Summary: This week’s subject fruit is “patience.” How does possessing patience relate to understanding and achieving my purpose in life?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This is week four of a nine week study of the fruit of the Spirit and what it has to do with finding purpose in life. This week’s subject fruit is “patience.” How does possessing patience relate to understanding and achieving my purpose in life?
First, let’s define “patience.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “patience” as: “the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.” Not much to go on there. We could look up “patient” or find another dictionary that might expand Merriam-Webster’s un-generous definition, but you know by now, that’s not where I generally head next.
The Old Testament writers got their point across in Hebrew or Aramaic. The New Testament writers studied Hebrew (Luke was the only Gentile in the pack) and wrote in Greek. So to really understand what they said we need to understand what they said.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks going over the meanings of Greek and Hebrew words and I’d apologize if I thought I owed it to you, but a lot of this stuff is just too good to pass up and if I don’t tell you who’s going to?
When your English Old Testament says “patience” it’s actually translating two Hebrew words, êøà (arek) “long” and óà (af) “nose”. The literal English translation is “long nose.”
So having a long nose is a fruit of the Spirit? Maybe literally, but not really. Ancient Hebrews (possibly modern Hebrews) saw someone’s nose turning red as a sign that they were getting angry. Therefore the word for “nose” and the word for “anger” became synonymous. If a person didn’t anger easily, if it took a long time for his nose to turn red, he was, in Hebrew parlance, “long of nose”; slow to anger.
I’ll bet not everyone knows “patience” means “long nose” in Hebrew. You could corner the dinner table conversation with that one.
Bible translators probably didn’t want to go to the trouble to explain all this so they substituted “patience” for “long nose,” which seemed to work out well.
There are two Greek words for “patience” in the New Testament; both of them are worth digging into. The first is “makrothumia.” It’s the same word the English Bible translates “longsuffering.” “Makrothumia” means: “patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.”
The other Greek word for “patience” is “hupomone”. Strong’s Lexicon defines “hupomone” as “the characteristic of a man [or woman] who is not swerved from his [or her] deliberate purpose and his [or her] loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” Boy, I like that one. I could write a whole book on that one … maybe later.
So “patience,” the character trait Paul mentions as a fruit of the Spirit, is a lot richer than I ever imagined. It means “slow to anger” and “slow to avenge wrongs” (turning the other cheek); but it means a lot more. It means “endurance,” the capacity to keep going or put up with pain and hardship for a long time; “constancy,” loyalty as a partner and a friend; “steadfastness,” adhering firmly and faithfully to a principle or cause; “perseverance,” trying hard and continuously in spite of obstacles and difficulties; “forbearance,” refraining from action, even when it’s your legal right; “longsuffering,” forgiving, resigned, tolerant, accommodating, selfless.
What kind of person could I be if my life was characterized by that kind of patience? What affect would it have on the world if believers demonstrated that kind of patience in their lives? Living out “makrothumia” patience would make us better people and make the world a better place to live, wouldn’t it?
But what do you think the Bible means when it calls patience a fruit of the Spirit? Why do you think it lists nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit at all? Is it to make us better people? To make the good, gooder? To make the world a better place to live?
I think it’s something deeper. Let me show you what I mean.
“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory …?” (Romans 9:22-23)
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”(I Timothy 1:16)
“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” (II Peter 3:15)