On June 30, 1950, Walt Disney Productions released a seven-minute cartoon entitled Motor Mania which featured Goofy as a Jekyll and Hyde type character. As a pedestrian, he was the calm, easy-going, friendly Mr. Walker but behind the wheel of his auto, he became the rude, impatient, angry Mr. Wheeler. It was a somewhat exaggerated, yet humorous look at real life. Things have not changed much in the sixty-nine years since the film was released except that the problem has worsened. In fact, nowadays there are fewer Mr. Walkers as even those on foot are often in a hurry and impatient.
In our society, patience is a rare commodity. People tend to cram their days so full of activities that they are always rushing somewhere to do something which causes them to be impatient and irritable when anything or anyone slows them down even briefly. Road rage and rudeness, the offspring of impatience, are all too common.
This is one of many ways in which Christians are to be different from the world around us. God’s children are to be patient. Patience is one facet of the fruit of the Spirit.
“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 (ESV).
We often think of patience as being synonymous with waiting, but we can wait without being patient. When forced to wait, our natural impulses may be to become irritated and irritable, angry, lashing out at others or grumpy and complaining.
Patience is more than just waiting. It is active restraint of our emotions and actions. A restraint which is accomplished with the aid of the Holy Spirit. According to my concordance, the Greek word translated as patience in Galatians 5:22 (and numerous other verses throughout the New Testament) is defined as “internal and external control in a difficult circumstance, which control could exhibit itself by delaying an action.”1 It may also be translated as forbearance or long-suffering.
We cannot be Christ-like without patience! Paul tells us that Jesus’ patience is perfect (or unlimited – NIV).
“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” – 1 Timothy 1:16 (ESV).
Although he does not use the word patience, Peter pointed out an example of Jesus’ patience and urged us to do likewise.
“He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly” – 1 Peter 2:23 (NLT).
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it” – 1 Peter 3:9 (NLT).
This is by no means a new concept. The wise writer of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes had much to say on the subject of patience.
“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” – Proverbs 12:16 (ESV).
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” – Proverbs 14:29 (NIV 1984).
“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” – Proverbs 16:32 (NLT).
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” – Proverbs 19:11 (NIV 1984).
“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools” – Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9 (ESV). Patience is necessary if we are to live in a way which is pleasing to God. Paul pointed out this need in many of his letters.
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” – Ephesians 4:1-3 (NLT).
“Patience conveys the quality of being able to handle one another’s faults and failures and refusing to avenge wrongs. No one is ever going to be perfect here on earth, so believers must be patient with each other despite their faults. Making allowance for each other’s faults is the action side of patience, emphasizing the willingness to forgive. To show patience requires love*, which ought to be the guiding principle for all of a believer’s actions, even when natural differences and clashes occur.”2 *(See 1 Corinthians 13:4)
We must never forget that we are not perfect and can sometimes be hard to get along with. The Golden Rule reminds us that we are to treat others in the same way we want them to treat us. (Matthew 7:12)
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” – Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT).
It is easy to be patient with those who don’t irritate or inconvenience us, but we are told to be patient with everyone. After pointing out what was needed for various individuals in the congregation, Paul admonished the Thessalonians to be patient with them all.
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15 (ESV).
Paul also told Timothy that he needed patience as he worked teaching and correcting.
“Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” – 2 Timothy 4:2 (NLT).
In this day and age, when people take great offense at the relatively minor things, patience is, indeed, a rare commodity. Nevertheless, it is fruit of the Spirit which should be obvious in the Christian’s life. If it isn’t, then diligence needs to be given to cultivating it.
“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” – Colossians 1:9b-14 (NLT).