What Is Patience?
Long-suffering in the Bible :
- is rewarded
- comes from being tested
- comes from reading the Scriptures
- is needed most in a crisis
- a sign of Paul as apostle
- in opposing evil
- waiting for Christ's return
- is shown by the prophets
- is shown by others in the Hebrew Scriptures
- is a virtue to be taught
Christ's "limitless" patience is shown by His mercy toward even the worst of us.
In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul and his colleagues pray that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God's will, which will bear fruit and the Colossians may attain patience.
In 2 Timothy 4:2, those who preach and/or teach are given charge to do so with "total patience".
One of the most common descriptions of God's own characteristic forbearance is found in, among other places, Exodus 34:6.
Long-suffering or patience. It's not my favorite spiritual fruit. As someone who growls when the car in front of me doesn't move when the light turns green, I can't say I'm a patient man. I'm a New Yorker, you understand, and I'm raised to demand instant action. I live in a fast-paced world which is getting faster even as age slows me down. Life's too short. I do not want to sit still for other people's troubles. My first instinct is to move on and let them stew in it. Me, suffer over someone else? Bah! When I see someone spending a large amount of time in devotions and prayer, sometimes my first thought is that they're escapists running away from the world. Don't they know they're running out of time?? There's too much to do, and to hell with anyone who gets in the way.
In that way, I am a man of my era. Today's human being is unwilling to put up with what doesn't conform, ditching the spouse if things aren't working out just right, making short-term investments to make quick bucks, dumping chemicals in a nearby stream (or a nearby slum) to get rid of the stuff quickly, unwilling to wait until the commercials are done to find something watchable on television. He/she can't afford to be patient, according to this outlook. Those who bear emotional burdens over those they love seem like fools who should cut loose 'for their own good', or so it's said. However, the Spirit, who can be faster than any of us, is not in it for the quick hit. The Spirit counsels patience: you have all of eternity, and all that is not joy today will pass away someday.
Also, love demands patience. A quickie affair is simply not as deep and powerful as a relationship that builds over time. It takes time to go through the repeated, day-in, day-out confidence-building incidents that binds two "me-s" together. God's love takes that kind of time, too. Spiritual practices and the disciplines of devotion and study can help you grow your ability to become patient, because the gains from them can't be rushed.
Patience is also a key part of prayer. We, who demand instant responses, have to deal with the truth that any answer will come on God's schedule not yours. (Hey, it's not your universe.) In Psalm 40:1, it says "I waited patiently for the Lord." But it feels so long sometimes. How long to sing this song? As long as it takes! The Psalms say it over and over and over again: wait for the LORD. Be still. Or to put it as James did, wait patiently in the way that the farmer waits for the coming crop.
Remember -- God is persistently working for the better, and God wins in the end. You can trust in that.
A prayer, overheard :
"God, give me patience --- RIGHT NOW!!!"
When some situation (or some jerk) tries your patience, have a laugh over it, and it will seem less burdensome. God has a great sense of timing, so it helps to be in tune with it. Spiritual practices can help you develop that sense - it's like you're exercising your patience muscles, you're adjusting your inner antenna. This in turn instills you with contentment and a more balanced way of looking at the matter. You won't want mere relief of your anxiety or instant results; you'll want the matter resolved in as positive a way as is possible. Patience comes easier when you think about God's timing rather than your own. It also comes easier knowing that your trials are the main way you can develop patience.
There are hobbies that help build patience. Two of the most common of these are gardening and fishing. In each, the results do not come quickly, nor on demand. You have to wait.
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