Patience is a tough thing. We have to learn to be patient. It is definitely not easy, but it is necessary. Even though it is included as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), we struggle with patience as Christians. In all of his wisdom Solomon states that "The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit" (Ecclesiastes 7:8). In other words, it is better to be a patient person than someone who in solely interested in one's self. Isn't that obvious? Apparently not. Most people are consumed by selfishness, pride, and personal agendas. What is the real purpose for being a patient person?
Having patience is more than just a virtue. It is part of our way of life as a child of God. It is necessary for us to learn patience with people. For instance, sometimes difficult things come up in conversation. How should a Christian handle it? Be patient. It is my experience that as long as you study the Bible, and as long as you discuss the Bible, it won't take long to find people with whom you disagree. Sometimes people mildly disagree with you... other times they may vehemently disagree. I do not believe we should run from difficult subjects or difficult people. God allows those topics (and the fruit from the study) and other people with their own opinions/experiences to build character in us. It is often pleasurable to watch the difficult person walk away or to drop the difficult subject (i.e. agree to disagree). By engaging someone in conversation, even when it is difficult, we are improving empathy and conversation skills.
How can we be patient with people when they are persecuting us? Paul says that we must be "patient in tribulation" (Romans 12:12). That is what Jesus would do. Clearly, Jesus did not run from difficult people or difficult topics. Have you read about his interactions with the Pharisees? Often He would answer questions with questions, not to confuse the person, but to open further dialogue. Romans 12:18 says, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." That is what we are after! Peace with others! Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." If we want to see God we have to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). It is impossible to do that by ignoring difficult subjects and/or difficult people. Your relationship with God is either strengthened or weakened based on your ability to handle difficult things and/or people. Don't run away from difficult things. Discuss, pray, study, and above all else keep the lines of communication open.
With all of this being said, there is one clear sign to me that clarifies the significance of learning patience. It is that we are learning to be more like our Heavenly Father. Think about the patience and longsuffering of God. How many times in stories do we see examples of the Lord's patience? Look no further than the cross. The Father waited since the fall of man, for thousands of years, to bring the scheme of redemption into its final stages. Consider the patience of Jesus, who knew that He was destined for the cruel cross. When we emulate the patience of God we reveal the character and image of our Father. Jesus was patient because of His role as the Son of God. The Spirit bears the fruit of patience because He dwells within the heart of child of God. These things all connect! People need to see the Lord in us. This is why we must practice patience.
How long should we be patient? Let's ask James, the half brother of Jesus. In James 5:7 he says, "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain." We need to seek patience and practice it until Jesus comes again. We might as well get started now learning and growing in patience.
Don't worry. Be patient. Have a great week!!!
You are loved.
Dr. Ray Reynolds
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