The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 5)

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-25).

There are two words in the Greek language that various English translations render as “patience.” The first, hypomone, means literally “to abide under.” It means to bear up and keep going in a difficult situation. Some translations render this “patience,” but better is the word “endurance.”

The second, makrothumia, is the prefix “long” modifying the root word “anger.” Some translations render this “patience,” or better, “longsuffering.” If you’ll think of someone holding his anger—like a pot that takes a long time to boil—you’ll get the idea. It is someone with a very long fuse.

Endurance to finish the Christian race is a very important virtue and is described in many passages. But here in Galatians 5:22, Paul uses the word makrothumia. Vine’s says that makrothumia, “is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God.” So, when you think of patience, think “longsuffering.” With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

We see God’s patience all over the Bible, but maybe it is best illustrated with Israel in the wilderness. God called Israel out of slavery and rescued them with ten powerful plagues. At the edge of the Red Sea, they doubted God’s power to save. But He saved them, parting the water, and destroying the pursuing Egyptians. Soon after, they grew thirsty in the wilderness and they grumbled. But God provided water. Soon after, they ran out of food and they grumbled again, even threatening to stone Moses and return to Egypt. But God provided manna. Soon after, they got tired of eating the miraculous food, and again threatened to go back to eat the melons and onions of Egypt. But God, though He scolded them, provided meat for them.

Finally, at the border of Canaan, they doubted God’s power to provide victory (Numbers 14:1). That was the last straw. God said, “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers.” God’s patience has limits! Eventually God poured out His righteous judgment. But God was patient through all those “ten times.” He grants every opportunity to avoid condemnation.

Thus, we must show this fruit and be longsuffering in our interactions with others. When we are wronged, when we are irritated, we need to be able to bear up for a long while, in a Christ-like way. There are many situations in which patience is necessary.

Marriage is a big one. Longsuffering is absolutely essential in marriage. Whenever two people live in close quarters and share resources, there will be friction. Patience is required to absorb the heat and not blow one’s top, until the matter may be resolved. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

The church is another big one. “I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3). The church is a family. Paul says that peace is something worth having in the body of Christ. Humility, gentleness, tolerance, and longsuffering are required to maintain it. There will constantly be slights, perceived and real; there will be reasons for envy, reasons for anger, reasons for revenge. Patience overcomes them all.

That goes double for those who are laboring to teach—whether as a preacher, a Bible class teacher, an elder, or any Christian advertising the gospel. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” (2 Timothy 2:24). A young man wanted to enter a preaching training program. The elder offering the program told him to come by at 7:00am. Though the young man lived miles away, he was at the house at 7:00. He was let into the living room, where he was told to wait until the elder came out of the study to get him. He waited, looking around the room. He waited more, finally getting up and stretching a bit. He waited more, listening at the door and hearing papers being shuffled from within. He waited some more, finding a magazine to flip through. He looked at his watch, which now said 9:00, and finally the door opened. Without apology, the elder shook his hand and said, “young man, do you want to preach?” He said, “yes, very much sir.” You’re in the program, come back next week and we will begin. Later, when the elder was questioned about his treatment of the young man, he replied, “I didn’t need to know about his education or his background. He demonstrated the greatest skill a preacher will need—patience in all situations.”

Patience is essential even just wandering about town—in the line at Wal-Mart, in traffic, at school, at work. What a shame it is to lose your cool with someone Friday and see them walk in the door Sunday to visit worship. “Be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14).

-John Guzzetta