I have to say, I really looked forward to studying and writing about this fruit of the spirit. To be perfectly honest, I could do with a little reminding of why patience is so important.
We as Christians and even this society generally, so desperately need to recover the lost art of patience. Most of us recognize that patience is one of the cardinal Christian virtues—we’re just in no hurry to obtain it. Others just define patience as a delay in getting what we want. As Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” In today’s fast-paced society and self-centered culture, patience is quickly disappearing, even among Christians.
Patience is not optional for the Christian. The apostle Paul repeatedly commanded Christians to demonstrate patience to each other. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). This is a critical test of Christian authenticity. True Christian character, the very evidence of the renewal of our minds, is seen in authentic patience.
Now I know this is a concept that has been explored many times by many people however because it’s so true, I’m simply going to reiterate it again to prove a point.
In a world of instant access, this can mean that we can become ruled by our desires. Between all social media platforms and other instant services that have become prevalent in our society, we are used to getting all our information immediately. We have access to more computing power in the palm of our hands than ever before. Anything we want, we can find with the push of a button. Our desires have become demanding. We want what we want and we want it now. We live in a culture of instant gratification.
Our generation wants to climb higher, have more and do less than any of the generations that came before us. For generations when you went to work, you started at the bottom and through hard work and commitment you could work your way up the ladder. Reaching a high-level position was something that could take 20 years. Now, we are ready to make career changes after just a couple years. We have lots of ideas and goals. It seems like so much has been handed to our generation that we have become overwhelmed by entitlement. Admit it! We as a generation seem to have this ridiculous idea that we are so entitled to everything.
Don’t get me wrong, goals are great! Dreams can be powerful motivators, but the point I’m trying to make is, without patience we will be slaves to our desires. The trouble we face is that life moves so fast that we are trained subconsciously from an early age to be impatient. It seems harmless, but it’s not.
The real problem here is that, impatience reveals the selfishness of our hearts. We aren’t thinking about other people. We are impatient because we are only considering our point of view. So, if someone cuts us off in traffic for example, we aren’t thinking, “Maybe they are running late for a meeting at work.” We are thinking of how their actions impacted us! But if we were to cut someone off, we aren’t thinking about how our actions impacted them, we are thinking about how they are in our way. Impatience is ego-centric, arrogant and self-centered. The impatient person isn’t considerate of others, they expect others to be considerate of them. They place themselves above God and above others. Impatience is always about us. Harsh but true.
What patience looks like
Patience on the other hand, comes when we remove our focus from ourselves. Patience is a calm endurance. It’s not just waiting. Patience is perseverance. Patience is enduring trials and suffering without complaint. We can lose a lot of people with that part: the ‘without complaining’. Complaining is evidence of a lack of patience. Patience can handle the weakness and the shortcomings of others with kindness.
Patience is keeping anger in check, and often, patience is keeping your mouth shut when warranted. Patience is getting treated unfairly without whining or retaliating. It suffers insults without bitterness. Patience means not being rushed or hurried. Patience is the ability to delay gratification until the proper time for it. It’s funny because, human beings have a unique ability to make whatever we want sound reasonable. Without an understanding of the truth of God, we will follow whatever sounds right. However, no matter how well we can justify it, no matter how good our reasons; nothing can make sin a good thing. Patience is willingly moving at God’s speed rather than trying to force Him to move at ours. When things don’t go our way, or fit into our timing, that’s where we have opportunities to learn patience.
When we consider the scriptural command to be patient with one another, we should be reminded of several aspects of patience revealed in God’s Word that are vital for Christian understanding. First, we must understand that patience is both a command and a gift of God. As with all Christian virtues, we are obligated under the command of God to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, of which patience is a vital part. The biblical image of patience is not to be reluctant and stand back without protest or to ignore the true complexity of an issue. On the contrary, patience is a vibrant and energetic Christian virtue, which is deeply rooted in one’s absolute confidence in the power of God and in God’s promise that he will bring all things to completion in a way that most fully demonstrates His glory!
As a command, patience should be centered in one’s conscience as a matter of accountability and at the same time, patience is a divine gift. We are not able to demonstrate true patience as a fruit of the Spirit on our own strength and I believe patience is one fruit that desperately requires God’s strength! St. Augustine, warned that Christians must avoid the “false patience of the proud.” St. Augustine reprimanded those who try to attribute patience merely “to the strength of the human will.” Yes, we must indeed strife to be patient, but patience as a genuine virtue comes only to those who have been redeemed by Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit is calling forward the fruit of the Spirit! This is such a key point! Write it down, frame it if you must!
Secondly, the Christian virtue of patience is rooted in our awareness of the knowledge of ourselves as redeemed sinners. Knowing and recognizing our own brokenness and faults, we must therefore deal with other people out of humility rather than pride. We have no excuse for responding to others in a spirit of arrogance or superiority. Instead, we are to be instructed by the example of Christ, and respond in true humility and respect both to God and to others; (1 Peter 2:17).
Thirdly, we must understand that patience is grounded in our understanding of the knowledge that God is potentially at work in anyone and everyone we interact with! 2 Timothy 2:25-26 (MSG) says “God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.”
Patience at the heart of relationships
Why should we be patient? Why should we deny ourselves the immediate gratification we desire? Patience is the prerequisite to love. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient. So now we see there’s a reason Paul possibly lists patience first. Love can’t exist without patience! All functional human relationships are built on the foundation of patience. Without patience there is no love, no community, no friendship, no human interaction without violence because we need patience to deal with the imperfectness of people.
Patience allows us to overcome selfishness so we can actually care about another person. It takes patience to love imperfect people despite their imperfections.
So how do we learn patience?
Patience is about love and value. The more we love others, the easier it is to be patient with them. The more we value and respect someone, the longer it takes them to get on our nerves. What often makes us impatient is that the person we love the most, in many scenarios, is ourselves. The time we value most is our own. The dreams we care most about fulfilling are ours. Impatience comes because, especially as Christians, we care and think way too much about ourselves. A little humility, a little consideration and value for others would go a long way in building the foundation of our patience.
Patience is dying. Patience comes when we let go of ourselves, our desires, our agenda, our goals, our control. Patience is where we remove ourselves from the centre of our universe and the throne of our hearts and we surrender to God. Patience requires us to die to ourselves, to let go of our selfish desires. Patience requires us to pay attention, to focus on something besides ourselves. Patience is when we value others ahead of ourselves, love others more than ourselves.
So, here’s some context – When someone or a situation is annoying you, instead of getting aggravated, pray for that person or pray about that situation. Pray that God would bless that person or bless the situation. In that instance, it’s quite hard to be angry with someone and pray God’s blessing over them at the same time. Sounds so simple; “oh, yeah, just pray about it,” but don’t we all forget sometimes that taking a situation to God should be the first thing we do?
I think being patient is one of the hardest things God asks us as followers to do. It goes against every single instinct we as human beings have ingrained in us. I get that it’s easier said than done but I find that in being patient, I have a change to gain a fresh perspective, a chance to say, ‘hold on a second, what does God say in this situation’ – a chance to not have such a tunnel vision. There is something awesome and inspiring about observing someone who is unwavering, who can be so assured that God is control and at work and in that moment, that they can choose to say, “those who wait upon God, get fresh strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
Peace & Blessings