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Welcome to part 5 of our Gracious Life Series.
We are in the midst of scouring the Scriptures to better understand what grace is and how we must live that grace into our relationships.
It’s desperately important for followers of Christ, and I’m glad you’re joining us for this study. Just make sure you’ve worked through the previous episodes before continuing today.
I also think you should make sure to interact with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and the Wisdom app. You can read, like, follow, share, and converse with me there, and I would love the chance to exchange ideas, learn from you, and answer your questions.
And while you’re online, please navigate to CelebrationOfGod.com to access today’s free episode notes, transcript, and grace resources.
And now let’s frolic where angels fear to tread. Let’s talk about patience.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that you should never pray for patience otherwise God will give you plenty of opportunities to practice it.
Well, other than being ridiculous and unbiblical, such a statement also reveals a significant misunderstanding of the nature of patience. So, I look forward to today’s study so that we can all pray more earnestly and eagerly that the Lord will continue to empower us to be more patient.
I know I need it.
1. Patience is required to be gracious.
Can a gracious person be an impatient person? Absolutely not. Impatience grows out of the fact that the situation or person is not moving as quickly as we believe they should, and therefore they deserve whatever it is I’m feeling, saying, and doing in order to move the process along.
And you’re right. They probably do deserve it. But remember that grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. If you’re truly born again and maturing, then I know you rejoice in the fact that God was and is and will be patient with you. It’s a glorious reality! So we too must be patient with others.
Of course, there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding when talking about patience. But unlike the words kind, compassionate, and gentle, it’s very hard to twist what it means to be patient.
Merriam-Webster nails the definition on every level: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint, manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain, not hasty or impetuous—steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity—able or willing to bear.”
It seems that everyone—believers and unbelievers alike—understand what it means to be patient. And yet we Christians so often do not do it.
We’re going to talk more about why we struggle with impatience in our next point. For now, though I want to address a dangerous misconception about patience.
Let’s say that a child or student or coworker or spouse is making poor choices that is wasting time and making it difficult for you to do what you need to do. For example, you cannot do your job on the production line until your coworker completes her job, but she is moving so slowly that you can’t do your job . . . in fact, the whole line is being backed up.
Does a patient person just “grin and bear it”? Are we not allowed to say or do anything in that situation and still be patient?
You will see as we unpack this concept from the New Testament that the answer is, “No.” But here I want to address the heart of the matter.
Everything we do, say, feel, and want grows from what we believe. We learned that in our Grow Your Worship Series. An impatient response in our words, actions, feelings, and desires reveals a sinful belief. For example, we may be focused on how “unfair” the situation is or be sinfully angry at the person or we’re being selfish and so on.
But a Godward focus and an others focus would produce a very different response. If I believe that the person slowing things down needs help, if I feel for her as it’s clear she’s getting overwhelmed, if I recognize a bad attitude in her that’s affecting her work, then there are things I can desire to do and say that could help the situation.
Maybe I can provide a little assistance. Perhaps I can offer some training. If the person is a jerk, I may have to get the manager involved.
But please note that none of those things are being done out of spite or impatience because they’re not being done with any thought to me and my convenience or lack thereof. It’s not about hurrying up the process, it’s not about making my life easier. It’s not about me at all. It’s about helping the other person and trying to help her be as successful as she can be.
Christians are in a very interesting position when the thing that will benefit another person will also benefit the individual themselves. There’s a real temptation for us to help the other person so that we won’t be inconvenienced. But the motivation is all wrong.
The same thing happens in parenting. Yes, my child needs to obey God and me, and the reality is that if my kid is obeying, my life will be easier. So, the temptation to parent my kids to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons becomes a temptation for me to do the right things in the right ways for the wrong reasons.
In these situations and more we must subtract ourselves from the occasion. If doing what’s in their best interest helps us, that’s God’s providential grace, but it’s definitely not the goal. And if helping them actually takes more of my time or makes my life more difficult, that doesn’t matter. It was never about me in the first place.
So, no, a patient Christian is not a silent doormat who never gets involved, never confronts people, or never helps people. A patient Christian does what they can do to the glory of God and best of other people, and they don’t choose to be bothered by the things they can’t control.
And that leads us well to our next point . . .
2. Impatience is a result of spiritual immaturity.
Now, this may seem like a no-brainer, but the painful realities of this point must be allowed to sink in, take root, and make changes in us.
Are you a patient person? Would your family, your teammates, your fellow employees, your biblical counselor, or your friends say, “Yes, so-and-so is a genuinely patient person.”
If so, that’s great. I pray the rest of today’s show strengthens that trait.
But I think the uncomfortable reality is that there are areas of our lives where we are patient, and there are some glaring areas where we are not.
It may be in traffic, waiting rooms, lines, on hold, or a million other times, and in those times we succumb to impatience.
Why is that? The easy answer is that we are spiritually immature.
Let me be transparent with you. I struggle when driving. I thoroughly dislike bad drivers, slow drivers, and otherwise inconsiderate drivers. I far too easily choose to embrace impatience in times like that.
Recently, in order to make ends meet, I’ve had to start doing delivery driving. Yeah, you can imagine the temptations that abound. Here I am—living in the South—and required to live by the timetables of the restaurant employees who have no sense of urgency in preparing the meal I’m supposed to deliver and the other drivers who have no concept of speed limits, turn signals, and driving etiquette.
I have come under conviction many an hour while making my deliveries, and my van has become half delivery van and half prayer closet where I beg God to forgive me for my impatience yet again.
By the way, that’s another fantastic reason to donate to this ministry—to protect me from that overwhelming temptation! :-)
Seriously though, why do I respond that way? Why do you get impatient. We need to ask the question and answer it.
It all boils down to self-worship. I don’t want to be out here driving, I don’t want to be wasting any time while driving, I don’t want to wait forever in long lines, I don’t want you to keep me from getting to my delivery on time.
It’s not a gracious response. It’s not compassionate, kind, or gentle. And it’s preeminently not humble. When you are impatient, it’s all about you . . . plain and simple.
But our immaturity in impatience is also revealed by our vocabulary. So many times today I’ve had to deliberately change my wording in order to keep it theologically accurate. What do I mean? Well, it’s really easy to say, “I succumbed to impatience” as if it were a foe that overpowered me. We say things like, “Slow drivers make me so impatient.” We talk about having short fuses—as if that were the way God created us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But all of that is a delusion. We choose to be impatient; nothing pulls impatience from us. And it’s amazing the circumstances under which we choose to be impatient.
I mentioned earlier that it was silly not to ask God to help you become more patient lest He put you into more situations which require patience. One of the main reasons that’s silly is the fact that mortality is a perpetual act of waiting.
We are finite beings bound by time and space. As I wrote this part of my notes, I was flying to Vermont to speak at a Christian School event. A friend of mine drove me the 30 minutes from my home in Brevard to the airport in Asheville, North Carolina. I then had to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, then fly to Albany, New York, and then drive an hour to Bennignton, Vermont.
As much as I would have loved for Scotty or Miles O’Brian to beam me up, that’s not a thing. Being bound by time and space required that I slowly progress from one second to the next, completely incapable of speeding up that time or moving faster through it. Life is a continual momentary exercise in preparation for the following moment.
I say that every moment of life requires patience because I have witnessed people choose to act impatiently in nearly any situation you can imagine. I’ve watched myself and others bristle at the slightest inconveniences, the shortest waits, and the mildest hiccups in life.
Of course, in the moment, the impatient person feels completely justified as if an impatient response were required at these times. But the reality is that if other people are experiencing the same situation and not responding impatiently, then my choice to be impatient was not the only possible response.
It’s never mature to try to justify our impatience. All it does is further demonstrate our spiritual immaturity.
Impatience—just like pride, unkindness, a lack of compassion, and no self-control—is a result of a not being conformed into the image of Christ. It’s not okay, and it needs to change.
So, how are we to become more patient? Now let’s transition to . . .
3. God gets to set the expectations for our patience.
The first Greek word we’re going to consider today is a hapax legomena in that it’s only use once in the New Testament. We find this one occurrence in II Timothy 2:24 where we read, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.”
This Greek word translated patient denotes “patiently forbearing evil,” literally, “patient of wrong.”
From this passage we learn a couple things.
First, patience is expected.
But we also learn that patience doesn’t take sin personally.
We quarrel when we allow ourselves to believe that we have the right to take another’s sin personally. But we need to be like Joseph who recognized that sin is first and foremost against God. Yes, people do sin against us, but the offense to our almighty God so overshadows our own offense that ours shouldn’t even register. That’s the result of Spirit-empowered humility.
Patience is also kind.
All of the character traits we’re studying in The Gracious Life Series are interrelated and overlapping. To be gracious is to be humble, kind, compassionate, gentle, and patient. The person doesn’t deserve it, but—to quote a 90’s song—“the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” No one deserves it. If life were fair, we’d all be in hell, so praise God that He is gracious and enables us to be gracious as well.
Patience is expected.
Patience doesn’t take sin personally.
Patience is kind.
The final two Greek words we’re going to study are grammatically related to each other and appear multiple times in the Scriptures.
These words carry the idea of being “long-tempered,” and it is often used in the context of suffering. Now, our next show is going to talk about a very close cousin of patience, so we’re not going to go into too much detail about patience in suffering, but the ideas are necessarily related.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that “Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God . . . . Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope.”
Luke 18:6-7 uses the word in an interesting way. It says, “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?’”
This context doesn’t have to do with patience so much as it does taking more time than necessary. I think this is important because it helps us to appreciate that there is an appropriate time for things, and it’s required of us to function within that time period. But that applies to the how we are to move through life. When the situation or person is out of control—which they all are—patience takes a different form.
Whereas Luke 18:7 refers to God not delaying in justice, II Peter 3:9 tells us, ”The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
These two verses show the miraculous tension in the fact that God doesn’t delay and isn’t slow when it comes to accomplishing His will. His patience is not inaction. His patience is actually accomplishing His will.
From this we can learn that patience is actively pursuing God’s will.
Patience is never a passive experience where life happens to us. Instead, we’re working for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is further substantiated in James 5:7-8 where we read, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”
We patiently work and we patiently wait. Hebrews 6:15 tells us, “And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.”
Patience is all about God’s timetable and His expectations. And isn’t that the exact opposite of impatience?
Patience is an active choice to accomplish the will of God in the moment by being gracious and doing what is best for everyone involved. And when I say “everyone,” I mean “everyone.”
In I Thessalonians 5:14 we read, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Patience is required with everyone. If you read the transcript of this episode, you will find that the word everyone is bolded, italicized, and underlined for emphasis.
There’s no escaping or excusing it. We are not allowed to justify impatience in any circumstance with any person.
When it came to defining biblical love, I find it interesting that Paul—under the authority of the Holy Spirit—started his description of love (in I Corinthians 13:4) with “Love is patient.”
Here we learn that patience is the only loving response. Impatience is never loving, and not being loving is always sin.
Patience is expected.
Patience doesn’t take sin personally.
Patience is kind.
Patience is actively pursuing God’s will.
Patience is required with everyone.
And Patience is the only loving response.
Now we’re going to consider our last Greek word for the day. It’s a different form of the word we just sampled, and this usage continues to layer on the beauties of patience.
Let’s look at Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
In a similar way that patience is actively pursuing the will of God, patience is redemptive. Not only do we exemplify the character of God when we’re patient, but our patience with people needs to be rooted in the fact that whatever sin or simple inability may be inconveniencing us, helping the person work through it should be for the redemptive purposes of helping them come to know God and mature in Him.
Consider II Timothy 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
We recognized earlier that a patient person is not merely a grin-and-bear-it person. A patient person will reprove and rebuke and exhort and instruct as necessary because they are working toward the redemptive purposes of their God.
And this is true even when the person refuses to listen to and learn from God’s Word. Consider Romans 9:22, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
Romans 9 is an amazing chapter that details the beautiful sovereignty of God, but here we want to pause and consider that God is patient with people He sovereignly knows are going to reject Him.
And speaking of the wicked in the days of Noah, I Peter 3:18-21 says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”
I think a beautiful New Testament example of this is Jesus and Judas. Jesus knew all along what Judas was going to do, and yet Jesus patiently lived with and love Judas. May we learn to be that patient!
But not only are we to be patient with people who are slow to respond or apathetic or ambivalent, we need to recognize that . . .
Patience should flourish in conflict.
Does that describe you? Or are you quick to quarrel and ghost people who hurt and spurn you?
By God’s grace we can learn to be patient with those who are antagonistic when we reflect on Christ’s words in Matthew 5. We can rejoice and be glad when people abuse us because we recognize their war is with God, and all of God’s people have been and will be persecuted.
Our rejoicing and gladness is not rooted in the persecution but in the fact that we serve an awesome God, and we recognize that He has a plan for maturing us through the trials.
And this is also why we can be patient during these times. We can be patient because we recognize that God’s will is being worked in our lives through the conflict.
Now, moving on. Earlier we talked about impatience being the result of immaturity. Well, the following passages are going to show that patience is a result of spiritual maturity.
Couched in a long Sanctification List, II Corinthians 6:6 says, “in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love.”
Galatians 5:22 famously teaches, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”
And in Ephesians 4:1-2 Paul implores us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”
Again in Colossians 1:10-12 we read, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
Later in Colossians 3:12-13 we learn, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
We have been chosen by Christ to be like Christ, to walk in a manner worthy of our calling in the Lord, and that will always involve being patient.
In fact, in the middle of I Timothy 1, Paul praises the Lord for putting him into service despite his being so antagonistic toward God. And then in verse 16 he says, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
Jesus’ perfect patience with Paul, with the unsaved, with us, is an example for how we are to live.
But it’s not just Christ’s patience we are to emulate as we are sanctified. In II Timothy 3:10 Paul admonishes Timothy, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance.” Timothy is being encouraged in the fact that he learned from Paul’s testimony.
And in Hebrews 6:12 we read, “so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
James 5:10-11 hearkens back to the example of the prophets, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
Are you learning from the patient people in your life? Are you learning from the older, more mature believers God has graciously given you?
The Christian life is one of growth, and God has designed us to flourish in community. Make solid friendships with the mature people in your church and community. Learn from them. Ask them how they exercise godly patience in the face of difficulty, inconvenience, and even persecution. And invite them to keep you accountable to grow in a similar way.
My friends, we can’t escape it.
Patience is expected by God. It doesn’t take sin personally. It's kind. Patient people actively pursue God’s will. They recognize that patience is required with everyone, and it’s the only loving response. And that’s because patience is redemptive and flourishes in conflict because it’s a result of spiritual maturity.
Are you becoming a more gracious person as you do this study with us? I pray you are. And I pray that you will become more patient as you seek to emulate God’s grace in your life. If you need any help becoming more patient, don’t hesitate to write to us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And recognize that every facet of life requires patience, so ask God to teach you to be more patient. It’s the not the situations in our lives that are hard, it’s our immaturity not wanting to submit to God’s plan, so the more practice the better!
Please share this series on your favorite social media outlets so that your friends can learn to be more gracious as well, and join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the enduring quality of perseverance as it relates to grace. I’ll see you then!
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