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Article 10

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Patience

The fruit of the Spirit

The apostle Paul in Galatians talks about the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

When we walk through the countryside we usually see trees across the landscape. As we look at each tree, we can identify the type of tree it is by the fruit it bears. God does the same observation and identification with us. Our behaviour shows to him what type of person we are. The fruit of the Spirit verses show what attributes we need to develop to be pleasing to God (and be good Christians).

One of these fruits is patience.

Jesus saw patience (endurance) as being extremely important for the believer to have in his character. As matter of fact, he saw it so important that your salvation depended on it.

By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:19

Impatience

Some people may find it difficult to understand fully what patience is. So letís try to get a clear understanding of it by looking at the opposite Ė impatience.

Impatient people cannot wait for an event to come to a conclusion. These people pursue their objectives with a irritable composure. They donít tolerate delays and positively canít stand it when someone else makes a mistake which delays things. Most of us probably have met someone like this Ė perhaps at work or when we travel. For example, we are on an airplane which gets delayed taking off. Some people lose their patience complaining bitterly.

Impatience cannot tolerate slowness or lack of ability in other people. Unfortunately, we all can probably recall a time in our life where we have showed impatience.

Types of patience

Now that we know what impatience is, it may be easier to understand patience Ė it is the exact opposite!
 

There are two types of patience. The first type is the passive kind of patience and the second type is the active patience. An example of active patience is the farmer in a vineyard. He digs and manures, prunes and supports the vines. If the soil is washed away because of rain, he will carry it back to its place next to the vines. His waiting and long patience are filled with activity.

Passive patience refers to those times where we just wait for something to occur. We can do nothing to hasten or improve the situation. An example would be waiting on a train station for the delayed train to come. There is nothing we can do - we canít do anything to make that train come sooner.

 Click here to learn more about Joseph

Joseph was a young man who was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt around 1650 BC.  He was in prison for a few years until one day a fellow prisoner was set free Ė this gave him encouragement that he also might be released. Unfortunately he had to wait two more years before he was released. What did Joseph do during those two long years of waiting to be released? He thought on the things of God and kept himself focused on what he must do in his service to God. He showed great patience in his wait. But this was passive patience, as he had no control over when he would be released and he was trapped in a cell.

We are in a similar situation where we do not know when Jesus will return to the earth. However, our situation is different to Joseph in that we are not stuck in a prison where we are restricted in what we can do. During the time of our wait we have the ability to work. We have need for an active patience where we fill the days with work for the one we love, our Father in heaven. One example of this work is where we actively try to encourage others to make a commitment to the great Father in heaven.

Patience when we experience problems

Patience in the Bible is quite often linked to perseverance. A person is faced with problems but they patiently suffer for a long period.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; Romans 5:3

Job was a man spoken about in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Bible (book of Job) we are told of the immense suffering which he faced. Yet as he went through this long period of trials he was amazingly patient.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7-11

James used the man Job as an example to show that being patient and persevering will be rewarded. During his life, Job learnt to not ask ďWhy I am suffering?Ē There is no one who deserves a life free of suffering. God sees our suffering but may choose to do nothing to alleviate it as he knows we that we learn and grow if we persevere through our periods of trial.

Being patient is part of the way the believer shows love. In the Apostle Paulís first letter to the believers at the Greek city of Corinth he talks about the qualities of love in chapter 13. In one part he says:

Love is patient 1 Corinthians 13:4

In other words, love suffers long. True love suffers long and tolerates all things. True love gets its strength from hoping for the future promised by God and it therefore is patient and waits.

Patience and the future

The farmer waits patiently for his plants to grow. He knows they will only grow from the benefits given by God.

In the quote from James chapter 5 (see above), we saw how the farmer waits patiently for rain and sunshine so that the seed will germinate and grow into a plant. After that the grain will then ripen. The farmer is reliant upon these God given benefits which he has no control over.

In the same way, the believer cannot speed up the development of the plans of God. Instead, the believer must have absolute confidence that God will fulfil His purpose, and therefore wait patiently for God to act. The word "waits" (James 5:7) that Paul uses comes from the Greek word ekdechetai (in the original biblical text (1)).

This Greek  word indicates that with confident anticipation the expectation will be realised. The believer is confident that God will fulfill his promises for the future earth e.g. the return of His son to the earth and the establishment of a worldwide kingdom.

Patience with other people

Our patience can be tested when we are with other people. The other people may seem stubborn, irritating or rude. Paul knows these situations can happen and he gives us this advice:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

1 Thessalonians 5:14

No matter what the circumstance we are told to reach deep inside ourselves and show patience.

The Greek word for patience (from the original Biblical text (1)) is makrothumeo which indicates long-tempered. It implies waiting patiently with self-restraint and this includes not retaliating against wrong. God has this form of patience with us. When we sin against Him it would be natural to punish us. But instead God is patient and shows restraint, hoping that we will change our ways and stop our disobedience. The believer should follow the example of God and develop this same type of patience where he is patient with those who may do harm to him (or her).

When Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers he talked about patience:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you 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

He encourages them to tolerate each other in love. The apostle Peter did the same.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

This was especially in the days of Paul, where Jew and Gentile incompatibility had to be overcome. Even though they may have come from different cultural backgrounds and maybe looked at things in a different way, they were exhorted to keep the peace through love and patience with each other.

For the believer in the modern day we need to be patient with those from other cultures, race and background. Rather than letting perceived differences affect our thinking, we need to patiently overcome those differences. We can show through our patient love that we want nothing more than to share our lives with the others in worshiping the common Father.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:11-13

The goal of this patience is to preserve the unity of all believers so that they may be one in mind.

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11

As God and Christ are one in mind (thinking the same way), the believers need to also in spiritual matters think in the same way, for example, all want to overcome sin, forgive others, worship God, love your neighbour, etc.

How do we acquire patience?

a. Set a goal

As it says in James chapter 5 and verse 8 (quoted above):

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts,

We need to be like the farmer and set an objective always before us. Once that objective has been established then let your purpose and your faith be firm and unfaltering. Donít let anything get in the way of you achieving that objective. Do not let yourself become tired with your waiting, always remembering that God has a great salvation to offer each one of us.

b. Create a habit

We can acquire patience by creating a habit. Habits are formed by repeating certain actions over and over again. Once a habit is established it seems easy and natural to do things in a particular way. Patience is a habit we can develop. When we feel we are becoming impatient with someone and are tempted to respond with a hasty angry reply, quickly check that rising impatience by remembering that God has things he could get angry with us, but rather he shows patience, hoping that we may change our ways.

The apostle Paul tells us what will be given to those who develop this habit of patience:

He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; Romans 2:6-7

 

Footnotes

[1] The New Testament in the Bible was originally written in the Greek language.

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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2015