Patience Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Patience

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For Christians, patience is a combination of steadfastness and endurance. Patience involves a certain long-suffering (the literal translation of the Greek word makrothumia) that allows us to stick with God and with our faith in God through often trying and difficult outward circumstances. In this sense, patience is tightly bound to Christian hope. If patience involves waiting, the Christian knows she is waiting for something because Holy Spirit-inspired hope tells us that God's kingdom really is coming, and so we wait for it patiently.

In Scripture

"Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices" (Ps. 37:7).

"Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Rom. 8:25).

"We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience" (Col. 1:9b-11).

"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12).

"But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:16).

Trials of any kind "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3).

Points to Ponder

Patience and Other Spiritual Fruit: Patience lends strength to most of the fruit of the Spirit, including love ("love is patient") and self-control. The patient person is a self-controlled person, not prone to sudden outbursts that wound others. The patient person finds that she has the time needed to develop love for others through not making snap judgments and so coming to appreciate what is good about others. Thus, as love grows due to patience, so also kindness is directed toward others; through this comes acts of goodness and gentleness as well.

Patience, Not Passive Stoicism: We tend to think of patience as involving a passive posture. Patience is what you exercise when you cannot do anything else. If you are sitting in a traffic jam for no apparent reason, you feel your patience being tried, but what else can you do except wait for things to start moving again? If the person in front of you in the grocery store checkout aisle starts paying his bill with pennies, nickels, and dimes, you take a deep breath and try to be patient, because what else can you do? But in the deepest Christian sense, patience as a fruit of the Spirit involves a more active stance. We endure trials, we wait out persecution, we stick with the kingdom despite its mustard-seed like appearance and slowness, precisely because our faith and hope inspire us to stand firm. We could despair. We could chuck our faith. But instead we actively choose to believe God's promises with steadfast endurance until that day when our faith will be sight. It should also be noted, as the author Robert Roberts once pointed out, that Christian patience is not mere stoicism, an enduring of life's tougher moments with the proverbial "stiff upper lip" on account of there being nothing else to grab hold of. Patience is not just the decision to "grin and bear it" for lack of anything more solid to affirm. Instead, patience revels in the promises of God and draws active strength from the hope they inspire. In this sense, patience mediates between hope and despair. Patience is like the steel girder that lends structure and strength to Christian faith.

Patience as Antidote to Vices: The truly patient Christian is less prone to certain sins and behaviors that Scripture warns against, principally the deadly sin of anger or wrath. Impatience can lead a person to strike out or strike back, to give someone a good tongue-lashing. Impatience fuels anger because it leads us to believe that we have a right to expect our circumstances to be different, to be better. When they are not, we lash out from a sense of frustration and of indignity — we deserve better than this! Patience also leads to a form of intolerance, a refusal to put up with certain situations or with certain. When we are impatient, our words and actions display our belief that the world should be arranged for our own maximal benefit. But patience in persecution and affliction displays the Christian's knowledge — because Jesus himself predicted such situations — that our fallen world is only slowly being made over into the kingdom of God. Thus we understand that resistance to God's ways and to God's people is inevitable, and we will not avoid all suffering or discomfort. The New Testament tells us that even as the world put the Son of God to death, the latter-day disciples of the Master can expect more of the same.

From Robert Roberts: "Patience is the ability to dwell gladly in the present moment when we have some desire, or what would normally be a reason to desire, to depart from it. . . . Patience is in contrast with teeth-gritting endurance." Roberts also points out that although patience is something you can practice, for the truly spiritual Christian this practice in specific circumstances leads to patience as a core disposition, moving from a developed skill to a singular character trait. "[P]eople who successfully practice patience do not usually think they are employing a set of techniques for managing themselves, any more than they think of their driving as a set of techniques — gear shifting, braking, steering, accelerating. They think of it instead as a single activity."

Translation Insights

In Kassem, a language spoken in the African nation of Burkina Faso, having peace is expressed as “having a cold inner being.” There is an expression in Kassem that says, “If the sun is hot, the speech is hot.” This means that if it is hot out, people get angry more quickly and they are less patient. To have a cold inner being means that one is calm and feels peace. Having a cold inner being even when it’s hot outside means that one has inner peace, even when the circumstances of life are difficult. This is the kind of peace that Jesus wants to give us: a peace that does not rely on our outward circumstances.

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Many of the translation insights shown on this site are courtesy of the TIPs Bible.
Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.