Let’s think first about human patience by way of comparison. There are many arenas where we can express patience, whether we believe in God or not. Patience with other people – think children there – right? – if you’re a teacher or a parent. Patience with our personal plans and goals – it takes a long time. Patience with the ability to delay gratification now for greater gain later – to have the patience to do that. Patience, considering that it takes time for people to learn things. If we already know them, we have to be patient. There are many more you could talk about that are commonly seen among people.
Most of these things come from learning. We learn that, if we’re not patient, bad things happen. And, if we are patient, good things happen. If we’re impatient to achieve our goals and plans, it can make us discouraged and frustrated when it doesn’t happen when we think it should.
I know, in my own life, every time that I have started a business – or any project, for that matter – it always takes me longer than I think it’s going to. And that could be a frustration to me – used to be more than it is now. And that frustration never helped, and neither did the impatience help it to go faster.
If we’re impatient with our children, for example, it sends them a downing message – a negative message about them – who they are, what they are. And we, inadvertently then, become a tool of the devil to do his destructive work in the lives of other people. That may sound harsh, but that’s exactly what’s going on. That’s how it got passed from Adam to Abel and Cain, and then on down to us.
We recently moved to another part of the country, and we find customer service lacking here. Several people told us that would be the case. We were told that a lot of that had to do with covid, but it just seems to be a problem in this area. We had the need to order a shower to do a remodel in our home, and we bought one of these acrylic showers – a one-piece unit – for our bathroom. We were told it would take a month, because everything was slowed up due to covid. Well, it took five months! Five months. At four months, I called the supply house where I ordered it and was told that the truck coming from the manufacturer, the weekend that the shower was ready to go, was full, so they didn’t put it on the truck, and I’d have to wait another two weeks, which turned into four. In this process, every person I talked to was polite, seemed genuinely concerned, and were doing everything they could to help. But I think most of them were captives to the same broken system that we were. And it might have had something to do with covid. I find it difficult to believe that when you’ve got somebody who’s been waiting four months for a product – and it’s only supposed to take a month – that they couldn’t find a way to put it on the truck, but I don’t know. The fact that these people were trying to be helpful, is in stark contrast to where we lived before in New Mexico, where most people in service positions assumed they were doing us a favor to help us, rather than it being their job and them needing to serve us. And that was especially true in all state and local government positions. So, there really was no reason to get angry with anybody about the shower. They couldn’t help it, in spite of the efforts. While it was frustrating, the frustration didn’t make it happen any faster, and there was nothing that could be done. So we waited – just accepted the fact that it was going to take longer than we thought.
Now, some people do not have the ability to work hard for a future goal. They don’t know how to delay gratification. They’re so impatient they can’t delay gratification that would come from hard work, and instead, are discouraged from working for a long-term goal. Guess what happens to these folks most of the time.
I had a client in my practice some time ago who went to college so she could get a job in business. I guess she was a good student. But she wasn’t satisfied with the kinds of jobs she could get the degree that she had. So, she thought about doing an MBA – a Masters in business. While the kind of job she could get with an MBA would provide her the level of income she wanted, she opted out because she wasn’t able to summon up the patience to wait for two years while she got her degree. So, I asked her what she was going to do to up her income, and she said she didn’t know. So, she was impatient, because the MBA would take too long, and yet, she had no other plan. She was discouraged about the degree and had no plans to improve her situation. I suggested she could keep working and get an online degree at the same time, but she thought…she didn’t say it would be too hard. She said it would take too long. So, there she was – impatient. And because of the impatience, stuck.
Let’s talk about how anger figures into this. When people are angry and frustrated, learning is short-circuited. And anger can cause us to be impatient. And being impatient can cause us to be angry. It’s a cycle. I had a man come for therapy some years ago who interrupted me with almost everything I said. It wasn’t that he was arguing with me. He would break in and just kind of pick up on where I was going – or tried to. I wondered why he was interrupting all the time – he seemed very impatient – and his explanation included the idea that after a few words, he knew what I was going to say, and he would start carrying on with it in answering me. I can tell you, most of the time, he didn’t know what I was going to say. And our conversation wasn’t getting us anywhere because of it. As I got to know him, I realized that his impatience and his interrupting was coming from anger. He didn’t want to do therapy, for one thing. I mean, he wanted to be better, but he didn’t want to do the therapy. It’s like, when I was little, I wanted to play the piano, but I didn’t want to have to practice or take lessons. He was kind of that way. His wife was stupid, and he didn’t have time to listen to her. His parents never listened to him, and that frustrated him. As it started unrolling and unraveling, I started having a feeling that, if we could resolve his childhood anger – and I was thinking this because I think that’s what was being triggered when he would listen to me, or when he would listen to his wife – but I had a feeling that, if we would resolve his childhood anger, his wife’s IQ would rise dramatically and therapy wouldn’t seem such a waste of time. So, that’s where we started. I couldn’t promise this in every case, but he processed rapidly. And it really only took him four sessions to get past the disrespectful treatment he experienced in childhood, where nobody listened. And, as he got better, his outlook changed about everything. He became less frustrated, less angry, because he was getting triggered by the anger that was there about what happened to him when he was little. Of course, he didn’t realize that was the cause of it. But once we got that resolved, he stopped interrupting so much. It was still a habit, but it was easier for him to learn to stop.
So, that’s a little bit about human impatience and patience. It has a lot to do with what we’ve learned in childhood, I think. So, let’s talk about Godly patience now – you know, the kind of patience that comes from the Holy Spirit. I want to think about this in a couple of aspects.
First of all, let’s talk about our patience toward God and then, our patience toward other people. To be patient with God, that has to come from the Holy Spirit, I believe. At one point in his ministry, Jesus’ disciples asked Him when He was going to return. And He told them that not even He knew when that would be exactly. But He gave them a set of events that will occur just before He returns. So, let’s break into that discussion in Luke 21:16. He told them:
Luke 21:16 – You will be delivered up, even by parents, and brothers, and relatives, and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair on your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your lives. The King James translates that: In your patience, possess you your souls.
Notice, too, that He says some would be killed in persecution, but not a hair on their heads would perish. So what kind of double-talk is that? Well, it’s simple. I’m sure you know, humans can have the desire and the power to kill God’s people, but, if they do, we won’t stay dead. We’ll be resurrected. So their efforts will, inevitably be fruitless. And His point is, be patient no matter what trials befall you, and in the end, you will win out.
So, this is a theme that is found throughout scripture. Moses told Israel at the Red Sea, “Stand still. Don’t try to do something. Just hide and watch. Stand still and see the salvation of God appear. It says in Psalms 37:9:
Psalms 37:9 – For evil doers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land – the land being the Kingdom of God ultimately.
Psalm 37:34 says:
Psalms 37:34 – Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land, and you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
So, don’t try to get revenge. Just wait and watch.
Proverbs 20:22 says:
Proverbs 20:22 – Do not say, “I will repay evil.” Wait for the LORD and He will deliver you.
This is what patience from the Holy Spirit allows us to do. Human patience doesn’t include this. You know, we’re supposed to just stand up for ourselves all the time, but in Isaiah 40, and verse 31, it says:
Isaiah 40:31 – But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. So, a very famous scripture.
So, there’s something about these scriptures that highlight the spiritual problem that humans have. The idea that we deserve what we want now – in effect, desiring to override God’s timetable says something about us. We tend to think too much of ourselves – to ascribe more wisdom and more power to ourselves than we really have.
Jesus said something else while He was talking to His disciples in Matthew 5:34. This was at a different time. He said:
Matthew 5:34 – I say to you, “Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God – and what control do you have over that? Right? That’s His point – or the earth, for it is His footstool – you’re awfully small when you think about your mass in relationship to the planet – …do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black – you have no control over that either. Let what you say be simply, ‘Yes or no.’ Anything more than that comes from evil – in other words, anything more would be taking an oath, or trying to convince people you have more ability to fulfill your word than you really do. Even the swearing and epithets that people use power language to try to convince other people and ourselves that we have more strength than we really do. But we want our desires to be amplified by strong talk.
In James 4, and verse 13, he said:
James 4:13 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit,” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. You stomping your feet and tantruming, because you can’t get what you want, isn’t going to affect anybody. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” As it is, you boasted your arrogance, and all such boasting is evil. So, we’re taking too much to ourselves when we try to tell God when it should happen – because of our impatience. All this amped up talk indicates that we care more about what we want and think we can bring it to pass. And that makes people impatient with God.
When Jesus first talked to His disciples, He said the first thing for a Christian to be successful with God was to be poor in spirit – that is, to trust God, rely on Him, wait to see what He’s going to do, instead of demanding what we want, or pretending we know what should be done, and that we can do it. This kind of patience is completely apart from all human patience. It only comes from God. One of the focuses of this kind of patience is our patience with God. He’s the God, we’re the servants. We wait on Him, we serve Him, not the other way around. (Actually, that isn’t true. I’ll talk about that in a minute.) He’s the one with the plan, and we’re going along with Him, not Him with us.
In James 5, James had another good comment about this. He said:
James 5:7-12 – Be patient, therefore brothers, until the Lord comes. That’s another one where people stomp around and want Him to come right now, and it doesn’t do any good. He said: See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient, establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord – how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brothers, do not swear. See he’s connecting being impatient with swearing, isn’t he? But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth, or by an oath. But let your yes be yes, and your no be no. So, he was listening when Jesus was talking, wasn’t he? …so that you may not fall under condemnation.
And so, we patiently wait for God. That’s what the patience of the Holy Spirit allows us to do.
Psalm 37, verse 7, is a good one.
Psalms 37:7-9 – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Refrain from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself. It tends only to evil. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait on the LORD shall inherit the land. So, he’s quoting a scripture there that we just read.
Notice that term fret not yourself there. Impatience tends toward evil. So, if we get anxious and start fretting about how God didn’t do this or that, or He’s not coming on our timetable, that’s only going to lead to something bad.
Did you ever stop to think about how patient God is with us? When we express the patience of God that comes from them living in us, we’re only following God’s and Jesus’ example, as they’re patient with us. Think how much patience He must have to enact such a long-lasting and far-ranging plan. Think of how it pains Him to see what humanity is doing to itself while the plan is ripening, and to still wait for the plan to fall into place.
What’s He waiting for? What’s the deal? Well, Peter explains some of that. I’m not sure this is the only reason. But 2 Peter 3:8 starts out:
2 Peter 3:8-9 – Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. So the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise, as some count slowness – some humans – but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
So, one of the reasons He’s waiting is because He has a certain number of people He wants to call, and they’re not all called yet, and they have to reach repentance, and that’s a process. That’s God’s patience with us and that’s the model for our patience with others – our Godly patience – not just physical patience. How does that differ?
Well, Godly patience toward God displays an attitude of humility and of service. When we extend that same kind of humble attitude and service to others, it can have amazing effect. See, it’s the same kind of patience, but it’s just directed toward people instead of God. But it’s the same thing that we would extend toward God.
Come with me back to the beginning – to the scripture that the series started with in Galatians 5:22.
Galatians 5:22-24 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience – that’s the one we’re on – kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In other words, we’re hard on ourselves about these things, and we crucify our desire to be impatient and have things our way, and we live the Godly way. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
Now, notice the context of these verses. Why was he saying this to the Galatians? He asked them who has hindered them from obeying the truth? So, he’s talking to a bunch of people that have derailed. He implies that there is division and dissension in the congregation – an in-fighting. And his solution to the problem that he asked them to employ is the love of God applied by them to each other. And one aspect of that love is patience with one another. That kind of patience comes from loving the brothers. And that is something that converted people do. The world doesn’t love the brothers – only the church and God.
So, love of these others has a spiritual motive behind it that’s provided by the Holy Spirit. It’s not human patience. We are all God’s servants. We’re all called by Him. No one of us is greater than any other, though some would like to think that they are greater.
A patient Christian endures long with other Christians because of who they are – and they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And that comes from a position of deep poverty of spirit, realizing God knows best. He knows who to call better than we do. And He knows why He called them better than we know. He always takes action on our behalf with our spiritual growth and held at the center of His efforts. This is the very first attribute a Christian needs to be successful with God. This kind of patience in this way is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.