FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 14
PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH
Last week we looked at patience/ longsuffering in our society and how it is defined in the Hebrew and Greek of Scripture. Now, we will consider what Scripture tells us about how we are to exhibit this patience!
What does Scripture say?
- When we love God we want to imitate Him and, thus, we want to exhibit longsuffering because one of the attributes of God is patience/ longsuffering.
“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …”
This longsuffering is shown in God’s bearing innumerable, continuous and abhorrent injuries, not just from men in the generic sense but from each of us individually on a daily basis. In short, it is God’s mercy in being longsuffering and patient so that he is slow to exact judgment on people.
Jonathan Edwards expressed it like this:
“If we consider the wickedness there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world in existence and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain alike on the just and on the unjust and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is his longsuffering toward us.”
As children imitate their parents, so we as children of God should imitate our Father – as He is longsuffering, so we should be likewise.
- When we love God we will want to express our gratitude for His longsuffering that has been exercised toward us.
All the injuries that have been received by us from others pale in comparison with the injuries which we have done to God and for which God has forgiven us! As we accept the forgiveness of God and His longsuffering on our behalf, we must show, as far as we are able, the same forgiving patience to others when they have harmed us. We can do this because of our thankfulness and gratitude to God for His forgiveness to us.
- We are not bearing injuries from others if those injuries disturb our calmness of mind or if they put us into excitement and tumult.
We should continue to have love in our heart toward the one who injured us and refuse to let the injury interrupt or destroy our love for him/her. We should not lose the quietness and repose of our own mind and heart over the injury we have suffered from someone else.
Remember who we are to imitate and into whose likeness we are being transformed – our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what evil he suffered, no matter what injury was inflicted on him, he bore them without retaliation or revenge … he loved the very people who inflicted the injury and he did not get flustered, angry or excited by it.
- We should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than to take any opportunity and, perhaps the right, to defending ourselves.
The Christian spirit of longsuffering will refuse to take the advantage that we might have to vindicate ourselves when we are injured, especially if by taking that action we might cause harm to the one who hurt us. Also, taking the advantage to address the harm will almost always lead to a loss of peace and will create hostility between people.
Paul admonished the Corinthians about this in 1 Corinthians 6:7 where he said:
“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
Longsuffering may be required for the sake of peace as charity may direct. This should be our first response to injury.
- The main root of a meek and longsuffering spirit is humility, and this humility is brought about by our love for God.
Pride or self-conceit is usually the foundation of an unforgiving and vengeful spirit. Love to God leads us to remember our unworthiness of His mercy and grace because of the sin that we so easily commit. There is no room for pride when we face the God who has given us so much – His Son.
- Our love to God enables us to recognize His sovereignty. In other words, God’s hand is in the injury that we suffer, not only the hand of the man who did the injury, and we will submit to God’s will in everything.
When we love God, we will see His hand in everything as He is sovereign. Remember agape love – one aspect of that love is that we acknowledge God’s absolute right to govern us in all aspects of our life. Our response to the injury from another person should be to see that it actually came through God’s love and wisdom for our good and for His own purpose for our life.
Remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they came to him in Egypt seeking relief from the famine:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Joseph recognized God’s sovereign hand at work, even in the horrible treatment given to him by his brothers. When he had a chance to retaliate, he declined and, instead, gave them a place to live and food for their families and flocks.
How does this apply to my daily life?
- We meekly bear with the injuries received from others.
There is no eye for an eye or tit for tat. Christ is the example. Jonathan Edwards summarizes this eloquently in Lecture iv:
“And, at last, when he was most ignominiously dealt with of all, when his professed friend betrayed, and his enemies seized him, and led him away to scourging and the death of the cross, he went as a lamb to slaughter, opening not his mouth. Not one word of bitterness escaped him. There was no interruption of the calmness of his mind under his heavy distress and sufferings, nor was there the least desire for revenge. But, on the contrary, he prayed for his murderers, that they might be forgiven, even when they were about nailing him to the cross; and not only prayed for them, but pleaded in their behalf with his Father that they knew not what they did. The sufferings of his life and the agonies of his death did not interrupt his long-suffering towards those that injured him.”
- The spirit of longsuffering is commended to us not only by the example of Jesus Christ, but also by the example of the saints.
Think of Stephen – Acts 7:59-60 when his persecutors were killing him by stoning, he kneeled down and prayed that the Lord would not hold this sin against them, and then he died.
Think of Paul – Although he was injured numerous times, 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, he exhibited a spirit of longsuffering when, after being beaten and chained, he was singing in prison so loudly that the other prisoners heard him and the jailer and his family were converted. Acts 16.
Think of the 1st century Christian martyrs. We cannot ignore their example of longsuffering during the horrific persecution of Nero and the rulers who came after him, even in our modern age throughout areas of the world which do not touch the U.S. but of which we are aware!
- This longsuffering on the part of the Christian is rewarded with the exercise of Divine longsuffering toward us.
We are often told in Scriptures that men are to be dealt with by God hereafter according to their way of dealing with others while here on earth.
With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
Psalm 18:25, 26
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If you are hurt by the action or speech of someone, before taking steps to get even or to set the record straight, pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to be patient and longsuffering. Pray that you would love the individual as God loves you and extend patient longsuffering toward the other person while you remember God’s longsuffering toward you on a daily basis.
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.