It’s often the little things that bring out the worst in us, isn’t it? You may have heard about the man who insisted on showing how rude he could be by insistently honking his horn at a lady desperately trying to restart her car after it stalled in rush-hour traffic. After enduring several minutes of this exhibition of bad manners, the woman walked back and said, “Sir, I’m having some trouble getting my car started. If you would be so kind as to go up and see if you can get it going, I’ll be glad to stay here and beep your horn for you!”
The Bible says that love is patient and kind, not arrogant or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). When we exhibit patience toward others, we’re honoring one of Jesus’ most familiar commands: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Exhibiting patience isn’t always easy, but it is always best. It’s one of those godly virtues that is easier said than done. (All right; that’s probably true of all of them. But patience seems to be right up there among the most difficult.) Yet, if we’re to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we must be continually working to increase it in ourselves.
In spite of what some seem to think, biblical patience has nothing to do with cowardice or weakness. Synonyms include long-suffering and endurance. This is why Job is considered patient. Enduring hardship requires patience, doesn’t it?
The willingness to practice patience with others is a key to success in influencing them for good. Helping others become what God wants them to be will not be accomplished by losing our temper or exhibiting a frowning disdain for their weaknesses.
A legitimate question about patience is, “How do I get it?” Paul’s response is that it comes from the Spirit of God — it is a “fruit of the Spirit,” along with love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
“Well,” you may be thinking, “why hasn’t the Spirit given me more patience — along with those other blessings?” But these are characteristics that will bless the lives of those who live as the Spirit of God directs. Paul says that “those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5–6).
As we work at living according to God’s desires, shown to us by his Spirit in the Word, we can develop more and more patience — as well as the other attributes of godliness. As suggested, patience is developed as we work at it, guided and aided by the Spirit of God.
Again, patience is often difficult. But it’s necessary if we’re to please God and help others.
Baltasar Gracian, a 17th-century philosopher and writer, said, perhaps with a smile on his face, “Let him that hath no power of patience retire within himself, though even there he will have to put up with himself.”
We’ll try to look at more of what the Lord says about this godly virtue in a later column; just be patient!