Preparing for Patience

Proverbs 19:11

July 1, 2001 | Brian Bill

A truck driver sat down to eat at an all-night restaurant.  The waitress had just served him his meal when three guys riding Harley’s showed up and swaggered into the diner.  One grabbed the man’s hamburger; another took a fistful of his French Fries; and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.

The trucker responded with great patience.  He calmly got up from the table, picked up his check, walked to the front of the restaurant, put his money on the cash register, and headed out the door.  The waitress watched as the big truck drove off into the night.

When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “He wasn’t much of a man, was he?”  To which she replied, “He’s not much of a truck driver either.  He just ran over three motorcycles out in the parking lot.”

As we come to the fourth fruit of the spirit, I confess that I really struggle with this one.  My impatience seems to be insatiable.  I’m wired for action and get frustrated with how slow things move sometimes.  As I take a look at my heart and do an inventory of my life, most of my sins are linked to a lack of patience.  While I might not drive over motorcycles, sometimes I wish I could!  We’re going to discover this morning that the road of impatience almost always leads to spiritual disaster.

Last week we looked at the fruit of peace and established that we cannot experience this Christian character trait until we have peace with God which leads to the peace of God.  Only then can we be at peace with others.  If last week’s emphasis was upon conflict resolution skills, then we could call today’s theme anger management.  As we’ve been learning throughout this series, each fruit is connected with all the others.  Only one who demonstrates peace can truly display patience.  Likewise, patience is a necessary prerequisite for establishing peace.

Let’s read Galatians 5:22-23 together: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”

The Fruit of the Spirit can only come from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.  He alone is the source and supplier of patience because He is the God of all patience.  Only as we are filled with the Spirit, and stay connected to the vine will we be able to know and experience His patience.   Just as we can’t manufacture love, joy or peace on our own, we certainly can’t pretend to have patience when we don’t.  

Here’s a definition that seems to capture the biblical meaning: “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certainty that God is in control.”

It’s not easy to be patient, is it?  There are at least 2 reasons why it’s so rare today.

1. It goes against human nature. 

From the moment we’re born we want things taken care of right away.  When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry, it doesn’t lie there and think, “I know mom and dad are tired so I’ll just wait until breakfast time.”  No, the baby cries impatiently until it receives the attention it demands.  Many of us haven’t changed much from those days.

2. It’s contrary to our culture. 

Those of you who have traveled to other countries recognize that Americans are wound pretty tight.  That reminds me of the man whose car had stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green.  As he frantically tried to get his car started, he was greeted by a chorus of honking horns and angry faces.  He finally got out of his car, walked back to the driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry but I can’t seem to get my car started.   If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk the horn for you.”

In His Place and At His Pace

It’s hard for us to sit still, isn’t it?  John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, says that impatience is a form of unbelief.  It’s what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of his guidance.  We’re sitting behind the wheel but feel like we’re not going anywhere.  As a result, anger builds and sometimes sprays shrapnel everywhere, leaving a path of destruction in our relationships.  The battle with impatience can erupt while standing in line at the grocery store, or it can boil over when we’re faced with a health problem, job stress, or family friction.

We have two decisions to make.  

  • We can choose to wait for God where we are…and not give up.  Instead of bailing, God wants to use His waiting room to build us up.
  • We can determine to go at His pace…and not speed up.  Rather than being reckless or impulsive by taking things into our own hands, the fruit of patience helps us to trust God’s timing.

In short, the key to having patience is to hold on to God and then slow down!  Luke 21:19: “By standing firm you will gain life.”  Patience in well-doing is the fruit of faith.  And impatience is the ugliness of unbelief.  

Psalm 130:5-6 helps us see the correlation between the promises of God and the patience of the believer: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Waiting for the Lord is an Old Testament way of describing the opposite of impatience.  It’s in contrast to giving up and it’s at variance with speeding up.  When we wait upon the Lord, we don’t bail on Him and we refuse to run ahead of Him.  It’s staying at your appointed place when He says stay, and it’s going at His appointed pace when He says go.  

we develop patience when we claim the promises in the Bible

In the midst of waiting, the psalmist finds hope in “God’s Word.”  When we put our hope in the Word of God, we will see the fruit of patience ripen in our lives.  Practically speaking, we develop patience when we claim the promises in the Bible.  When you feel like giving up, or when you feel yourself wanting to take things into your own hands, then grab hold of the hope that comes through Scripture.  Read it.  Memorize it.  Write out a verse and meditate on it.  Listen to Romans 15:4 in the Living Bible: “These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us…”  

We’re to wait for the Lord more than the “watchmen wait for the morning…” (Psalm 130:6).  In biblical times, watchmen vigilantly guarded the city during the night, looking for enemies who might attack.  They were alert and obedient.  They eagerly waited for the morning because that’s when they could relax and get some sleep.  A watchman couldn’t control the rising of the sun.  He couldn’t speed up the process.  He knew the difference between his job and God’s job.  It may be difficult to wait for the Lord, but it’s worse to wish you had.

If you’re tempted right now to give up on God or to go ahead without Him, let’s take a look at an illustration from the nation of Israel.  We can learn from their mistakes.  Please turn in your copy of the Scriptures to Isaiah 30

During Isaiah’s time powerful enemies like Assyria threatened Israel.  The people of God lived in fear of this mighty nation and one of Isaiah’s jobs was to help them respond correctly.  But, one time, Israel became very impatient.  Instead of waiting for the Lord, they took things into their own hands.  Instead of resting, they ran.

Notice verses 1-2: “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.”  Because their patience had run out, God’s people decided to take things into their own hands.  As a result, God calls them obstinate children because they didn’t trust the Holy Spirit.  He graphically describes their impatience as “heaping sin upon sin.”

We do things like this all the time, don’t we?  We wait for a while and then we rush ahead.  The key phrase here is “without consulting me.”  This is a good description of the impetuous side of impatience.  We don’t like waiting to do what we think is right.  Instead of consulting the Lord we often conspire to do our thing.  The Lord tells them that their impatience is going to backfire in verse 3: “But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace.”  

Did you know that the annual cost of running red lights (in medical bills and car repairs) is 7 billion dollars?  And, for all of our hurry, the average amount of time saved by running a red light is only 50 seconds (Hope Health Letter, 2/96)!  It never pays to run through God’s stop signs.  It will only cause damage to your life when you get up and go when God is telling you to sit still and wait.  Israel found this out the hard way.

Now, what should they have done?  Drop down to verse 18: “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for him!”  If we wait on Him we will experience His grace and His compassion.  He promises to bless those who practice patience.  Remember this when you’re tempted to give up or speed up.  Israel was shamed and humiliated when they didn’t wait on the Lord and as a result they missed out on God’s blessings.

Friends, let’s battle the unbelief of impatience by using the promises of God to persuade our hearts that God’s timing is always the best.  Some of you are in God’s waiting room right now.  If you are, don’t flee when He wants you to be faithful.  Don’t get up and bolt when God says sit down and believe.  Listen to this beautiful passage from Isaiah 64:4: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

Trying Patience On For Size

One side of developing patience is to work at waiting on God.  Another aspect of seeing this fruit ripen in our lives is found in Colossians 3:12.  Here we’re told to “clothe ourselves with…patience.”  A big part of good spiritual hygiene has to do with controlling our temper.  In order to absorb nuisances, manage annoyances and bear with those who bug us, we need to clothe ourselves with patience.

When Paul describes life outside of Christ, he often describes an angry life.  The fruit of patience is in direct contrast to the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:20: “…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions and factions.”  If we don’t consciously surrender to Jesus on a daily basis, we’ll express these fleshly flaws instead of the Spirit’s fruit.  We’re to take off our angry clothes and put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Patience is a complex word in the Bible.  When Miles Coverdale translated the Bible into English in 1535 he had to invent the word longsuffering to describe the Greek phrase found in Galatians 5:22.  It was such a good rendering that the translators of the King James Version used the same word in 1611.  A patient person has the ability to suffer for a long time.

Proverbs 14:9 says that, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”   It’s wise to be patient but it’s foolish to be hot tempered.  The Greek word for patience means to be slow to get angry, or to have a long fuse and a short memory.  Unfortunately, some of us have a short fuse and long memory.

Patience literally means “wrath that is put far away.”  If the Spirit controls us, fits of rage can be put far away.  Patient people are hard to provoke.  Their temper can absorb a lot before they “lose it.”    Patience is like good motor oil.  It doesn’t remove all the contaminants.  It just puts them into suspension so they don’t get into your works and seize them up.  

As we’ve been learning, the fruit of the spirit is both a gift and a task.  These Christ-like character qualities come to us as a result of grace and they also get built into our lives as a result of some choices that we make.  Here are some Scriptural steps that you can use to clothe yourself with patience.

1. Look at annoying people through the eyes of Jesus.

Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  When you’re following a slow driver, instead of trying to punish him by tailgating, try to deliberately imagine this person as someone’s grandfather.  If you can do this, then you’ll quickly realize that you don’t blow up at a grandpa, you love him.

A train was filled with tired people.  Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains and at last evening had come and they all tried to settle down for a good night’s sleep.  However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby and as night came on the baby became restless and started screaming at the top of its lungs.  Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group. “Why don’t you take that baby to its mother?”  

There was a moment’s pause and then came the reply. “I’m sorry.  I’m doin’ my best.  The baby’s mother is in the casket in the baggage car in front of us.”  There was an awkward silence for a couple minutes.  Then the big man who asked the cruel question got out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child.  He apologized for his impatience and insensitivity.  He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep.  Then in loving patience he cared for the little baby all through the night.

If we could just see people like Jesus does, we’d be much less impatient and much more tolerant.  Instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in their place.

2. Apprentice yourself to patient people.

 Anger is contagious.  When you get it out, others pick it up.  Proverbs 22:24-25: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”  If we can learn how to be angry by hanging out with angry people, then we can learn patience by spending time with those who are long-suffering.

An author for Reader’s Digest wrote about how he studied Amish people in preparation for an article about them.  In his observation at the schoolyard, he noted that the children never screamed or yelled.  This amazed him.  He asked the principal why Amish kids don’t seem to get angry.  The principal replied, “Well, have you ever heard an Amish adult yell?”

Friends, if anger is a learned behavior, then we can unlearn it by spending time with patient people.  James 5:10-11: “Brothers, as an example of patience in the midst of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”  One way to have the fruit of patience grafted into our lives is by spending time with people like Job, who learned it the hard way.  In fact, that would be a great book for you to read if you haven’t read it for a while.

3. Release your anger appropriately. 

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.”  That means that there are right ways and wrong ways to process anger.  It’s possible to be angry and not sin and it’s also possible to be “torqued” and transgress.  

There are three possible options in responding to anger, and the first two don’t work.

  • Suppress it.  That’s when we ignore it or stuff it.  This is not good because the number one cause of depression is suppression, or anger turned within.  
  • Express it.   Many psychologists today suggest that each of us have a bucket full of anger that we just need to dump.  Once we get rid of it by blowing up then we’ll be fine.  Some refer to it as “venting” or practicing the “Primal Scream.”  This is a myth because instead of having a bucket of anger we’ve got an internal factory of fury with unlimited production capacity.  Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
  • Confess it.  When you’re angry, admit it to yourself, own it before God, and then confess it to the person you’re mad at.  Meet with the person and say something like this, “I’m hurt and feel myself getting angry but I care enough about our relationship to deal with the issues that are bothering me.”

4. Get ready to go through some hard times. 

James 1:3: “Because we know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  There’s no way around this truth: we learn how to be patient by having problems.

The story is told about a young Christian who went to an older believer for some prayer because he wanted to become more patient.  They knelt down together and the older man began to pray, “Lord, send this young man tribulation for breakfast, problems for lunch and suffering for supper.” 

5. Rely on God’s help. 

To be patient is to be content to just be with God

Patience is at the very heart of God’s nature.  Psalm 145:8: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”  Get to know Him better because the fruit of patience is rooted in God Himself.  Waiting and worship overlap because at the heart of worship is forgetting about our circumstances and focusing on who God is.  That’s precisely why God wants us to wait – so that we come to the point that God is all we have, and that He is all we need.  To be patient is to be content to just be with God.

The bottom line in bearing fruit is to abide in Christ and submit to the Holy Spirit by yielding control of our lives to Him.  Galatians 5:16 challenges us to, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”   Determine to stay in His place and to only move at His pace.  Put patience into practice.

An African woman had become increasingly impatient with her husband.  Married life was a strain because she kept blowing up at her spouse.  She went to the doctor and asked him for some help.  He told her that she must first gather the basic ingredients for such a powerful medicine. The first thing he needed was three hairs from the mane of a live lion.

The lady left wondering how in the world she was going to get close enough to a lion to get three hairs.  She decided to take her largest goat and tie it to a tree, hoping to tempt the lion.  Sure enough, the lion came and took the goat.  The next day she tied another goat to the tree, and the process went on for several weeks until she had sacrificed her entire flock as bait.  Each day she managed to get closer to the lion and on the final day managed to talk to him.

“I’m sorry to trouble you, but I wonder if I could have three hairs from your mane?”  The lion smiled and said, “Of course, take what you wish.  After all, I’ve enjoyed your goats.”  

The next day the lady triumphantly took the ingredients to the doctor.  The doctor turned to her and said, “You must have been extremely patient to get these hairs from the mane of a live lion.  Now go home and put the same amount of patience into your marriage!”

Let’s go home and practice patience today.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?