Sometimes, patience is the last thing you have in this fast-paced, frantic world, so here’s how you can remain patient when everyone else seems to be losing theirs.
What is Patience?
The dictionary defines patience as: the ability or capacity to remain patient; the state of endurance under difficult circumstances; and/or persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting upon it. That sounds a lot like Job. In the context of being persecuted for being Christ’s witness, Jesus said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:29). This doesn’t mean we don’t lock our doors at night or don’t take precautions, but we do not respond in kind. This was not talking about physical violence but about being insulted for His name’s sake. We are to turn the other cheek in the sense of not retaliating when we are insulted for our faith. That is the context of verses 38-42 because Jesus went on to say that “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Clearly this is a command to go the extra mile for someone and not give “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt 5:38). A person who is being persecuted for living a godly life shouldn’t be surprised by persecution (1 Pet 4:12-19; 1 John 3:13)…the surprise would be that a professing Christian is never persecuted for their faith.
Drop the Gavel
In the 12th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul was writing to a heavily persecuted church in Rome, but he still tells them, “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom12:19). There are certain things we must leave up to the judgment God. The Psalmist understood that it was God Who would “choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly” (Psalm 75:2). We do not overcome evil by getting even but we “overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21b). Clearly, this means we “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom 12:17), with the understanding that God “will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:6-7).
Patience is a powerful thing during tumultuous times. Solomon wrote that it is “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone” (Prov 25:15), and not by hard words spoken in anger, which only stirs up more wrath. Part of the difficulty with Christians today is that we are sometimes not very patient with one another, even though we are told to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak [and] be patient with them all” (1 Thess 5:14), so may “the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 5:5-7). The only one I run out of patience for is the one who looks back at me in the mirror. He’s a handful in itself!
Jumping to Conclusions
When you’re waiting for someone or someone breaks a promise, we can sometimes jump to conclusions, and not always the best ones. For example, if someone didn’t make it in time to pick us up, we might think their being late is their own fault, but that’s not always the case, is it? A person that’s patient and loving will tend to believe the best in a person before assuming the worst. They know that “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). Love gives people the benefit of the doubt and does not think the worst in people. All too often I assumed that someone did something with evil intent or motives, only to find out later that this was not the case. I’ve repented of that and strive to avoid doing that now, but I know I am told to “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:7-11).
Fruit of the Spirit
Patience is not a gift of the Spirit but a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), and a fruit that’s interwoven through the other fruits, like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:22-25). Jesus said you will recognize a tree by its fruit, and the fruit shows us where its root is, since “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:17-20). Naturally, only a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree, bad fruit. Jesus warned that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Time will tell if it’s godly fruit or wax fruit which will melt under the heat of persecution (Matt 13:20-21).
I’ve tried to focus on myself rather than others. That way I can be more patient with others. I realize that I cannot change people. Only God can do that (Prov 21:1), but I can change myself, and so I must be patient with others as the Bible commands, but I must also be patient with myself because our harshest judge is usually us! If I focus on being more patient with others, then others may be more patient with me. One thing that’s humbling is to know that before we trusted in Christ, “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). This means we are no better than anyone…just better off in our standing before God. Pray that those who are not yet justified through Christ that are reading this, might repent and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ today. In the meantime, be patient with them as the Lord was with us before we were saved.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas. Jack is also a writer at Christian Quotes and Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.