Patience: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 5
We've all heard the old adage, "Be careful what you pray for; you may just get it," particularly when it comes to, "Lord, give me patience!" Quite honestly, this is a prayer that every parent learns quickly; however, I am not one to wait around. Those that know me realize that when a decision needs to be made, I want it made immediately and the issue resolved. But, in my case, that's generally not how the Spirit moves. However, in my study of patience, this fruit of the Spirit means so much more than we realize.
The Greek word that some translate as "patience" is better translated as "longsuffering." In Galatians chapter five, Paul uses the word "makrothymia," meaning endurance, constancy, perseverance, forbearance, and at its roots carries the connotation of being slow to anger in avenging wrongs. This is different from the word James uses in James 1:4-8, where he encourages believers to let patience have its perfect work in us. That word is "hypomone," meaning patient waiting and continuance. It is essential to differentiate the two, for it is the former used when Scripture describes God's longsuffering with humanity. "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).
The Apostle John reminds us that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). The same could be said for all the fruits of the Spirit, including longsuffering. So, likewise, the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that we commend ourselves in all things as ministers of God, longsuffering being but one by which our ministries are established (2 Cor. 6).
Longsuffering is a characteristic of those who choose to walk in unity. Paul writes, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).
A worthy walk moves in the Spirit, and we must recognize that each fruit is necessary.
One must be walking in love to be longsuffering. It is impossible otherwise. Paul also exhorted the Colossians to "put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Col. 3:12-15).
In preparing Timothy for ministry, Paul was emphatic that Timothy was to "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). Again, we see this essential fruit utilized in every aspect of one's calling. For example, when we are discipling others, the ability to persevere when frustrated and being slow to anger is of paramount importance. I am thankful to God and the individuals, including my parents, who exercised this fruit in their interactions with me.
In addition, constancy in relationships, remaining when others walk away, is paramount. In today's world, people expect others to pick up and leave at the first, second, or third sign of trouble. But as Christians, we are called to go the extra mile. Longsuffering may look like making a meal for someone sick, in addition to praying for them. It may be sitting with the one person everyone else avoids at work or church. Longsuffering declares to the world, "I care, and so does God."
Consider what the Apostle Peter wrote: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you" (2 Pt. 3:14-15). The longsuffering of Christ is our salvation. Even when we stumble in our walk with Him, the Holy Spirit forebears with us and brings us back into right relationship. This is why we can remain at peace. If God is longsuffering with us, shouldn't we also be so with others?
But again, this is not a natural longsuffering as we may see between a parent and a child. Rather, it is a supernatural longsuffering that enables those imprisoned for Christ to smile at their tormentors. It provides us the fortitude to stand fast when we are persecuted and reviled for the name of Christ. It is the work and character of the Holy Spirit of the Living God manifesting Himself to a broken world desperately in need of the light of Christ.
The Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians that they would "walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light" (Col. 1:10-12). So today, I pray the same for you.