(This week we continue our series on “The Fruit of the Spirit” with a discussion on the word “patience.”)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Those of us who have children may have experienced the joy of the family road trip. You know the one that I am talking about. The family piles into the car headed to the beach, grandma’s house, or one of the many mega-theme parks located around the country. If so, then you probably have had to endure the constant questioning from at least one of your children -- “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? “Are we there yet?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all born with the instant ability to “be patient?”
Patience is one of the most needed of the Fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately it doesn’t come easy for most people. While love, joy and peace are all important Fruit of the Spirit, patience is essential to living a successful Christian life.
Today we will learn how God calls on us to be patient. We will examine scriptural examples of people who had the capacity to be patient. And, we will discover how we can witness through patience.
Encouraged to be Patient
God encourages us to be patient. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word patient as, “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint” or “steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.” The King James translation of the Bible uses the word “longsuffering.”
Yes, we are called to be patient, but sometimes patience is a fruit that is difficult to harvest. Wouldn’t you agree that at times it is not easy to be patient?
• It is difficult to be patient when we are sitting in traffic for hours because an accident has closed the interstate.
• It is hard to be patient when our computer crashes and we have an important deadline to meet.
• It is not easy to be patient when our kids or grandkids are running around the house acting crazy.
• It is certainly difficult to be patient when we are going through a difficult time in our life.
• And, it is difficult to be patient when we are waiting to find out from our doctor whether we have cancer or some other terrible disease.
It may be difficult to be patience, but scripture records many instances where God calls on us to wait or to be patient. Some of these scriptures include:
• Psalm 27:14, which tells us to: “Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
• Psalm 37:7 that encourages us to: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him …”
• Psalm 62:5, which instructs us to: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone …”
• Isaiah 40:31 that informs us: “… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
• Lamentations 3:25, which lets us know: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him …”
I especially love the King James translation of Romans 5:3-4, which reads, “but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope...”
God wants us all to develop patience, because it helps us learn to trust Him more. It also allows us to lead healthier lives. When we are constantly upset over one thing or another we can develop problems with our health, which could lead to ulcers, digestive upset, heart attacks and stroke.
Remember that God wants us to love, have joy, and enjoy peace, but how is that possible when we are upset all the time? Having patience gives us the ability to partake in all of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Examples of Patience
The Bible gives us many examples of people who learned how to be patient regardless of their circumstances.
One such example can be found in the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah contained in the Book of Daniel. Daniel and his three young friends were taken captive in one of the Babylonian raids against Judah. They were intelligent, gifted teenagers, who were placed in special training to become servants in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Attempts were made by their captors to erase all traces of their Jewish identity. First Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had their names changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then their diet was changed from a vegetable dominate Jewish diet, to a rich meat-laden Babylonian diet. However, Daniel and his companions were determined to live by God’s law despite their situation.
Daniel appealed to those responsible for their care, and asked for permission to be allowed to continue have the food they were accustomed to eating. Permission was granted, and Daniel and his friends were able to prove that their Jewish diet was far superior to the Babylonian diet. As a reward for their patience and faith in the face of adversity, God increased their wisdom and knowledge, which gave them great favor in the king’s court.
These young men had remained patient through their name change and the attempts to change their diet, but their biggest challenge lay ahead. Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the Babylonian pagan gods, so they were sentenced to be cast into a fiery furnace. The three went into the oven together, but rather than be killed, they came out unharmed. King Nebuchadnezzar himself swore that he saw a fourth person in the furnace with them … a person who looked like “the Son of God.”
How many of us would have the patience to deal with such a difficult situation? Imagine the amount of patience it took for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to wait for God to deliver them from their plight. They endured even after they were thrown into the oven. How many of us would have gone into that furnace so easily? Many of us would have simply given up and knelt down to the pagan gods, rather than be thrown into the fire. Instead of trying to kill the young men again, the king acknowledged the power of God, and promoted each of them.
The influential preacher Charles Swindoll once said that, “True patience is waiting without worrying.” Can we truly say we know how to be patient? How many of us find it hard to wait on the Lord for help when we are facing a difficult situation? How many of us even ask God to help us when times get tough? We need to learn how to pray for assistance in tough times, and then wait on God to take care of the problem. We need to learn to wait without worrying.
Jesus demonstrated the greatest example of patience. His patience was evident as he spent his last moments of freedom praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. While his companions slept, he prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew that his time was drawing near, so he prayed and waited.
Next we see Jesus’ patience as he was brought before the chief priests and then Pontius Pilate. He does not argue with them, or try and convince them to let him go. Instead he patiently goes through the proceedings. He could have cried up to God to destroy them all, but instead he allowed them to bind him, beat him, and hang him on the cross.
Jesus displayed great patience as he hung on the cross. He suffered, bore and endured all the humiliation associated with being crucified. Then he continued his example of patience by calling out to God, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
Of course Jesus’ patience did not end at the cross. As Christians we believe that Jesus was buried and rose three days later. After spending several days with his disciples, Jesus returned to heaven, but he is still showing his patience even today.
Jesus promised to return again, but as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Jesus wants as many people to come to the knowledge of him as possible before he returns again. What a perfect example of his patience and love for us.
Excellent Opportunities to Witness through Patience
We live in a world where it is becoming more and more difficult to be patient. Cooking dinner has gone from being a day long process, to taking only a few minutes in the microwave. Rather than having to make our own clothes, we can go to the store and buy them. Instead of waiting days for a letter to arrive from a loved one, we can receive an instant message via email.
However, there are wonderful benefits to being patient. Patient men and women may win the perfect spouse. Patient employers may obtain the best employees. Years of patient work can provide a person with an excellent education.
Patient people tend to stand out in a crowd. They are the ones who can keep on smiling when they are at a restaurant and their food does not come out on time, or when someone cuts them off in traffic. Observers of patient people often wonder how they can do it.
It often takes a lot of patience to share the Word of God with others. There are a lot of people in the world who simply do not believe in God, or do not want to hear about him, or are too busy care about Him. Others say they are not ready to be saved because they do not want to change their ways.
For the patient Christian these are opportunities worth waiting for. God often uses patient people to reach those who may otherwise never hear about Him at all.
As I prepare to close, remember that God calls on us to be patient. The Bible provides us with several scriptural examples of people who had the capacity to be patient. And, we learned how we can witness through patience.
Patience is important in our Christian walk. However, it is also important to know that the amount of love, joy, peace and patience we experience in our life depends on our degree of surrender to God. Are you willing to surrender everything to Him? I’m praying that you will.
Next week we will continue this series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Until then, may God bless you!