FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 13
PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH
The fruit of the Spirit at issue this week is Patience, also known as longsuffering.
I have no doubt that each of us has, at one time in our life or another, said that we want patience but we don’t want to wait for it! Mr. Paul Sweeney asked a question that I have raised a number of times in general conversation:
“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Hal Borland said: “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
The patience that we are speaking of as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is different than that which has its basis in the person or in society in general. The patience that is referenced in Galatians 5 is grounded in the Holy Spirit.
What does Scripture say?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The longsuffering that is a fruit of the Spirit stems, as do the other characteristics that we have examined, from love of Jesus Christ our Lord and comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of our Lord.
In Hebrew, the word longsuffering is a combination of the words Arek and Aph which mean, respectively, Long and Nose. (By the way, the word Aph or nostril first appears in Scripture in Genesis 2:7 where we are told “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”)
So the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for longsuffering is “long of nose” with reference to “long breathing”. Because anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, this term meant “long of anger,” or “slow to wrath.” In the ESV the word longsuffering is translated “slow to anger.”
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Longsuffering, in the Greek context, is the word makrothumia, and it is a bit more expanded in definition. It relates to “long of mind or soul” which is regarded as the seat of the emotions. This is in contrast to “shortness of mind or soul”, in other words irascibility, impatience, or intolerance.
Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church defines makrothumia found in Galatians 5 as the “ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing. To suffer joyfully.” Strong’s Lexicon explains that this term is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong. Its opposite is revenge or wrath.
Longsuffering is attributed to God in connection with his “bearing long” with sinners and His intentional delay in executing judgment on them, thereby allowing time for them to come to Him in repentance.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Now the God of patience [macrothumia] and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV)
Romans 15: 5-6
We are also to be longsuffering toward others.
Be patient [macrothumia], 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.
The Apostle Paul associates longsuffering with endurance which suggests patient endurance of trials and sufferings, and its further association with joy indicates a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.
In this regard, Matthew Henry defines long-suffering as patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries.
Christians are frequently admonished and exhorted to cherish and show longsuffering toward one another. For example:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [longsuffering], 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.
This is not the type of patience that waits in the line at the bank, without screaming for service, but with the foot tapping in frustration. Rather, this kind of patience is not available by our own efforts, it comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit and, just as the other fruit of the Spirit, this fruit is not available to the unregenerate man. It is a mark of the Christian as she is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly through the power that the Holy Spirit provides as we lean on Him and learn of Him. We look to Jesus as our chief example to imitate – He was the penultimate example of longsuffering patience throughout his life, death and even after His resurrection.
How does this apply to my daily life?
Does this patience/ longsuffering have relevance to our modern life? YES. Just look at what David describes in Psalm 55 when he realizes Ahithophel had betrayed him, and consider how this relates to the feelings you experienced upon betrayal and disappointment.
For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalm 55, said of the hurt that we can experience even from our “Christian friends”,
There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest.
However, while recognizing the universality of disappointment or emotional sabotage, Scripture teaches that longsuffering or patience does not permit either retaliation or revenge!
The Christian has the duty to bear the injuries suffered from others even if it requires longsuffering. This means that we do not bring any immediate suffering on the one who injured us. We are not to show any bitterness toward him, either in speech or in action.
Is this hard? Yes. Is it commanded? Yes. Does it require the Holy Spirit to work in us? Yes.
Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, the Apostle Paul said:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Next week we will consider how this patience is evidenced in our lives. In the meantime, consider how you can relate to those who have hurt you in the past and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the patience and longsuffering that you need so that you can respond in love and not bitterness.
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.