Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Talking again about patience, because it is an important topic. We lose out on so many blessings in life because we are too impatient. I know that for myself—fortunately I’m married to a very patient lady. If we can trust God, then it will be easier to be patient.
We really are impatient people, aren’t we? I read the other day about a church in Florida that advertises a 22-minute worship service. They promise that 22 minutes after the service begins you will be able to go. The music is fast; the prayers are quick; the sermons are only 8-minutes long. Maybe that’s a sign of how much we are in a hurry these days. I said in Part 1 that It’s not easy to develop patience. Let me give you some reasons why I say that.
Patience Goes Against Human Nature
It goes against human nature! We are not born patient, are we? A young married couple have a beautiful baby boy. When the child wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry, or wants his nappy changed, he doesn’t lie in the bed and think, I know mummy and daddy are tired, so I’ll just wait until a more convenient time to let them know that I need something to eat or my nappy changed. No, chances are the child is developing a great set of lungs that gets his parents’ attention—whether it’s 2 am or 2 pm. Most of us grow up struggling to be patient.
Patience is difficult because our pride, selfishness, and anger stand between us and patience. I read the other day about a man’s car that was stalled in heavy traffic just as the traffic light changed. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the car started. What do you guess happened? A chorus of honking horns behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car and walked back to the first driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk your horn for you!”
Patience Is Contrary to Our Culture
It’s so true, isn’t it?, that we are impatient with anyone or anything that gets in our way. It’s so contrary to our culture and way of thinking today. We live on a fast track, in a rat race. We’re in a world of fast food, quick print, motorways and freeways, 10-minute oil changes, instant digital cameras, and microwaves. I wonder if somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue.
It’s like the person who said, Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done! Have you ever said that? There’s a great verse from the Bible written by Solomon in Proverbs 14:29 – CEV, ”It’s smart to be patient, but it’s stupid to lose your temper”. And Proverbs 15:18 – CEV says, ”Losing your temper causes a lot of trouble, but staying calm settles arguments”.
It’s amazing how much insight there is in God’s Word. Like Colossians 3:12-14 – CEV:
God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek and patient. Put up with each other and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.
We May Skim Over the Important
John Ortberg says:
Again and again as we pursue the spiritual life, we must battle hurry. For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them!
I think John Ortberg makes a lot of sense. How tragic it would be if we live today in such a rush that we skim over the important, all because we’re too impatient.
When we allow God to give us patience, we can absorb life’s irritations and annoyances. We can absorb them the way a good thick towel absorbs splatters and spills. Sometimes it’s annoying strangers we have to absorb. Like the guy down the block whose dog barks all night. Or the driver poking along at 50 km/hr in the left lane of the freeway. Or the person ahead of us in the 15-item express line at the grocery store. And sometimes it’s people in our own family. It’s our nearest and dearest who really try our patience.
C. S. Lewis says it well: “When two humans have lived together for many years, it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other.” You know what he means, don’t you? It’s not that your spouse does anything all that wrong. It’s just that he raises an eyebrow in a certain way that drives you crazy. It’s the way she takes forever to tell a simple story.
Patience Is a Fruit of the Spirit
That’s why Paul says be patient. And Paul says to the Galatian Christians that the fruit of the Spirit is patience. Let’s try and remember that God is patient with us. In 2 Peter 3:9 – CEV we read:
The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.
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.
One writer suggests we think of patience as a good motor oil. It doesn’t remove all the contaminants—it just puts them into suspension so they don’t get into your works and seize them up. Patient people have, so too speak, a large crankcase. They can put a lot of irritants into suspension. May God help us to have a long fuse. It does help to keep in mind how incredibly patient God has been with me:
- How many times have I gotten on God’s nerves?
- How many times have I come before him and confessed the same ugly sin, the same loveless behaviour, the same stupid mistakes?
- How many times have I disregarded him, disobeyed him, disappointed him?
God Never Lost Patience with Us
And yet, he’s always been there for me. Never given up on me. Never lost patience with me. Finally, it helps to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ. We’re not talking about a self-improvement technique, Forty Days to a More Patient You. We’re talking about the fruit of the Spirit, Christ-like character, which we develop not by focusing on ourselves but by focusing on the Lord Jesus.
When we look at Jesus with patience in mind, what do we see? We see him there on the cross, absorbing not just a few minor annoyances, but absorbing the accumulated evil of the whole world. Absorbing all that sin and suffering without passing it on, without inflicting it on others—and thereby breaking the cycle of retaliation and vengeance in which this angry world is trapped.
When I take a long look at Jesus there on the cross, somehow the irritations and annoyances that bug me don’t seem quite so urgent.