Pastor Edward Brouwer 4-29-18 “Patience” Galatians 5:13-25
How many of you have ever struggled with being impatient? The typical scenario is that you are on a time crunch and someone is holding you up. You pick the line at the grocery store that you think will be the quickest and it turns out that the customer ahead of you, has a stack of coupons or is paying with a check or has some other issue. Murphy’s Law at work. The story goes that there was a man who wanted a really unique pet that he could brag about to his friends. He went to a local pet store and asked for a small but special pet. “I have just the thing for you the attendant” said “it’s a centipede”. “Perfect, I’ll take it” the man said. That evening he wanted to go out with his friends and decided to show off his new pet. Being a little quirky he lifted the lid off the box and said “hey we’re going out tonight are you up for that?” No response. He said it again, a little louder. Still no response. Finally lifting the container close to his mouth he yelled “are you coming with me or not?” And then he heard a little whisper that said “I told you already, hold your horses, I’m putting on my shoes!”
Read Galatians 5: 13-25
How many of you have heard the expression “Lord give me patience and give it to me right now!” Zap me Lord! We are in a series about the Fruit of the Spirit. Fruit by definition takes time to develop. How much time? A lifetime. If you are praying for patience don’t be discouraged if it’s taking a long time. God will give you the very thing you are asking for. But patience is a tricky thing to ask for. Because developing patience is old school. I mean, it has to be done the old fashioned way: through hard work. If you want patience then the Lord will put you in a trying circumstance to develop your patience muscles (as it were). If you want to build muscles, you’re not going to do it watching an exercise video. You must apply actual resistance and force over a long period of time. It’s slow and painful but it’s the only way. Like anything that is worthwhile, developing this fruit of patience requires, well, patience.
The word patience in the New Testament has two meanings. Words like “longsuffering, slow to avenge wrongs, to forbear”, approximate the meaning here in Galatians 5. Remember the context here is that Paul is talking about loving your neighbor. He’s saying that our selfish tendencies, living according to the flesh rather than the Spirit, will cause us to bite and devour one another. This can happen in the church. It certainly happens in the home. How often are we impatient with our spouse or kids? And has that ever led to anything good? Here’s my advice to myself and to you. Get over yourself already! And I am preaching to myself here more than anyone. By temperament I pride myself on being “quick on the draw”…sometimes that is an advantage but at other times not so much—pride cometh before the fall. My beautiful wife Glenda is organized and methodical. Early in our marriage I found myself frustrated and impatient about this. I wanted to do it “my way” and found my will thwarted. Out of that comes frustration and impatient behavior. Maybe even a fight or two. I have found through experience that this basically never works. Paul’s words come to mind “love each other, stop biting and devouring each other or you will be destroyed by each other”. So here’s a soul training exercise when it comes to developing forbearance with others. Bite your tongue (and swallow the blood if you must). Get in the slow line at the store. Intentionally put yourself in a situation where you are “wasting your time” serving others rather than serving your own agenda.
But Paul is not advising us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and act according to enlightened self-interest. No, he is saying that it is only through the Spirit that we can ever hope to walk in true godly patience. Our hope is that Jesus Christ, who is living within us by the Spirit of Christ, is producing in us the fruit of His character in patience. Don’t get me wrong, patience isn’t just passive acceptance of whatever befalls you as though you live some chill, it’s all good vibe (although admittedly some temperaments are more forebearing than others). Look at Jesus. Jesus was patient with children and with his disciples and with people who were genuinely seeking faith. But he was impatient with hypocrisy of religious leaders. He criticized them for twisting the Scriptures. “So you can’t heal a sick person on the Sabbath day because that would be work and the Bible says no work on the Sabbath?” Really? Or he said they robbed widows and devoured their support by religious double talk and rigmarole. Saying it was alright for people to give first to the Temple even if that meant they weren’t supporting their family. In other words Jesus is patient with genuine faith but impatient with fake religion. But Jesus is more than just our example in patience. He is our life and the wellspring of patience.
Jesus endured patiently the affliction of his soul and death on a cross to redeem us. This is a second meaning of the Greek word macro-thumia. To endure with constancy steadfastness and perseverance a trial or suffering. Hebrews 12:2 talks about Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising it’s shame.” The gospel is that Jesus suffered patiently to give us life. We are the joy that was set before him! He endured so that he could reconcile us to God. And his goal is to present us spotless without stain, wrinkle or blemish–holy and blameless to God. (Eph. 5:27)
The goal of Christ, by the Spirit’s working within us, is to shape our character more and more like Jesus. James the brother of Jesus writes about trials of many kinds and how God brings those into our lives for a purpose. James 1:4 “but let patience have her perfect work, that you would be made complete, lacking in nothing”. I call that “perfecting patience”. And God uses our trials and suffering and heartaches and pain to perfect the character of Christ in us. Do you believe that Jesus is with you in your trial? That Christ is present to you in your suffering and difficult circumstance? Someone once said that we can endure almost anything if we know the “why”. Allow God’s Spirit to perfect patience in your life because he is teaching you to rest in Him, to trust in Him, that he is using every difficulty in our lives to burnish the character of Jesus Christ in us. He is making us more like Jesus every day. He loves you. He is at work in you. He who started a good work in your with be faithful to perfect it in you until the day of Christ’s return.