#tbt – Patience is a Virtue…

(Originally written 8/5/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Longsuffering. This is one study I’ve been dreading doing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been tested on every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit I’ve studied so far, and I was not looking forward to my test in long-suffering.

The Greek word for long-suffering is makrothymia, and it’s defined as patience, forbearance, internal and external control in a difficult circumstance, which control could exhibit itself by delaying an action. Out of the seventeen times longsuffering is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, ten refer to the patience of God. Four times God’s mercy is tied in with his long-suffering. It’s because He is merciful that He is patient with us. His longsuffering appears throughout the Bible. Many times God was ready to pour his wrath on people who justly deserved it, but his mercy stayed his hand, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently.

1 Peter 3:20 mentions how “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” God intended to destroy the earth and its entire people, for they had become ungodly, partaking in immoral practices. Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The Lord stayed His hand for one hundred and twenty years, waiting for Noah to build the ark that would save him and his family.I cant imagine waiting one hundred twenty minutes to do something I want to do, much less one hundred twenty years. Long-suffering – patience – is definitely something I struggle with, along with just about everyone else in the world. This is a rush-rush world, gotta have it now, a minute from now it will be too late. We are a society that needs microwave instructions for Pop-Tarts! We have instant coffee that can be ready in mere moments, fast food drive-thrus so we dont even need to get out of our cars to get food, which, by the way, never really seems to be fast, and can sometimes only barely be called food. Credit cards ensure we never have to wait to get the latest gadget, the 60-inch plasma TV we just have to have. We can’t wait till we can afford to pay for it straight out, because by then, the newest model will be out and we will need to get that one!

We are a society that can’t wait for a webpage to load up on a dial-up service. We need to have DSL – no, wait, too slow, make mine cable! (And yes, I’m guilty of this one. That status bar that shows the progress when a webpage is loading is the bane of my existence!) And heaven forbid there are more than three people in front of you in a line at a store. You’re going to have to spend maybe an extra five minutes waiting in line! About the only place where this rule doesn’t seem to apply is at Disney World. People willingly stand in line for over an hour in order to get on a five-minute ride. As one of those people who do that on a regular basis, it’s amazing to me that you never see the people in this line get frustrated or angry. Most people are talking with friends or family and just enjoying the experience. That might be a good attitude to take with you when you are waiting at the bank. Talk to the person behind you, enjoy the momentary break from having to rush anywhere.

So, as Christians, one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, one way you know that you’re heading in the right direction in your spiritual growth, is if you develop patience, if you can exhibit self-control in order to delay an action. In this day and age, that could seem nearly impossible. But of course, nothing’s impossible with God. I’ve had to ask myself how patient, how long-suffering I am. Compared to before I was a Christian, I can tell I’ve grown by leaps and bounds, but by no means have I got the patience thing down yet. I hate waiting, I struggle with self-control, and I find myself in situations I shouldn’t be in. So, does that mean I’ve fallen out of the will of God when that happens? I don’t think so. God is merciful, and He is the ultimate in long-suffering and patience. And if He can be patient with me as I fall headlong into trouble, how can I not be patient with people who stumble across my path? If God is willing to wait for me to get my act together, how can I not be willing to wait on someone in my life who’s making a scene? Our patience is tested daily, whether by someone who cuts us off in traffic or by the person in front of us in the line who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he should go for the Big Mac or the Quarter Pounder. Remember, every single one of those trials is a good thing. Romans 5:3-5 says “We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

For those long-suffering folks who read this entire blog, I salute you, and I’m glad I was able to help you work patience, experience and hope. God bless you all.

Gentle Pen

There’s nothing like taking a good long look in the mirror to really see the areas you might be lacking in. These last few weeks, I’ve been doing just that in revisiting Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” So far, I’ve examined how much love, joy, peace and long-suffering there is in my life and, I hate to admit it, but it’s not as much as I would have hoped. Of course, that should go without saying. Until the day I die, I will always be trying to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, faithful, meek and temperate. And I will succeed on some days better than others. I found, though, that gentleness may be one of the traits I most need to work on. I discovered that, when put to the test, my first response to most people is to be sarcastic and cutting – a far cry from gentleness. I know that I developed my sarcasm as a defense mechanism when I was younger, but the question put before me is, does sarcasm have any place in my life now that I’m an adult? I looked up the definition of sarcasm and found it is defined as “harsh or bitter derision or irony” and a “sneering or cutting remark.” It is derived from the Greek word “sarcasmos”, meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly.” Harsh, bitter, sneering? Tearing flesh? Those are not words that should be used to describe my Christian walk. And yet, I find myself constantly opening my mouth and “tearing flesh”. Some would say, me included before this past week, that sarcasm is harmless fun and a form of humor. In some cases, it can be. Saying “lovely weather” when it’s storming out is sarcasm, and it is harmless sarcasm. The sarcasm I’m referring to is the comment that comes at the expense of another person, even if the person being poked fun at is the speaker of the sarcastic comment. And that leads me to my second revelation this week.

I tend to use sarcasm to put myself down. That has also become a habit that grew out of self-defense in my younger years. I was made fun of, a lot, as a kid, so I learned that if I made fun of myself first, it could lessen the blow and, more importantly, take the fun away from those making fun of me by showing that I wasn’t bothered by the taunts, even if I really had been bothered by them. That has become the way I deal with a lot of things about myself, and I was reminded this week of a speech I heard from someone about the way we internally talk to ourselves. I wish I could remember where I heard the speech and who gave it, so I could give credit where credit is due, but all I can remember is what was said. We are kinder and gentler to strangers than we are to ourselves. We would be hard-pressed to go up to someone and call them fat, or ugly, or stupid. And yet, we would have no problem internally saying that about ourselves. I find that, even though I feel I’m not as gentle to others as I should be, I’m much less gentle to myself. The speaker asked his audience, “If you were standing before yourself as a child, would you say half the things to him or her that you say to yourself as an adult?” The answer for most people would be, of course not. Then he asked why should it be any different for us as adults?

Before people get the wrong idea and think I’m saying that we should ignore our faults, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that we need to deal with our shortcomings with the same gentleness we would – or should – use towards others. What would you say to a friend who’s struggling with weight issues? (Hopefully, something encouraging!) Then, if you’re struggling with weight issues, why would you be so much harder on yourself? What would you say to a child who’s having a hard time grasping concepts at school? Then, if you’re having trouble learning something, why would you think less of yourself than you would that child?

While they may seem unrelated, these two revelations are inextricably linked. Being gentle to others is easier when I’m gentle to myself, and vice versa. Will it be easy changing habits that have developed over many years? The cliché “old habits die hard” is a cliché for a reason. But is it possible? Of course it is, especially with God’s help, with whom all things are possible. (Mat. 19:26) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a nice, encouraging chat with my inner child…

Post – Patience

As promised, I do indeed have plenty to say about the past week, and I think it’s safe, now that it’s officially over. My focus for the week was on longsuffering, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And it was a week filled with plenty of opportunities for me to practice patience.

One of the things people are told is that once you have Jesus in your life, once you become a Christian, your life is better. And it’s true. Your life is better because, by accepting that you are a sinner and Jesus can cleanse you of your sin, now you can be assured of spending eternity in heaven. The issue becomes when better is mistaken for easier. Jesus never promised our lives would be easy as Christians. If anything, He claimed the opposite. John 16:33 states, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” In this world, we shall have tribulation. But, for a Christian, that’s a good thing. I’m sure you’re thinking, how can I say that going through tribulations is a good thing for a Christian? Well, I’m not the one who says it. Romans 5:3-5 says “We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Glory in tribulations? How is that possible? How can we take those trials that are thrown at us and glory in them? Well, that verse tells us how we can. Those trials help us practice patience, i.e. longsuffering, which is evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in a Christian. That patience leads to experience, which leads to hope, which leads to the love of God in our hearts. That’s a wonderful end result, but it’s one that begins with tribulation. The last thing I want to do when I face trials is glory in it. Instead, it’s usually the opposite: sadness, anger, self-pity, frustration. Those are the usual responses to tribulation. And these are some of the tribulations I was facing this week:

  • I learned that I may not be able to get a loan for my last semester of school. All I need is two more classes, and I may not be able to finish. I’ve been going through getting this degree for over two years, and now, with the finish line so close, I may not be able to finish the race.
  • I had to make up an extra vacation day that I took on my trip to New York that I did not have. That meant an extra two hours every day from Tuesday to Friday, which threw off my class work as well as some freelance work.
  • It seemed like every slow driver in Florida managed to make their way right in front of my car, no matter where I was going. Every trip seemed to take longer than usual.
  • There were a couple of major issues at work that caused problems for our department. I’d go into detail about the issues, but it’s so boring I’d be testing my readers’ longsuffering by offering the explanation. Suffice it to say that my job this week was more stress-filled than at any other point before, and that includes when we were facing major layoffs back in 2008.

Finally, this week culminated in a grand-scale test of patience, which tied in with my out-of-the-box experience for the week. For my out-of-the-box activity, I decided to have a yard sale. I’m a collector (hoarder), and I find it very difficult to get rid of things. Putting my stuff for sale is very much out of my comfort zone. So, I decided that Saturday morning I would have the yard sale. Late Friday night, I made signs and placed them in what I surmised to be strategic street corners. I woke up early Saturday morning, ready for the fun. I spent about twenty minutes taking everything out and was ready for the stream of buyers by 8. Then I waited….and waited…and…waited…

By 9:30, not a single person had stopped, and I decided that I would put an end to my futile endeavor at 10. But before 10 could roll around, I dropped my iPad onto the concrete, and it landed screen-down. I hesitantly picked it up, expecting the worst but hoping for the best. Expectations won out. A spider-web of cracks radiated from one end of the screen to the other. In one fell swoop, I managed to be the first person in history who threw a yard sale and lost money. When I went to pick up my signs, I found that two had mysteriously disappeared, and one had fallen down flat. When I returned home from picking up the signs, I set up an appointment at the Apple store, which wouldn’t be until later that day. When they saw the iPad, they said the only thing they could do was replace the unit, and because it was an accident, it would not be free. On the plus side, it was a lot cheaper than if I had to buy a brand new replacement. And by having to go to the Apple store, I also was not able to join my friend at a Tim Hawkins comedy show in Orlando, so my entire day ended up in no way, shape, or form even remotely to how I had hoped to spend it.

This is not even a comprehensive list. There were other, smaller, issues that seem larger when they’re occurring, but fall completely off the radar once they’re gone. I will admit that, at no time this week, did I find glory in any of those trials. But, maybe the glory in tribulation comes later, as one can look back and realize how much growth came about because of those tribulations. In which case, this is a week I’ll be looking back at fondly, amazed at how much opportunity for glory was given to me. And, in hindsight, I can see that each of my tribulations this past week were minor in the grand scheme of things. I’m two classes away. God has brought me this far, and if I’m meant to finish and get my degree, He will make a way. The extra hours I worked were a consequence of a week of fun, which was worth it. And now the time has been made up. All the issues at work blew over within a day or so, which meant there really was nothing to worry about. A slow driver in front of me could very well be God’s way of slowing me down so that I don’t end up in the middle of a wreck. And the iPad…well, as handy as it is to have, in the long run it doesn’t really matter. Did I hate to spend money I really couldn’t afford to spend? Absolutely. But, again, it’s only money, and that also doesn’t matter in the long run.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “That’s all he had to deal with? If he knew the things I deal with, he would count himself lucky with the week he had.” And you would be right. The things I dealt with were minor in comparison to some of your issues. But the principle is still the same. Those things are in your life, so you can glory in them. Paul had a “thorn in his flesh” (2 Cor 12:7), which he asked God to remove. Paul then continued, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” There’s the concept of glory in tribulation again. I should glory in tribulation and glory in infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon me and the love of God shows in my heart. Suddenly…last week doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Past Patience

As happened the last time I reached longsuffering in my study, my patience was tested this past week. I’ll write more about my present patience issues later. In the meantime, I wanted to share my blog from the last time with you. Enjoy!

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE…
8/5/06

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Longsuffering. This is one study I’ve been dreading doing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been tested on every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit I’ve studied so far, and I was not looking forward to my test in long-suffering.
The Greek word for long-suffering is makrothymia, and it’s defined as patience, forbearance, internal and external control in a difficult circumstance, which control could exhibit itself by delaying an action. Out of the seventeen times longsuffering is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, ten refer to the patience of God. Four times God’s mercy is tied in with his long-suffering. It’s because He is merciful that He is patient with us. His longsuffering appears throughout the Bible. Many times God was ready to pour his wrath on people who justly deserved it, but his mercy stayed his hand, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently.
1 Peter 3:20 mentions how “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” God intended to destroy the earth and its entire people, for they had become ungodly, partaking in immoral practices. Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The Lord stayed His hand for one hundred and twenty years, waiting for Noah to build the ark that would save him and his family.I cant imagine waiting one hundred twenty minutes to do something I want to do, much less one hundred twenty years. Long-suffering – patience – is definitely something I struggle with, along with just about everyone else in the world.This is a rush-rush world, gotta have it now, a minute from now it will be too late. We are a society that needs microwave instructions for Pop-Tarts! We have instant coffee that can be ready in mere moments, fast food drive-thrus so we dont even need to get out of our cars to get food, which, by the way, never really seems to be fast, and can sometimes only barely be called food. Credit cards ensure we never have to wait to get the latest gadget, the 60-inch plasma TV we just have to have. We can’t wait till we can afford to pay for it straight out, because by then, the newest model will be out and we will need to get that one!
We are a society that can’t wait for a webpage to load up on a dial-up service. We need to have DSL – no, wait, too slow, make mine cable! (And yes, I’m guilty of this one. That status bar that shows the progress when a webpage is loading is the bane of my existence!) And heaven forbid there are more than three people in front of you in a line at a store. You’re going to have to spend maybe an extra five minutes waiting in line! About the only place where this rule doesn’t seem to apply is at Disney World. People willingly stand in line for over an hour in order to get on a five-minute ride. As one of those people who do that on a regular basis, it’s amazing to me that you never see the people in this line get frustrated or angry. Most people are talking with friends or family and just enjoying the experience. That might be a good attitude to take with you when you are waiting at the bank. Talk to the person behind you, enjoy the momentary break from having to rush anywhere. So, as Christians, one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, one way you know that you’re heading in the right direction in your spiritual growth, is if you develop patience, if you can exhibit self-control in order to delay an action. In this day and age, that could seem nearly impossible. But of course, nothing’s impossible with God. I’ve had to ask myself how patient, how long-suffering I am. Compared to before I was a Christian, I can tell I’ve grown by leaps and bounds, but by no means have I got the patience thing down yet. I hate waiting, I struggle with self-control, and I find myself in situations I shouldn’t be in. So, does that mean I’ve fallen out of the will of God when that happens? I don’t think I do. God is merciful, and He is the ultimate in long-suffering and patience. And if He can be patient with me as I fall headlong into trouble, how can I not be patient with people who stumble across my path? If God is willing to wait for me to get my act together, how can I not be willing to wait on someone in my life who’s making a scene? Our patience is tested daily, whether by someone who cuts us off in traffic or by the person in front of us in the line who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he should go for the Big Mac or the Quarter Pounder. Remember, every single one of those trials is a good thing. Romans 5:3-5 says “We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
For those long-suffering folks who read this entire blog, I salute you, and I’m glad I was able to help you work patience, experience and hope. God bless you all.

Nine in the Afternoon

Nine is an interesting number. We say we’re on cloud nine and we dress to the nines. A stitch in time saves nine. (Not sure what that one means.) A cat has nine lives. Our solar system has nine planets – I don’t care what the scientists say, I say Pluto still counts. There are nine Muses in mythology. And I just learned about the Nine Worthies, which is a subject I’ll be coming back to in my blogs at some point.

So, why is the number nine on my mind? It seems I’ve had a few events occurring at the same time revolving around nine. I have recently rediscovered my blog series on the fruits of the Spirit, of which nine are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Having done those blogs five years ago, I decided to revisit the series and see what has changed and what hasn’t. The last time I did this, I found I was challenged on every one of the fruits as I was studying it. I expect it will be no different this time. I will be posting the original blogs as well.

The other major nine that popped up recently was in an exercise regime which I just began. It is a nine week program, divided into three phases of three weeks each. It’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, I only made it halfway through the routine yesterday. But I know that, if I stick with it, it will help me lose weight. This morning, I weighed in at an even 300.

With both of these things coming in the form of nine, I figured, why not combine the two and work on my spiritual and physical health at the same time? To top it all off – all this just happens to fall during the ninth month of the year. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but I’m willing to go along with it. Join me, if you will, for what will hopefully be an enlightening, and lighten-ing, nine weeks.

Goal fruit for the week – Love

Goal weight for the week – 295

 

Picking Fruit (originally written 7/14/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.”(Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to do an in-depth study of the fruit of the Spirit. The proof of a Christian life is in the fruit, just like the proof of a good tree is the good fruit it bears. If the Christian life doesn’t show good fruit, then one would be left to wonder if it truly is a Christian life.
The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV) So that is the fruit by which the Christian life is measured. It’s my intention to talk about each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, but before I do that, I want to spend some time on the verses right before those, which are not quoted as often. Galatians 5:19-21 tell the other side of the story – “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” That is a long list of bad fruit, fruit of the flesh versus fruit of the Spirit. And it covers a large range of issues, and most are covered by the Ten Commandments. Sex, both adulterous and premarital, Hatred, wrath and murder, which, according to Jesus, are the same. Bearing false witness, covered by sedition and heresy. Covetousness with the envying, and so on.
They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But, aren’t we all guilty of doing these things even after we give our lives to Christ? Does that mean none of us will inherit the kingdom of God? Are we all doomed to hell?
The answer is in the Greek. The word “do” could better be translated as practice, perpetrate, exercise. All words which show a long-term disobedience to God. And that is the difference. I’ve heard a metaphor which paints a good picture. Imagine a pig and a sheep falling into a puddle of mud. The pig continues to wallow in the mud, while the sheep gets up and tries to clean itself off. That’s the difference. Those who practice, commit, exercise the fruit of the flesh are content to wallow in the mud. Those who try to live by the fruit of the Spirit will try to clean themselves off. Sure, there are times we Christians stumble. We are by no means perfect. It’s because we realize this that we have come to the One who is perfect.
So…ask yourself this question today – do you lay with the pigs or hang with the sheep?