I mean, I’m fairly easy going, laid back, “go with the flow.” Don’t those characteristics make me a patient person? Now that I’m admitting this to the world, I find it extremely laughable. I am NOT a patient person. I’m obviously in denial. This truth was never more evident to me than one night as I lay on the cold tile floor of an airport with one leg around my carryon and my body hugging my suitcase like it was a body pillow. I ineffectually tried to sleep the six hours away while stuck in the airport waiting for the “worst ice storm” seen in years to subside. As the clock ticked on, the waves of emotions, the irritability, the frustration, the anger, the brink of tears, were all the evidence God needed to convict me of the lack of patience in my life.
Maybe you have never found yourself making nice with the hard, cold floor of a strange airport (or maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about). But maybe you have experienced the struggle for patience in other areas: the methodically slow cashier has no idea just how large your to do list is, your children don’t get that when mommy is working at her desk she’s not to be disturbed, the traffic jam is causing you to pick up your kids late…again!
Whatever your situation, patience is a tricky character quality to master. It’s a bit like humility…if you think you have it, you probably don’t; and to pray for it is to invite a world of trouble to invade your life. At least this is the stigma praying for patience seems to have. “Don’t pray for patience,” a lady told me a month ago in my small group. “If you do, you will find yourself with plenty of opportunities to practice it.” And yet even with this stigma, there are so many reasons we should desire to be patient women.
- We are patient because God is patient toward us.
2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you; not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
It is an undeniable fact that the Holy God of the universe has every right to completely obliterate us because of our consistent sinfulness. He obtained that right the moment Adam brought sin into His perfect and newly created world, and we, Adam’s descendents, just keep giving Him reasons. Not a day goes by that He doesn’t have at least 10 reasons to run out of patience with me….and that’s on a really good day! And yet, God is patient toward us. He is not slow to fulfill His promise. He is continually forgiving us of the sin we commit every day, and sometimes it’s the same sin…over and over again. We mess up in the same area day after day after day, and what is God’s response? Forgiveness. Patience. Reconciliation. This is the Gospel: We sin. God sent His Son to die in our place so our sin debt would be forgiven. We accept this gift and become HIS children, and His patience outlasts our very breath as He continues to work in our lives for the rest of our time on earth.
Do you ever wonder where your life would be without the patience of God? Pretty bleak, huh? We are patient because God is patient toward us. Reason enough!
- We are patient because it validates our message: The world needs the Gospel of Jesus!
In the first century, the church was facing extreme persecution, a fact that Christ warned them of in John 15. But their main concern wasn’t survival. It wasn’t life or well-being, the economy, keeping up with the Joneses, or making everyone happy. Their sole focus was the Gospel of Christ. Their aim was the spread of the message to all. 2 Corinthians 6:3-8 says, “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise.” Their behavior was merely seen as a catalyst for the Gospel message. And they made sure their behavior wasn’t going to be a hindrance to it. For the Gospel changes people, and their lives proved it to the watching world of Corinth.
Life is not easy. And anyone who says differently is probably selling something. Christ talks over and over again about persecution and suffering that comes to every Christian. The question lies in how we endure it? If we are enduring hardships, temptations, trouble and distress with an attitude of patience, the Gospel of Christ is made clear to those the Lord places around us. If, however, we go through these trials, sufferings, temptations and distresses, complaining and sputtering and just downright miserable, that too is giving light to the Gospel. If the Good News of Christ isn’t changing us, why would the world need it? And to take that question a step farther: if the Good News of Christ isn’t changing us, do we really know it? Have we truly come into a relationship with Christ? Matthew 7 talks about those who say they know Christ, but His changing work is not evidenced in their lives.
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:16-18, 21 -23 (ESV)
So ask yourself: do I have a relationship with Christ that changes me? Or do I merely have the knowledge of Him?
- We are patient because it is a manifestation of our trust in God and love for people.
When we display patience, we are signifying the amount of trust we have in a sovereign God. We are not restlessly wanting our agenda to materialize. We are patiently waiting on the Lord to work. He is working out good in the situation, and we can find contentment in that. For instance, if I had been patient in the airport, I would have realized the overarching protection the Lord was displaying in my life by keeping me safe inside the airport and my cousin safe inside her house. Neither of us was out on the roads with the other 100 cars that had skidded off in ditches that night. But in childlike fashion, I failed to see the big picture and only saw how I was being affected by the storm. Isn’t that just the way impatience works though? We become so close-minded in our situation; we tend to not see beyond ourselves and our immediate needs.
Not only does our patience reflect the amount of trust we have in God, but it also speaks to the love we have for people. When we neglect showing patience to those we are irritated by, we are not showing love. And if we have not love, Scripture says we are nothing. I Corinthians 13:4, and 7 defines love with patience:“Love is patient, love is kind…it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This is wildly convicting because it speaks not only to the lack of patience with people, but, accordingly, the lack of love for them. So often we can readily admit that we have little patience for people. But to say that we have a lack of love for them somehow places us on a level of depravity that makes us cringe. Yet Scripture does not budge on this definition: If we love people, then we will be patient with them. And if we are not patient with them, we have no love for them.
Ephesians 4:2 commands us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” We cannot skirt our way around this charge. We must love people, therefore, we must be patient with them.
But how? How do we become this patient woman? I know only one way: Submit our will to God’s. Resign our agenda to His, and in humility see things the way God sees them.
1. See your circumstances as opportunities to grow your faith. This is the outlook James speaks of when he encourages the church to count trails as joy (James 1:2-4). The word count that James uses means to engage in an intellectual process, to think. James is speaking of mind over matter, fact over feelings, evidence over emotions, the Spirit over the flesh. Joy doesn’t come naturally in the middle of trials. A change of perspective is required to have an attitude of rejoicing. God wants us to see trials the way He sees them: a test of a faith, an opportunity for growth, a chance to trust Him. When faced with strenuous circumstances, God is saying, “Child, see this as I do: see this as a chance to trust my heart. See this momentary affliction as an opportunity for me to work out my will in your life.”
2. See those you come into contact with as better than yourself. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Romans 12 speaks largely on how to coexist with people and keep a testimony of great faith in God. If we want to grow in the area of patience in how we deal with those we come into contact, then we must see them as God would want us to; we must see them as better than ourselves.
3. Realize that patience is a work of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” It is a fruit of the SPIRIT, not a fruit of the flesh. Therefore, we cannot make this happen apart from the Spirit’s help. Without Him, it’s simply not going to happen…not really. It will constantly elude us. BUT if we are walking with the Lord and in His Word consistently, the Holy Spirit is going to complete this work. HE is going to do it. Like Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
Patience. For some of us, it can seem like an impossible feat. Worry not, but trust. As God continues to work in your life, HE will continue to hone this virtue into existence. We, however, must continually (and humbly) submit to this work. We must change our perspective about the circumstances and people around us. And while the storms of life rage around us, patience will complete its work, so that we may “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”