Summary: A discussion of three important truths about patience: What it is, why it's so hard to have, and how you can display it.
We’ve come now to the fourth fruit of the Spirit, Patience. Remember, there is one fruit, and it has nine flavors. We read about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 which says, “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.”
How patient are you? Let’s take a little test. I’m going to ask you four questions, and you write down a number between one and ten, ten meaning you have LOTS of patience, and one or zero meaning you have very little patience.
First, how well do you handle interruptions? Let’s say you’re finishing a project at work and someone comes into your office and just wants to chat, and when they leave you’re behind schedule. Or you’re rushing to get ready to leave home because you’re already late, and the doorbell rings and someone wants to sell you something.
Second, how do you handle inconveniences? Someone sits in “your seat” at church? Or you’re driving somewhere and there’s a detour or a delay? Are you a person like me, who will back up and go a different way, even though it’s longer, but at least you’re moving? Or you call a service number and there are about fifty automated choices, and all you want to do is talk to a person?
Third, how do you handle irritations? How do you handle irritations like lost keys, or computers that decide to stop working? How about the little things that people do that just bug you? Vance Havner said he wouldn’t mind being swallowed by a whale, but he hated to be nibbled to death by minnows.
Fourth, how do you handle inactivity? Are you a person who can’t stand doing nothing? You hate to wait? I read a statistic not long ago that says in the course of an average lifetime we will spend approximately six months sitting at red lights waiting for them to turn green. Of course, that statistic didn’t take into account Loop 323 in Tyler with a traffic light every two hundred yards. For us, it’s probably more like six years than six months of waiting on traffic lights.
You can tell a lot about a person when they’re waiting for an elevator to arrive. Some punch the button and see that the elevator is not coming immediately, so they take the stairs. Other people stand there swaying back and forth watching the progress of the elevator. And sometimes you’ll see someone keep punching the button as if that will make the elevator arrive sooner.
How patient are you? Add up your score. If you scored less than twenty you probably need some more patience in your life. If you scored around 30, congratulations, you’re a pretty patient person. If you scored 40, then we’re so glad to have you here today, Jesus.
I came across a little poem that says: “Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman, never in a man.” Do any of you ladies want to give me an “ah, men” to that?
I need more patience, so I’m preaching to myself today. If you are like me and need to improve in the area of patience, let’s learn three important truths about patience: What it is, why it’s so hard to have, and how you can display it.
I. Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously
Life can be frustrating and full of situations that try our patience. Sometimes we have experiences like the kindergarten teacher up north. It was the end of a long winter day in class and she was struggling and straining to stuff one her student’s feet into his snow boots. When she finally finished the boy said, “They’re on the wrong feet.” So she worked to get them off and put them on the other feet. Then he said, “These aren’t my boots.” By now she was sweating, but she took them off again. Then he said, “They’re my brother’s boots, but my mother told me to wear them today.” Almost at the breaking limit, she worked to get them back on his feet again. Then she said, “Finally! Now where are your mittens?” He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots.” That’s when she went screaming out into the hallway.
Our default reaction to delay and disappointment is to respond with anger. Patience is the ability to allow God’s grace to control our personality so we can respond like God. And the Bible teaches that God is patient. The Greek word for patience is makrothumos, a combination of two words, makro, meaning large or long (in computers we have micros and macros) and thumos, which means anger, or temper. In other words, patience means having a long fuse on your temper. That’s why the King James Version translates the word as “long suffering.” The Bible says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8)