In our ongoing series of lessons on the 7 churches of Revelation, we were in the process of examining the way Christ commend the church at Ephesus. Let's read the account.
Revelation 2:2 - 3
2.. "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil." And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
In verse 2, Christ says, "I know...". The Greek words used here for "know" is the word OIDA. OIDA refers to complete and full knowledge. In contrast, the Greek word GINOSKO refers to a progressive acquisition of knowledge. Our Lord knows everything there is to know about the church - both good and bad. Such perfect knowledge is evident in each letter as the Lord commends and corrects the churches in Revelation.
Jesus Christ had some wonderful things to say about this church. In verses 2& 3, Christ commended the church at Ephesus for six things:
1. Working hard (toil)
2. Patient Endurance- He mentions their patience or endurance twice here - once in each verse.
3. Resisting sin (cannot tolerate evildoers)
4. Critically examining the claims of false prophets (testing those who claim to be apostle)
5. Laboring for Christ's name sake, without becoming weary.
6. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
Let's look again at only the first phrase of Verse 2. "I know your works, your labor,..." (NKJV) We discussed the difference between "your works" and "your labor." The Greek word for "works" is ERGA, and is a general, overarching word that speaks of all human activity. On the other hand, the Greek word used here for "labor" is KOPOS. This represents work and toil to the point of exhaustion. It is a labor resulting in sweat and weariness.
Then we looked at the next phrase: Verse 2a - "I know your works, your labor, your patience,..." (NKJV)
Let me summarize what we have learned in the first half of verse 2.
o He saw "good works."
o He saw "hard work," - labor to the point of exhaustion.
o And next He saw "continuing work," as seen in how they patiently endured without becoming weary.
They endured hardship for the sake of Christ's name.
The Greek word translated "patience" is HUPOMONE. It is seen again in the next verse. Hupomone is one of the noblest and richest of New Testament words. Normally it is translated as "patience" or "endurance." But there is really no single English word which transmits all the fullness of its meaning.
We saw that Hupomone is very commonly used in connection with "tribulation." We looked at a half-dozen Scriptures where this is shown. Here is one.
Romans 5:3 NKJV
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance (Hupomone);
The word hupomone is not only used in connection with "tribulation," but it is also found to have a connection to "faith."
James 1:2-3 NKJV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Hupomone matures, or is perfected when our faith is tested.
Of all the ways hupomone is used, this, I believe, is the greatest. It is used in connection with some future goal - some greatness that shall be.
In Romans 2:7 (NKJV), Paul tells us that eternal life belongs to
7 ...to those who by patient (hupomone) continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;
Notice that word "continuance." This patience - this endurance - is not the patience that sits down with bowed head and lets things descend upon them passively until the storm is over. It is the spirit of a person that will not bear things by simple resignation, but with blazing hope of what shall be in the future.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NKJV) puts it this way.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance (hupomone), so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
Notice that the one enduring is a person who strides forward to "receive the promise."
Patience often tends to be passive. This is not talking of one who sits stoically enduring in one place. But, rather, is speaking of one who bears all things, because they know that these things are leading to a goal of glory.
That's what we find mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV).
10 Therefore I endure (hupomone) all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
This is not the patience which grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn of a new day.
John Chrysostom (347 ad to 407) said of hupomone:
It is "the root of all good,…..the fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken."
He calls it "the queen of virtues, the foundation of right actions, peace in war, calm in tempest, security in (evil) plots, and neither the violence of man nor the powers of the evil one can injure it. It is the quality that keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal."
Only hupomoné can enable a person to do that. This is endurance that helps a person bear up under a load and move ahead at the same time. These believers in Ephesus were not quitters. In spite of the pressures of ministry, they remained faithful.
Hebrews 12:1 NKJV
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance (Hupomone) the race that is set before us,
Notice once again that a person with hupomoné continues forward despite difficulties.
I am quite sure that the Ephesian non-believers did not take it lightly when a member of their family became a traitor to the religion of Artemis and joined this new group called Christians (The Way). These new Christians would need much stamina to persevere in their community in spite of persecutions and ridicule.
We don't know all the particulars here in Ephesus, but God's word is very clear when it tells us that it takes persistence in patience to live with the tension caused by the presence of His Kingdom in the world. I think we can safely surmise that the harassment by some of the officials of Ephesus, was to insist that the Ephesian Christians attend emperor temples and declare "Caesar is lord" against their own creed that "Jesus is Lord." Persevering is comparatively easy when opposition is passive. But as we have already noted, this is not some passive patience or endurance.
Before continuing, I need to make a couple of other observations. First, let me ask you a question.
WHAT ARE THE NINE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT MENTIONED IN GALATIANS 5:22-23?
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The Greek word used here for "patience" is not Hupomone. The word used here in the fruit of the Spirit is MAKROTHUMIA. The fruit of the Holy Spirit generally have to do with our attitude, demeanor or activity that is related to other people.
Makrothumia generally emphasizes patience with people. Hupomone generally denotes patience in trying circumstances. The demarcation between these two words are not really that clean. Many of our trying circumstance are caused by people. So there appears to be some overlap.
Many of you have probably heard this little poem before:
"To dwell above with saints we love,
oh, that will be glory.
To live below with saints we know;
well, that's another story!"
That's where patience, as a fruit of the Spirit, comes into play.
Patience - Makrothumia - is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which, when exhibited in the life of a child of God, will astound those who observe them.
Let's look at a passage that includes both makrothumia and hupomoné.
WHAT IS THE LOVE CHAPTER OF THE BIBLE?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV
4 Love is patient (makrothumia), love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (hupomoné).
"Love is Patient." (Makrothumia)
WHAT DO WE CALL A PERSON WHO IS ANGERED EASILY?
In the English language, we speak of a person as being "short-tempered" if he cannot hold his anger well. But for some reason, we never use what would be the corresponding phrase to represent just the opposite. That is, Long Tempered.
We do not speak of people as being "long-tempered" if they are not easily angered. If we did, that phrase would be a more precise translation of Makrothumia. This Greek word comes from two separate words.
Makros = means "long"
Thumos = "temper"
Thus, patience in the Bible, which is one of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, means having a long fuse, as apposed to being short- or quick-tempered.
J. B. Lightfoot, a nineteenth-century biblical scholar, defined patience as: "Self-restraint that does not hastily retaliate a wrong."
I would word that a little differently to say that Makrothumia is used of a person who is wronged, and who has the power to avenge themselves - but will not. It describes the person who is slow to anger. Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength.
In one of his books, Chuck Swindoll tells the story of 3 veterans during the Korean War. While in Korea, these three lived in a house and hired a local boy to take care of cooking and other routine chores around the house. The lad was a very cheerful and friendly chap, humming and singing as he worked.
The vets decided to play a few tricks on him. They would nail his shoe to the wood floor. But he would just take some pliers, remove the nail, and keep right on smiling. They did other things like grease the handles on the pots, put buckets of water above the door to drench him as he came through it. But he would just keep humming and hardly pay any attention.
After awhile, these GI's felt a little guilty of the pranks they had pulled on this fellow who always had such a positive attitude about everything. So they called him in and vowed that they would not play tricks on him anymore.
The lad questioned them:
o no more nails in the shoe?
o no more grease on pot handles?
o no more water over the door?
The vets agreed, to which the Korean lad promptly said: "OK, now I will stop spitting in your soup." That house boy had NOT been exhibiting patience.
Now, let me share another story where true patience (endurance) was displayed. No one treated Abraham Lincoln with more contempt than did Edwin Stanton. He called him "a low cunning clown," and he nicknamed him "the original gorilla". Lincoln said nothing in his defense.
When Lincoln needed a secretary of war, he appointed Mr. Stanton because he was the best man for the job, and he treated Stanton with every courtesy.
In time, the night came when the assassin's bullet murdered Lincoln in the theater. In the little room to which the President's body was taken stood that same Edwin Stanton, and looking down on Lincoln's silent face, he said through his tears, "There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen." The patience of love had conquered in the end.
Now, let's return to 1 Corinthians 13. It not only says "Love is patient" (Makrothumia) - verse 4.
The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians goes on and reads: "Love always perseveres." (verse 7) Again, hupomone does not speaks of the spirit of one who can passively bear things. Rather, it is the spirit which can move forward and conquer. It puts into practice, in difficult times, the words of Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Christ commends those at Ephesus for persevering during difficult and trying circumstances. When trouble has come their way, they haven't given up or grown weary. They haven't waffled. They haven't decided that it just isn't worth it.
They had endured malicious slander from the unbelieving Jews living in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). They had also endured persecution from the craftsmen who made silver copies of the temple and the goddess Artemis. Yet, they never quit on their faith or their hope.
Last week I mentioned a use of the word "Hupomone" in classical Greek. It was used to describe the ability of a plant to live under hard and unfavorable circumstances, yet survive to full maturity.
I want to take you to a Passage in the Bible that says essentially the same thing. In Luke 8, you will find the parable of the seeds thrown onto different soils. The seed is the Word of God. And the soils represent the condition of people's hearts when receiving the Word of God.
Verse 13 tells of the seed sown on hard or rocky soil. The Word is received with joy, but because there is not place for roots to grow, they fall away when temptation comes.
Verse 14 says that some of the seeds fell on thorny ground, and these people allowed the cares of this life, riches and pleasure to choke them, so that they bear no fruit at all.
Verse 15 then tells us that some of the seeds fell on good soil, and the seeds grew and took root and produced fruit. But let's read the verse so we can learn how they were able to produce fruit.
Luke 8:15 NKJV
15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (hupomone).
They produced fruit because they didn't let the difficulties stop them.
Patience is not only to be exhibited by us in the face of situations caused by people, but also in the circumstances which try us. Most of us would rather choose to avoid adversity, rather than having to exercise patience in adversity. When difficult circumstances come our way, we look for the nearest exit. We want out. We duck and dodge to free ourselves from any unpleasant and demanding experience.
But this is not patience (hupomone) as spoken in the New Testament. I mentioned earlier that Hupomone is the kind of patience that, rather than stopping and waiting for the crisis to pass, continues to actively make progress in spite of the difficulty.
It is represented by the picture of a beast of burden that remains steadily going forward under control. It is like an ox yoked to a plow, breaking up the stiff soil of it's owner's field. It does not matter if the plow runs into rocks, heavy sod or roots, the patient beast just pushes steadily on. And it does this despite the summer sun, the annoying flies or chilling winds.
HOW CAN WE EXHIBIT PATIENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF ADVERSE EVENTS OR CIRCUMSTANCES?
Whatever the source of our adverse circumstances, the key to endurance and patience is to believe that God is ultimately in control, and is working out each event for our good.
These demanding situations may be just the thing we need to cause us to grow in the Lord. Difficult events are never pleasant. But they can be beneficial.
When you find yourself in the fire, remember that God keeps his precious hand on the thermostat.
Job 23:10 NKJV
10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
He really does know the way that you take. Remember, in our study of the 7 churches of Revelation, that Christ is walking among the churches. Since we make up the church, He is watching us, and really knows what we are going through. He really does have his hand on the thermostat.
We read James 1:2 - 3 earlier. Let's read it again, but add verse 4.
James 1:2-4 NKJV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Do you want to be complete and fully mature as a Christian? This verse says that it comes as we let patience (hupomone) have its perfect work. And that comes through the trying of our faith.
We must continually keep in mind that:
a. God knows the end from the beginning.
b. God's schedule may differ from ours.
c. God's timing is never late.
Let me give you some real life people who exhibited enduring patience. Some of the greatest missionaries of history devotedly spread the seed of God's Word, and yet had to wait long periods before seeing the fruit of their efforts.
1. William Carey labored 7 years before the first Hindu convert was brought to Christ in Burma.
2. Adoniram Judson toiled 7 years before his faithful preaching was rewarded.
3. In Western Africa, it was 14 years before missionaries there saw their first convert.
4. In New Zealand, it took 9 years:
5. In Tahiti, it was 16 years before the first harvest of souls began.
In Revelation 2, Christ is saying that the Ephesian believers had this kind of patience.
These Ephesian Christians remind me of John Wesley. Allow me to read a few pages from his diary, which read as follows:
"Sunday morning, May 5, preached in St. Ann's. Was asked not to come back anymore."
"Sunday p.m., May 5, preached at St. John's. Deacons said, "Get out and stay out."
"Sunday a.m., May 12, preached at St. Jude's. Can't go back there either."
"Sunday p.m., May 12, preached at St. George's. Kicked out again."
"Sunday a.m., May 19, preached at St. somebody else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return."
"Sunday p.m., May 19, preached on the street. Kicked off the street.'
"Sunday a.m., May 26, preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as a bull was turned loose during the service."
"Sunday a.m., June 2, preached out at the edge of town. Kick off the highway."
"Sunday p.m., June 2, afternoon service. Preached in a pasture. 10,000 people came to hear me."
Like John Wesley, the church of Ephesus persevered.
Last week I took you on a quick journey to Egypt. I compared the child-king Tutankhamen, who died at the age of 17, with a young missionary, William Borden, who died in Egypt in 1913 at the age of 25, while taking Christianity to the Muslims. Allow me to use King Tut as an illustration once more.
In 1922, Howard Carter, the British archaeologist was excavating in the area known as The Valley of the Kings. During a period of about 500 years in Egyptian ancient history, this is where 62 Pharaoh's were buried. The Valley of the Kings is near the ancient city of Luxor. And near to Luxor is the ancient city of Karnak.
For more than 2,000 years, archaeologist, tourists and tomb robbers have searched for the burial places of Egypt's pharaohs. It was believed by most that nothing remained that had not already be disturbed in the Valley.
With only a few scraps of evidence, Howard Carter carried on his pursuit. Outside financial support had come to an end, so Carter, in his belief there was something still to find, finance the excavation with his own resources. He was convinced there was one remaining tomb yet to be found.
Twice during his six year search, he came within 2 yards of the first step leading to the burial chamber of King Tut. He continued his search, and finally He found it.
"Can you see anything?," his assistant asked, as Carter's eyes adjusted. He was seeing, but had difficulty speaking, because he was seeing what no man alive had ever seen. Wooden animals, statues, chests, chariots, carved cobras, vases, daggers, jewels, a throne, and a hand-carved coffin of a teenage king.
Carter's perseverance, against the lack of financial support, against those who said there was nothing remaining to find, brought him to this priceless discovery.
How much greater our rewards when we persevere in seeking God's spiritual treasures. King Tut left it all behind. The treasures Christ gives are eternally ours and eternally satisfying. But perseverance is the key. You may wonder why God wants us to persist intensely for things He surely wants to give us.
The answer is, He wants to give us great spiritual treasures, but He will not give it to us until we are ready.
Let me leave you with one final statement regarding persevering patience.
Because I know the WHO,...I can endure the WHAT,...Even without knowing the WHY.