Galatians 5:22 (Patience)
Shortly after we got married Marg got a kitten as a pet. She loves cats. But I'm not an animal lover and this particular cat was not a good cat. It took a long time to train her. She had lots of accidents that upset me. She scratched some of our furniture, climbed up the curtains, and at times would even jump up on the kitchen table. I especially don't like cats in the kitchen like that. Anyway, I kept waiting for Marg to say to the cat, "Now you've gone too far," and get rid of her. I kept waiting for that and for awhile I thought it was getting closer and closer. But after some time I realized that Marg was never going to say that. No matter what the cat did, it could never go too far.
Marg had patience with that cat. She loved the cat and the cat could never go too far. She was always going to put up with it, she was always going to forgive it, she was always going to love it.
We Christians are supposed to have patience with others like that. Paul writes, (Galatians 5:22-23)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
The great truth we see here is that
you are to exercise patience.
God wants you to be patient with other people. Patience is to be one of the qualities that characterizes us in our dealings with one another and in our dealings with those outside the church. In Colossians 3:12 the apostle Paul wrote,
"Therefore, as God's chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
gentleness and patience."
We are to clothe ourselves with patience. It is to surround us and be a characteristic we display in our dealings with other people.
Now as we begin our look at patience, I think the first thing we need to do is to define patience.
What is this patience that is the fruit of the Spirit?
J.B. Lightfoot tells us that the Greek word that Paul uses here is best understood by contrasting it with its opposite- 'resentment, revenge, wrath'.
Now to illustrate this, let me tell you a story that my dad told me. My father worked most of his life as a policeman with the Canadian National Railroad. He told me a story about a policeman who was new on the job. Apparently he was talking to some of the longshoremen who were his acquaintances and one of them asked to see his revolver. He showed it to him and the guy took it and started fooling around with it. He wouldn't give it back to him and it quickly turned into a situation where it was not funny at all. The guy had a bit of fun before he gave the gun back. Years went by. That policeman watched that longshoreman. He was very patient. He watched him waiting for him to do something wrong. One day this policeman caught the longshoreman stealing some minor items. He could have let him go with a warning. But he didn't. He arrested him while he was arresting him he said to him, "You remember that day you took my gun? This is payback." The longshoreman lost his job because of it.
Now that policeman had patience. He waited not weeks, not months, but years. He got back at him. That's an example of a certain kind of patience, but not the patience that is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience that is a fruit of the spirit has no resentment, anger or revenge associated with it.
Thus one of the main things that we should understand about
the patience that is a fruit of the Spirit is that it's linked to love.
When I first started this series on the fruits of the Spirit someone was telling me about a commentary that described all the other fruits of the Spirit listed here as descriptions of love. That's certainly a good way to look at it. Colossians 3:14 tells us that love binds the other fruits of the Spirit together in perfect unity. Not only that but in 1 Corinthians 13:4f love is defined by some of the other fruits of the Spirit. We read,
"Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs."
Thus we see that any patience that is divorced from love, any patience that seeks revenge, is not the kind of patience that is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience, as a fruit of the Spirit, is an outworking of love.
We see this in James 5:10 as well.
"Brothers, as an example of patience
in the face of suffering,
take the prophets
who spoke in the name of the Lord."
The prophets suffered and yet they exercised patience. They were severely tried. They endured persecution and hardship. And yet one of the things that the prophets maintained was a love for the people that they were sent to. I could give many examples, but I'll refer to just two. In 1 Samuel 15 we read about King Saul's disobedience to the Lord. Samuel the prophet was given the sad job of telling Saul that God had rejected him as king. Then in verse 34 we read,
"Then Samuel left for Ramah,
but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul.
Until the day Samuel died,
he did not go to see Saul again,
though Samuel mourned for him."
He mourned for Saul because he loved him. At times he was afraid that Saul would kill him (1 Samuel 16:2), yet he mourned for Saul. The prophets loved the people of Israel. Think of all the Jeremiah suffered. Yet he never stopped loving the people of Israel. The prophets were patient and their patience was rooted in love. They suffered greatly. They faced insults, imprisonment and beatings. Ridderbos writes,
"And the fruit of the Spirit makes for the preservation of love and peace despite all these."
This is that kind of patience that is the fruit of the Spirit. It's root is love.
The second thing I want you to see about this patience is that
this kind of patience puts up with much.
Herman Ridderbos writes about the this fruit of the Spirit in his commentary. He writes how this virtue,
"assumes attack, provocation, incentive to wrath. "
Jonathan Edwards wrote that this virtue comes into play with,
"respect to the evil or injury received from others."
J.B. Lightfoot writes that this refers to,
"patient endurance under injuries inflicted by others."
James Montgomery Boice writes,
"Patience is putting up with others even when severely tried."
Now what this means is that you are to be patience with people who hurt you, who injure you, who despitefully use you.
This kind of patience just doesn't come into play when there is just a little provocation. The reference I already quoted from James 5:10 proves this.
"Brothers, as an example of patience
in the face of suffering,
take the prophets
who spoke in the name of the Lord."
Many of the prophets suffering greatly. The end of Hebrews 11 testifies to this.
So what this means is that when you are hurt by other people, when other people injure you, when they cheat you, when they go back on their word, when they spread lies about you—you are to exercise patience. You are to bear with them and still have love in your heart toward them. Jonathan Edwards writes that a person who exercises this fruit of the Spirit will,
"meekly bear the evil that is received from others, or the injuries that others may do to us."
Hendriksen, on patience,
"It characterizes the person who, in relation to those who annoy, oppose, or molest him, exercises patience. He refuses to yield to passion or to outbursts of anger."
That's what we are called to. In 1 Peter 2:19f we read,
"For it is commendable
if a man bears up
under the pain of unjust suffering
because he is conscious of God.
But how is it to your credit
if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?
But if you suffer for doing good
and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
To this you were called,
because Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps.
'He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.'
When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate;
when he suffered, he made no threats."
We are called to exercise patience even in the midst of great suffering. The example that is held up for us to follow is nothing less than the cross of Jesus Christ.
Christians, be patient with each other.
In the church you are dealing with sinners. You are dealing with people who are at varying degrees of spirituality. Some are mature, some are immature. Some make a lot of mistakes, some make few mistakes. Some commit a lot of sins, some commit fewer sins. But none are perfect. But they are the people Jesus died for.
In Colossians 3:12 the Holy Spirit tells us to clothe ourselves with patience. He continues in verse 13,
"Bear with each other
and forgive whatever grievances
you may have against one another."
We are to bear with other Christians. We are to help them on the road to Christian maturity. According to Ephesians 4:16 the body of Christ is to be,
"joined and held together
by every supporting ligamentÖ"
The body is to grow and build itself up in love,
"as each part does its work."
Part of our work is to bear with each other, to be patient with the failings of others.
God wants you to help them along the road to maturity.
Christian growth is a process. In a Christian's life there can be ups and downs. There can be steps forward and steps backward. How does God want you to treat others as they struggle? He wants you to be patient with them. He wants you to bear with them.
Christians, be patient with those outside the church.
You have a duty to witness and be lights to those who are outside. You are to be patient with them.
Philip was patient with Nathaniel. You know that story. After Jesus called Philip, Philip went to Nathanael and said to him, (John 1:45)
"We have found the one
Moses wrote about in the Law,
and about whom the prophets also wrote
—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Nathanael replied, (John 1:46)
Can anything good come from there?"
Nathanael rejected what Philip said. He not only rejected it, but he was flippant about it. Yet how did Philip react? Did he just walk away from Nathanael? No, he said,
"Come and see."
He was patient with Nathanael.
Christian teachers are to be patient. 2 Timothy 2:24f is all about patience.
"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel;
instead, he must be kind to everyone,
able to teach, not resentful.
Those who oppose him
he must gently instruct,
in the hope that God will grant them repentance
leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
and that they will come to their senses
and escape from the trap of the devil,
who has taken them captive to do his will."
Wasn't God patient with Saul of Tarsus? He had heard Stephen's speech, but it did him no good. He saw how Christians reacted to imprisonment, but it did him no good. Yet God was patient with him. Christians, be patient with outsiders as you hold out the Word of life to them.
Now that we've defined what patience is, the great question is,
how can we put it into practice?
Again, we need to realize that this is something that is beyond our natural abilities.
So the first thing is that
we need to pray to God to give us this heavenly quality.
When we are injured, when you are abused, when we are hurt by others, we need to pray for patience. We need to pray that God would not let us become angry, bitter or vengeful. We need to pray for patience, for love for those who hurt us. We need to pray for a heart that asks for God's blessing upon them.
you need to have great trust in God.
Patience is linked to trust in God. We see this in Jesus' example to us in 1 Peter 2:23. Peter wrote,
"When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate;
when he suffered,
he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself
to him who judges justly."
Jesus was able to be patient because He trusted in God. Jonathan Edwards wrote that when men suffer they should,
"have regard to the hand of God in the injuries they suffer, and not only to the hand of man, and meekly submit to his will therein."
Christians, when you suffer, when you find yourself in a situation where you have to exercise patience—who is ultimately behind it? God is.
Remember how different groups of evil men attacked Job's servants and stole his property? Remember how a storm came up and destroyed the house where Job's children were and they were all killed? What did Job say? He saw the hand of the Lord in it and said, (Job 1:21)
"The LORD gave
and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."
Or think of all the things that happened to Joseph. Most of his brothers hated him. They were jealous of him and plotted to kill him. Greed kept them from doing that and they sold him into slavery. While in slavery he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into jail. From there he rose to become Pharaoh's right hand man. When his brothers came to him Joseph said to them, (Genesis 45:4f)
"I am your brother Joseph,
the one you sold into Egypt!
And now, do not be distressed
and do not be angry with yourselves
for selling me here,
because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you….
God sent me ahead of you
to preserve for you a remnant on earth
and to save your lives by a great deliverance."
Joseph was able to be patient because He knew that God was working all through his sufferings.
Or think of David when he was being forced out of Jerusalem because of Absalom's rebellion. We read, (2 Samuel 16:5f)
"As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king's officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David's right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! 8 The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!"
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head."
But David said,
"What do you and I have in common,
you sons of Zeruiah?
If he is cursing because the LORD said to him,
'Curse David,' who can ask,
'Why do you do this?'
David then said to Abishai and all his officials,
'My son, who is of my own flesh,
is trying to take my life.
How much more, then, this Benjamite!
Leave him alone; let him curse,
for the LORD has told him to.
It may be that the LORD will see my distress
and repay me with good
for the cursing I am receiving today."
Now this wasn't just true of Job, of Joseph, of David. It's true of us as well. Romans 8:28 tells us that,
"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."
In Hebrews 12:5 we are told that we are not to make light of the Lord's discipline. Verse 7 says,
"Endure hardship as discipline."
When we undergo hardship, God is behind it. He is controlling all things and He is using the hardship for our good, that we may share His holiness. (verse 10) God controls our suffering. That should enable us to be patient. Things are not out of His control. On the contrary, He is controlling things and working things out for His glory.
Jonathan Edwards writes,
"the fact, that the hand of God is a great deal more concerned in all that happens to us than the treatment of men is, should lead us, in a great measure, not to think of things as from men, but to have respect to them chiefly from God—as ordered by his love and wisdom, even when their immediate source may be the malice or heedlessness of a fellow-man. And if we indeed consider and feel that they are from the hand of God, then we shall be disposed meekly to receive and quietly submit to them, and to own that the greatest injuries received from men are justly and even kindly ordered by God, and so be far from any ruffle or tumult of mind on account of them."
God is training us. Through our sufferings God is molding us, making us more fit for heaven, making us more like our Savior Jesus. So what should we do? In 1 Peter 5:6 Peter writes,
"Humble yourselves, therefore,
under God's mighty hand,
that he may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you."
Humble yourselves. Be patient. Cast all your anxiety upon Him.
Lastly, to those who haven't believed in Jesus.
For many years now God has exercised patience toward you. He has not treated you as your sins deserved. In spite of your sin, your rebellion against Him, He has continued to show you kindness. The question I am going to ask you is the one Paul asked in Romans 2:4,
"do you show contempt
for the riches of his kindness,
tolerance and patience,
not realizing that God's kindness
leads you toward repentance?"
Paul was saved in spite of rejecting Christ for a long time. He was saved even though he was a great sinner. Indeed, he described himself as the worst of sinners. In 1 Timothy 1:16 he wrote,
"But for that very reason
I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him
and receive eternal life."
You need to go to Jesus today. Right now. Go and ask him to save you.