Three Great Gifts for the Christian Life
THE THREE GREAT GIFTS (Colossians 1:9-11 continued)
What we might call the asking part of Paul's prayer ends with a prayer for three great qualities. He prays that his Colossian friends may possess all fortitude, patience and joy.
Fortitude and patience are two great Greek words which often keep company. Fortitude is hupomone (Greek #5281) and patience is makrothumia (Greek #3115). There is a distinction between these two words. It would not be true to say that Greek always rigidly observes this distinction, but it is there when the words occur together.
Hupomone (Greek #5281) is translated patience in the King James Version. But it does not mean patience in the sense of simply bowing the head and letting the tide of events flow over one. It means not only the ability to bear things, but the ability, in bearing them, to turn them into glory. It is a conquering patience. Hupomone (Greek #5281) is the ability to deal triumphantly with anything that life can do to us.
Makrothumia (Greek #3115) is usually translated long-suffering in the King James Version. Its basic meaning is patience with people. It is the 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 (Greek #3115) is the spirit which never loses patience with, belief in, and hope for men.
So Paul prays for hupomone (Greek #5281), the fortitude which no situation can defeat, and makrothumia (Greek #3115), 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."