“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, p@!&*!e, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” . . . Galatians 5:22-23.
This is how I find myself reading this verse most often. With patience viewed as a “bad word” that I don’t possess, let alone want to allow my mouth to utter. And, no matter how much I desire to reflect all of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, I find this one — patience — the most elusive of all to truly embody.
Yet Scripture teaches me that patience IS part of the fruit of the Spirit. The Greek mood (indicative) and voice (active) in this passage indicate that it is a certainty, a statement of fact, that all Spirit-filled believers possess these qualities, simply because the Holy Spirit dwells in them. In addition, the Greek tense of the verse indicates it is a continual, habitual action. This means patience is already in me if I am a true believer. I just need to actively walk in it.
So, why do I struggle so much with this particular aspect of the fruit?
My Struggle with Patience
The word for patience in this passage is patience in respect to persons rather than circumstances. Ah, so there might lie the bulk of my problem. Patience in respect to people is a bit trickier than patience toward circumstances. Wouldn’t you agree? I can’t make other people change. Only God can do that. Circumstances are oftentimes at least partially under my control. And circumstances don’t offer us the convenience of another person to blame for our problems.
So then, it boils down to whether or not I trust God. Will I allow Him the room to work in their heart? Or do I assume the position of Holy Spirit and try to “help God out” by telling them how to change? Or by pointing out what needs changing?
Abraham faced these same decisions. He was given a promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. Yet, he had no offspring when that promise was made. After Isaac was finally born, God tested him by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, the heir to these promises. Abraham faithfully trusted God to fulfill the promises made to him, even though it seemed impossible. In Hebrews 6:15, we are told “And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.”
The word for “patiently” in that passage is the same root word used in Galatians — patience with people, not circumstances. Abraham had to be patient with God to allow Him time and room to do His work. Abraham had to trust God to be who He says He is.
We are expected to do the same, dear sister. Just a few verses before, we are told in Hebrews 6:11-12, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
There are absolutely times that it is proper to lovingly approach another person and exhort them to examine themselves. We must love others enough to speak truth to them in love. Conversely, I find that all too often I am aggravated with people for not being further along in their walk when it’s not my business to change them. We all grow and mature in different areas at different paces. It’s in those times that I must stop and remember that the Lord is the One who radically transforms hearts. He alone can do it. And only He can do it well and in the right manner that effects lasting change.
I’m pretty certain that Abraham’s patience with God to do His work resulted in more change in Abraham than anyone else in Abraham’s life. God has a beautiful way of working like that. I’ll bet you can say the same thing. I know I can.
I’ll leave you with one last thought. One of the lexical aids I looked at gave this definition for patience in Galatians 5:22 “a self-restraint of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Spiros Zodhiates, emphasis added). As we learn more about the fruit of the Spirit this month, let’s take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ before they turn into impatience toward others.
After all, the Lord is so graciously patient with us!