Patience is something that most everyone knows they need, but not many want to suffer through. My children are learning patience when they go out to a restaurant and must wait for the food to arrive. I am learning patience in the effort to pay off debt and focus on the priorities of God (Proverbs 22:7). Patience is such a common word that it might be easy to miss God’s view of patience and what he wants for His children
First, remember that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. That means God Himself will provide what is needed to those who rest in Him. But what does the word mean exactly? Is the virtue and significance of patience all about being forced to wait at a restaurant for an extra 30 minutes more than expected?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22 ESV
Patience here in Galatians brings out the idea of endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance. It is the idea of having the ability to withstand something boring on the easy end of the spectrum to soul crushingly oppressive on the hard end of the spectrum. Paul puts the same word in context in his letter to the Ephesians. Here he talks about having patience to put up with the other people and keep unity in the church.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
Now, I used the words “put up with” when describing patience toward others, but that is not really the point of Spirit enabled patience. When we rely on ourselves patience is something to “put up with”. However, when we rely on God and live submitted to His Holy Spirit then patience is done with joy and love. Has anyone enjoyed and counted it a joy waiting too long for food to arrive in a restaurant?
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, Colossians 1:11 ESV
Patience is an inner strength that comes from the Holy Spirit to know God’s plans are sovereign. This delay is not a burden or something forced. It is an opportunity to rest in His perfect planning looking with joy to see what opportunities He has set before us. What if in the wait a moment of reflection and relationship with God is in order? What if in the wait a conversation of eternal significance might be held? What if in the wait life is enjoyed?
Be patient, 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. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7-11 ESV
Real patience understands the eternal perspective and this is where God honoring faith comes to meet us in things that really matter. Abraham placed his trust in God. He knew that God would provide what He promised.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV
As children of God and heirs to the promise of Jesus, we can have perfect trust in God and what He accomplished on the cross. Patience then is a gift of the Spirit that we can practice and exercise in the hardships of this world knowing that our future remains secure in the one we can trust without reservation.
* Revised and Edited: Originally Posted Sept. 2013