Summary: Life outside of Christ, Paul says. It’s angry life. Its confrontational politics and caustic talk shows. It’s accusatory e-mails that appear to have been sent from a flamethrower. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with patience.
Opening illustration: This past week I read about a first-grade teacher who was having a difficult day. It had rained that entire day and the children couldn’t go out for recess, so they got more and more restless and hyperactive as the day wore on. The teacher couldn’t wait for the bell to ring at 3 o’clock. About 2:45 she saw it was still raining, and so she decided to start getting the kids ready for dismissal. She sorted out their boots and raincoats and started helping get them on. Finally, they were ready to go, all except for one little boy whose boots were just too small for his feet. There were no zippers or straps, and it took every last ounce of strength she had to get them on.
When at last she did get them on, she straightened up with a sigh of relief. That’s when the little boy looked down at his feet and said, “Teacher, you know what? These boots aren’t mine!”
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but being the good teacher she was, she smiled bravely and started taking them off. And they were harder to get off than they were to put on. She yanked and tugged until finally the boots were off. That’s when the little boy smiled at her and said, “They’re not my boots, but they’re my sister’s, and I got to wear them!”
“As God’s chosen ones,” Paul says, “clothe yourselves with patience.”
When we’re clothed with patience, we can absorb life’s irritations and annoyances. We can absorb them the way a good thick towel absorbs splatters and spills.
Let us turn to James 5: 7 – 11 and see what patience is all about.
Introduction: Longsuffering / Patience, (Hosea 2:19-23; Psalm 33:20; Matthew 27:14; Romans 5:3; 12:12; Galatians 5:1; Colossians 1:11; James 1:3-4,12; 5:10-11), is showing tolerance and fortitude toward others, even accepting difficult situations from them, and God, without making demands or conditions. Patience allows us to endure a less than desirable situation to make us better and more useful and even optimistic and prudent. Hence, its other name is longsuffering. It allows us to put up with others who get on our nerves, without losing other characteristics of grace.
Opposites: Impatience, annoyance, intolerance, worry, fear, and distrust are the opposites of Patience. These prevent us from seeing, as our Lord wants us to see, that all things will work for His good in the end (Rom. 8:28). We should hang on, place our trust in Him, and not let the temporary things of life bother or distract us from our purpose and call.
1. Defining Longsuffering / Patience: [Long-tempered]
Old Testament meaning: The Hebrew word translates into longsuffering / slow to anger / try the patience of [long & short] used in the OT quite a bit.
New Testament meaning: The Greek word for patience is makrothumia, which is a combination of two words. Makro means “long” and thumia means “temper.” Long-tempered. We all know people who are short-tempered: people who lose patience quickly and blow up in anger. Patience has to do with having a fairly long fuse, being able to absorb life’s annoyances without exploding in anger.
Both the OT & the NT words for patience indicate that this virtue has two legs ~ endurance and perseverance. Patience is not a desperate waiting in doubt, but a hopeful waiting in confidence.
It’s interesting to note that when Paul talks about what life is like outside of Christ, he describes it as an angry life. In the verses just before today’s reading, Paul says that outside of Christ what you find is “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col.3:7-8). You find gossip and quarrels, strife and dissensions. You find split churches and broken marriages and fractured friendships. Lots of short tempers and lots of anger.
That’s life outside of Christ, Paul says. It’s angry life. Its confrontational politics and caustic talk shows. It’s aggressive Little League parents and out-of-control sports fans. Its vengeful movies and violent music. It’s accusatory e-mails that appear to have been sent from a flamethrower.
“Get rid of such things,” Paul says (Col. 3:8). Take off all those angry old clothes, and put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with patience.”
2. The Source of Patience:
It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God’s children. 1 Corinthians 13: 4 states, "Love suffers long and is kind." As noted above, patience is directly associated with love and hope. Here in the "love chapter," Paul lists patience first among love’s works. Romans 5: 5 adds that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."
This makes it evident that God’s patience stands behind His children’s patience as its source and pattern and as a link in a chain. Because the Bible lists it with the fruit of the Spirit, it is less a virtue achieved than a gift received. It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we reproduce it.