The Bare Soul - May 10, 2009
The Fruit of the Spirit - Patience

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Patience is often misunderstood in the carnal, fleshly mind. What many believers regard as the fruit of patience is often a reluctant tolerance toward something or someone that is in reality irksome to them in the present moment. Some might judge their level of patience by how well they can handle rush hour traffic when the guy in the next lane swerves in front of them without a turn signal or even the slightest notion of intent a moment sooner. Those who don't lay on the horn will probably judge themselves as patient and loving, able to turn the other cheek. At least this time. The same set of circumstances the next night might reveal totally different behavior. A new day of life situations may be setting up this seemingly patient fellow from the evening before into a predictable tizzy. The following morning (after his "gracious" behavior) he found out that his proposal for the new contract would need more work, according to his boss. Later, he can't find a set of keys for the storeroom that he borrowed from a co-worker. Not to mention his computer (that IT said they had fixed) crashed twice today, thereby losing three hours of work time trying to restore his system. Now, as he tries to hurry to the house so that he can get changed and head to his son's baseball game, some guy tries to "steal home" by cutting him off. This time, he has had it and lays on the horn. Then it hits him. It was the same circumstance as the night before. What had changed?

The truth is ... nothing had changed. This normal, usually good-natured, even-keeled person was merely revealing his own character. To the same degree that one might be surprised at these times of impatience which demonstrably manifests themselves, in the same token a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ might be equally taken aback when these moments display the very opposite. Most of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13 which is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 4, Paul begins listing a number of descriptions equating with love. He first mentions Love is patient. We know from I John 4:8 that God is Love. His very nature is love, as is His nature the embodiment of patience. God has no other way to react to any given situation rather than in patient love. Anything less would be selfish impatience, which carnal, fleshly humans manifest with ease since this is a natural out-working of the sin nature. However, a believer that is growing and maturing in the Lord and bearing fruit in some of the most unlikely places will begin to demonstrate a patience beyond anything that they themselves could contrive. The Lord Jesus Christ always showed perfect patience toward all humankind, because He was perfect love made manifest in mortal flesh. To live like Jesus on this earth would mean to display a patience that would typify the examples that Christ gave on the Sermon on the Mount. Does someone want your shirt? Give him your coat also! Did he strike you across the cheek, or did he rather hit you full-fisted? Give him the other cheek to strike also! Not only does this display divine love but it shows the patience of God at work -- knowing that He is the one who rewards both the righteous and the wicked. It is not our place to be patient with some and not with others. God will sort out the victors and the villains, the righteous and the wretched in the end. He just told us to be patient with all.

Before we can be patient and loving toward humankind, God allows us to learn from Him and His nature regarding patience. A dear friend of mine lay paralyzed from the neck down for 33 years before the Lord took him home. Pat was injured in a high school football game that would leave him many times in a fight for his life during these years of paralysis. Through the years, this patient man never lost hope that God would someday heal him. That was not to happen in this lifetime. However, through his endurance Pat learned how to be an incredibly patient, loving friend to all those around him. He learned love through his long-suffering, thereby passing on this depth of character he had learned to many others. Patrick had a special love for young people and with his loving, nurturing ways was able to steer many a wayward teen back on the right path. His patient soul spoke volumes to these who needed a caring ear to listen and to understand which inevitably provided them an anchor to hold fast during the storm which soon passed as they matured. Redemption is always waiting for those who will but wait for the Lord. For Pat, it came in May 2007 when the Lord called him home.

As Pat endured his hardship for more than 30 years, he would sometimes reflect on biblical characters such as Abraham who waited on the promise of God. This patriarch believed God, with the patient love from the Father, that His promises would be fulfilled. Furthermore, Abraham believed God was able to provide him an heir and patiently waited for another 15 years for God to perform this miraculous feat through his aged body of 100 years and that of his wife Sarah's of 90 years (Romans 4:18-25). Through the apparent deadness of their own bodies, God was able to bring forth life. Another was Job, who in his seemingly hopeless state where all of his offspring, livestock, and possessions were taken from him despaired not but patiently waited for God to vindicate him. Even in his plagued state of mind and body, he refused to subject his situation to selfish impatience. He knew whom he had put his trust in and would not falter in his trust toward the Lord. It is a spiritual axiom that out of death, sickness, and weakness, God can and does bring life, health, and strength. However, It is not always how we might imagine. Abraham imagined that God would make a great nation from his seed, Ishmael, whom Sarah's maid Hagar bore him yet it was through Isaac the blessing would come. Job despaired of life and thought he was ruined, yet God brought abundance once again to him by giving him greater wealth including more sons and daughters (James 5:11). Pat never realized that he was actually waiting for his own death to be complete once again in the new life. Through the last few years of his life there was a resignation to the will of God, and a patient attitude no matter what the outcome might be.

Impatience is a lack of love and an attitude of mistrust toward God and the final outcome of His dealings in our lives. No matter if it is waiting on traffic or waiting on healing from paralysis, God is to be patiently trusted in all circumstances.  Once we get past our own selfish desires to understand and orchestrate our lives, then God can take over as we patiently surrender. Just as patience is synonymous with love, so does God desire for us to love Him and wait patiently for His deliverance in every situation of our lives. Love IS patient -- just as God is love and is patiently shaping us in to vessels of honor that He can us for His Glory!

Lord, who hast suffer'd all for me,
My peace and pardon to procure,
The lighter cross I bear for Thee,
Help me with patience to endure.

- Prayer for Patience - William Cowper -

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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