“Patience” or “longsuffering” (as it was referred to in days past) is a very rare quality in today’s society. Everything has to be instant. Have you ever caught yourself saying “come on-hurry up” to a microwave because it’s not cooking your dinner quickly enough?
I work in IT and people complain that the system is going slow if the screen takes 10 seconds to refresh. Don’t even get me started on ‘road rage’ which seems to be a thoroughly modern disease; people striving to get from A to B in the shortest possible time and having zero patience as they do so! We live in a society that is increasingly rushed and living in a state of permanent impatience.
There are two Greek words in the New Testament which mean patience, as well as longsuffering, endurance or perseverance. These words are ‘hupomone’ and ‘makrothumia’. However, even though they mean much the same thing, the word ‘makrothumia’ implies patience towards persons, while ‘hupomone’ implies endurance in putting up with things or circumstances. In the list of fruit in Galatians 5 it refers to ‘makrothumia’.
All the fruit of the spirit often combine together with each other, and patience in particular combines with the fruit of love. In Paul’s famous discourse in 1 Corinthians 13 the very first thing that love is described as is ‘patient’. Patience is a key to love and ‘longsuffering’ is a good definition for couples who put up with a lot from each other but still keep going. My wife is amazingly patient with me; she suffers interminably!
As in all of these fruit, Jesus perfectly exhibits each one perfectly. He was patient in all sorts of ways:
· Patient with people. They came to Him all the time and He never turned them away.
· Patient with His disciples. He taught them constantly for three years and they were still slow to understand.
· Patient with God’s timing of events. He was only interested in following God the father’s will and never sought to rush ahead.
· Patient in suffering. See Matthew 26:39-42, then all the trials of the last week of His life, particularly in front of Pontius Pilate and Herod. He was mostly silent.
· Patient with sinners.“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience”. (1 Timothy 1:16)
“The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. (2 Peter 3:9)
If you lack patience may I suggest you study Jesus’ life and attitudes in the bible and equally spend time in His presence daily. The more you spend time with Him the more you will become like Him.
We saw last week that peace is not achieved through escapism or will-power; this is true too with patience. True patience can really only come from God. We don’t achieve real patience until we face trials which strengthen this God given-fruit within us.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. (James 1:2-4)
Patience is not merely a dogged determination to stand firm in a howling gale, but rather to actually make progress in spite of it. We see Jesus in Luke 9:51, setting His face to go to Jerusalem. His resolve never broke; he patiently pursued His goal.
Our lives are much the same as a sculptor crafting a masterpiece. The artist (God) chips away for a long time at the sculpture (us) until something of beauty is revealed.
I’ve heard it said that asking God for patience is a most dangerous prayer, but simply seeking His will constantly will have the same effect as it chips away at our self sufficiency and pride. This can be very painful, but those surrendered to His will are some of the most patient people in the world, knowing that God’s timing is perfect. So don’t worry if you are going through trials, they are God’s loving hands looking to produce this wonderful fruit within you.