In my last several posts, I stated that I plan to delve into the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. I began with just listing the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13 because I believe that abundant living mirrors the love that Christ shows us and we are to show others. As promised, this post deals with “patience.” I’m pretty sure we all know what patience is because we have either exhibited it or seen it in others. According to Dictionary.com patience is 1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance misfortune or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation or the like. 2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. 3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.
Ouch! Bearing anything without complaining or losing my temper?? Staying quiet when I am annoyed?? I need to borrow my husband’s steel-toed boots!
God must have a sense of humor to begin the meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13 with the one characteristic I have the most trouble with – Patience. Truthfully, there’s nothing funny about my impatience and He knows me so well. I have always been an “on time” person and I am still learning how to deal with people who are notoriously late for everything. I won’t mention any names!
Losing my patience when unforeseeable circumstances cause me to be late is also a problem area. Just a few days after I began this inquest about patience as it pertains to abundant living my husband and I were riding around in Atlanta trying to find the Emory University Lacrosse field. Our son plays for Coastal Carolina University which is five hours away, so when we found out they would be playing at Emory in Atlanta just two hours from home, we definitely made plans to be there. Even with the dropped pin on the smartphone and the directions on our Garmin GPS system, and leaving our house extra early, we were late! We rode around the Emory campus in circles with the field and the players in view from the road, but the entrance was no where to be found – on time that is. I lost it! I began saying things that should not have come out of my mouth and I took it out on my husband which resulted in him becoming angry with me. My fear was that we would miss the game entirely! Once we found the entrance tucked away behind the baseball field, I calmed down and apologized to Bill, but the damage was done. We missed the first quarter which is fifteen minutes of the hour playing time. But God is good! Not only did we get to see our son play, they won the game 12-0!
Have you ever noticed when we are dealing with a character flaw or sin, God has a way of bringing it to our attention in various ways and in his perfect timing? The very next morning after my rant about missing 15 minutes of a lacrosse game, I read a devotion by Joyce Meyer about patience….well, what do you know? She said, “Patience is extremely important for people who want to glorify God and enjoy their lives. If we are impatient, the situations we encounter in life will certainly cause us to react emotionally.” Was she in my car the day before? Yes, I want to glorify God and enjoy my life (abundantly!), so I need to be patient and not react with my emotions.
She suggested that when we experience these circumstances that could cause impatience, we should say out loud, “I am developing patience as I wait, so I am thankful in this situation.” It’s similar to taking a deep breath or counting to ten before we react. I can honestly say that I have never done this in the heat of the moment. I have a lot of work to do.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The Greek word used for perseverance (patience) in this verse means “cheerful or hopeful endurance.” I can say that my behavior on the “Emory merry-go-round” did not exhibit anything close to being cheerful or hopeful. There was nothing merry about that ride! But did you notice according to James 1:4 that we have to let patience work? So, when I say I have a lot of work to do, it’s really the patience that will work in me. Another nugget from this verse is when we let patience finish this work the result is…
Not lacking anything!
Doesn’t that sound like the definition of the abundant life?
God is also revealing to me that He has had to be patient with me far more than I have had to be with others and circumstances. His word reveals that God our Father is patient with his children even after warning through the prophets (Nehemiah 9:30.) The Psalmist stated several times that God is slow to anger (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8). For this I am ever grateful! He is also patient with all mankind because he does not want anyone to perish but he wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
So, should I read these verses and think “That’s all well and good for God, but I’m not God so how can He expect me to be patient?” That’s the easy way out, because if we are truly a child of God, His Spirit lives in us (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14), and the fruit of the Spirit includes patience. Notice it says “fruit” not “seed.” It’s already in us, we just have to use it and we are given numerous opportunities to mature in this area. (Let it work!) We tend to think that we have to pray for patience, but we already have it. We must remember that God might just allow situations to test us, and we can be sure that our enemy Satan will tempt us to react in ways that do not reflect the love of Christ.
I realize that for some of us being patient is also long-suffering, much more so than the situation I was in trying to find a field entrance. We may be dealing with family members who are sick, physically and/or spiritually. Our own health may be the cause for impatience to rear its ugly head. We may be experiencing a long wait for the will of God to be realized in our children or our own lives. The psalmist tells us how to do this. We have to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). This is not easy in our microwave – “gotta have it now” world. But this is God’s way. I can honestly say that the more I spend time being still before the Lord, His peace calms my heart and mind so that patience is truly working.
There is so much more written in God’s word about patience. If this is an area that you, like me need to work on, I would suggest using a good concordance and study every area that God mentions long-suffering, endurance, steadfastness, perseverance and patience. One last word of encouragement – be patient with yourself as you learn to exhibit the Spirit-taught patience that leads to abundant life.