In the age where we have gotten accustomed to everything immediate, we respond poorly when we have to exhibit patience towards others or when God intends for us to be patient with what He is doing.
What is Patience?
Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Reading this definition made me squirm for the number of times I so easily have failed to be what it describes. Patience being a spiritual fruit is not an innate quality of our human nature but it comes from the spirit’s work in us and so we have hope.
The spirit works in us, but we too have a responsibility in the process, of obedience, of submitting to the refining work of the spirit, lessening ourselves so that God can increase in us and to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
God’s Patience towards us
We might need to grow in patience but God doesn’t. It is part of His perfect divine nature.
In Exodus 34:6 God describes himself to Moses saying “I am the Lord God, I am merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Reading this verse brings to light that His steadfast love, faithfulness, mercy and grace towards us, all tie in together for God to be patient (slow to anger) with us. We do not deserve and neither do we earn His patience with our behaviour, but God being who He is, is what causes Him to be patient with us.
God is slow to anger and even though he can mete out justice quickly in response, He chooses to show us restraint.
His restraint is for a reason, as we read in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
And further in verse 15a we read “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”
He extends His patience in His love so that us sinners can turn to Him and be saved. He extends His patience to those who know Him as Lord and yet falter because He in His love gives us time to shed our earthly nature and become more Christ like.
We see examples of this through scripture. God was patient with the sinners during Noah’s time (1 Peter 3:20). He was patient with Abraham when he faltered in believing the how and when of God’s promise of descendants and tried to manufacture the promise in his own timing and in his own way. We read in Psalm 78:38 how time after time God restrained His anger and did not stir up his full wrath towards the people of Israel when they were disobedient to God.
God’s patience is not licence for us to be disobedient
God’s patience is lengthy but disobedience to Him, he does not overlook. God gave the people of Israel time to repent but judgement eventually came and with ample warning. And similarly, with the people at Noah’s time.
We see God get angry with Moses because of his disobedience, we read that in Numbers 20. God tells Moses to speak for water to come from the rock but Moses decides to do differently and strikes the rock. That disobedience cost him. God says in verse 12 “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
Living out Patience
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:16 “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example of those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
And in light of the patience God showed towards Paul, we see him write about the patience he is to show towards others so that they are examples of God’s saving grace and are not stumbling blocks to anyone.
2 Corinthians 6:3-6 “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness.”
Paul’s words help us ask ourselves that in light of the immense patience God shows us, how do we live out the patience that he offers us?
Reflecting His patience in an impatient world to those around is an opportunity for us to reflect Christ’s love to others.
We might then say that some people can be difficult to extend patience towards especially when they hurt you. But patience should not be mistaken for tolerance. God is patient with sinners but he does in no way excuse or tolerate sinful behaviour and such behaviour does have consequences.
When are we to be patient?
We are to be patient with God’s timing – Ps 37:7 says “Be still before the Lord; and wait patiently for him.”
David writes in Ps 40:1 “I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.”
And we are to do that because His word reminds us to “Trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding” (Prov 3:5-6). And Isaiah 55:8 reminds us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
We are to be patient in trials – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:2). Because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).
We are to be patient with one another – “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). And we do that because He so graciously is patient with us.
Romans 15:5-6 says “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are to be patient because He is patient with us. Being patient with one another is about reflecting God and bringing Him glory through our actions. So, when you feel your patience slipping, it might coincide with when God is not in the front and centre of your mind. So, talk to Him, bring your focus back to Him and allow the enemy’s attempts to stir you towards anger and anxiety melt away and be replaced with the peace and patience of God.