Thursday, February 22, 2007

Spiritual Tenacity

The reading from “My Utmost for His Highest” (Chambers) today is…


"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for - love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men - will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o'-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang ton and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.

If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled. One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience."

Remain spiritually tenacious.

(emphasis added)

The scripture reference at the end of the reading is from Rev.3:10. The Greek word for patience used in this context is “hupomone,” which according to Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon has two possible meanings: 1) “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty.” 2) “the act or state of patient waiting for someone or something.”

I noticed that the patience listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit is a different Greek word, namely, “makrothymia.” I wondered what the difference was. I found a commentary that deals with this...but I didn't quite find what I was looking for.

There are four Greek terms for patience: anechomai, kartereo, makrothymia, and
hypomone. These are strictly military terms and are used as metaphors referring
to the battles of life. (“Militant Patience” by Elsa Tamez in The Scandalous
Message of James: Faith Without Works is Dead. (NY: Crossroad Publishing
Company, 2002).)

And this:

The author of the epistle uses two of these four Greek terms to refer to
patience: hypomone and makrothymia. Although these can be used synonymously,
they have significant differences. (Tamez)

She then goes on to explain what she thinks the difference is, but I didn’t really get it. They seem to be quite similar. Anyone else have any thoughts?

Here is an example of hypomone: Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:3)

And here is makrothymia: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Eph.4:2)

But the meanings are not exclusive to those contexts. If Tamez is right about patience having a militant connotation, then it confirms what Chambers says, that the patience of the Bible is something to “work on” actively, not a tranquil or passive state in which we are simply “hanging on.”

P.S. Speaking of Greek, I’m using “The Basics of Biblical Greek” by William D. Mounce. There is an accompanying website ( with handouts, grammar charts, audio files, downloadable tools, etc. I can’t say that I’ve made a huge amount of progress with my irregular study habits, but I find the textbook enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. interesting timing

    my latest musical taste is for Chanticleer's CD of spirituals- and it ends with a rousing redition of the hymn be still my soul which I had been playing at top volume while preparing for a trip- inc. after I learned that all my flights had been switched the morning of departure...

    lots of food for thought re patience- and activity and/or passivity of it- perhaps akin to serenity prayer? ... wsdom to know the difference??


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