God’s promises, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:27). The Spirit inclines your heart to walk in God’s ways. You make effort to keep God’s commandments. But how you follow these commandments is as important as what they direct. And so the new Spirit born disposition of heart involves certain fruit. In this lesson we look at patience. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience . . .” (Galatians 5:22).
Paul refers to longsuffering, forbearance, and endurance. James challenges, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Then he exhorts, “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
C. S. Lewis speaks of Christ in this context. He is the only person, says Lewis, who knows the full extent of a test or temptation. How so? He is the only person to completely push through His testing and perfectly navigate the full extent of temptation. Our Lord did so exercising patient endurance. Thus He lived out the words of James. Hebrews 5:8-9 puts it this way. “He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
The prophets also exemplified patient endurance. “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job” (James 5:10-11). Isaiah’s life epitomized this endurance. God called him to difficult ministry. “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” We understand Isaiah’s response. “Then I said, ‘How long, O Lord?’ And he said: ‘Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away’” (Isaiah 6:10-11).
As Isaiah’s work required patient endurance so ministry today requires much patience and endurance. Pastors, elders, and all those involved in ministry must be full of love. Yet, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Ministry requires patience, endurance, and perseverance.
Now note how Paul speaks of God’s dealings with you and me. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)? Yes, consider God’s patient longsuffering kindness. Where would we be if God were not patient with us, giving us time and space to repent of our sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness? We would be lost forever. God’s longsuffering patience is a manifestation of His love.
The Spirit of God and of Christ, the Spirit of love, therefore works longsuffering patience in us. If you love your husband or wife, you are patient. If you love your children, you are patient and longsuffering with them. If you love your work, you exercise much patience on the job. You persevere in God’s calling. This patient longsuffering and loving patience is therefore an important witness in the church and in the world. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).