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The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience - Galatians 5:22 a

Waiting upon the Lord produces a long-term, persistent trust in God through our trials

Luke 23:32-45; Job 1:8, 20-22; Daniel 3:15-18; Isaiah 40:26-31; Philippians 4:10-13; Matthew 7:24-27

Feb 19, 2012 12:00 AM

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Nineteen years ago a movie came out by the name of “Grumpy Old Men”.  I never saw the movie but I did see the movie poster.  It was easy to see simply by looking at the picture of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon that someone did a masterful job of choosing the right men for the task of being grumpy.  It seems grumpiness is a peculiarly common character trait among old men, and even among many not-so-old men.  Other words we might use are irritable or grouchy.  We’ve come to expect old men to be grouchy and thus the name of the movie.

Moses was an old man when God commanded him to lead 3 millions Jews out of Egypt on a three month march to Canaan in order that they might take the land God had promised them.  When that relatively brief hike began, Moses was 80 years old.  When the hike ended, he was 120.  If anyone ever had reason to be a grumpy, irritable, grouchy old man, I’d say it was Moses.  And yet, in Numbers 12:3 we read, Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

Grumpy and grouchy people are also rather impatient people.  And you don’t have to be old to be impatient.  We see this everywhere.  We’ve become an impatient society.  Everything has to move at the highest speed possible.  We call someone on the phone and if it takes more than five seconds for our cell phone signal to go to outer space to a satellite and back, we’re wondering what’s wrong with our dopey phone service.  Turn on the computer in the morning and it takes FOREVER (like maybe 90 seconds) for it to boot up so we can get on Facebook and have INSTANT messaging.  I’m not even going to talk about Twitter.  

And for some of us more low-tech people, we can get impatient anywhere.  At the bank, at the post office, at the supermarket, at the GREEN light!  Anywhere there is a line of people.  WHY is it taking so long for these people to MOVE??  WHY do people only drive 55 in a 55 mile per hour zone??  And we get on planes that travel 600 mph and complain that we arrive at our destination on the other side of the continent 5 minutes late!!  How would you like to spend 40 years on a three month hike?  Thank the Lord He chose Moses for that job and not me.  I’d be apoplectic.

According to the apostle Paul, one of the characteristics of a genuine Christian’s life is patience.  Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience.” Some of you are thinking, “Man, how long are we going to be studying the fruits of the Spirit?  He’s already spent two Sundays on this verse, and now we’re on number three!  I wish he’d hurry it up, pick up the pace.”  So the topic of our study today is PATIENCE.

Just to be clear, Paul is not saying here the fruit of the Spirit is slowness.  A person who is lackadaisical is not inherently spiritual.  People who loiter are not exercising high levels of godliness.  The fruit of the Spirit is not laziness or apathy.  You’re not more spiritual if you sit in the waiting room at your doctor’s office for three hours without asking what’s taking so long.  

On the other hand, when Paul speaks of patience here, he is also not condemning people who have a sense of urgency.  It’s not a sin to want to get things done and be productive.  It’s not sinful to be impatient when people who are being paid to get work done are wasting time.  That is not what Paul is addressing here.  What he is talking about is what we see in Luke 23.

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" 38 There was also an inscription over him,"This is the King of the Jews." 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
(Luke 23:32-45 ESV).

Patience is the Holy Spirit-given ability to suffer well.  Jesus is THE example  of this kind of patience.  It is the capacity to endure the afflictions that a sovereign God sends into our lives without complaining.  It is the grace of perseverance.  It is the ability to get the short end of the stick and accept it as being from God.  When we pray, “Not my will, but Your will be done”, that is the Spiritual fruit of patience.  Never was there a man more patient in His suffering than Jesus.  Never has a man suffered so much so well.

The sufferings we experience come in a variety of forms.  Joseph suffered immensely from the hatred of his brothers when they sold him into slavery in Egypt at age seventeen.  He suffered again when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape and he was thrown into prison.  He suffered yet again because of the forgetfulness of his fellow inmate because he forgot to tell Pharaoh it was Joseph who could correctly interpret dreams.  Finally, God delivered Joseph from prison at age 30.  And there is no mention in the Scriptures of Joseph ever sinning against the Lord by complaining over his lot in life.  He is a picture of patience in the face of suffering.  

We’ve all heard of the patience of Job, and he is another remarkable example of suffering well.  But unlike Joseph, the source of Job’s troubles was Satan.  Not many of us can legitimately say we’ve been targeted by the Devil because of our godly character.  But that was exactly the case with Job.  

And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" (Job 1:8 ESV)

Satan was determined to prove that Job did not really love God.  So in an attempt to provoke Job to curse God, he murdered Job's 10 children and destroyed all of his flocks and herds and cattle.  In a moment, Job lost everything at the hand of Satan.  

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

Satan is not one to give up easily.  And because the devil persists, we must persevere, we must exercise patience.  Satan continued his onslaught by afflicting Job with sores that covered his entire body.  Then, to make matters even worse, Job’s friends come to “comfort” him by insisting that “obviously” all of his suffering is because he has sinned against the Lord.  But the exact opposite was true: He was suffering specifically because he was godly.  Consequently, Job is an outstanding example of patience, showing us how to suffer well.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were young men, teenagers, when they were taken captive in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and hauled away as exiles.  They suffered this, not because of their own sin, but because of the sin of the nation of Judah.  Because God had determined to punish the nation, these three friends suffered also.  But the Lord was with them in their suffering.  You know the story: The king makes a 90 foot golden image of himself and requires everyone to bow and worship the image.  Not worshipping it carried a pretty stiff penalty.  

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to worship anything or anyone but the God of Israel which had the affect of making the King rather upset.  He said to them,

“. . . if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.  And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:15b ESV)

Aha!  The stage is set!  Now we will have the battle of the gods to see whose god is the best.  This is the wisdom and power of God at work, even when we don’t see it.  So,

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)

These guys are determined to be faithful even to death!  So the king decides to make an example of them by heating the fiery furnace (presumably the same furnace that processed all the gold to make the image) seven times hotter than normal.  He wants to instantaneously vaporize these three young insurrectionists.  

Without going into the rest of the story, we see here that these boys suffered greatly.  They are taken from their homes and from their families and their country, to a land far away among a strange people with strange language and a strange culture.  They are commanded by the king, on pain of death, to worship an idol of himself.  Apparently, they are the only ones who remain faithful.  (We’re not told where Daniel is during all of this.)  They stand alone in their faithfulness, their own countrymen having bowed the knee to the pagan idol.  And they are tied up and thrown into a furnace to be burned to death.  

Can you say “trauma”?  Can you say “pain and suffering”?  Can you say, “inalienable human rights”?  Think about what these godly young men went through.  And they suffered well.  They exemplified the qualities of a person whose unwavering faith is in a sovereign God who does all things well.  “If He delivers us, then good.  If He doesn’t see fit to do so, it doesn’t matter.  We remain faithful to Him.  Go ahead and kill us.”  That is perseverance.  That is patience.  It is waiting upon God to do whatever He deems best with my life.

Turn with me to Isaiah 40 please.  While you’re turning there, let me pose a few questions to you.  Do you ever feel as though the Lord has no knowledge of your situation?  Because, if He did, surely He would change things?  But since things are the way they are (i.e. miserable), “God must be upset with me, or He is distracted by more important things, or apparently He’s just not as loving and kind as I’ve been led to believe.  Why would He continue to allow such unbearable things in my life?  Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?  I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.”

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God"?

28 Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Be patient.  Persevere.  Trust God.  He hasn’t forgotten you.  He calls out the stars every night by name!  He certainly knows your name, and he knows you are weak and feeble and weary and exhausted.  How could an omniscient God NOT know your circumstances?  He ordained them!  Do you nit know this?  Have you not heard?  Wait upon the Lord.  He will give you strength.  He gave it to Moses, and Joseph, and the three friends in Babylon.  He gave it to Elijah in his confrontation with the priests of Baal.  And He gave strength to John the Baptist while he sat in prison.  He gave power to the apostles on the day of Pentecost after they waited and prayed for many days.  He has given strength to John in his exile on the island of Patmos.  And he gave Paul the strength and courage in all of his sufferings to such a degree that he was able to say this to the believers at Philippi:

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me.  You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

The secret to being able to endure all circumstances well, and to suffer well in particular, is to be patient in waiting for the Lord and the strength He gives in our times of need.  You can do this.  You can make it through this test.  Wait upon Him.  Be patient.  Persevere.  Don’t despair.  Don’t give up.  He will strengthen you.

It seems to me this spiritual gift of patience is well-placed in Paul’s list.  He starts his list in Galatians 5:22 by saying the fruit of the Spirit is love (that’s good!), joy (that’s good too!), peace (that’s really good!).  So why don’t we just stop there.  Love, joy and peace sounds like a great package!  And then he adds patience.  Because the Christian life isn’t all about love, joy and peace.  It’s also about patience, about strength in adversity.  It’s about weathering the storm.

Jesus told a parable about that.  He was preaching to the crowds one day when He said this:

24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

One thing that is often overlooked in this parable is that both the wise and the foolish, both the saved and the lost, face the same inevitable storm!  When the Lord saves us, He doesn’t save us from troubles.  But He perpetually provides strength for us IN our troubles.  And it is only the person who has experienced the saving grace of God and the indwelling of the Spirit of God who is truly capable of surviving this life and suffering well in it.  It requires patient endurance, and that is exactly what the Spirit of God provides for us.  The fruit of the Spirit is patience.  

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 translated patience is macrothumia, sometimes translated longsuffering.  A synonym is the Greek word hypomone, translated endurance.  Trench’s New Testament Synonyms explains the difference here:

We may now distinguish makrothymia and hypomone in a way that will be valid wherever they occur.  Makrothymia refers to patience with respect to persons, hypomone with respect to things.  A man is makrothymei if he has to relate to injurious persons and does not allow himself to be provoked by them or to burst into anger (2 Tim. 4:2).  A man is hypomenei if he is under a great siege of trials and he bears up and does not lose heart or courage.  Therefore we should speak of the makrothymia of David (2 Sam. 16:10-13) and the hypomone of Job (James 5:11).”

Very similar in meaning but the word choice is determined by the circumstances.  Like the difference between effect and affect, both words having the meaning of “influence”, but in different ways.  In regard to Isaiah 40:32, the person who waits (macrothumia) upon the Lord is exercising patience with God in the midst of dire circumstances.  He is actually exercising both macrothumia (patience towards a Person) and hypomone (patience towards things).



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