The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience.
My children were small, and I was impatient and irritable. So much so that I didn’t like myself sometimes. So of course I prayed for patience. That’s what you do, right?
Years went by before I finally learned that “being patient” doesn’t mean letting the children disobey and disobey while you stand by, smiling placidly and speaking gently. Instead, those gentle words should accompany a swift correction.
So I came to find out that I didn’t even really understand what patience was.
Our modern way of thinking about patience always embodies two attributes: Calmness, and Passive Inactivity. But that’s not how it is in the Bible.
One day my dear friend Heidi described how she had importuned God for six months to topple an idol in her heart. The day finally came when He smashed it and fully delivered her. Afterwards, she read Psalm 40, which begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord.”
She said, “That whole psalm is true about me, except the first verse. I did not wait patiently. I wanted Him to change me NOW.”
But many psalms say something like, “How long, O Lord?” So I looked and found that the Hebrew word in that verse translated “patient” was the same as the one before it: “wait.” So David is saying something like, “I waited and waited.”
“Oh, I definitely waited and waited!” said Heidi. “It was excruciating at times. But I kept asking, because I knew God would respond. And He did it. He did it.”
My soul, wait only on God, for my expectation is from Him.
Even in the New Testament, none of the words for patience imply inaction, and some don’t even imply calmness. They imply determined resolve, based on a rugged confidence, like Heidi’s. A blazing hope that God will do what we know we cannot do ourselves.
The seed on the good ground are those who, with an excellent and good heart, hear the Word and hold fast to it, bearing fruit with patience.
Romans 5 reminds me that because of Jesus Christ and His grace and glory, I can rejoice even in the very hard times of life. I will wait for Him, hope in Him, trust in Him, with determined resolve, because I have nowhere else to turn.
If we confidently hope for that which we cannot see, then we wait for it with patience.
And Romans 5 says that I will most surely see Him accomplish great things in me and for me, which gives me a fierce hope for His continued work, by His love in me through the power of the Holy Spirit.
If I pray for patience, because, well, I really just want to be a nicer person, I want to have an easier life, am I not failing to see the big picture? Isn’t this just one more way of focusing on the Screen?
When I look beyond, when I rejoice in the midst of the tribulations of life, because I expect God to do a mighty work for His glory, won’t I find that the determined resolve I need, based on a strong confidence, will be mine?
A woman like me complained about her need for patience with her children. “Oh, madam,” said Watchman Nee, “it is not patience that you need. It is Christ.”
Don’t focus on the patience you don’t have. Focus on the Savior you do have. And find that the Biblical patience to trust Him with determined resolve springs naturally, like fruit, out of your life.
~originally published January 2011