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Fruits of the Spirit vs. The World: Patience

May 28, 2012

     Of all the fruits of the Spirit, patience is possibly the hardest to cultivate. There are many things in our hectic modern lives that irk our patience. We get stuck in traffic jams, we have to wait in airport lines or doctor’s waiting rooms, we look at the computer screen and see the ominous word “Buffering…” Then there are the universal causes of impatience–annoying people. Let’s just face it–there are people in this world who are annoying and hard to get along with, from inveterate complainers to the anoraks who will bore you with talking about something you have absolutely no interest in for hours. Patience is an essential virtue, but it is very hard to cultivate.

     Jesus, being perfect, was the most patient man who ever lived. We get a sense of this when we think of the fact that he was friends with the disciples and traveled with them for years. The disciples were not polished, urbane, collected Socratic philosophers. Oftentimes they said things that were just stupid or arrogant. The Boanerges (don’t you just love that word) asked to be on the right and left hand of Jesus when he took his throne. Thomas doubted the ressurection. Peter replied to Christ’s prophecy of his own death and ressurection with “No, Lord!” And that is only the recorded words of the disciples. No doubt they often said and did things that would have made a mere man pull out his hair. The combination of having a tax collector in the same group as two Zealots alone would have led to a lot of confrontation and hissy fits on the part of the disciples. But through it all, Jesus was patient, serving and washing the feet of this band of misfits.

     Patience is not a popular virtue in the world. The world wants instant gratification–everythingrighthererightnow! This is a poisonous idea, not the least because it isn’t feasible–for someone to have instant gratification, someone else must have delayed gratification. Instant gratification and comfort may seem attractive, but ultimately they are unfulfilling. Having everything all the time is the same as having nothing. It is built into the order of the universe that there must be some effort put out for something to make having the thing worthwhile. The world derides patience, but Christlike patience helps us live in the world, and fulfills us in a way that the pipe dream of instant gratification cannot.

     “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV) It is shown here that patience leads to fulfillment. Ultimately, patience is part of becoming more like Christ, which is the goal of the Christian life. The older translations sometimes use the word “longsuffering” for patience, and the word fits. Often being patient means long-suffering, whether in ministering to the sick or poor or simply being polite and listening to a boring person.

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