We often read of “patience” in the Scriptures. But what does “patience” mean? And how can the lines of it be traced out in the life of a believer? If we take a moment to ponder our text we can understand it more clearly. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (1Th 1:3)
From this passage, we can gather several things. It is a hope that endures under the tests of time and trials. It is a hope that enables faith to work and love to labor. It is the “patience of hope” that demonstrates faith’s authenticity and proves it’s genuineness. This “patience of hope” more closely resembles a soundless sufferer, a longsuffering bearer of those things which it encounters. But, the faith and hope we find in our text are inseparably tied together. Faith is seen as active and hope is displayed in quiet endurance.
The Anchor of Faith and the Cable of Hope
The child of God experiences this kind of faith and “patience of hope” played out in their own lives. It is seen during those times when Christ is hidden from view. When there are no manifestations of His love conveyed to their heart, when they’re being sorely tempted, when His gracious dealings are dimmed, and they encounter deep feelings of despondency. It is then that grace enables their “patience of hope” to endure and to not give up. It is a work of grace that conveys to their hearts that “patience of hope” and maintains a hold on Christ.
By using the metaphor of an anchor holding a storm-tossed ship, we can see the meaning of that phrase “patience of hope” more clearly. The anchor’s job is to firmly grip an immovable object on the floor of the sea. But this anchor is useless without a strong cable securely fastened between it and the ship. The anchor depends on the quality, strength and enduring capability of the cable. So while the anchor is active in remaining fastened to the object at the bottom of the ocean, the cable’s only job is . . . to simply endure the stress and strain of the storm.
The “Patience of Hope” Experienced
To take this metaphor into our experience, we are sometimes faced with storms in our own lives. The waves grow so large that our tiny vessel is dwarfed in their presence. The dark and unyielding clouds begin to gather to smother the rising of the morning sun. And, the violent winds push against our souls and we find no mercy in the wind and no grace in the waves, only wrath and tempest. It is then that the work and the value of the cable appears. It’s one and only job is . . . not to break, but to stay fastened to the anchor. And in the same way, the anchor’s value is discovered, it holds fast to that immovable object in the quiet atmosphere of the ocean floor, far removed from the raging sea on the surface.
And in this way, the “patience of hope” is found and experienced in the hearts of Christ’s people. They’ve known those gracious visitations in the midst of their storms. Those times when Christ was made most precious to their souls. When He has spoken powerfully to their hearts, testifying that they are one of His own and they found strength to endure. It is through these experiences that the believer discovers their deepest assurances. Despite all that comes against them, those things that try to destroy and crush them, they are kept by the sustaining power of God and their anchor holds through the “patience of hope”.
As the refrain from the old hymn “My Anchor Holds” says:
And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
On my bark so small and frail;
By His grace I shall not fail,
For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.