The Bible often speaks of faith and patience in combination – prompting us to ask, “Can we have true faith without patience – or even true patience without faith?” The answer to these questions is found in understanding the relationship between the two qualities.
Every Christian knows the importance of faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13), but sometimes we need to be reminded that these things are completely interrelated rather than existing in isolation. It is sometimes hard to see this, because different terms are often used, so we don’t always see the connection. An example is the way in which faith and patience interact. Biblically, patience is a form of hope. We see this fact in many scriptures: “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25); “We remember … your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance [patience] inspired by hope …” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
But patience can mean different things in the Bible. For example, the Greek word makrothumia, often translated “longsuffering,” relates to patience with people, whereas the word upomone is generally patience with regard to things or circumstances. It is this patience with the circumstances and conditions in which we find ourselves that ties into faith – supporting it and being supported by it.
Notice how the two qualities of faith and patience interact. Paul tells us: “… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance [patience]” (Romans 5:3). James tells us “ … count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3 NKJV), and Peter elaborates: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that … your faith ... may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
These scriptures, and many others, show us that two things occur when we suffer as Christians. On the one hand, the sufferings refine our faith making it better, stronger (mentioned by Peter). Sufferings also produce patience in us (mentioned by James and Paul). The two qualities are both needed to withstand problems. Faith without patience produces Christians who may start off well, but who eventually falter in their faith and fall away or burn out. On the other hand, patience without faith produces individuals who experience suffering but do not profit from it in the way God intends.
It is to the degree that we employ both patience and faith in our suffering that we are strengthened and endure, and it is that endurance which is ultimately necessary to succeed in the Christian life (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13). Simply put, patience needs faith and faith needs patience. As the Book of Hebrews confirms, we need both qualities in our lives if we are to: “Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12).