The first three qualities listed as ‘fruit of the Spirit’, love, joy and peace would, I think, top many people’s list for qualities that would be signs of a good life. We have looked briefly at love and joy and earlier, in blog 137, at peace, so today we are moving onto ‘patience’. As we do that we can see how all the fruit ‘mesh’ together for surely patience is an aspect of love, and lack of patience brings a lack of peace and that will affect our levels of joy too.
The word itself is variously translated; patience,(NIV), longsuffering (AV), an even temper, forbearance, (AMP), and a willingness to stick with things, (The Message). We know when someone is being impatient with us, and that is not a pleasant feeling, and yet it is perhaps the quality which, if it is lacking in our own lives, we can most easily excuse, blaming our circumstances or other people’s behaviour.
In the Old Testament God is often described as being ‘long suffering’, ‘compassionate’, ‘gracious’ and ‘slow to anger’, Exodus 34:6. These are surely all elements of being patient and merciful. I certainly know that I am very glad that the Lord has exercised all these attributes in His dealings with me. I can readily thank the Lord that He is patient with me, and ask that I myself might grow in patience towards other people.
Patience however is a fruit that we need, not just in our relationships, but it is something that is vital in the development of our faith. We are encouraged to ‘imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised’ Hebrews 6:12 and 10:36. We also read, time after time, in the letters to the early church that patience grows in us as we persevere in difficult circumstances. Romans 5:4. In fact patience and perseverance seem to be essential in our maturing as Christians.
The classic passage for this is the one in James 1:2-4. Interestingly James starts by encouraging us to be ‘wholly joyful’, AMP or to ‘consider it pure joy’, NIV, when there is trouble about in the form of trials and temptations. That is not something that comes naturally, but significantly ‘joy’ is a fruit that is listed before ‘patience’. The ‘joy’ comes because these trials or testings of our faith produce patience or endurance, and the development of patience and endurance leads to maturity, a state of being ‘complete’ and lacking nothing.
Paul also writes to the Colossians that he is praying for them, ‘that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to God the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of Light.’ Colossians 1:10-12.
And there it is again, that mix of thanksgiving, joy, perseverance and patience, and maturity. Clearly our God who ‘will work everything for the good of those who love Him’ Romans 8:28, will use all that the enemy puts in our way to thwart and discourage us, or to tempt and try us, in order to make us more like Jesus day by day. As we are thankful, even ‘wholly joyful’, in our trials we will more clearly see God’s hand at work in our lives and that will help us to be patient and grow in trust and confidence that Jesus is using every circumstance to bring us closer to Himself.
Finally, thanksgiving is a brilliant antidote to impatience, in the same way that laughter is to anger. The two states can’t exist together for very long, and I have found that if I can turn to the Lord with thanksgiving when those feelings of impatience are being evoked, the Holy Spirit will come in bringing wisdom into the situation, releasing the tension that impatience generates, and restoring that sense of peace and wellbeing.
Thanksgiving is such a powerful weapon in our armoury, and a continuous help when it comes to abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit, especially patience. John 15:5