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June 17th, 2008 at 11:41 am

The Fruit of Patience

Dear Friends,

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience

At first glance one may wonder why we have to drag the Holy Spirit into talking about patience since all peoples everywhere tout patience as a virtue. To that I would say first that all people everywhere tout love as a virtue as well, yet human beings everywhere have a hard time putting love into action. Common grace and general revelation gives the human family various levels of knowledge of many things that are true. Yet, second, there is an aspect of the truth of all these virtues that can only be fully and properly be known in and through a personal relationship with the sovereign and mighty creator God, whom Christians believe is known through and in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Other words and ideas come to mind when one thinks of patience. Words like…

Waiting…

Suffering…

Hoping…

Enduring…

The farmer prepares the soil and plants the seed, and then he waits. First must come the early rain. Then must come the later rain. Not too little, not too much. There is precious little he can do but hope, wait, and be ready to work.

This is true of every farmer everywhere. Farmers tend to be patient people. Even atheist farmers whose hope is set in, well, probabilities or fate. They still must learn to deal with helplessness, with waiting, with hope deferred.

Farming provides an illustration of patience. But only an illustration.

Christian patience is deeply connected with Christian trust and Christian meekness. Amidst suffering, and I mean very real physical, social, or psychic suffering, often at the hand of unscrupulous and wicked men, our flesh often rises up within and leads us down a dangerous path. We want to lash out, get even, or get back, if we can. Usually that just brings further harm to us and to others.

We know and love and serve a mighty and powerful and good God. But can we trust him when we’re hurting and suffering? Can we trust in our heavenly Father’s goodness, wisdom, and timing? If we can, and if we do, we are learning patience. Sometimes the patient man cries out to God, “How long Oh Lord,” but in trusting Him, we are given the strength to wait, and the strength to “do good” even as we wait.

Christian patience is deeply connected with Christian hope. Because of all that we believe God has prepared for us down the line we can endure hardships and sufferings, and gladly give up our place in the rat race of life. For real, compared to our inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us” many of the things we strive so hard for now just seem so small. Better to serve others and work for their happiness, and when we are slighted, though it may sting, our hope helps us shrug it off and keep going. We can be better, more patient, giving, and loving people now, because of the hope stored up for us. being heavenly minded makes us more earthly good, and much more patient.

Christian patience is deeply connected with Christian gratitude. When the knowledge sinks in how much God has been forgiven me, how much my redemption cost my heavenly Father, I am able to forbear much more in my neighbor or my brother, just as I hope he or she can forbear in me. Had not my Heavenly Father been patient with me I would be utterly lost and alienated still.

I confess, sometimes I get impatient with folks who are impatient with folks. I guess I need to work on that.

I think we all pretty much know that we live in a grotesquely fast paced frenetic retaliatory impatient culture. We place the highest demands on things to work, and on others to serve us well, and we have little toleration for waiting or pain or suffering. If we come from that mindset to Christ and into the church, we drag a whole lot more of that than we realize in with us. Then our churches, to retain us and keep us happy, design their structures around these characteristics. Ironically, in the battle of flesh verses Spirit, the churches themselves often side with the flesh, while using the words of the Spirit.

Think about it.

We’ll have more to say about the fruit of patience in a couple of weeks…

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