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Fruit of the Spirit - Patience

by Curt Kuster

We live in a society that is in a hurry. We have “instant” everything: instant oat meal; instant pudding; instant coffee; and even a brand called Instant Breakfast. We often realize this and pray about it, but sometimes our prayer is “Lord give me patience . . . and give it to me now!

There are many definitions of patience. These include, “the ability to bear pains, trials, and calamity without complaint;” or “the capacity and habit of being steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.”

Patience is a topic referenced often in the Bible. The word patience or a similar attribute is used at least 43 times. There are three Greek words for patience. The word translated patience in Galatians 5:22 is the word makrothumia. Makro means slow or long, and thumos refers to wrath or anger. Literally it means “long tempered,” or as the King James Bible calls it, “long suffering.”

Obviously, the model for patience is God’s patience. We would not be saved apart from His patience toward us:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Romans 2:4 reminds us not to “think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience,” and these attributes of God are those which “leads you to repentance.” Psalm 103, verses 8 and 10 tell us God is “slow to anger” and hence has “not dealt with us according to our sins.”

Patience needs to be practiced in three spheres: patience in problems; patience with people; and patience with the plan of God.

A patient person endures negative circumstances. Joseph certainly experienced difficult situations (Genesis 37-40). However, he trusted God, and understood that what his brothers had meant for evil, God had used for good (Genesis 50:20). It is God’s grace that provides the ability to persevere through these circumstances. As one author put it, “Irrigations of grace wash away the irritations of life.”

A patient person copes with problematic people. We are told to “be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Ephesians 4:2 says, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” A patient person is also a forgiving person (Ephesians 4:32).

A patient person accepts God’s plans for us. He is the potter and we are the clay (Romans 9:20-21). We often fall short of this in the area of prayer. We pray about something and expect an immediate answer. We pray for a week, a month, a year, and think God will not answer. We fail to realize that God is not on “human standard time.” He will answer. The answer may not be what we expect or desire; however, it is vital to trust God even when we do not understand what He is doing.

There may be instances when, on this side of heaven, we will never fully understand. However, as William S. Plumer, a theologian of the 1800s wrote:

Among the redeemed in glory there is not one who looks back and sees that on earth there was any mistake in the divine conduct towards him. God does all things well.

Patience may be developed by:

Prayer: We can ask God for it. We can ask the Lord to give us patience to not get upset with a situation or person (Romans 12:12).

Produce: We need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce this fruit in our lives by yielding each situation to Him (Romans 8:26)

Praise: We can develop the habit of thanking God for everything that happens, good or bad, and then trust Him to work out the details (Romans 8:28)

Pressure: Patience comes through practice and we practice it when we are under pressure. As the pressure builds, so must our dependence on God (Philippians 4:6-7).

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, hence we cannot manifest this attitude in our own strength, but only in submission and yielding to the Holy Spirit.