An Exploration of Galatians: Fruit of the Spirit Part 5
Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 2:4, Romans 9:12 - Longsuffering and true patience emulate our Lord Jesus.
”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB1995
The next fruit of the Spirit is really an outcome of having love, joy and peace within from the Holy Spirit. Patience comes from the Greek word μακροθυμία or makrothymia. It has the following Biblical usages:
patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs
In the context of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, this is more aligned with the second set of usages. This is not the patience that is required to build an intricate model or to train for a marathon or to work quietly and effectively at what some would consider a mundane job for 40 years. This is not the patience of the farmer, who waits for crops to grow and shows steadfastness and constancy in purpose in tilling, fertilizing, planting, weeding, and harvesting. That type of patience is also important, however, because it can sustain the believer until the end.
This patience is the first of the fruit that is between us and other people (the first three are internal to the heart of the believer). THIS is the patience that is longsuffering and extremely slow in avenging wrongs (or not avenging them at all). This is the patience that Jesus had when He underwent His trials after His arrest and before the crucifixion. He took blows to the face, was spit upon, insulted, mocked, beaten severely, interrogated and passed around from one group to the next. He spoke very little during all of this and never in anger or retaliation. Instead, when He was finally nailed to the cross, He asked the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing.
We have it upside down in our culture. Many subscribe to the Star Trek Klingon idea or the same concept from “The Godfather” that revenge is a noble thing, especially when it is delayed, so you wait in patience in the grass like a cobra or lion to pounce on your unsuspecting prey. Some retaliate almost immediately when they are wronged, having no patience to see a problem through and give others the benefit of the doubt. Many times, the retaliation is much worse than the original offense. Here are a couple of excellent examples from Precept Austin about this type of patience (and the lack thereof):
From C. Norman Bartlett in a study of Galatians from 1948: There are men and women who masticate their dislikes thoroughly, make all-day suckers of their wrongs, and magnify every little pin-prick into a sword thrust. The temperament manifested in such conduct and attitudes is far removed from the longsuffering included in this cluster of spiritual graces so highly commended in Scripture. Irrigations of grace wash away the irritations of life as of negligible consequence. In passing, we might observe that there is not infrequently a vital connection between the enduring of injuries from the world and the bestowing of benefits on the world - like destructive floods disclosing to view rich veins of gold.
From Bruce Hurt, Precept Austin: Makrothymia is patience in face of injustice and unpleasant circumstances without complaint or irritation. The short-tempered person speaks and acts impulsively and lacks self-control. When a person is longsuffering, he can put up with provoking people or circumstances without retaliating. It is good to be able to get angry, for this is a sign of holy character. But it is wrong to get angry quickly at the wrong things and for the wrong reasons. It is the attitude which endures another's exasperating conduct without flying off the handle. It is a negative term. It is holding back, restraining yourself from becoming upset or speaking sharply or shrilly to somebody be they your mate, your child, or whoever...despite their conduct you find difficult and exasperating.
Irrigations of grace wash away the irritations of life…words to live by!
Oh, boy, oh boy…I was both dreading and looking forward to doing my analysis of this fruit, because I can tell you with certainty that I am a poster child for impatience that often turns into wrath, just like the guy looking in the mirror at himself in anger. Here’s a partial list of things that have irritated me in my life and shattered the tiny amount of patience that I had with others:
Slow people (found everywhere, it seems). Drivers, checkers, clerks, you name it!
People that do not understand something.
People that do not want to learn about why they don’t understand something.
People who don’t bother to use proper grammar and spelling.
People that contradict me without a valid argument (or at least I usually don’t want to listen).
People that maintain a ridiculous opinion about something, often based in a conspiracy theory. No amount of reasoning or evidence can persuade them. I can tell you that I have spent many hours of rage in my life and have had zero patience with moon hoaxers and their even more obtuse cousins, flat-earthers (some of these people believe that nothing has ever been launched into space because it is not possible, so everything that has been done over the last 65 years is a studio fake or CGI). I labored in the space business for 37 years and I know what we did and how it worked and the good integrity of people that worked in that business.
People that violate traffic laws and civil regulations with impunity.
People that can’t say thank you or excuse me.
People that won’t let you finish a sentence before they jump in. Of course, I’ve done my share.
Everything else under the sun from the two minutes required to brush my teeth with a Sonic Care toothbrush to the time it takes to get through a long line anywhere to the lack of patience I had with my late Mom when she started nagging me about something. I didn’t listen and I would yell and hang up on her.
In my work career, I had stellar performance reviews except for my tendency to seek perfectionism and my impatience with other co-workers and bosses. I often think these two tendencies (which are related) kept me from advancing beyond a certain level.
This is something that requires lots of prayer and listening to God for me. Many of these behaviors no longer irritate me, but I still have a short fuse for many others. In looking at that list, here are some things that I should note for myself:
I’m also slow now physically due to advancing age and damage to joints from a long battle with arthritis. My thinking is also slowing down. I used to pride myself on being sharp and intelligent and a “trivia master”. Neither attribute will buy me a seat at the heavenly banquet and that trivia will be forgotten.
I am amazed at how little I understand these days, so it’s not surprising that others may lack understanding.
Not every person is interested in learning, but I should be empathetic as so many people are just trying to survive.
I am thankful I had a good education. This is no reason to act superior to other people.
Arguments are a waste of time. The more I avoid petty squabbles and being opinionated, the happier I am. I still have firmly held opinions, but hesitate these days to clutter social media with those opinions. They may show up in these devotionals, if the timing is right.
Reasoning with people who are on a bunny trail of insane conspiracies is another waste of time. I can still try to educate someone if they are interested in learning.
I can carefully follow the traffic laws and civil regulations and pray for the safety and character of those who are scofflaws instead of cursing them.
I can still say thank you and please and not take offense because someone else neglected their manners.
I can be more patient and let those sentence-jumpers finish what they want to say, without interrupting them to steer things in my direction again.
Patience in everything is indeed a virtue, especially when dealing with other people and with life’s petty annoyances. I can pray a short prayer to God to help me be patient every time I get in a situation requiring forbearance (like the time to brush) and I have asked for forgiveness for how I dealt with my Mom. My Dad had great patience with her and was kind and tolerated her insecurities; I wish I could have done the same.
I can’t go back and do my job again, but I can commit to being patient with the things that I’m doing in retirement and the people that I’m interacting with, with the constant help of the Holy Spirit (and learning to count to ten or more as often as it takes).
A couple of additional thoughts: If we love God with all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our minds and all of our strength, then we will know that He is indeed longsuffering, putting up with sinful humans far longer than we would, if we were in charge. Here are two passages from Romans that help:
”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?“
Romans 2:4 NASB1995
”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 9:22 NASB1995
He is patient, kind and tolerant and loves us! This leads to repentance! He could demonstrate His wrath, but has incredible forbearance.
My next devotional examines the fruit of the Spirit of kindness. This is another thing I have lacked in my life, being extraordinarily self-centered.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - I am asking with all humility and gratitude that the Holy Spirit continue to work in me to replace the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the spirit, especially patience. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/14/2024 to review the lexicon for patience.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, founder of Precept Austin, can be found Here.