Summary: This is the 4th in a series of fruits of the Spirit, or the chacter of a Christian: Patience
I. Someone shared with me a story this week of a young boy who witnessed a Baptism at his local Baptist Church. And he heard how the minister described it made that person part of the family of God. This got the young boy to thinking and so the next morning he decided to baptize the family cats. He first baptized the kitten and he bore it very well, but then came the old momma cat. She rebelled, struggled with him, clawed and tore, and finally got away. With considerable effort he caught her again (none of you came kicking and screaming to baptism, did you?). Well the second time the young boy proceeded with the ceremony in his bathtub. But the cat acted worse than ever, clawing and hissing and scratching his face. Finally, the young boy sprinkled some water up on her, dropped her to the floor in disgust and said: "Fine, be a Methodist if you want to."
Baptizing a cat would take the "patience of Job"! In the letter of James, he talks about this kind of patience, having the patience of Job. Be patient for the coming of the Lord, as a farmer waits for his crops. Be patient for the early and late rains. Be patient and strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Patience is the very chracter of a Christian. I debated weather or not to deviate from this sermon series on a day we usually dedicate as "Teacher Appreciation Sunday", but then I thought, who needs patience more than teachers?
illustration: (1) 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.”
Recently I heard a pastor say that "patience" was being "slow to anger". Perhaps this is partly so. "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." Patience isn’t about "anger" really, but it is about that "enduring behavior" that persevers when you should be angry, or tired or hungry. Patience is really counter to our human nature, to our culture even. When a baby cries because it is hungry, you don’t shout down the hall "Be patient honey; persevere until morning!" No, the baby cries because he/she expects to be fed right then, and right now.
Patience by definition - and there are actually three different Greek words that are used in these six verses in James that will help us define the character of christian patience. And all three are inter-twined in a core definition of what it is to be patient. The first one is "makrothumeo" (#3114) that patience is to be "long-spirited". If "spirited" is to "to be full of life" then is not "long spirited" the desire, the longing for the fullness of life, despite the odds? So first James is telling us to "patiently abide in the fullness of life until the coming of the Lord."
(1) "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)!"
Secondly, the patience described by James is "makrothumia" (#3115), which is "longanimity". I had never heard that word before, even had to prove to our local attorney, Larry Harrison, that it was in Websters. It means "longsuffering" or "forebearance". Endurring pain. Withstanding provocation. Maintaining self control, despite the circumstances. For teachers it may mean withstanding difficult situations in your school, budget cuts, building problems, overcrowded classrooms, problem children who without patience would set your teeth on edge. For Christians "longanimity" might mean enduring attacks from non-christians; holding your tounge while being attacked; struggling through illness, pain, or difficult situations with the patience of Job, knowing the outcome, that no matter what happens "Jesus Christ is Lord." (1) 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.” A patient person has the ability to suffer for a long time.