“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2.)
The patience that the Holy Spirit gives us is far greater than unsaved man can possibly have. This kind of patience, despite the severest of circumstances, enables us to trust that God has a perfect plan and purpose for our lives.
An Impatient World
We live in a very impatient world. Everyone wants everything done immediately. There are few things today that have not been updated to pamper this fault in human nature. Everyone wants it now at the push of a button. In fact we often hear people say that they want a certain thing done ‘yesterday’, which indicates that few are patient enough to wait. As Christians, we ought to live above this impatience. The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to be impatient.
The word “longsuffering” derives from a Greek word meaning to be “long-tempered.” Therefore, if we are going to walk patiently, then we must not have a ‘short fuse’ or be ‘short-tempered.’
Three Aspects of Patience
1. It never gives up when the going gets tough. God promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2,7), but both he and his wife Sarah had to wait for Him to act on their behalf. In fact Sarah had to wait until all human possibility of bearing a child had gone. Then the miracle took place! They did become impatient while they waited, but Hagar’s son was not the promised seed. Because Abraham decided to leave the outcome of the promise to the Lord, it is written of him, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:15) and, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21.) No wonder Paul encourages us not to become disheartened by apparent delay, “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12.) James 1:4 reminds us that such patience is part of walking worthy, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
2. Godly patience endures difficult people that cross our path. “Be patient toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:14.) This kind of patience must work hand-in-hand with meekness. Our natural reaction to offensive people is one of retaliation, but with patience we can resist this tendency. “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:8-9.)
3. Patience accepts God’s plans and purposes. No doubt we have many questions about why things appear to go wrong in our lives, but we must trust that God knows what is best and will bring His will to fruition … “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (James 5:7) … “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28.)
In times of stress, when we find anger and impatience building up in us, we need to turn to the Lord in prayer. Most of the time the situation is not really as bad as we think, and even if it is, God is with us, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:10-11). Psalm 37:7 is good advice, “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass,” and Solomon says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6.)