Praise God that the Paralympic Games were able to take place in Tokyo, and for the wonderfully inspiring stories that emerged from of people triumphing over great challenges in order to become elite athletes. May the Lord find ways to bless each one of them as they move from their precious bubble-in-the-limelight back into their usual routines.
First though, let’s pray that the Lord finds many ways to bless the land and the people of Japan, too, who did such a superb job of hosting the Games despite being in the midst of a surging pandemic. May He raise up men and women after His own heart to be His front-line friends and warriors for His Kingdom in that notoriously hard-to-reach-for-the-gospel country.
We ask too, for immense grace for the many gifted but desperate people who are longing to leave Afghanistan but were left behind. May God find ways to rescue them, and to fortify those who are sacrificially seeking to find ways to bring them safely out.
At very best, of course, that will only represent a tiny fraction of the numbers who want to leave; hundreds of believers, translators, Embassy workers, sportswomen, journalists and others are enduring the fear and horror of living in hiding, shuffling from one house to another, and dreading betrayal or discovery. A whole generation of Afghan women have become accustomed to very considerable freedom in the last twenty years, and dread the prospect of life under the new regime. May the Lord meet with so many.
For those who remain, we pray that they will discover the treasures God yet has for them in this beautiful but turbulent land. Pray they may have fortitude and patience. Such qualities may not be our natural strong points – but what a need we have for them! I am reminded of Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1, in which he prays that his Colossian friends may possess three really great qualities: fortitude (endurance), patience and joy.
It’s a passage I have often read and prayed, but with my attention primarily fixed on the thought of God giving us His power and might to accompany our efforts as we embark on projects for Him. He most certainly does give these, but look again at verse 11:
We pray that you may be . . . strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have full endurance and patience . . .
Rather unexpectedly, perhaps, It turns out that it isn’t strength and power that Paul is focusing on at all – or at least not in the way we normally think of it, but rather the imparting of the ‘great endurance [fortitude] and patience’ that we stand in so much need of.
Hupomone is the word for endurance, (Strong’s Greek #5281) and makrothumia for patience. (Greek #3115) These are two of the really great Greek New Testament words, and they are often twinned together.
In the King James Version, hupomone is rendered as ‘patience.’ It means far more than being stoical, or plodding on, head down, letting what comes our way and trying not to be overly disturbed by it. It speaks of the ability not only to bear things, but to find ways to overcome them, and to see the Lord work in and through them. It is more about conquest than submission.
The second word, makrothumia, is often translated as long-suffering. In his commentaries on the New Testament, William Barclay, is as helpful as ever in drawing out the richer shades of meaning in the Greek, reminding us here that the primary meaning of the word is to have patience with people – and to have that
‘quality of mind and heart which enables a man so to bear with people that their unpleasantness and maliciousness and cruelty will never drive him to bitterness, that their unteachableness will never drive him to despair, that their folly will never drive him to irritation, and that their unloveliness will never alter his love. Makrothumia is the spirit which never loses patience with, belief in, and hope for men.
So Paul prays for hupomone, the fortitude which no situation can defeat, and makrothumia, the patience which no person can defeat. He prays that the Christian may be such that no circumstances will defeat his strength and no human being defeat his love. The Christian’s fortitude in events and patience with people must be indestructible.
Added to all this there is joy. The Christian way is not a grim struggle with events and with people; it is a radiant and sunny-hearted attitude to life. The Christian joy is joy in any circumstances. As C. F. D. Moule puts it: “If joy is not rooted in the soil of suffering, it is shallow.” It is easy to be joyful when things go well, but the Christian radiance is something which not all the shadows of life can quench.
So the Christian prayer is: “Make me, O Lord, victorious over every circumstance; make me patient with every person; and withal give me the joy which no circumstance and no man will ever take from me.’
William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible notes can be found online. These particular ones were taken from this entry.
So Paul urges us to commit all our ways to the Lord, and to ask the Spirit of God to be involved in all that we do and say, not least in all our relationships with others. not least in all our relationships with others. Praise God that He empowers and strengthens young men and women to be spearheads for His Kingdom – and then inwardly supports and succours those of us who have reached more mature advanced years; Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, old or young.
We can see, therefore, that His ‘glorious might’ and ‘strengthening power’ are given to us not only so we can do ‘exploits’, but so that we can be truly patient – holding on in such a way that God’s power can break through. The more we recognise this summoning to patience as a vocation rather than a necessary evil, the more likely and the more willing we become at raising our voices in the joyful thanks that Paul directs us to do in the following verse. (Col. 1:12) There is a joy that lies beyond endurance – and by grace we may often be gifted to experience it even in the midst of our trials.
As Donald Coggan recognises in his excellent Prayers of the New Testament, (Hodder, p. 143) we can discern a ‘ladder to glory,’ a ‘shining series’ in Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers. By patience (‘staying power’), long-suffering, and joy, giving thanks to God for what grace has granted us to be, we exhibit our likeness to our Father, who has ‘qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.’ Amen, even so may the Lord imbue and empower us the more with these precious qualities.