As an example, brothers and sisters, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord [as His messengers and representatives]. You know we call those blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] who were steadfast endured [difficult circumstances]. You have heard of the endurance of Job and you have seen the Lord’s outcome [how He richly blessed Job]. The Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
We want the character quality of patience, but we don’t want to go through the curriculum to learn it! We’d love to have the life of Christ effortlessly poured into us like a transfusion, but spiritual life doesn’t work that way. More often, faith is built in the crucible of doubts, hope develops when we face despair, and genuine love blooms in relationships with the most difficult people. In the same way, patience becomes a reality in us because we cling to God during times when ww long for quick, complete solutions to our problems.
Look at the prophets, James tells us, as examples of people in whom God gradually built the character quality of patience. All the prophets endured tremendous hardships, but none like Job did. He experienced calamity after calamity, followed by misunderstanding and accusations of friends- including his wife’s “encouragement” to curse God and die! (Job 2:9) But through long, excruciating times of intense suffering, confusion, and spiritual darkness, Job continued to cling to God. In the end, God showed up. Even then, God didn’t explain the whys to him. He simply convinced Job that He was, after all, the God of the universe, and he could trust Him (Job 38-41)
Could it be that God has been trying to form the quality of patience in us by putting difficulties, obstacles, and obstinate people in our lives? Gods curriculum for all of us includes several courses on Patience 101, 201, and 301. Will we try to skip school, or will we be good students and learn our lessons?
How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerance of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.
George Washington Carver
Impatience stems from a lack of trust. Usually when we are impatient with someone it’s due to their track record of not following through on a promise or unnecessary delays. Our anxiety stems from feeling like we’ve lost control of the situation and that it will end in disaster. Often impatience stems from us thinking that it’s our right to have what we want and to have it now. Most of us have to learn patience and we do so from delayed reception to our wants and desires. In the church when we speak of patience, we incorrectly say, “Don’t pray for patience or you’ll get trouble” as though the only way we can become patient is through suffering. It is true that suffering and trials work patience in us but those are not the only way we can attain it.
Reading through Paul’s description of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit we discover that the Holy Spirit provides us patience as a portion of His fruit.
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
If you look carefully at the list of the practices of the sin nature you will discover that impatience is at the root. For example sexual immorality often occurs because a couple can’t wait for marriage. Note that sensuality is defined as total irresponsibility and lack of self control. Strife, jealousy, disputes and dissections come because someone else has what we want now or we feel they are somehow standing between us and our goals.
But look at the fruit of the Spirit. The first portion is love, defined as unselfish concern for others and when it is operating in our lives it makes us patient. Having inner peace comes from trusting God with the totality of our lives. We rest in peace because we have the assurance that God is holding us and caring for us and providing for our every need. Usually if we’re pacing the floor, wringing our hands, becoming impatient, we have little or no peace. And the Amplified Bible defines patience not just as the ability to wait but how we act while we wait. I think that how we act while we wait is something important to talk about.
We all find ourselves waiting. Perhaps it’s waiting for another person to show up, or to carry out their promise or to make the change for the better or to do something the would make our lives better. More often than not, at least for Christians, we find ourselves waiting on God. We’ve brought our request to Him in prayer and now we’re waiting for Him to respond. Sometimes, like Mary and Martha, we are confused and hurt when He delays coming to our rescue. Those who are sick and suffering often wonder where God is and if somehow He’s forgotten them. Maybe, they think, they didn’t hear correctly the promises of God.
By the time Jesus came, the average Jew had for all practical purposes given up on the idea that a Messiah would actually come and relieve their suffering. Oh, to be sure they talked about it but it was more a myth or a fairytale wish than it was a valid hope. Many of them had long ago given up on God hearing and responding. As we consider the worsening conditions of the world today and the increasing trials and suffering, it is easy to give up on the coming of Christ for His church.
The danger of losing patience in the midst of a crisis is that it can turn us away from God who is our only source of hope and help. Many of us have read the story of Job and know that the only thing said about his wife is when she expresses to Job that he might as well curse God and die. It’s easy to judge her and condemn her response because her story isn’t as clear as Job’s. It’s easy to forget that when Job lost his wealth, she lost hers. When he lost his children, she lost hers. When he lost his health, she in essence lost a husband. I believe her response was out of deep pain and sorrow. Out of the depths of grief, watching everything in her life be snatched away, seeing her husband in intense pain and suffering, hearing his friends accuse him of displeasing God and thereby incurring all that was happening as punishment, it shouldn’t surprise us that she reacted as she did. Those who suffer great loss have two choices. In this case we read that Job responded by saying, “Everything I have was given by God and if He chooses to take it away, I’ll still trust Him-‘though He slay me yet will I trust Him’.” The wife let her loss, grief and pain push her away from her trust in God. Trials and tribulations will either cause us to draw near to God or they will cause us to draw back.
That very familiar verse of Romans 8:28 that tells us “all things work together for the good of them that love God…” includes the dark times as well as the good ones. Just as the mighty oak is strengthened by strong winds, every trial and trouble we go through strengthens our character and faith. As we experience the presence of God, as we find strength through Him, and as we are given the “peace that passes all understanding, our trust in God deepens and our patience with God, others, and ourselves grows.
Peter writes that in our growth as Christians, we are to add to our faith seven things:
“For this very reason, applying your diligence [to the divine promises, make every effort] in [exercising] your faith to, develop moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge (insight, understanding), and in knowledge, self-control, and in self-control, steadfastness, and in steadfastness, godliness, and in godliness, brotherly affection, and in brotherly affection, [develop Christian] love [that is, learn to unselfishly seek the best for others and to do things for their benefit]. For as these are yours and are increasing [in you as you grow toward spiritual maturity], they will keep you from being useless and unproductive in regard to the true knowledge greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:5-8
Finally today I want to remind you if you are experiencing trials and hardship and heartache that we have the promise from God that He will never allow us to be tested beyond what He will give us strength to endure and in every trial/test He provides a way out.
“ No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].”
1 Corinthians 10:13
I hope you are encouraged in your struggles today.
Father, for those who are suffering, who are grieving, who are in pain, I pray that Your grace, love, and presence will be with them today. May the know the power of Your “very present help in the time of trouble.” I pray this in Jesus name.
Dr. John Thompson