Friday, November 27, 2015

Fruits of the Spirit: Patience


As a big brother to four younger siblings (and also to my three “younger” quadruplet sisters, though they will dispute that claim), I have had the privilege of seeing my parents teach patience quite a few times. My parents start training us young, you see, even before we can talk, and the first step to this training is learning a hand gesture for patience.  

As my little siblings get old enough to where their culinary experiences broaden from more than just milk and baby food, they naturally get a little eager to be fed each time they are strapped in their high chairs. Who wouldn’t when you can now eat diced vegetables instead of mash that probably tastes as gross to them as it does to us? The result of this eagerness is a lot of unintelligible babbling, which can eventually cause quite a strain on the rest of the family . . .

Insert patience. At this point in their lives, my siblings are taught that hand gesture for patience I mentioned. Instead of letting them babble away, either of my parents would tell my sibling, “Show your patience.” My little sibling (let’s use Joe-Joe for clarity’s sake) would instantly shut up and clap his hands together, interlocking his fingers and holding his clasped hands before his chest. It is a gesture that is really cute (while at the same time peacefully quite), but that is not the point. My parents, the best in the world in my opinion, are teaching the fourth fruit of the Spirit even before their trainee can talk.

Patience is underrated in our world today. We live in a nation that is extremely fast-paced, and we have grown used to getting what we want, when we want it. But true Biblical patience is obviously very important and essential to our Christian lives.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

If we want to walk in a manner worthy of your calling as a Christian, patience is one of the essentials. What does this patience look like? Well, I am going to cheat a little bit and use John Macarthur’s definition from my John Macarthur study Bible:

Patience: The ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.

Yep, though it is a good start, Biblical patience goes much deeper than waiting with hands clasped for your sliced veggies to be served.

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8)

As Christians, we are to be patient with everyone, and we are never given leave to stop till Jesus returns. If this sounds like it might be difficult at times, well, it does because it is!

I think this is a good time to cue the practical application.

Practical Application

Again, this is a fruit of the Spirit. We cannot produce it on our own. The most practical application starts on our knees before God. Paul knew this when he prayed that the Colossians would be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” (Colossians 1:11a).

We need to be strengthened by God to attain patience, and His strength comes through the Holy Spirit in our lives (Ephesians 3:16, Acts 1:8). We must first make Jesus Christ our Lord and then be obedient to His Word if we are to be strengthened in attaining patience. (See, you knew I was going to circle back to obeying God’s laws)

Also, when it gets hard to show patience in the face of unjust circumstances, just remember the example Christ Jesus set for us! Though the verse below is written to servants in subjection to their masters, I think it definitely applies:

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:19-22)

The passage continues in the following verses to explain Jesus’s example, that even while He was reviled and suffering, he did not revile in return or utter threats but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. We should all remember the unbelievable sacrifice Jesus made and live accordingly, entrusting ourselves to our Almighty God. Maybe then it will be easy to bear with patience the things that pale in comparison to what Jesus bore for us.

The last thing is to just not give room for disparaging this fruit of the Spirit. In several places we learn that patience (translated “perseverance” in my NASB Bible) is the important middle link to hope in God’s love. Patience is important.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

May God strengthen all of us to “show our patience,” no matter what!