“By standing firm, you will win your souls.” (Luke 21:19 NLT)
Patience is one of those virtues that you really hope one day you’ll have, but you’re a bit afraid to ask the Lord to give it to you. We’re like the man who, in his frustration, shouted to the Lord: “Okay, Lord, I get it. So, give me patience and give it to me RIGHT NOW!” In wisdom, the Lord doesn’t work that way.
Remember, we’re looking at the fruit of the Spirit, seeking to identify areas of our lives where we can allow the Lord to “search us,” as King David suggests in Psalm 139:23-24. We’ve looked at love, joy, and peace, and today we’ll shift the spotlight of God’s Spirit onto patience.
In the King James Version of the Bible, Galatians 5:22 translates the word the NLT and other versions translate as “patience” as “longsuffering.” On many levels that’s a much more descriptive word, because it means – “endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs.” (Strong’s)
The context of the verse above is Jesus giving His disciples, and us, insight into how things will be in the last days. He speaks of persecution on an unparalleled level; betrayal, even by those closest to us; everyone hating us because we’re Jesus followers; and other things descriptive of very difficult and frightening times.
In the early verses of Romans 5 Paul speaks of our faith and peace that God gives us, and the great privilege which is ours to be God’s children and to look forward to sharing in His glory. Then in verse 3ff he says: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance (patience). And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
In some ways I believe we give a prospective Jesus follower a faulty vision of what life in Christ is supposed to look like when we don’t let them know it takes persistent effort to grow in our likeness of Jesus. Yes, of course, there are rewards now, but the lion’s share of our rewards will come when we meet Jesus after this life ends.
We want to have our proverbial cake and eat it too. We want assurance of heaven without any effort to grow in our likeness of Jesus. We want salvation without sanctification; we want wholeness without holiness; we want character without commitment; we want to bear His name without bearing His scars.
We don’t like verses like Luke 14:26 when Jesus said: “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.” What does that look like?
It looks like putting Jesus above all else. It looks like enduring hardships when the future is unclear; it looks like standing strong when life is an uphill battle; it looks like trusting God when money is short, and energy is low. When tempers flare and anger is simmering; when love is a struggle and pain is real. It looks like yielding to His will when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
Life as a believer can be very difficult, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we put God first by loving Him and others more than we love ourselves. In the above verse, Jesus isn’t telling us to hate anyone, especially not our family. The easiest way to think of it is to substitute the words “love less” in place of “hate.” Keep your love for Jesus above all others.
Patience grows out of obedience, especially when it’s hard. That’s the price we pay when we love Jesus supremely and desire patience.
Blessings, Ed 😊