The Fruit Of The Spirit: Patience

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law. –  Gal. 5:22-23

Our continuing meditations on the fruit of the spirit brings us to the fourth part of the fruit as mentioned in the scripture above – patience.

Patience is the capacity, habit or fact of being patient. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patience as: able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity; done in a careful way over a long period of time without hurrying. The ability to wait, to not fly off the handle, to forbear, is what patience is. To help our understanding of patience, it is good to be aware that the word ‘patient’ is synonymous with words like forbearing, longsuffering, stoic, tolerant, and uncomplaining.

While it may appear that some persons are naturally able to display some characteristics that fit with our definition of patience, please note that what we are dealing with here is a gift. It is a virtue that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer that He indwells. Some of the natural manifestations of patience that a man may seem to possess only needs an appropriate provocation to expose their weakness.

YOUR PERSONAL NEED FOR PATIENCE

Why is patience so important that the Holy Spirit produces it in the believer’s life? Why do you need to be patient?

The work of sanctification that the Spirit is doing in your life is a life-long one. The renewing of your mind, the conformity of your life to that of Jesus, which is what you were predestined to become in the plan of salvation (Rom. 8:29; 12:2), all take time. You must wait patiently as you cooperate with the processes that God has arranged in the curriculum of your spiritual development.

Secondly, the promises that God has made to you most times require that you remain calm and not become annoyed as you wait for their fulfilment. The Bible says we should imitate “those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb. 6:12). It means that as vital as faith is in drawing close to God, to inherit what has been promised, that faith must be accompanied with patience. It is those who are patient with God who inherit His promises. That is a theme that runs through the scriptures: Noah, Abraham, Israel, Joseph, Moses, Simeon, Anna, to mention but a few. They all had to wait in faith, but also with patience, for God’s promises to them to be fulfilled. We are commanded to “be still before the Lord and [to] wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). Has God promised you anything? You need patience to receive it. Rom. 8:25 says “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Those who wait patiently for the Lord, He turns to them and hears their cry (Ps. 40:1). The ultimate promise that we have from God is the promise of final salvation when Jesus returns. That promise has been made for millennia ago. Because the fulfilment has tarried, many scoff at it to their own destruction. But wait for it we must and that requires patience. The Bible therefore says “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming” (James 5:7). That is the greatest end of this fruit that the Spirit brings into our lives as God’s children.

We have not been promised an easy life on our way to heaven. Much as we pray and desire that, life is generally more chaotic than orderly. In this life, you will have tribulation, Jesus said. You are in need of patience to handle this. The Holy Spirit is the supplier of that ability to forbear. It is because of His work in your life that that the Bible says you should “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

Has God promised you anything? You need patience to receive it. Rom. 8:25 says “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Those who wait patiently for the Lord, He turns to them and hears their cry (Ps. 40:1).

You need patience in all your relationships because “patience is better than pride” (Eccl. 7:8). Whereas patience builds healthy relationships, pride does the opposite – it destroys. In defining love, the first thing that the Apostle Paul mentioned is patience. Love, as scripture says, is the fulfilment of the law. While I do not imply that the characteristics of love mentioned in 2 Corinthians 13:4-8 are listed in any particular order, for someone who has battled impatience like me, it is very instructive that the first thing mentioned is patience. “Love is patient.” And who demonstrates that more than God in His dealings with us. He loves us and manifests that by His patience with our failings: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish” (2 Pet. 3:9). You also need patience to be manifested to all those you love. And you should love everyone. So scripture commands that you allow this gift of the Spirit in your life to be manifest when it says “Be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14). Because of the frailties of our humanity, our relationships will throw up conflicts from time to time. Jesus said offence will surely come. While that is true, a wise man said “a patient man calms a quarrel” (Prov. 15:18). For that reason, you must learn to “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). Are you married? You need to be patient with your spouse. Love is patient and that is the only way to have a happy marriage. Are you a parent? You need patience to groom your children. Are you called to shepherd the flock of God? Scripture says “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Do you work for a leader, who may be difficult? “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Prov. 25:15). A tongue, not teeth, breaking a bone? Patience is powerful. Patience is needed in all your relationships.

Are you married? You need to be patient with your spouse. Love is patient and that is the only way to have a happy marriage. Are you a parent? You need patience to groom your children. Are you called to shepherd the flock of God? Scripture says “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

WHEN PATIENCE IS LACKING

If patience is needed in various ways as mentioned above, take a moment and imagine what will be, or is the state of affairs, when patience is deficient? Many fall away from the faith because they fail to wait for the work of God in their lives to yield fruit. People give up on God because they lose patience with His promises. Abraham waited for a promised son that took long to come and Ishmael came forth. The consequences of that failure to be patient are still with us today. Moses lost patience with the children of Israel and struck the rock a second time. He missed out of the land of promise. When the Israelites could no longer wait for Moses to return from the mountain, they went into idolatry. Why does a church break up into fragmented denominations and assemblies? The members can no longer remain calm when dealing with difficult people in their midst. Why does a Christian husband hit his wife? Why does a once happily married couple break up? It is a deficiency of patience. Nothing goes on in any marriage that is unique to it. The couples who stick together do so because they are patient with each other. Because we are flawed and imperfect, when you bring two flawed people to live very close together as happens in a marriage, sooner or later, from time to time, their imperfections will cross over and cause offence. What helps them stick together is patience.  Why do some parents always hit their children? Are their children particularly strong-headed? Maybe not. Check their levels of patience? Why do people steal? Many times it is because they lose patience with God’s promise to provide for their needs. You can see that the consequences of the failure of this part of the fruit are dire. They transcend time and enter into eternity. Thankfully, we have not been left to our devices to handle this. God has given us His Spirit, who brings this gift into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard.

GROWING IN PATIENCE

The patience we are dealing with here is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When He indwells the believer, he produces it in their life. It also grows, but how? The way to grow and strengthen a muscle is to exercise it. If patience, like we defined earlier, is forbearance, being able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time and dealing with problems or difficult people; being steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity, then how can it be grown? Patience grows when it is exposed to situations that test it.

“Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:3.

When God wants to produce and grow patience in you, He takes you from all these theories you have been reading and brings you to the laboratory for practical. Here, you are exposed to situations where you are compelled to wait. He may give you a difficult boss or colleague at work. You may have a nasty room or house mate. Your husband may suddenly become difficult. Your wife’s meals may no longer be prepared on time. Your wife may never get to be punctual. What will be your default response? You will most likely lose your calm. You may pray for the cup to be taken away from you, not as the Lord wills but as you will. God may keep those conditions unchanged. Is that because He is mean? Absolutely not! As you keep getting angry and frustrated and come to the end of your upsets, you resign to the difficult situations and people. You learn to live with them. You no longer throw tantrums at these situations and people. The difficulties and delays may not have gone away but they lose their ability to disturb your calmness. Why? You have become patient. You have learned through practice, to be calm and to wait.

When Moses failed to deal with his frustrations with people in Egypt, he murdered. Then God sent him to Jethro’s house to learn to deal with sheep that can be quite stupid. Then he had to negotiate Israel’s release from the clutches of a God-hardened Pharaoh. Then he had to lead the remarkably stubborn nation of Israel. He lost it a few times but later, He could plead with God to be patient with the children of Israel. He was said to be the meekest person on the earth. How did he learn patience? By practical exposure to difficult people and situations. If that was how God helped Moses in this matter, why would yours be different? Can you begin to see the difficult people and situations God places in your life as His way of growing the gift of patience in you? Cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow this virtue in you. The rewards far outweigh the cost.

“They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). He “acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isa. 64:4).

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