Have you ever been asked by your children for the same thing over and over again? You start getting frustrated, your eye starts twitching. Or, maybe it’s me. I have this tendency to show patience to others but can be very impatient to those who are close to me.
Maybe it’s not your kids but you have had to endure the abuse from some authority or peer at work. Maybe it’s a neighbor and your patience for them is growing thin. They keep doing that one thing to annoy you. Or, maybe it is a physical ailment. Something that seems to be consuming your thoughts and it doesn’t look like it is going away.
The apostle Paul writes, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12–13 ESV).
If we were to look at the word patience or as some translate that word, longsuffering, throughout the Bible, we see a couple of different ways it is used.
The Bible uses the word patience in a few different ways.
- First, there is the call to be patient while we suffer at the hands of others. The word longsuffering has been defined as simply “suffering long” but we can look at it as “long tempered” or as some translations say “patient.”
We see this through the life and story of Joseph, who was longsuffering by the treatment of his brothers, who sold him as a slave. He was longsuffering toward them when they needed saving from the famine. He was longsuffering when he was wrongfully accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into jail.
Or, we see Jesus, who was longsuffering at the hands of those who were beating Him, mocking Him, and torturing Him as He was taken to the cross.
- Second, we see patience displayed when being provoked by others.
When David was thrown out of his kingdom by the rebellion of his son Absalom and while fleeing Jerusalem there was a man named Shimei who ridiculed him. He cursed David and told him this is what he deserved. David showed patience towards him by not killing him (2 Samuel 16:5–14).
- Third, we need to display patience towards others’ shortcomings.
Jesus was patient with His disciples though they lacked faith. He never grew impatient when people came to Him with their ailments and problems. How quickly we lack patience with others in their shortcomings. Just think how often you grew impatient just for sitting in traffic or standing in that long line to check out at the store.
- Fourth, patience is shown when we wait on God.
Abraham needed to wait on God for the promise of having a son. Joseph waited to be placed in a position of power like in the dreams he had as boy. David waited on the Lord to receive his promise of being anointed king over Israel. We need to be patient as we wait on the Lord. We must remember that God’s timing is always right on time.
- Fifth, we are called to be patient through trials and afflictions.
We face many trials, such as the trials of work, the afflictions of physical health, financial troubles. Paul reminds us, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 ESV).
We, by nature, are not good at patience. Yes, some may show patience better than others may, but being impatient is part of the fall. The truth is, we desire for things to end quickly. We are not patient people. We get tired of people. We get tired of life. We get tired of having to persevere because sometimes life is just hard. We can get tired of our kids and even of one another. We are sinners who are wicked and evil. We need Jesus to transform our wicked, stony hearts, and to give us a heart of flesh.
The objective of the Christian life is not about being patient, better, or nice. The objective is the surrender of our hearts. Patience is the overflowing result of a life that has been impacted with the gospel.
We were never promised for it to be easy:
We need to remind ourselves that we were never promised to have it easy. Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). We are called to be patient, longsuffering, and to endure with our faith in this life (Hebrews 12:1–2).
To reflect again on Colossians 3:12–13 we see that we are called to put on Christ, as Christ is the one who transforms us into His image. One description that is of Christ is patience because Jesus was and is perfectly patient.
What that means for us is there can be no excuses for not being patient. Yes, we can say, “I am not very patient because my dad or mom was not very patient with me, so thus I inherited this trait.” But look what Christ has done for us, and here we have the command as believers that we are to clothe ourselves with what? Patience!
How can we be patient?
- We can be patient because Jesus is patient.
He was patient through his earthly journey to the cross and longsuffering with the sin of the world. As he demonstrated His patience then, it reveals His patience with us.
Remember that He is patient with you. God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6). He is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He demonstrated that on the cross.
We also must not forget how patient He is with us on a daily basis. He is patient in the times we blow it, whether our sin is known or we are oblivious to it. He is patient with our shortcomings. He is not annoyed with us or says, “Why don’t you get it—gosh!” Or, “You are so stupid! Can’t you straighten it up?”
To demonstrate God’s patience is what the Bible refers to when it says God’s love is steadfast. Over and over we can come across that phrase: He is steadfast in His love (Psalm 100:5). Some translations will use the word mercy. But steadfast love is a strong way of saying His love is not going anywhere. It is not just everlasting; it is unchanging.
When we realize and think about Christ, who is patient with us, we can be patient with others. When we remember what Jesus did on our behalf, it changes how we are with other people, even those whom we grow impatient with.
- We can be patient by being convicted of God’s faithfulness
As we grow in our awareness of God’s faithfulness, it combats our impatience towards others and to our situations. The Bible tells us that He remains faithful even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). God is the same yesterday as He is today, and will be tomorrow. He is unchanging and He will be unchanging in His faithfulness (Hebrews 13:8). God’s faithfulness is knowing that He has a plan and that it will come to completion (Philippians 1:6).
When we grow impatient, we are really rebelling or choosing to reject God’s faithfulness. Our lack of patience reveals our distrust over what God is doing. By our impatience, we are stating that we think we know what is better and how it should go; we are not trusting the Good Shepherd who is leading us.
- We can be patient by trusting in God’s leading
Not only is God faithful but He leads us. Author Tony Reinke says, “Little do we appreciate the danger we face at every moment of life. All our attempts at self-preservation are laughably insufficient. We are poor and silly sheep, unable to add one inch to our statures by all our worry. The fortresses we build around our souls for protection are castles of cardboard. The dangers we face far exceed our frail powers to defend ourselves. Our vulnerability and weakness draw out God’s compassionate love and care.”[i]
Jesus is the chief Shepherd who leads His sheep. His sheep know their Shepherd’s voice and the shepherd knows His sheep’s name. If we believe that He leads us, then we realize certain people, situations, afflictions are God’s will and we are being led through them and out of them.
When we reflect on God leading us and His faithfulness and His patience, which was demonstrated by Jesus Christ, then it will change us. Our perspective and outlook change. We then are patient to those that it may be hard to be patient with. Instead of retaliating to those who hurt us or are mean, we are patient towards them and pray for them as Christ demonstrated this on the cross for us.
Instead of wishing for this thing to hurry, or to be done with this person, we are patient in thinking that God is leading and He has led you here. We are reminded of the patience that was shown by Jesus as He died for us. We are reminded that we have the ability to be patient because Christ conquered sin and the grave, and we put on Christ, who did it all for us.
[i] Reinke, Tony. Newton on the Christian Life. Pg. 53