Patience is a sensitive subject that we do not approach easily and we do not like to think that there are times when we could be more patient. In fact, the reaction we have to what bothers or hurts us, is the result of more causes. The good news is that the closer we are to the Lord, the better we may react when something bad happens to us. In Luke 21, the Lord was talking to the disciples about what would happen at the end of the age. His words are enlightening, encouraging and profound. In so doing, He said this:
Luke 21:16-19 (NKJV) “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.”
The question is, what does the Lord mean in saying “by your patience possess your souls”?
For comparison, the Amplified Version says:
“But you will be betrayed and handed over even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be continually hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your [patient] endurance [empowered by the Holy Spirit] you will gain your souls.”
The KJV says:
“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.”
And finally for one more comparison, the NIV says:
“You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Once again, the question is, what does the Lord mean in saying “by your patience possess your souls”?
The answer is relevant for the last days and also anytime. The Lord wants His children to make it through all tribulation. He is saying to us that it will get bad, so bad, that people will turn on each other and hate Christians, even unto death but to have the confidence that if we keep our heads and stay true to the end, our souls will be saved. And He gives us a key! By “our patience” we possess our souls. By “our patience” we will possess our souls.
This is so enlightening. When we keep calm and trust God with the faith and trust that even if we are hated, betrayed or even killed, we will not perish. The Lord used the phrase that we will not even lose one hair of our heads. It has to be phraseology because He just said that people will die. The Lord says that we are eternal and will never perish in Him. If we stay true, we will be His forever. Some scholars compare this verse to the verse in Matthew 24 which says:
Matthew 24:13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
By our patience our souls will be saved. This is powerful eternally and also in the here and now.
To many, “patience” is a dreaded word. Every one wants more of it, but not necessarily the trials that it grows in.
Let's look at it another way. In keeping our heads, our souls will be saved. And then there is the flip side. If we lose our cool, our patience, we will lose our souls.
The meaning for “patience” in the original text means cheerful, hopeful, constant endurance; patient continuance. The meaning for “souls” in the original context ranged from mind, spirit, heart, vitality and even to breath.
When we lose our patience, we step out of the will of God. When we lose our patience, we turn our back on heaven and whatever God is trying to accomplish in our circumstances and even worse, we open the door to the devil and give him tools to work with.
In keeping our patience, we empower the Holy Spirit and can continue walking in the Spirit. In keeping our patience it opens the door for good to work, not just in the scenarios Jesus was foretelling of but in all circumstances. It keeps us from sin. It keeps us from hurting others. It keeps a good atmosphere.
When we lose our patience, some might curse, some judge or criticize others in the heat of the moment, it makes for a terrible atmosphere for anyone else who has the misfortune to be around someone losing their patience. It can easily cause stress to the innocent ones around and certainly to the body of the one losing their patience. And to live life that way, adds extra stress to their heart, blood vessels and to the rest of their body including their mind. And can you imagine the devil convincing these people, they need to let it out? He even tells people the lie that “cursing” helps. What a great way to ruin a Christian witness. Who would listen to the Gospel of a short tempered person who curses?
Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
The situation of “keeping our heads and having patience” runs very deep because what comes out of our mouths is directly proportional to what is in our hearts. And the heavier the stress is, the quicker it can come forth. So what do we do?
1. We guard our hearts. We create positive, patient self-talk so that when a situation heats up that we are less likely to lose our patience and find something bad coming from our mouths. In traffic, we can give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are a nurse or fireman and just worked 2 average person's shifts back to back. Maybe their newborn kept them up all night and they had a rough day and their judgment is not up to par. When we err, do we not hope for mercy from others? Are we without error? And even stupid error? What if we pray for them instead of lose our patience?
The grace and measure we give out is the grace and measure the Lord says we will get back. It is like forgiveness. We are forgiven as we forgive. We are also not forgiven as we do not forgive.
2. We can choose to keep cleaner hearts by not allowing stressful issues to pile up inside us. If we do not really clean and merely sweep frustrating issues under the rug, later they are bound to trip us. By forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, by seeking the Lord's direction on everything, especially the frustrating ones that seem insurmountable we can much better keep our cool.
We need to continually give our frustrations to the Lord. If something or someone is making us angry, we need to especially seek the Lord in the matter. And it maybe that we need to avoid the things that ignite the problem until we get a handle on it. But these matters must be dealt with to not let them get the best of us. Sometimes we only see the matter from our own position and need to step back, breathe and take a fresher, wider and more prayerful look. In so doing, we may gain strong insight that totally changes everything.
To many it seems okay to unload our stress at home; which is not pleasant or fair to the ones we love the most. In contrast, home should be the place where peace rules. We must deal with all issues during the day as they happen so that we do not let them pile up; because at some point all that will be needed is the final straw (possibly even something small) causing things to explode. But by having the Holy Spirit help us through the challenges of the day as they happen, we can prevent unnecessary stress build-up and its consequences.
3. We need to know who we are in Christ and be renewed by the Word of God. Sometimes in life we have weaknesses that are hard to deal with such as insecurities that get stepped on. Many times we have false paradigms that we believe that impair us from a strong self image that keep us from being our best and even being whole.
4. Self-examination and humility before the Lord. Pride is the downfall of many of us. Pride certainly goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). We can fall on the rock or the rock will fall on us. Remember the parable Jesus told of?
Luke 6:47-49 “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."
It is important to have Jesus and God's Word as our foundation but we also must stay on the foundation. A building is 100% fixed but we are portable and must choose the Lord and to apply God's Word in our lives everyday. We must stay anchored in Jesus by love and obedience. If not, like the house that when the pressures came, it fell and fell greatly.
5. Have empathy for others. Spouses, children, coworkers, bosses, employees, customers, neighbors, strangers, the list is endless. Life is not all about us. By considering what others have been or are going through, it opens the door to keeping our cool and kindness. By being more empathetic to others, everything becomes more positive for us and the others involved.
Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Here are a few verses to help us value patience and possess our souls:
Proverbs 21:23 Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
Matthew 15:18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”
When we squeeze a lemon, we expect lemon juice to come out. When we squeeze an orange, we should get orange juice. And when a Christian is squeezed, Christ should be seen or come out. But if the heart of the Christian is not full of God's love and the knowledge of who he or she is in Christ, we will not see Jesus.
Luke 6:43-45 "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Our biggest errors usually come from pride getting the best of us. Allowing pride makes us delusional but once the error is made, the truth will eventually come out but by then it is too late.
James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
We cannot consider ourselves good Christians, if what is coming from our mouths is foul or not beneficial for others. It really matters to think before we speak and to do it from a place of love.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
What are we conforming to? If the answer is “this world,” then we need to stop and think again. We need to be transformed according to God and His ways; not this world and it ways. Our values should come from who we are in Christ and from abiding in Him and not in the salesmanship of the devil.
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
We reap what we sow. If we want mercy from others, we should be giving it also.
Colossians 3:6-8 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
While all things are made new in the spirit when we become born-again, the old man, our carnal nature, must be crucified daily (continuously). Our old life has to perish and the Holy Spirit rule our lives. As we grow in God's Word, we learn how to be more Christlike and little by little we overcome all the bad programming of the world.
Galatians 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Our born-again spirit has God's nature. It is up to us to rule over the carnal nature that goes against the Holy Spirit. By having patience, by keeping our head under stress, we will truly possess and save our souls and the benefits are without measure.