Patience is a Virtue
"Patience is a virtue." We're all familiar with that cliche, and many of us know that patience is listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as among the fruit of the Spirit.
Patience is defined as "waiting without complaint". Patience can also be defined as enduring discomfort without complaint.
Jesus was very patient with his disciples. They were sometimes thick headed, lazy, selfish, and slow to believe. Even from a merely human standpoint, we can see how frustrating they must have been.
In spite of Jesus' miracles and words of wisdom, they were focused upon themselves and wavered in their belief about who he really was. To say that was uncomfortable for Jesus would be an understatement. Yet do we find him railing at his disciples over their foolishness and stupidity? Or making fun of them when they make mistakes?
Occasionally he does remark that his disciples are slow to believe, or he asks rhetorically how long they will fail to have faith in him, but these are always appropriate reminders about just what was at stake for them. These were fitting and useful rebukes, not petty venting.
Notice that Jesus' refusal to complain about his irritating disciples can be described as an exercise of self-control. Surely he would have been justified in blistering them with insults. It's worth noting that his omniscience guaranteed that every possible joke and embarrassing remark was at his disposal on any particular occasion. This makes his self-control even more admirable.
His refusal to complain also involves humility, the conscious decision to lower himself by not exercising his right, as the holy man he was, to judge and dismiss his friends because of their faults. We might even say this is a form of mercy.
Finally, Jesus' refusal to complain about his disciples is generous. In spite of their vice and thick-headedness, he remained no less committed to them and served them increasingly as their failures became more outstanding.
Most of us recognise that patience is one of the cardinal Christian virtues—we’re just in no hurry to obtain it. Others just define patience as a delay in getting what we want. As Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” In today’s fast-paced society and self-centred culture, patience is quickly disappearing, even among Christians.
Patience is not optional for the Christian. The apostle Paul repeatedly commanded Christians to demonstrate patience to each other.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3).
In a similar context, the apostle called the Christians in Colosse to “put on” the virtues of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Again, Paul illustrates the necessity of patience by pointing to conflict in the Christian community. According to Paul, if one Christian has a complaint against another, he is to respond with patience, willing to suffer loss rather than to injure the reputation of the church.
To the Thessalonian Christians, Paul’s instruction was absolutely clear: “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13). In order to achieve this peace, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). That is no small challenge.
Most importantly, patience must mark the Christian leader. Writing to Timothy, his young protege in ministry, Paul set the example: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24–25).
In Galatians 5:22, patience is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit. If patience is a virtue, then waiting is the best (and often most unpleasant) means by which the Holy Spirit grows patience in us.
But our culture does not value patience in the same way that God does. Why be patient? Instant gratification is much more fun! Our increasing ability to instantly satisfy our wants may be taking away the blessing of learning how to wait well.
Sometimes, it is 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.
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.
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.
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.
Patience will not necessarily make our trials go away more quickly; neither does patience make the line shorter or the trip quicker; but patience always makes the delay more bearable and most of the time makes the job easier.
Patience is much more than the outward action of waiting—it is an inner, mental attitude that helps us to be calm rather than annoyed while we wait.
The blessings of patience are not necessarily outward and physical; they are inner and spiritual. These blessings come instantly, as soon as we are patient in attitude. Impatience, even if it comes with waiting, cannot produce the mental blessing of peace of mind. As long as we are impatient, we do not have peace of mind.
Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame wisely advised, "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace, God is awake."
God Will Use This for Good : Surviving the Mess of Life - Max Lucado
Patience and Humility: A Handbook for Christians - Rev William Ullathorne
Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing in Us - Tomáš Halík
Patience: A Bible Study on Developing Christian Character - Robert Strand
The Power of God's Grace : The Way of Joy, Peace and Genuine Revival - Roy Hession