The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience
(Exodus 34, Romans 15, James 1)
Introduction: Galatians 5:22 tells us that another fruit of the Spirit is patience. I have lots of things to do and I do not like to waste my time unless the goal of my activity is to relax and "waste" time. How about you? Do you see pointless wasting of your time as a gift from God? What if I told you that "longsuffering" is another way to translate this word patience. Do you want to be suffering? While I was doing more research on what the Bible really meant by "patience," what I found were texts on endurance. The New Bible Dictionary defines patience as "restraint in the face of opposition or oppression." That sounds like a cross between suffering and endurance, rather than wasting time. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more about God has in mind with the gift of patience!
- God and Patience
- Read Exodus 34:5-7. Is being "slow to anger" a form of patience? (The Interlinear Bible reveals that the Hebrew words mean "longsuffering." Thus, what God is saying about Himself is very much like the "patience" described as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22.)
- Something very important is being said in Exodus 34:6. Notice that when God describes Himself, "slow to anger" is the third term He uses, and He places it before love. Is being slow to anger more important than love?
- As you consider the context, in what way is God slow to anger? In what way is He patient? (All of these descriptions seem to be in the context of dealing with humans about our sin problem. Thus, slow to anger means slow to anger about our sins.)
- What do you see as a benefit in that? (If we are talking about my sins (as opposed to yours), then I appreciate God not disciplining me (or destroying me) right away. Giving me a break is something I greatly appreciate.)
- Frankly, I was less concerned about God giving you a break about your sins. If God shows patience towards your sins, am I also required to show patience towards your sins?
- Should I consider it a virtue to be longsuffering (suffer long!)because of your sins towards me?
- We all understand why we want God to show some patience with us when we sin. But, why should He? What point is served by waiting? (If we look at our Exodus text, what follows from sin is punishment. Therefore, it seems that God is patient in the hope that we will turn from our sins and escape punishment.)
- Read Joel 2:13 and 2 Peter 3:8-9. Why do Joel and Peter suggest that we should turn from our sins? (The idea is that God is not waiting to "chop our head off." He is not rubbing His hands together with glee waiting to destroy us. Quite the opposite, God is giving us time to turn to Him by repenting and escaping punishment. God is taking His time in the hope you will turn to him.)
- You and Patience
- God is patient with us. Great! So, what reason do we have to be patient with others? (Read Matthew 18:32-33. If you do not know this story, read Matthew 18:23-35. On a very basic level, if God shows patience to us to allow us to turn from our sins, then we have an obligation to give that same opportunity to others.)
- Think about this for a minute. What kinds of sins has God forgiven you? Compare your sins with the sins of those who test your patience?
- Does this requirement apply to parents in dealing with their children? With children in dealing with their parents?
- Read Romans 15:5. What reason does this text give us for being patient (showing endurance) with our fellow Christians? (Unity. Being longsuffering helps to promote unity.)
- Have you ever met someone who is determined to point out the sins of others?
- How do you like it when fellow church members point out your sins? (The exercise of judgment is called for, but the clear direction is that our God shows patience (endurance) towards us and we need to show that same patience to our fellow church members. An attitude of patience promotes unity in the church.)
- Read Ephesians 4:1-3. Paul reinforces what we just learned: that our goal of unity in the church is promoted by being patient and "bearing with one another in love." However, Paul adds a new idea. He writes of being humble and gentle. What do humility and gentleness have to do with patience?
- How many Christians "correct" another member of the church because of pride and a lack of gentleness?
- Think about the last time when you heard a member (as opposed to the pastor or a duly elected church official) rebuke another member? Was it over a disputable issue on which the "rebuker" (due to pride) was sure he or she was right?
- Read Romans 14:1-4. What opportunities do we find here for condemning another church member? (First, the vegetarian (the one who wanted to avoid eating meat offered to pagan idols) should not condemn those who do not see the issue in the same way. Second, those who think the vegetarians are being silly, should not condemn them.)
- What?! No standards? What about upholding the standards? (Notice the topic is "disputable matters." However, be sure that your pride has not transformed a disputable matter into a standard.)
- How does Paul suggest that we should handle these kinds of debates about disputable issues? (Read Romans 14:22-23. We should keep these things to ourselves. We should show patience, instead condemnation, towards those who do not believe as we do. At the same time, if we believe something is sin, we need to follow our conscience.)
- Character and Patience
- Read James 1:2-4. The New International Version translates the last word of verse 3 as "perseverance." Other translations read "patience," "steadfastness" or "endurance." This is another aspect of patience. As you look at the context, what kind of patience is described? (The ability to look forward in faith when we are going through trials.)
- James tells us that this makes our faith "mature and complete." How is this the product of patience? (When we go through something unpleasant, if we trust God, and He sees us through it, this gives us confidence when the next temptation or trial comes. We look back on what God has done in the past and we have confidence that He will be there to help again. This kind of faith gives us a mature attitude.)
- Let's look at how we should apply these spiritual lessons to the realities of your life. When you are driving a car are you patient? Should you be? Or, are these other drivers just wasting your time and no spiritual issues are involved?
- What are the reasons why other drivers are holding you up? (A driver who just stays in the passing lane, not passing, but holding me up, is either selfish, inconsiderate or ignorant of the rules of the road. This sounds a lot like sin. Indeed I'm sure it must be sin!)
- What kind of attitude did we decide that we should have towards other sinners? (Since God is patient with us in dealing with our sins, we should be patient with others.)
- What about your job? Are you impatient for promotion? Do you feel that you should have been given more responsibility, more money and more authority?
- Look again at James 1:3-4. Does this text provide any helpful advice about promotion? (It suggests that perhaps we are not ready for promotion right now, and that patience in our present position will improve our skills and help us to be mature and complete.)
- What about patience while waiting in line? Is waiting in line a pure waste of time? (Here is a secret so that you will never have to waste time waiting in line again - use the time to pray and contemplate God's will for your life. I suspect that most people do not spend enough time in prayer. You can trade this wasted and otherwise frustrating time into productive time with God.)
- What about patience in waiting for Jesus to return and take us to heaven? (Read Matthew 24:45-46. Jesus tells us that we should fill the time waiting for Him by doing the jobs He has given us. If we focus on the task, instead of the wait, it will not seem like we are waiting.)
- Friend, do you feel impatient? Why not resolve to do this: fill your waiting time with productive work. Be generous when it comes to the slowness of others because God has been generous to you in your slowness in doing His will. Will you decide today to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to be more patient?
- Next week: The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindnesss.