even we, devote more prayerful consideration to unpacking the full extent of the meaning of Revelation 14:12, rather than just systematically inserting it into our Bible studies and evangelistic seminars.

 

RELATED LINK: On Being Perfect

 

They That Keep the Commandments of God

 

As we know, one of the identifying factors of the end-time saints is that they keep the commandments of God. This is indispensable, as are the commandments themselves. In many ways, this brief code, which the Lord Himself wrote and did not leave to Moses, covers the gamut of what it means to embody and reflect the holiness that He originally intended for and labors to achieve in His followers.

 

However, the Bibles we possess do not just consist of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. We have sixty-six books from approximately three dozen inspired writers, which seems to suggest that our heavenly Father deemed it necessary to supply a more expanded repertoire of details regarding how we are to live according to His will, especially in these last days.

 

Along with a particular vein, I recommend thinking of the Ten Commandments and fruits of the Spirit[2] as happy marriage partners. Love is the first fruit, and Jesus made it clear that this principle, the essence of His character and identity, is the bedrock from which the two tables of stone were carved.[3] Joy is second on the list. Psalm 1:2 is one of the verses that hinges this fruit to the commandments:

 

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

 

The passage James wrote also comes to mind,

 

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2-3).

 

RELATED LINK: The Ten Commandments as a Window in the Heart of God

 

Extrapolating the connections that we have made so far to Revelation 14:12 and the context in which it is set, it is difficult not to conclude that the end-time saints will, through faith in and the faithfulness of Christ, and with a lot of practice, cultivate a pedigree of counting all things joy.

 

The tumult that is about to unfold will be unparalleled by any other event from this planet’s historical record. Two ghastly beasts will soon team up to use economical fetters and the threat of death to coerce us into betraying our Savior.

 

We will need divine vision to see the silver linings that trace those dark clouds. We will need patience, another fruit of the Spirit, which will specifically define those who are sealed instead of marked, to endure the heavy onslaught of the enemy of our souls.

 

More broadly than this, we need a supernatural supply of agape flowing from our hearts. The Saints will keep the commandments of God because they love God,[4] as well as all those whom He purchased twice, through creation and redemption—love them enough to esteem them as a higher priority and of greater value than their very lives and safety.

 

RELATED LINK: The Grace of God for Sinaholics

 

The Vast Extent of the Great Controversy

 

Scholars and laypeople have generally agreed that chapters 12 through 14 constitute the apex of the book of Revelation, for literary and thematic reasons. Elaborating on the latter, this passage contains a high concentration of the great controversy motif. Within a reading span of fewer than ten minutes, we see a snapshot of the very beginning of this cosmic conflict between Michael and the dragon, as well as the end of the conflict, when their respective followers are unmistakably delineated once and for all.

 

Something that the Holy Spirit has helped me recognize over the years is the sometimes-overwhelming ubiquity of the great controversy. It is this backdrop that incorporates every facet of our lives. Though it by no means compares to what will transpire upon the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation 13, that four-hour phone call was a spiritual mini-battle.

 

If anything, that realization humbles me in a solemn way. That insurance agent’s kind, sincere compliment may be even more inaccurate than I initially thought. Will I stand the most titanic test of faith that any human has ever encountered if I had so much difficulty putting up with the perceived incompetence of some bureaucratic administrators?

 

It would not be wise for me to jettison that episode out of my memory, as uncomfortable as it may be to look back on it and pinpoint the ways in which I fell short. Nevertheless, the door of opportunity to find joy in that experience did not close when I pressed the red “End call” button, and I am thankful for that. Many positives came from it.

 

On a basic level, we sorted out the confusion and I obtained a really good policy, which is a gift from God. More than that, He taught me some valuable principles that I can carry with me throughout the rest of this journey. He also provided what is, of course, the springboard for this article, which I pray will benefit my brothers and sisters in this journey as they, with aid from above, strive to evaluate the many frustrations and traumas they face within the framework of preparation for citizenship in Eden restored.

 

Little Things Matter

 

Keeping with the aforementioned, all-encompassing pervasiveness of the great controversy, there is another element that must continually remain at the forefront of our minds and keep us on our toes. Whether an issue is the size of Pluto the planet, Pluto the animated dog, or one of his fleas, the devil will use anything, and I mean anything, to derail our progress.

 

That phone call with the insurance entities could have been a more significant detriment to my eternal welfare if I did not allow the Lord to utilize it as a means to get me a little closer to reflecting His image. I am as guilty as anyone else is of treating sin in a casual way, though I am grateful that He has moved me to a quicker inclination to take it more seriously.

 

A snowflake has an infinitesimal bearing on its own, but an avalanche is a conglomeration of individual flakes that clung to one another before the sun could melt and eliminate them.

 

Please allow me to go back to a clause I just used a moment ago— “on our toes.” I will confess that my imagination tends to have the trajectory of a rubber ball injected with caffeine. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not. In this case, it may be helpful. I encourage you to read Judges 7.

 

We will not dissect the whole account, but let us ponder one specific detail. God commanded Gideon to reduce the size of his army twice, from thirty-two thousand to ten thousand to three hundred. He achieved the second reduction through an odd test—drinking water from a brook.

 

One can ask, “Is there really any import, moral or otherwise, to laying down in a pool of water?” In a vacuum, no. However, my foundational argument is that for the Christian, there might not be anything that exists in a vacuum. This account did not occur in a vacuum.

 

These ten thousand soldiers were on the brink of war, and only three hundred of them kept themselves in a posture of readiness, while the rest unwittingly placed themselves in a position of unnecessary vulnerability and defeat, thus disqualifying themselves from continuing the march.

 

It behooves us to follow the example of the smaller group, rather than that of the larger group, especially since we are ensconced in a more crucial war than were Gideon and his fellow Israelites. When we are on our bellies and faces, Satan will pounce, but when we are on our knees, he will retreat.

 

Rewriting Revelation 14:12

 

At the onset of this column, I indicated that I was not going to actually rewrite Revelation 14:12. However, I need to honestly assess the times when I may have done so in the past, and I challenge my brothers and sisters to do the same. It is possible that many of us have, subconsciously at least, formulated our own versions.

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that…

 

…do not eat cheese.

…give as much offering as they do tithe.

…do not own televisions.

…live in the country instead of the city.

 

The list can go on. It is imperative that we consistently respect one another, understanding that different people reach different convictions and milestones at different times.

 

With that said, it is just as imperative to, personally and, within reasonable boundaries, collectively and communicatively, not underestimate the ramifications that our choices in health, lifestyle, and other domains have on our preparation for the final scenes of earth’s history and subsequent translation to God’s magnificent abode.

 

Though they are supplemented and verified by other verses, Ezekiel 36:26 and Romans 12:2 are cornerstone articulations that highlight the fact that the Lord’s objective is to change us from the inside out. Considering He never makes a mistake, this is certainly the best method.

 

That being the case, it does undergird why, when I do reflect on that phone call or other related incidents, I am prone to focus more on how I did not emulate His character than on how I did. The carrier agent expressed appreciation for my composure, and that is fine, but how much does that external display matter if the internal reality did not correspond?

 

What is complete Victory?

 

I will not mention any specific names or dedicate any measurable time critiquing the various nuances of what I am about to discuss. That can be done at a different time and on another platform. Anyhow, I own a recording of and have listened to a revival series crafted by one of our well-respected preachers. He has delivered it countless times across the United States and internationally. I have derived quite a bit of spiritual benefit from it.

 

One of his theological pillars is shaped by 1 John 3:4 and the linguistic and conceptual leaning toward lawlessness rather than the transgression of the law, thus emphasizing that sin and sinfulness are just as much, if not more, matters of condition than of behavior. I would conclude that this is reasonable and valid.

 

However, I became concerned with how far this preacher would sometimes take this premise. During the series, he recounted the testimony of a man who, along his voyage to making Jesus his Savior and Lord and signifying it by baptism, labored to put the nicotine habit behind him. When conversing with a friend, he stated that it had many months since he last smoked a cigarette, but only about twenty minutes since he wanted one. The preacher deduced that this man had not yet attained victory.

 

Being a believer in the inside-out dynamic to which I alluded earlier, God does want to take us to the stage where our weaknesses and improper propensities and patterns no longer hold any sway over us. On the other hand, I also believe that that man was experiencing victory as he, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, said “No” to those cancer sticks, even when his cravings screamed “Yes!”

 

Over the years, I have determined that the Bible and gospel message have threads of paradox running through them. Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Not by design, but because of the sin problem, death “begets” life, which is typified in the corn kernel and culminated on Calvary. Perhaps that is what we are witnessing here. As God is performing His long-term work of transforming us, there is evidence that He is simultaneously executing some short-term work as well.

 

As I gain more practice in facing situations similar to or much worse than that four-hour phone call, I must lean on Christ and let Him reproduce His nature in the entire me—mind, heart, eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet.

 

As mad as I got with those marketplace agents and their convoluted protocol, the calmness I maintained is still a feather in our High Priest’s miter, for I know I would not have been as calm when I was younger. I still need a lot of work, but His work is working.

 

It is my hope that I did not cause anyone’s head to spin by addressing such a cornucopia of topics. Nonetheless, this hodgepodge of variety does reinforce my overall point. We would do well to press forward toward the goal of assimilating the profile of Revelation 14:12. Furthermore, the effectiveness of this goal is contingent on developing a more comprehensive perspective of this profile.

In light of this discourse, that includes not taking the otherwise mundane aspects of day-to-day existence for granted. Let us earnestly pray that the Lord will use all our decisions, reactions, and interactions to mold and shape us into the beautiful vessels that He desires us to be, and let us commit to not getting in His way.

______

Notes.

[1] See Revelation 22:18, 19.

[2] See Galatians 5:22, 23.

[3] See Matthew 22:37–40; Mark 12:30, 31; Luke 10:26–28.

[4] See John 14:15.

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About the author

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.