Red Lights, stop signs, long lines at the grocery store–ask people whether they think of themselves as patient individuals, and most will probably say “No!” Patience is not one of our strongest virtues, especially in our microwave society.
We live in a world that wants results now, a culture in which cherry picking of information runs rampant, and an age when resources like Google allow the moderately informed to fancy themselves experts. Forget the idea that doing something for 10,000 hours makes you a master of that something. In today’s world watching YouTube videos for 10 seconds makes you an expert.
This isn’t a rant against modern technology and the woes it brings on our society. After all, I did post this on a computer, directly to a blog, and you found it via the beauty of the world wide web.
This is, on the other hand, a commentary on the human condition and what it does when it’s introduced to various aspects of life–in this case, cultivation of patience in our hearts. We as a society do not enjoy the idea of endurance and perseverance, even though our posters, bumper stickers and motivational speakers tend to lull us into thinking so.
You cannot compare a steak, seared on the outside over a wood-fire, then finished in the oven to a steak, thawed and cooked on high for 2 minutes in the microwave. Yet, so often we settle for twice frozen, never seared, preservative laden, rubberesque steak. We settle for less, and while this “less” may still be edible, it isn’t a sustainable source of nourishment and life over the long haul. (Believe it or not, McFood will eventually catch up with your arteries!)
So many of our woes are due to a lack of patience, a virtue we often proclaim as wise, yet seldom practice as habit.
Patience Is Inextricably Bound to Love
No stranger to the word “patience,” the Bible has a lot to say about the virtue–so much so that, in the original languages of Scripture, there were several words used for “patience.” Two of these words are seen in 1 Corinthians 13, an all-too-familiar chapter. But this passage really begins in Chapter 12, verse 31. When Paul says “I will show you a more excellent way,” he is essentially saying, “Let’s put the notion of all these spiritual gifts on hold for a moment. This next way, this next thing, this is the best way, this is the best thing.”
It is Oswald Chambers who once said “The good is always the enemy of the best.” Paul is saying this next way is the best way, the way of love, the way we ought to strive for.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul shows the folly of insisting that certain spiritual gifts are supreme while at the same time not having love. Then, he proceeds in verses 4-7 to give to us a true description of love.
“4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
There Are Two Kinds of Patience
You see how in verse 4 it says “Love suffers long?” This word in the Greek is “makrothymeō.” This is a specific type of patience. It literally means “anger far away.” It is the patience of David standing over Saul. This type of patience is slow to anger, slow to punish. This patience is a person who has all the power to do something in response to a situation, yet doesn’t. It is the patience of the strong.
Now do you see how in verse 7 it says “endures all things?” This word in the greek is “hypomenō.” This is another type of patience. It literally means “to remain under.” This is the patience of Mary standing at the feet of Jesus on the cross. This is the type of patience that has every reason to run under pressure, yet doesn’t. This patience is a person who has literally no power to do anything in response to a situation, yet continues to remain there. It is the patience of the weak.
Patience and Love–Both Are Aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit
Why is this important? As author Kenneth Bailey puts it in his book Paul through Mediterranean Eyes, “Notice how within the description of love, it is held together by bookends of patience.”
Now follow me on this trail, if patience is the beginning and the end of true love, and we know that love is THE fruit of the spirit (because remember that the word fruit is singular), then in the moments that we seem to be restless, anxious, without a shred of patience, it is because we need a fresh filling of God’s Spirit. If we desire to show true love, if we desire to truly be under the influence of God’s Spirit, then a manifestation of that will be His love, and His love is patient.
Patience is more than just a virtue, patience is a way of life. James says in James 1:4 that it is “patience (hypomenō)” which does its perfect work in us unto maturity.
We tend to cave in under pressure. It is the easy response. Remaining silent is not in our nature. We tend to lash out under fire. It is the easy response. Not using our power is not in our nature. As has been mentioned before, however, it is the fruit of the Spirit. “Therefore, let us walk in the spirit, that we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)
Patience is critical. It is when we lose patience that we become like the children of Israel in Exodus 33, who because Moses took too long for them, turned to a man-made golden calf and gave it the worship only their true savior The Lord deserved.
We have a reason for patience. The Lord is coming back. John says that the hope of His return and our final redemption “purifies us”. Jesus in Matthew 24:37-41, speaking on His return said that it would be like the “days of Noah.” He went on to say that the people in those days were simply going about their lives with no concern or care for the things of heaven. They were busy being married, eating, drinking, doing life with no concern for eternity.
The beauty of having a patience unto Christ’s return is the effect it has on our lives. It causes us to “redeem the time” (Eph 5:15). It causes us to be faithful servants who keep our master’s house until his return (Matthew 24:45-51). The Lord has given to each of us a “house” as it were. Whether it be our jobs, our actual homes, our ministries, or our families, we have been called to be faithful. The only way we can be faithful till the end is through patience.
Lord, whether it be our in Christian growth, in our marriages, or in our other responsibilities, help us to be patient where we are. Divorcing ourselves from our spouse or from our Lord is not the right response to trials, difficulties, and heartaches. Lord, may we be people who stand firm in the midst of growing trials in this Babylon we call the world. May we never grow weary of doing good, knowing that we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart. Lord, cause us to remember your return, help us remember your patience on the cross. Lord, give us the humility to cast aside our glory for the sake of Yours. Help us to practice self-control, knowing that us being in control is a myth. Lord, you are in control. And help us to remember the words of the Spirit through James:
Therefore be patient (makrothymeō), brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently (makrothymeō) for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient (makrothymeō). Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience (makrothymeō). Indeed we count them blessed who endure (hypomenō). You have heard of the perseverance (hypomenō) of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.