Summary: This is the fifth sermon in the series on "THE Fruit of the Spirit"


MATTHEW 18:21-32

It was May of 2004 when the Holy Spirit taught me a valuable lesson in patience thanks to Sheila. Liz was on the leadership Team of a Walk to Emmaus, and I was left for 72 hours to be Sheila’s sole care giver. It seems so much easier for me to serve on an Emmaus weekend rather than Liz. After all, she’s the full time grandmother; I ‘m the full time pastor. For three weekends during her Team Formation meetings to plan the Walk plus this actual Walk weekend, I had to fulfill the dual role as pastor and granddad, or as our secretary at Decatur Central so well put it, “I had to play the role of a single parent.”

Friday evening I was finishing my study preparations for Sinday’s sermon. I let Sheila watch the Cartoon Network. Now I am one who can study for hours. I’m not the best “baby sitter” in the world. I simply continued studying in the home office while she watched her cartoons. At nine o’clock I told her it was time to go to bed. I continued my studying for a few minutes while I assumed she was obediently changing clothes. I went to tuck her in bed and was choked by the smell of what I assumed was perfume. I looked at Sheila’s hair, and it had turned completely gray. In the master bathroom I discovered that she had gotten into Liz’s White Diamonds face powder which had been a Christmas present from me. Sheila had saturated her hair with the powder. I immediately called on the Lord for an extra doze of patience.

In the late 1980s, when I was still in the best physical shape of my life and serving as pastor of the Ellen Moore United Methodist Church in Fairfield, I was logging 70 or more miles of running a week, ten or more miles per day including Sundays. I would easily finish a 10 mile run through Fairfield before time for worship. It takes endurance to be a distance runner, and the Lord had enabled me through rigorous training to build such disciplined endurance.

When I announced this series on “The Fruit of the Spirit,” both Mike LaReau and Liz made the comment, “I really need the one on Patience.” Actually we need a new hymn or praise and worship chorus for this service either entitled, “Lord, Give Me Patience Now,” or “God Give Me Patience, and Hurry!” The Bible calls us as Christians to a life style that includes both patience and endurance. On the surface, the two may seem quite different; but Scripturally speaking they are closely related. “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Patience.” What does that mean?

We all face hardships in our lives. Circumstances we face may not be the best. There are times of suffering, pain, grief, misfortune, trouble, distress, affliction, torment, or misery. Worries and cares come our way. We all experience heartaches and disappointments in life. Are these times that call us to be patient?

A few years ago we had a good friend in our Sumner Church that lost her job one day before lunch. Immediately she came to Liz and me for ministry, help, encouragement, support, and prayer. The three of us spent several hours together. During that time I asked her, “What kind of job do you want?” Her response was, “Something where I don’t have to meet the public.” On occasions Liz has shared with me the thought, “It would be easy for me to be a Christian if it weren’t for people.” All of us can relate to such situations. There are difficult people in our lives even in our Christian circles. Do our relationships with others require patience?

The Bible speaks to both these situations. Patience and endurance are companions. In fact, we might say in many respects they are twin traits of discipleship, but the Bible distinguishes between the two by using two different Greek words in the New Testament. The word for patience refers to our relationships with others, both with God and with our neighbor. The word endurance refers circumstances we face in life. It literally means “putting up with things.”

Often the two are yoked together in the same context. Take, for instance, the admonition of Paul in II Corinthians 6:4-8, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance: in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love, in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right and in the left . . .” The Holy Spirit toughened Paul to endure countless times of trouble, hardship, distress, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger. The Spirit also enabled him to be patient with people, especially those in the Church.

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