Christian Patience (Cyprian)

Cyprian was a major figure in the 3rd century A.D. Christian church. He was a preacher and teacher in Carthage who fled from persecution at least once in his life and also had to hide from some who wanted to kill him. He finally turned himself in and was martyred in 258 AD. Thankfully, quite a few of his writings remain.

I recently ran across Cyprian’s treatise called “On the Advantage of Patience.” I believe this topic is one that Christians should focus on while navigating through our cultural context and situation today. Cyprian noted that patience begins with God. Since our heavenly Father is patient, Cyprian argued, we should seek to be patient as well, “because it behooves servants to be obedient.” Furthermore, if God commands patience, it must be good, and we must seek it. Practicing patience is walking in the way of Jesus. Here’s how highly Cyprian speaks of patience (I’ve updated the language):

“Patience is that which commends us to God, and preserves us. Patience is that which mitigates anger, which bridles the tongue, governs the mind, keeps peace, rules discipline, breaks the assaults of lust, keeps under the force of pride, quenches the fire of hatred, restraines the power of the rich, relieves the need of the poor, maintains in maidens unspotted virginity, in widows chastity, in married people unseparable charity; which makes humble in prosperity, constant in adversity, meek in taking injury; it teaches you to forgive quickly those that offend you, and never ceases to crave pardon when you offend others; it vanquishes temptations, suffers persecutions, and finishes with martyrdom.

Patience is that which grounds surely the foundations of our faith: this is that which augments the increase of our hope: this is that which guides us, so that we may keep the way to Christ, while we do go by the suffering thereof: patience is that which makes us continue as the sons of God, while we imitate the patience of our Father.

 This quote is found in Cyprian’s “On the Advantage of Patience” in Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 5.

(FYI, Henry Bullinger noted this quote by Cyprian in his third volume of sermons (The Decades), sermon three.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

Practicing Patience (Goodwin)

As Christians, we always need to pray for patience and practice patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit and we’re commanded to “put on” patience (Gal 5:22, Col. 3:12). Love is patient (1 Cor 13:4). Our heavenly Father is patient and our Lord Jesus is patient (Rom 9:22, 1 Tim. 1:16). It’s not a suggestion! Patience is a command for the Christian: be patient! (James 5:7-8).

This is a great reminder for the crazy situation we’re in right now – medically, politically, culturally, etc. A lot of people are falling apart and coming unhinged; it’s a good time to pray for patience and practice patience to persevere through whatever God puts in our path! I appreciate how Thomas Goodwin wrote about patience. He said that patience is 1) an act of waiting upon God, 2) waiting with quietness, 3) it carries on without fainting or discouragement, 4) it submits to God and his will, and 5) it keeps us humble and lying at God’s feet. Gooodwin says more about this, but to keep it short I’ll list two of these below:

Patience includes and comprehends an act of waiting upon God, and his good pleasure. Waiting is an act of faith continued or lengthened out; and where faith would of itself be short-winded, patience ekes it out. The daughter helps the mother, with an expectation of a happy issue. You find waiting involved in patience as an eminent act thereof, James 5:7, ‘Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.’ Look, how and in what manner the farmer waits, so he sets out and exhorts a Christian patient man should do.

Patience is a waiting with quietness. It is not an enduring simply by force, which we call patience perforce, but with quietness. …Isa. 26:3, ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you.’ And, chap. 30:15, ‘In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ And when faith hath wrought patience, it quiets the heart much more. Patience speaks quietness in the very sound of it; and the reason is because it hath a strength accompanies it, Col. 1:11, ‘Strengthened with all might, unto all patience and long-suffering.’ And thence so far forth as faith and patience do strengthen the heart, so far we are able to bear, and that with quietness. ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ saith Christ, John 14. Why? ‘You believe in God, believe also in me.’ Faith on them will cause trouble to fly away, which is a great part of Christ’s meaning when he says, ‘In patience possess your souls,’—that is, dwell quietly in your own spirits, as a man doth in his house, which our law terms his castle.

 Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1861), 449.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015