The fruit of the Spirit: Patience
Bristol Road Baptist 10/06/07
Intro: Ever prayed for patience? Ever prayed, “Lord, I need patience and I need it now”? Why should we be patient? There are those of us who might argue, “I don’t see why I should be patient with some people. They are fools and I don’t suffer fools gladly”. Some of us might admit that we don’t want to be patient. So why should we be patient? Primarily the answer is because God is. Remember we are dealing with the fruit of the Spirit. The natural produce of the work of the Spirit in our lives is patience. Remember it is all part of one fruit. And the fruit, produce, of the Spirit in us is to produce the character of God in us.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
When we develop patience, we develop the character of God. If we look at the thread of patience through the Bible we find – thankfully – that God has always exercised it towards people.
Look at the summary in Nehemiah 9 of God’s dealings with his people through history:
30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighbouring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
The author of Lamentations writes,
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (3:22f)
Through all his dealings with people throughout history, God has been patient. If you don’t like the idea of patience, you’re in deep trouble because if God didn’t believe in it, you wouldn’t be here. It’s like the liberal missionary who spoke to a native believer reading his Bible. He said “we don’t believe much of the Bible any more in the civilised world. It’s all outdated and irrelevant”. The native believer replied, “It’s a good job we do, or else you’d be in the cooking pot”! If God didn’t believe in and live by the characteristic of patience, we’d all be in a very hot pot!
The fruit of the Spirit is patience. No choice!
Why no patience?
So if patience is God’s character, but not necessarily obvious in our lives, where and when did it go missing? On the big scale, it went missing at “the fall”. It’s part of life that people do things wrong, and we can get impatient with them and their apparent stupidity. But if that were the reason for impatience, God would be impatient. He could get pretty annoyed about our stupidity. I think impatience probably relates much more to our self will and wishes than what people do to cause impatience. In other words, it is not so much about people’s actions as our reactions. How are the Christians reacting to each other in Galatia? Presumably, from Paul’s choice of words in v 20-21, with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. And this in the church!
Or take for instance the event in the gospels when the people were bringing children to Jesus to have him bless them (e.g. Luke 18:15-17). To the disciples they were an interruption. It was an inconvenient time. And so they were irritated by it. That’s how they reacted. Jesus had the same circumstances, yet told the disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
When you probe it a little more, and read on, you see why his reaction was different
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
His agenda was the establishment of the Kingdom of God – the same one as the father throughout history. Lose sight of what really matters and you become consumed with the moment and its issues and impatience is the end product.
Take the trivial example of a hire car we had in Zante. On the small mountain roads we had a queue of traffic behind us hooting horns and screeching past waving when they got the chance. They were impatient because they thought I was a super slow driver. If only I could have told them that our little hire car had very little power. I had my foot to the boards but on the hills it just wouldn’t go any faster! Maybe if they knew that their patience would have been sympathy!
So there’s a point for us to apply to our lives. When we feel impatience towards a situation or person, move it on to the bigger picture and see the heart and will of God. So if someone irritates you because they don’t seem to sort their life out, don’t dwell on the fact of their failure. Ask, “What is God’s desire here”. What’s the bigger picture rather than the annoying irritation?
One issue here for me is when people knock on the church door, usually wanting money. I being bluntly hones in saying they don’t usually appreciate I might have anything else to do, they can be more than an irritation in their attitude, even selfishly demanding, and manipulative with the “call yourself a Christian” jibe, and I may not be overflowing with patience. But what hopefully drives me at those moments is a sense of the Kingdom of God. This may be their window to look in; if like the disciples with the children I want to rebuke them and just get rid of them quickly, then impatience has won rather than the character of God. But I’m not Jesus. I don’t have his power and grace. I’m still a work in progress. Isn’t that true for all of us? But where there is impatience rather than patience, we are called to allow God by his spirit to produce the fruit of patience. Hence…
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Prov 16:32)
There is great power before God in pursuing patience.
And we urge you, …be patient with everyone.(1 Thes 5:14)
So how do we learn it? I’ve already said we do so by seeing the bigger picture – seeing what Jesus sees not what we want to see. But it also seems important to me that although there is only one fruit of the Spirit, there seems to be an order of development. So for instance Paul writes first of all about the fruit of love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4 he writes “love is patient” It’s hard to be patient if you don’t love someone. If you do love them, patience stands a better chance!
Then Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is joy. To put it bluntly, if you have no joy, and life is miserable, you’re going to see the worst and patience is hardly going to prevail.
1 Thes 5:14, which I quoted earlier we urge you, …be patient with everyone goes on to say …always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.16 Be joyful always; So there is a link between patience and joy.
Then the fruit of peace. It stands to reason that if you are producing peace it will lead to a more patient lifestyle. If you lack peace you’re going to be irritable and impatient. So it’s back to our point that you can’t have some without others – the nine-fold fruit stands together or falls together. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience…
Thank God, that though we are called to learn patience, it comes from the character of God and the Spirit of God. As with all the things of the Spirit, he willingly gives, but we must choose to receive and accept.