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The Sign of an Apostle

“I know your works, your labour, your patience… you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for my name’s sake.” Revelation 2:2-3

When Jesus appeared to the Apostle John, before unveiling the mysteries and dramatic parts of what would become the book of Revelation, He first inspected the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) to determine their health, then issued instructions and warnings as needed.

One of the main things He appraised might surprise us today – He was looking for patience.

Patience – also translated as long-suffering, perseverance or endurance – is not a priority for us who live in this age of instant gratification. Ours is a time when near-limitless information unfolds in milliseconds at the stroke of a key, or touch of an icon.

Our forebears toiled long and hard to harvest food for the families. We get a week’s worth of groceries delivered to us ‘next-day’ after a 15-minute surf on our favourite supermarket website. In a world of finger-snapping provision, patience can seem rather… old-fashioned.

And yet, keeping our head’s cool is, according to Jesus, a top-tier requirement for us as at the sunset of history. It was this context that He spelled out specifically, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13) and “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19).

James also re-emphasises the call to not get scuttled by restlessness. “Be patient, until the coming of the Lord… establish your hearts… do not grumble… the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).

Thank God, patience is not simply a product of our best white-knuckled efforts – we’re filled with the Holy Spirit! Patience is one of the precious fruits the Spirit has so richly deposited in us, ‘against which there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This essentially means that, while all men are capable of cultivating a measure of patience through discipline, by His Spirit we’re empowered to excel in endurance – to manifest a qualitative and distinctly higher standard of patience in the face of every manner of hardship and circumstance than those who have not the Christ.

As we abide in Him, and take our daily doses of life-enriching Word, it’s natural for the Life that’s in the Vine to infuse the branches with plump grapes of patience by which the Father is most marvellously glorified (John 15:5-8). Expect it.

For those who serve the Lord, the bar is raised even higher.

Consider that Moses was disqualified from entering the Promised Land after one – embarrassing – temper tantrum. Consider too that, while men look for charisma and fantastic signs and wonders as proof of those we esteem as apostles, Paul begins his list of ‘signs of an apostle’ in 2 Corinthians 12:12 with ‘perseverance’, and affirms the marks of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:4 by stating at the outset, ‘We commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience…’

The Mighty Pruner still strolls among His vineyard squeezing its grapes. The Judge is approaching the fateful door of history’s climax. And yes, the Great Inspector is again ambling among the lampstands of His people.

We now know what He’s looking for. Come up, Cornerstone, let’s make a quality and collective decision today: Days of chaos are upon us. Therefore, let’s excel in patience that He may be glorified.

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