Fruit of the Spirit // PATIENCE

PATIENCE

by Brent Wakefield

“Patience is a virtue,” but it’s not something we can produce on our own. While we all try to be patient, do we know what it means to experience true patience?

The world’s view of patience is simply waiting out the other guy to get what I want. Selfishness masked as virtue. Even as Christ-followers, we often focus on the outward acts of patience and strive to restrain ourselves in our own power. But it’s the motivation and condition of our heart that matters when experiencing true patience.  

For instance, if my child is disobeying me, it might appear is if I am practicing patience by not screaming at him in Wal-Mart and quietly escorting him away from the toy aisle; but inwardly, I want nothing more than for him to stop doing what he is doing so that I can go back to my day.  Even once his behavior subsides, I dwell on the feelings I had when shoppers gawked at us.  It’s all about me and not about how I can point my child to the cross of Christ that offers forgiveness for even the earliest of sins.

Perhaps my spouse and I are in a disagreement, and while I might resist raising my voice or even continuing on in the argument at all, my innermost being desperately wants them to agree with me so that I can do what I want to do or just stop the conflict altogether. When I go to bed that night, all I can think about is how they got their way once again. Again, it’s all about me – not how I might die to my own desires, engage in honest, meaningful dialogue, and experience the joy Jesus provides through marital oneness.  

And when that pesky co-worker needles me and picks a fight in front of others, I may keep from reacting in the moment, but what happens once they’re gone and I’m behind closed doors? Maybe I gossip about them, engaging in an unfair fight with an absent opponent, instead of praying for that person and the circumstances causing the turmoil that spawns their disagreeable personality.

In our own power, the best we can ever do is appear patient with others. But that kind of patience always comes to an ugly end – that of ourselves.
     
But true, Biblical patience is marked by both an outward – and inward – love and peace. Maybe that’s why “love” and “peace” precede “patience” in Galatians 5:22, and why the Bible routinely discusses the fruits of the spirit alongside one another. While we might be able to fake the outward appearance of patience in the moment, we cannot love others and experience the inner peace that marks true patience without the Holy Spirit.

Becoming truly patient requires a heart change. We must humbly ask the Holy Spirit to give us Christ-like love for our spouses, our children, and our neighbors. We must humbly ask the Spirit to help us submit to one another.  We must humbly ask Him to provide us with eternal sightlines that spur us on to patiently wait for others. We must ask these things not to get our way, but so that His will is done and the love of Jesus can be on full display in our lives that others might believe and gain eternal life.

“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.

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