THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: PATIENCE
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23)
“Patience” – called in some translations “forbearance” (eg NIV) and in some “longsuffering” (eg KJV) – is the third manifestation of the “fruit of the Spirit” – but it is also a command for us to show:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12)
|Action point: So, how do you think you are doing in following this command to be patient?
The questions are:
- What is “patience”?
- Where does it come from?
- How do we achieve this in our lives?
UNDERSTANDING WHAT PATIENCE IS
The dictionary defines “patience” in a number of different ways – which I shall simply list with, maybe, some Biblical examples:
- The ability to wait – for something or someone. So, speaking of the joys of eternal life into which we have not yet entered, Paul declares in Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” – in that it’s not yet time for us to leave this life and go to heaven.
- The ability to continue doing something despite difficulties – even when things seem to be going wrong – we just don’t give up. James comments on this when he writes about “perseverance” in chapter 1 of his letter.
- The ability to endure suffering (physical or emotional) without complaining or becoming annoyed (shouting out “it’s not fair!”). In the Book of Revelation, chapter 13, God’s people are warned that a time is coming when war shall be waged against the Christians (unfairly of course) and verse 10 declares: “‘If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.’ This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.”
- The ability to control one’s emotions even when being criticised or attacked. Jesus showed this patience when He stood before His accusers and He did not protest – even when struck.
- The ability to remain calm when someone is not doing what you want them to do – how easy it is to get irritated with them – to lose patience with them! Paul really focuses on the need for patience with others in his first letter to the Thessalonians (chapter 5 and verse 14): “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone”
Well….how do you think you rate on the “patience scale”?!
|Action Point: Look at these 5 definitions of “patience” and ask seriously how you think you are doing in each of the areas
WHY IT IS SOOO DIFFICULT FOR US TODAY
You see, it is soooo difficult to be patient today – far more difficult than at any time in history – because, more than ever before, we live in an “instant society”. We can’t even afford the time to grind coffee any more – it has to be “instant” coffee; “instant messaging” on the “smart phone” (how did we ever manage before?); instant heat and hot water from an “instant” combi-boiler; instant money from the “cashpoint”. And we are bombarded with advertising that encourages us to borrow, borrow, borrow, and use credit – “why wait for that holiday of a lifetime? You can take out a loan and have it today”.
It is said that “patience is a virtue” – well, I’m not sure that this is so any more.
|Action Point: Do you think that there are any times when impatience is right? For example – should we be impatient towards “sin” or “sinners”?
WHY PATIENCE IS PROVEN TO BE SO GOOD FOR US
And yet, scientific research over recent years has clearly shown us that patience is actually good for us. The old adage that “Good things come to those who wait” is, in fact, true:
- Patient people enjoy better mental health –
- Impatient people suffer stress which is physically seen in the typical red face and “steaming head”.
- Studies show that patient people experience less depression and negative emotions
- Those patient towards others tend to be more hopeful and satisfied with life
- Patient people are less stressed in traffic jams, calmer during illness, more peaceful when life is going “wrong”.
- Patient people make better friends and neighbours –
- Studies show that patient people – who listen and support others, even when the same thing is being said over and over again, are more empathic, more equitable and more forgiving – and so are liked more.
- These studies also show that patient people are better able to make and keep friends as they are less focused on the flaws of others.
- Patience helps us to achieve our goals in life –
- The saying “the road to achievement is a long one” is true – there are no short cuts and patient people are more likely to put in the time and consistent effort to achieve their goals whereas impatient people are more likely to give up when the going gets tough.
- A specific study of students showed that those who were patient in their studying did better in their final results.
- Patience is linked to good health –
- Those who are patient suffer fewer headaches, less acne, less ulcers, less diarrhoea, less pneumonia.
- On the other hand, impatient people have more health complaints, worse sleep and more stress-related illnesses.
There is no doubt that patient people make better patients!!!
|Action Point: Have a look at Isaiah 49: 23; 64: 4; and then 40: 31 and see how “waiting” is good for you
THE TYPES OF “PATIENCE” I AM FOCUSING ON IN THIS MESSAGE
So, what we have seen so far is that patience is a command to Christians and is good for us.
With so many definitions of “patience” this is clearly a HUGE subject. But, in this discourse I shall be focusing on two elements only – which are, at this time, very relevant to many of us here:
- The need to wait patiently for the timing of the Lord
- The need for perseverance in our walk with the Lord
But, before we can do this, we need to find out HOW we can become patient people.
WHERE DOES PATIENCE COME FROM?
Is it natural to man, or is it a supernatural gift of God?
Well, it is “natural” in the sense that we are all made in the image of God – both disciple and non-disciple – and we are told this about God, (explained by Peter in his second letter, chapter 3 and verses 7 to 9):
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”
However, the further away from God we get, the more impatient we seem to become. And why is this? I think it is because we become, of necessity, more selfish, thinking only of what WE want – and therefore the wish to “have it all and have it now!”
Patience comes from God: we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and we are also told that “love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13: 4)
Patience is a gift from God to us by His Holy Spirit. When we become His disciples, He comes to us by His Spirit and we become more like Him – more patient. And, of course, as we have seen in previous discussions on “the fruit of the Spirit”, the more we know that He is with us (Matthew 28: 20) the more we Trust in Him. And the more we trust in Him the more patient we are able to be.
|Action Point: Do you notice times in your life when you are more patient or impatient? Do these times correspond to you closeness-of-walk with God?
Now we are ready to focus on our two chosen areas.
THE NEED TO WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE TIMING OF THE LORD
Oh how we want to have from God the things we ask for NOW! How we long to have from God all that He has promised us IMMEDIATELY!
But, maybe God is asking us to learn and practice patience.
In our last session we looked at Abraham and saw that he, and his wife Sarah, had been promised a son in their old age. How Sarah laughed at the thought of their dreams being fulfilled after all these years. Yet, even after the promise had been given to them they had to wait ten years before it was fulfilled. What a call for patience! And yet, it was God’s timing that was important. When Abraham and Sarah lost their patience they tried to “help God out” by sending Abraham to Hagar. The result: Ishmael was born – the ramifications of which are still affecting the Jews today in their never-ending struggle with the descendents of Ishmael – the Arabs. Oh how they came to realise that they needed to wait patiently for the timing of the Lord!
Abraham is commended in Hebrews 6:15 for his patience over all this:
“And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised”
An even better example is seen as we again look at our old friends Paul and Silas in that Philippian jail. In Acts 16: 26-28 the doors of the cells broke open as the earthquake struck BUT Paul and Silas did NOT take their opportunity to “hot foot it out of there”. Instead they patiently remained – knowing that this was not God’s timing to go; knowing that they had to speak the Good News to the jailor and then challenge the authorities over their false imprisonment.
The message to us all is clear: be patient in every situation and wait patiently for His timing.
And how do we KNOW His timing? This demands great faith. We believe – we know – that He is with us always. Then we must know that, in one way or another, He will make His timing clear to us. This is TRUST.
PATIENCE MEANS NEVER GIVING UP
In the “darkest hour” of World War II the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, rallied the nation with his famous “we will fight on the beaches” speech, in which he declared “we will NEVER surrender!” It is this kind of attitude that “patience” – in the form of perseverance – advocates.
James, in his letter, chapter 1, verses 2 to 4 summarises this well:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
The gift of God, through the Spirit, is this patience which means that, even in the face of great trial and tribulation, we can carry on through; no matter how many times we fail, no matter what the opposition to us, we can press on patiently until we reach the “goal” that Jesus is calling us to.
|Action Point: This is a REALLY tough one! How on earth is suffering trials, tribulations and persecutions good for our patience?
Let us be inspired in this by true stories of those who knew that patience was rewarded by never giving up – no matter what the odds:
Wilma Rudolph was the twentieth of 22 children born into an impoverished black family in Tennessee. As a child, she had polio and was forced to wear leg braces until she was nine. At twelve, she tried out for her school’s basketball team and failed. For the next year she practised every day until she finally made the team. A college athletics coach spotted her one day and talked her into letting him train her to be a sprinter. Her persistence earned her a scholarship to Tennessee State University where she became a track star. In 1960, she made the US Olympic team. In the 100-metre sprint she had to face Jutta Heine of Germany, the world record holder. But Wilma won – and she did it again in the 200-metre event! Wilma’s third race was the 100-metre relay, where she again faced Jutta. Just as the baton was handed to Wilma she dropped it, giving Jutta the lead. But her never-give-up spirit made her pick up the baton and take off in desperate pursuit. She caught the German runner in the last few strides and won the third gold medal – more than any other woman had won at that time. Wilma became a grandmother and travelled the world for children’s causes, motivating them with her story. ‘I let them know,’ she says, ‘that they can achieve it, as long as they’re willing to work for it.’
In school, Napoleon was forty-second in a class of forty-three, yet he went on to build an army that conquered much of the world.
George Washington lost two-thirds of his military battles, yet against overwhelming odds he won the Revolutionary War and changed American history.
Albert Einstein was such a slow learner that it was suggested he switch studies from physics to some other topic, yet he’s considered the father of the atomic age.
In 1952 Roger Bannister ran in the Olympics and finished in fourth place, failing to win any kind of medal. But he refused to quit. Up until this time many experts considered it humanly impossible to run the mile in under four minutes. Yet that was Bannister’s goal. And on May 6, 1954, he became the first man to do it. Now runners do it regularly. What’s the point? If you refuse to quit when you fail, you’ll ultimately succeed. You just have to be willing to get back up and keep moving forward.
In 1832 Abraham Lincoln was defeated for the State Legislature. In 1833 he failed in business. In 1835 his sweetheart died. In 1836 he had a nervous breakdown. In 1838 he was defeated for Illinois House Speaker. In 1843 he was defeated for nomination to Congress. In 1854 he was defeated for the U.S. Senate. In 1856 he was defeated for nomination for Vice President. In 1858 he was defeated again in a U.S. Senate race. But today he is considered one of America’s greatest presidents.
Notice that in ALL these cases their patience, their perseverance, came after NOT GIVING UP in the face of adversity. This is why we are told in Proverbs 24:16 –
“A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again”
What are you feeling today? Are you impatient to receive that which you believe you need? Then do NOT give up, but trust in God, persevere, and be very, very patient.
SO…WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN ALL THIS?
It’s such a simple one (oh! If only it WERE this simple to apply!).
It is to receive the Holy Spirit into our lives and allow His patience to work in us.
And how do we “cultivate” this gift in us?
I believe it is to receive the TRUTH of God’s word to us and to live by it:
So, again when we (Matthew 6: 33) seek His Kingdom and His righteousness FIRST (before all else) then we shall allow His patience to work, and grow, in us.
When we truly believe that He is with us always (Matthew 28:20) then we shall so trust in His best care of us that we will be patient in all things (allowing Him to do “His thing”).
So, the closer we “walk” with Him as His disciple, then, naturally, the more patience we shall have.
Point: How are we doing with “making peace with God”, “making God the centre of every part of our lives”; “putting our full trust in Him – His decisions and His timings”?
AND…OUR GIFT MUST GROW AS FRUIT
As we believe the Truth and live by the Truth, and trust in the Truth and patience “grows” within us, then it will naturally be seen by others – and so becomes the “fruit of the Spirit” – and a world which is looking for “instant gratification” shall look on us with longing and begin to cry out “we want what you have – tell us how we might be saved”.
What about you? Are you a patient person? Are you allowing this gift of the Spirit to fill your life? Are you allowing this gift to appear in your life like fruit? Do you need to turn to God and to trust in His Spirit more? What are you going to do as a result of all this?