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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

The Virtue of Patience

Patience. The very word can cause us to roll our eyes. That's because when we think of patience, we think of waiting. And we don't like to wait.

But it seems as though we're always waiting for something. Waiting for a certain thing to happen, for one thing to begin, and another to end. Waiting for more time or more money. Waiting for our marriage to get better, or for our spouse to change. Waiting for the kids to grow up. Waiting for our prayers to be answered.

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.

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.

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.

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’s brings about to completion the good work, he began in each of our lives.

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-centered 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 fact, this is a critical test of Christian authenticity. True Christian character, the very evidence of regeneration, is seen in authentic patience.

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 protégé 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).

The Bible's understanding of patience as a Christian virtue is rooted in the totality of Christian truth. Patience begins with the affirmation that God is sovereign and in control of human history, working in human lives. With eternity on the horizon, time takes on an entirely new significance. The Christian understands that full satisfaction will never be achieved in this life, but he looks to the consummation of all things in the age to come. Furthermore, we know that our sanctification will be incomplete in this life, and thus Christians must look to each other as fellow sinners saved by grace, in whom the Holy Spirit is at work calling us unto Christlikeness.

One way is to ask God for it. Prayer has an amazing way of helping us become more patient.

Let's be honest, though, prayer is about the last thing we feel like doing when our patience is being tested, isn't it? But we can pray about whatever is causing us to be impatient.

Always remember that each prayer, even when it seems to be about the same old thing, has new life in it each time you pray it. Prayer sets something in motion, even your spouse—though that may not seem immediately detectable.

I've found one of the best ways to develop patience is to think of my waiting times as "waiting on the Lord." So instead of waiting on my husband to change, I think of waiting on the Lord to work changes in him. And in me! That whole mind adjustment makes it much easier to be patient with my spouse. Waiting on the Lord gives me the sense that something is going on, I just can't see it at the moment. But I wait with eager anticipation to see what God is going to do.

The most important reason of all to pursue patience is that it's one of God's attributes. When we're patient, we're more like him. The apostle James writes that the testing of our faith produces patience, and patience perfects us and makes us complete so that we lack nothing (James 1:2-4).

Every time we lose our patience, we can stop and thank God for keeping him with us. The apostle Paul reminds us: "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus" (Romans 15:5, NKJV).

Patience must be one of the hallmarks of the Christian home, as each member of the family shows patience in dealing with others. Husbands and wives must be patient with each other, even as parents must be patient with children. In the household of faith, patience, often that rarest of virtues, becomes a test of authenticity and a necessity for the right ordering of the home, the church, and Christian fellowship.


Patience – Robert Strand

Patience With God - Frank Schaeffer

Patience – Lori Copeland

Developing Patience and Perseverance in an Impatient World - Susan Lee

Patience and Humility: A Handbook for Christians

Practicing Christian Patience: Encouraging Community, Establishing Peace - Jeffrey L Bullock

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