(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.