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Patience

When you hear the word patience, what do you think of? The Google definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

Patience isn’t something that comes naturally, because it’s not really in human nature to be tolerant of those we consider to be rude, obnoxious, or unpleasant, nor is it in our human nature to remain patient in situations that inconvenience us; such as getting stuck in traffic or waiting for your food to arrive in a busy restaurant after not eating all day.

However, when we look in the word of God, we can see patience is a virtue that Christians should have (2Th 3:5).

The Webster dictionary defines being patient as

having the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness; sustaining afflictions of body or mind with fortitude, calmness or christian submission to the divine will; as a patient person, or a person of patient temper. It is followed by or before the evil endured; as patient of labor or pain; patient of heat or cold.”

The Bible says that we will have tribulation as believers (Jn 16:33). Being patient in tribulation means being able to endure without murmuring or complaining (Rom 12:12, Phil 2:14), or without being fretful (irritated or distressed) about bad situations or circumstances. Rather, we should be choosing to trust and submit to God’s divine will in our lives. James mentions that the testing of our faith produces patience to bring us into perfection:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”

(Jas 1:2-4).

The first chapter of James’ epistle tells us patience is produced when we are tested for our faith, and when patience has its perfect work in us – when it is formed and produced within us – then we are complete and lacking nothing. Cyprian, an early church father, tells us that those who are patient are imitators of God:

“And that we may more fully understand, beloved brethren, that patience is a thing of God, and that whoever is gentle, and patient, and meek, is an imitator of God the Father.” (1)

Patience is a part of God’s nature, as one of the fruits of the Spirit is longsuffering (Gal 5:22), also known as patience. If man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26) then it makes sense for us to be bearing all the fruits of the spirit including patience!

We see many examples of righteous patriarchs and prophets in the Bible who showed patience:

Joseph, who endured being sold to slavery in Egypt, falsely accused and sent to prison, yet was still able to forgive his brothers; 

Moses, displaying mercy and forgiveness with the people, who complained against him; even interceding on their behalf to the Lord; 

David, who endured many trials patiently before AND after being crowned king over Israel; 

Job, who was able to praise the Lord even though he had lost his entire family, all his possessions and his health; 

All the apostles and disciples of Christ who patiently endured persecution; who were tortured and murdered for their faith.

Cyprian mentions the reward for their patience:

“In fine, so many prophets were slain, so many martyrs were honoured with glorious deaths, who all have attained to the heavenly crowns by the praise of patience. For the crown of sorrows and sufferings cannot be received unless patience in sorrow and suffering precede it.” (2)

Part of being patient also means to love those who hate us. Jesus said to pray for those who persecute us. We can only do this when we have understanding and patience with others. Cyprian also mentions that Jesus displayed patience when He forgave those who crucified him:

And after all these things, He still receives His murderers, if they will be converted and come to Him; and with a saving patience, He who is benignant to preserve, closes His Church to none. Those adversaries, those blasphemers, those who were always enemies to His name, if they repent of their sin, if they acknowledge the crime committed, He receives, not only to the pardon of their sin, but to the reward of the heavenly kingdom. What can be said more patient, what is more merciful? Even he is made alive by Christ’s blood who has shed Christ’s blood. Such and so great is the patience of Christ; and had it not been such and so great, the Church would never have possessed Paul as an apostle.(3)

God is so patient with us, wanting none to perish but all to come to repentance (2Pe 3:9). Just as the apostle Paul said, love is long-suffering (1Co 13:4), and Scripture says we must forgive to be forgiven (Mat 6:14). We saw Jesus walk this out as He forgave the very people who mocked and crucified Him saying,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

(Luk 23:34).

Another part of bearing the fruit of patience, that we might not think about, is being patient with ourselves. When Jesus talks about the parable of the seed and the sower, He says that the seed (Word of God), when sown in good soil, produces fruit with patience. Just as it takes time for a seed to grow into a mature tree bearing fruit, it can take time for the fruit of the Spirit to grow in us.

“But as for that seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word with a good and noble heart, and hold on to it tightly, and bear fruit with patience”

(Luk 8:15 AMP).

Hermas, another Early Church Father, writes how through patience and understanding we become righteous:

“Be patient,” said he, “and of good understanding, and you will rule over every wicked work, and you will work all righteousness. For if you be patient, the Holy Spirit that dwells in you will be pure. He will not be darkened by any evil spirit, but, dwelling in a broad region,he will rejoice and be glad; and with the vessel in which he dwells he will serve God in gladness, having great peace within himself. But if any outburst of anger take place, forthwith the Holy Spirit, who is tender, is straitened, not having a pure place, and He seeks to depart. For he is choked by the vile spirit, and cannot attend on the Lord as he wishes, for anger pollutes him. For the Lord dwells in long-suffering, but the devil in anger.” (4)

When you get upset and angry – you don’t have any peace, it affects your day and your ability to connect with God because the Holy Spirit does not dwell in anger, but in longsuffering. Patience is definitely a fruit of the Spirit that needs to be practiced every single day. 

“It is patience which both commends and keeps us to God. It is patience, too, which assuages anger, which bridles the tongue, governs the mind, guards peace, rules discipline, breaks the force of lust, represses the violence of pride, extinguishes the fire of enmity, checks the power of the rich, soothes the want of the poor, protects a blessed integrity in virgins, a careful purity in widows, in those who are united and married a single affection. It makes men humble in prosperity, brave in adversity, gentle towards wrongs and contempts. It teaches us quickly to pardon those who wrong us; and if you yourself do wrong, to entreat long and earnestly. It resists temptations, suffers persecutions, perfects passions and martyrdoms. It is patience which firmly fortifies the foundations of our faith. It is this which lifts up on high the increase of our hope. It is this which directs our doing, that we may hold fast the way of Christ while we walk by His patience. It is this that makes us to persevere as sons of God, while we imitate our Father’s patience.” (5)

When we have patience, we are able to endure whatever trial and tribulation comes our way and to forgive and let go of whatever has been said about or done to us wrongly. We can see this pattern all throughout scripture with many righteous men and women of God. Jesus said that in Him we have peace, and that those who endure to the end will be saved (Mat 10:22).

The apostle Paul was able to endure every affliction patiently because he understood it was only for a moment of time, and that it was nothing to be compared to the glory that would soon be revealed (2Co 4:17, Rom 8:18). Like Paul, we need an understanding that eternal life is given to those, “who by patient continuance in doing good, seek for glory, honor, and immortality,”(Rom 2:7). 

References:

  1. The Treatises of Cyprian. TR. 9 Treatise IX. — On the Advantage of Patience
  2. The Treatises of Cyprian. TR. 9 Treatise IX. — On the Advantage of Patience
  3. The Treatises of Cyprian. TR. 9 Treatise IX. — On the Advantage of Patience
  4. The Pastor of Hermas, Bk 2, Part 1 – Commandment Fifth. Of Sadness of Heart, and of Patience.
  5. The Treatises of Cyprian. TR. 9 Treatise IX. — On the Advantage of Patience

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