(We pick up again and continue our series on ‘Aspiring to…’)
Aspiring Meditations: 13. Aspiring to know Patience
Gal 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is …. patience
Rom 9:22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction?
2 Pet 3:9 He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Tim 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.
The importance of patience is indicated by the variety of the verses above. Very simply, it is a fruit of the Spirit, an outworking of His indwelling life within us. It is a characteristic of God that has been revealed in the way He has dealt with Israel and also how He is with each one of us as He waits for our slow responses to Him. Thus the call is also there to all of us in the way we cope with each other’s slowness to change.
In addition to these starter-verses the apostle Paul tells us that, “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor 13:4) and even as he encouraged Timothy to teach patience, so he did with the Thessalonians: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (2 Thess 5:14) Likewise to the Ephesians: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2,3) and to the church at Rome: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Rom 12:12).
But it is also a call in respect of the Second Coming: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (Jas 5:7,8)
So before we go any further let’s state what may be the obvious, just what is patience? Patience is the ability to wait (in the face of delays) in a state of peace (free from annoyance or anxiety). In my definition I have highlighted in the brackets the NEED and the potential EFFECT. We need patience when there is delay. We need patience to counter the potentials of annoyance and anxiety.
In our group of starter verses above, God is patient as He waits for our slow responses to Him. He was patient with Israel and He is patient with us. He waits for our slow responses to Him, and He is at peace and rest as He so waits on us. Likewise He encourages us to be patient while we wait for unsanctified believers to get sanctified! Be at peace while God works in them and simply accept that we are all at different stages of growth. To the Thessalonians and Ephesians in our follow-on verses he backs this up, recognising this as a primary need in the church. To the Romans, he touched on another need – to be patient when we are under pressure from the world, waiting for God to deliver us from opposition, and if we put our trust in His coming back, then just learn to be patient about that because we never know how soon – or late – that will be.
Now I have a feeling that patience is linked with temperament and so there are some of us who are more naturally patient and are able to simply wait at peace for whatever it is. In the early days of our marriage my wife exhibited an almost over-perfect case of patience. We had agree to meet outside a particular Underground station entrance in central London, not being aware that there were about six entrances! I waited outside one and gave up and went home after twenty minutes. She waited outside another and waited two hours before giving up and coming home. Perhaps that was a case of “Love is Patient!” I have got better over the years, but have never been allowed to forget that incident!
But perhaps our perception of our need for patience is also linked to our perceived need of the thing we are waiting for. Only yesterday I had a phone call from a national utility (Gas & Electricity) and after the person at the end of the line had quizzed me about a future course of action, said I qualified for something else and would transfer me to another department. I could hear the call signal going on and on for the other department and as my wife was listening to my despair over the whole call, I found myself muttering, “Oh, for goodness sake! It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m hanging up,” to which I got a stinging rebuke, “Come on, be patient!” A few seconds later the other department came on line for a further few wasted minutes.
The patience thing crops up all over the place. When you are caught behind that slow driver (who really shouldn’t be allowed on the road!!!!), or when that call centre takes ages to answer your cries for help when your online banking isn’t doing what it should, or when Windows insists on taking hours on yet another upgrade (oh not again! Why couldn’t they have got a foolproof system from the start that doesn’t need constant tweaks!!!) or…… well the list just goes on and on.
The common feature is a delay that we so often consider unwarranted, whether it is God, the church leaders, the rest of the congregation, the government, the train drivers or whoever. The ‘natural’ response is frustration and frustration is exhibited by anger and that does no one any good. No, I need more patience. I don’t know if the concept of ‘grumpy old men’ is a worldwide one but I have noticed that the older you get, the more the words, “I just don’t believe it!” come to my lips signifying, almost invariably, my displeasure over some delay in life. The speed, or rather lack of it, of people serving behind a counter is another of those things. It’s people, they are so slow! Oh Lord, I seriously need to aspire to greater patience.
Now I have been overplaying it a bit for in many ways I am very patient, but here is the funny thing: you can be patient as a saint over some things – that drive others mad – and yet find other mundane things seriously aggravating (those are the ones your partner points out to you as needing a serious dose of sanctification). But we are all different and your frustration is probably not mine, nor mine yours. We each of us have our points of stress, but whatever it is, the answer is the Lord’s grace in the form of patience. It is, I suspect, one of those things where we can make a declaration of intent: “I will not let this traffic jam upset me! I will take it as an opportunity to catch up on some listening on the radio!”
Patience comes with understanding the other person. Patience comes with the grace of God. Patience comes with humility. Patience comes with the understanding of an opportunity to see change. Oh dear, I suspect that the Lord is going to allow situations today to help me grow this particular fruit. I had better get close to Him. (with clenched teeth) Thank you Lord.