In this series on patience, we have seen a definition of patience and have observed that God the Father and Jesus are both perfectly patient. We now arrive at the question many ask right away when considering patience: How can I grow in patience?
We should first mention that Jesus is not only an example of patience, but He is the perfect example of patience. However, as with all virtues that we see in Jesus, having an example is not enough. We can watch a pole-vaulter set a record for jumping height and marvel at the example without having the ability to even jump half as high. We need more than an example, we need the power and ability to change.
Patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. What does it mean to grow in a fruit of the Spirit? First, it means that we are seeking a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of effort, will, or insight. Following Paul’s argument in Galatians 5 seems to indicate that growing in the fruit of the Spirit depends upon “walk[ing] by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). We should not deny that this takes our effort, but it must be effort that humbly and completely relies upon the Holy Spirit.
There is a passage in Paul’s letter to the Colossians which bears great similarity to the passage in Galatians 5 on the fruit of the Spirit. It will shed some light on our thinking about patience.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:12–17, NASB)
Note here that Paul locates the organ of patience as the heart. (Indeed, all of these virtues flow out of the heart in the Pauline/biblical worldview.) When we discuss the heart, we are dealing with our wills, desires, emotions, and reasoning, all rolled into one. Let’s look back at this passage above more closely to break Paul’s instruction down, term by term. How do we put on this “heart of…patience”?
- Forgive others—See v.13
- Let the peace of Christ rule—See v.15. I take the peace of Christ to refer to peace with God. Because Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, we are no longer enemies of God.
- Let the Word dwell—See v.16. The word of Christ should not just rule, it should dwell richly within us (the body).
- Community is important—See v.16 again. This is a group project.
A passage in James will also help us:
7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:7–9, ESV)
In this passage, patience is directly connected to the work of the Lord. The farmer, when he waits patiently, waits for the Lord to intervene and send rain. With the reference to God as the Judge (v.9), we learn that our patience must be connected to trusting God to set all things right in the judgment day. This theme is repeated in many places in the Bible, with a majority of such passages connected with temporary suffering.
Surely I have only scratched the surface when considering how one can grow in patience! What Biblical advice would you add? Please add to the conversation in the comments.