In Part 1, I was talking about patience and I said that 2,000 years ago, when Jesus came, the people of that time—the people of Israel—were very impatient. They were looking for a king to take authority over the world. And I think there’s something here about patience.
They didn’t even have smartphones back then. Fast communication back then was sending a message by carrier dove, by horseback, or by way of a sprinter. The world gets just a little faster every day, and people forget what it was like to wait in line.
In fact, you may notice that when people have to wait in a line at the supermarket, they get annoyed after a short period of waiting, because they simply lack patience. Like the prayer, Lord give me some patience—but I want it now.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patience as steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. An athlete who is patient will see a challenge through from start to finish, despite the struggles encountered on his journey. Patience is more than a virtue, it is a powerful weapon.
What Is Patience?
Famous novelist Leo Tolstoy—perhaps best known for War and Peace—used to say, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
St Francis of Assisi said: “No one will ever know the full depth of his capacity for patience and humility as long as nothing bothers him. It is only when times are troubled and difficult that he can see how much of either is in him.”
I have found this to be true over and over again, especially in the area of patience. I have a feeling that I am not the only impatient person around though. We are impatient people, aren’t we? But you know what? One sign of a growing Christian is that they become more and more patient in life. There is a real blessing in remaining patient even if you don’t feel like it.
What is patience? In the New Testament there are three words used for ‘patience’. The word that is used in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word makrothymia. This is a compound Greek word made up of the words makro meaning ‘long’, and thymia meaning ‘anger’. So literally it means ‘long to anger‘ as opposed to oxythymia which means ‘sudden anger’.
We all know people who have ‘a short fuse’. They are quick-tempered and easily angered. That’s why we need the fruit of the Spirit; we need makrothymia; we need a long fuse, to be slow to anger. Patience is the prolonged control of anger or restrained wrath. This Greek word also carries with it the connotation of holding up, bearing with, and enduring especially during trials.
So why is it so hard to develop patience?
- Because patience is contrary to our human nature.
If the fruit of the spirit is patience, the fruit of the sinful nature must be impatience. We are impatient because we are sinful by nature. Patience is not something we are instinctively born with. Patience is also contrary to our human nature because there are weeds of pride, selfishness and anger that can choke out the fruit of patience in our lives. We have become an impatient and often angry culture. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.
- Because of hurry
Our culture is in constant ‘hurry up’ mode. Some of us are so used to going fast, we can’t stand delays. And we lose our minds when things go slow. Virginia Brazier says that we’re in a world of fast food and quick print and express ways and 10-minute oil changes and instant cameras and microwaves.
- Because of technology
We have computerised gadgets that work so quickly that instead of slowing down our lives they just teach us to be more impatient. Have you ever stood at an ATM machine and thought, Man, this goes so slow? It wasn’t that long ago that we had to stand in long lines at the bank to get money. Remember when a 28 Kbps internet modem on your computer was fast? But now we have to have high-speed connections to make our computers go faster.
- Because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue.
We hear people say, Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done. We like ‘type A’ personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, and somehow impatience is seen as a virtue.
How do we go about developing patience in our lives? I would like to suggest two ways:
- We can develop patience in our lives by remaining close to Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in John 15:5 said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing”.Our human nature is not going to move us to be patient on our own. We must get that patience from Jesus Christ. We desperately need to have him give us his patience—a divine patience that will transform our lives. That means that we must grow close to him on a daily basis. The closer we get to Jesus, the more his patience will wear off on us. So it is important to receive the nourishment that only Jesus Christ can give.
We cannot produce patience unless we’re remaining in Christ, unless we’re walking in his steps, reading his Word, growing in our prayer life, unless we’re spending quality time worshipping and mixing with our friends who share our Christian faith.
- We can develop patience in our lives by learning to be still.
As a culture/society we can’t slow down and it is affecting us. A big reason for this is because we have no idea what scripture means when it says: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).