Sometimes, it is a very difficult to be patient. When we’re bringing our concerns to the Lord again and again, we can grow tired of waiting. We can begin to feel like our prayers are falling on deaf ears. Often our desire is to take control and just “do the best we can” even though we know Galatians 5 lists patience as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When this dawns on us, we might confess our desire to rule our own lives, inviting the Spirit to direct us and empower us once again as we continue to wait on the Lord.
This doesn’t mean circumstances change. Our only child might remain sick in the hospital, the thread our marriage hangs on might continue to splinter, the hope we’ve held on to for years might fade with increasing speed. Having prayed fervently about whatever issue we are facing too many times to count, we can easily feel our bank of patience depleting once again. On these days, reminders on the nature of patience can be an encouragement to us as we continue to wait.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:22- 25).
Waiting is a common experience. All your brothers and sisters in faith, as well as all of creation, know what it is like to wait on the Lord. Consider those who have waited before you: Job, David, a myriad of prophets. There is plenty of encouragement in the Bible concerning our need for patience. James 5:7, Colossians 1:10-12, Psalm 40:1 and Revelation 14:12 are just a few examples taken from a myriad of passages about the topic.
The New Bible Dictionary defines patience as “God-given restraint in the face of opposition or oppression.” Patience is only necessary in the face of opposition. This is why seeking patience is in many senses a battle. The promise we can lean on is that patience is God-given restraint, not something we are to produce in our own strength. The Lord is the one who provides us with spiritual armor to go into battle. Our only responsibility is to trust that God will provide the strength to hold on, and then act accordingly to our faith in that promise.
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How is this strength given to us?
We receive this strength by faith. As Christians, we know that the ultimate source of patience, Christ, lives within us by his Spirit. Our role is to trust that the Holy Spirit is giving us the strength to persevere in whatever situation we find ourselves in. This is a provision we can claim by faith as taught us in Romans 5:1-5.
Patience as listed in Galatians 5 is often called long-suffering. The original Greek word is makrothumio, meaning “long temper.” We are to keep a “long attitude” towards God, others, and ourselves. This spiritual posture calls for grace — grace that compels us to trust God, grace extended to others when they hurt us, and grace to forgive ourselves when we stumble and fall.
The experience of waiting on God reminds us that it is not our circumstances that define our reality. Rather, it is the truth of Christ’s love and life in us. This gives us hope, as Romans 8:28 assures us that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. It is not in our abilities to know the time or way in which God will work things out. Ecclesiastes 3:11 and Isaiah 55:8-9 are great reminders that these rest solely in the domain of God’s knowledge. Our role is to trust the promise of Philippians 1:6 and wait with hope as God brings about to completion the good work he began in each of our lives.
What is our role in the battle?
Consider again the definition of patience as God-given restraint. God allows us to access divine restraint, but it is our choice to trust him or not. Adam and Eve were given free will. They were gifted many provisions in the garden; they didn’t need to partake of the fruit that was forbidden. However, they chose not to exercise restraint and instead disobeyed God’s command. When we use God-given restraint, waiting on his will and timing instead of trying to change the situation in our own strength, we overcome temptation and step out in obedience towards God.
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There is purpose in the process. Take a look at Hebrews 12:2. Waiting on God forces us to look to him. It casts our eyes rightly to Christ as the source of our faith and the assurance of our salvation. It reminds us that Christ’s death and resurrection are the reason we can be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Trials cause us to persevere by deepening our knowledge of God and relying on him more intentionally. As James 1:2-4 tells us, it is through trials that our faith grows to maturity.
Waiting patiently on the Lord does not mean being stuck at a standstill. Consider Ephesians 6, which commands: put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then.
To hold our ground by remaining obedient to the Lord while waiting is not to remain inactive or passive. Note that the word stand is repeated three times. **To be patient is to persevere as a soldier in God’s army, continuing to stand firm in Christ and live fully for him, trusting in his perfect will despite any present difficulties. Revelation 3:10-11 tells us of God’s care for those who persevere through the battle.
We might feel unable to continue to wait patiently on God or to continue to love those that may be hard to love, but in fact, we have access to all the patience we need in Christ. We can trust the Spirit to give us the strength to bear our circumstances and enable us to use this time of waiting to grow in our intimacy with the Lord.
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