N. T. Wright on Patience and Hope

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Published:
September 8, 2022

This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide focuses on patience. The main message is relax, wait on divine time, don’t rush in like a fool.  Given the quarter-long focus on the crucible metaphor, a.k.a. trials, patience is presented as a classic Christian virtue proved under duress. The lesson draws on the biblical stories of David and Elijah to reinforce the practical point: be patient. This is especially vital for Adventists awaiting the advent. It poses this question: “Why do we sometimes have to wait so long for things? What lessons can we learn about patience while in the crucible?

In part three of the “Teacher’s Comments,” the ABSG poses these direction questions: 

Our patience manifests itself—and, indeed, we sorely need it—in various aspects of life: family, business, health, spirituality, et cetera. However, our genuine patience will always be rooted in the fruit of the Spirit. Write down an evaluation of your patience in various areas of your life. What have you discovered? In which areas of your life can it be improved? How can you make that happen, with God’s help?

Impatience is considered a characteristic of immaturity. Children generally find waiting difficult; mature people are able to wait more easily. The mature have been enabled by experience and by trust to wait patiently. Evaluate your spiritual maturity. How do you plan to continue growing in your patience?

We all know that patience is a virtue. But any underling who has waited on an administrator to make a hard decision might have experienced the opposite. Indecision is the vice that often deconstructs leadership and concomitant institutions. Sometimes the risks seem theologically ultimate. Although it does not also cite William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark (1599–1601), the sense of timing alludes to a common theme: when should one act as an individual when under the impression of larger forces at play?

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

Perhaps more than passive patience, we need active hope. Something different. Something transformative. This 2013 sermon by N. T. Wright focuses on the poetry in Colossians 1:9–23, American political history, and the resurrection. The New Testament theologian considers change and teaches a lesson on the importance of “Christian Hope in a Confusing World.” 

 


Alexander Carpenter is executive editor of Spectrum

Title image: Eugène Delacroix, Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard, 1839 (public domain).

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