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A study of God’s Love from 1 Corinthians #13 – Love is Patient 1 Corinthians 13:4

26 Dec

The previous passage (vv. 1-3) focuses on the emptiness produced when love is absent. In verses 4-5 we find the most comprehensive biblical description of the fullness of love. Paul declines giving a technical definition of love; instead, he provides us with a description of love, one especially pertinent to the Corinthians.

The first two statements describing love in verse 4 are general. Paul then advances to things not characteristic of love. These just happen to be some of the characteristics of the Corinthian saints.

Finally, Paul concludes in verse 7 with four characteristics of love, none of which are selective or partial. The Corinthians’ conduct in these areas was partial and incomplete. And so in these four verses, we learn what love is like, and we also learn that the Corinthians are seriously lacking in love.

Paul shines love through a prism and we see 15 of its colors and hues, the spectrum of love. Each ray gives a facet, a property, of agapē love.

Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

  • Agapē love is active, not abstract or passive.
  • It does not simply feel patient, it practices patience.
  • It does not simply have kind feelings, it does kind things.
  • It does not simply recognize the truth, it rejoices in the truth. Love is fully love only when it acts (cf. 1 John 3:18).

The purpose of Paul’s prism is not to give a technical analysis of love, but to break it down into smaller parts so that we may more easily understand and apply its full, rich meaning. As with all of God’s Word, we cannot truly begin to understand love until we begin to apply it in our lives. Paul’s primary purpose here is not simply to instruct the Corinthians but to change their living habits. He wanted them carefully and honestly to measure their lives against those characteristics of love.

To change the metaphor, Paul is painting a portrait of love, and Jesus Christ is sitting for the portrait. He lived out in perfection all of these virtues of love. This beautiful picture of love is a portrait of Him

Because love is so important among the believers, Paul went on to describe that love in more detail. How does such love look when lived out in the lives of believers? First of all, love is patient. The expression “is patient” (makrothumei) is the opposite of being short-tempered. Patience (sometimes translated “long-suffering” or “slow to anger”) is an attribute of God (see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20). In many places, God’s people are called upon to be patient (see, for example, Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

What does patient love among believers look like? Such love bears with certain annoyances or inconveniences without complaint. Such love does not lose its temper when provoked. Such love steadily perseveres. Without love, no matter how wonderful the gifts in the church, people will be impatient with one another, short-tempered, and irritable.[1]

The word is common in the New Testament and is used almost exclusively of being patient with people, rather than with circumstances or events. Love’s patience is the ability to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person over and over again and yet not be upset or angry. Chrysostom, the early church Father, said, “It is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.” Patience never retaliates.

Like agapē love itself, the patience spoken of in the New Testament was a virtue only among Christians. In the Greek world self-sacrificing love and nonavenging patience were considered weaknesses, unworthy of the noble man or woman. Aristotle, for example, taught that the great Greek virtue was refusal to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense. Vengeance was a virtue. The world has always tended to make heroes of those who fight back, who stand up for their welfare and rights above all else.

But love, God’s love, is the very opposite. Its primary concern is for the welfare of others, not itself, and it is much more willing to be taken advantage of than to take advantage, much less to avenge. Love does not retaliate. The Christian who acts like Christ never takes revenge for being hurt or insulted or abused. He refuses to “pay back evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17), but if he is slapped on the right cheek, he will turn the left (Matt. 5:39).

Paul said that patience was a characteristic of his own heart (2 Cor. 6:6) and should characterize every Christian (Eph. 4:2). Stephen’s last words were ones of patient forgiveness: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). As he lay dying under the painful, crushing blows of the stones, his concern was for his murderers rather than for himself. He was long-tempered, patient to the absolute extreme.

The supreme example of patience, of course, is God Himself. It is God’s patient love that prevents the world from being destroyed. It is His patience and long-suffering that allows time for men to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). As He was dying on the cross, rejected by those He had come to save, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Robert Ingersoll, the well-known atheist of the last century, often would stop in the middle of his lectures against God and say, “I’ll give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I’ve said.” He then used the fact that he was not struck dead as proof that God did not exist. Theodore Parker said of Ingersoll’s claim, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in five minutes?”

Since Adam and Eve first disobeyed Him, God has been continually wronged and rejected by those He made in His own image. He was rejected and scorned by His chosen people, through whom he gave the revelation of His Word, “the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Yet through the thousands of years, the eternal God has been eternally long-suffering. If the holy Creator is so infinitely patient with His rebellious creatures, how much more should His unholy creatures be patient with each other?

One of Abraham Lincoln’s earliest political enemies was Edwin M. Stanton. He called Lincoln a “low cunning clown” and “the original gorilla.” “It was ridiculous for people to go to Africa to see a gorilla,” he would say, “when they could find one easily in Springfield, Illinois.” Lincoln never responded to the slander, but when, as president, he needed a secretary of war, he chose Stanton. When his incredulous friends asked why, Lincoln replied, “Because he is the best man.” Years later, as the slain president’s body lay in state, Stanton looked into the coffin and said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” His animosity was finally broken by Lincoln’s long-suffering, nonretaliatory spirit. Patient love won out.[2]

Love “suffers long” (makrothumei): is patient with people. Love suffers a long, long time..

∙ no matter the evil and injury done by a person.

∙ no matter the neglect or ignoring by a loved one.

Love suffers a long, long time without resentment, anger, or seeking revenge. Love controls itself in order to win the person and to help him to live, work, and serve as he should.

The Greek word (makrothumein) used in the New Testament always describes patience with people and not patience with circumstances.

It is the word used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself and who yet will not do it.  It describes the man who is slow to anger and it is used of God himself in his relationship with men.

Chrysostom said that it is the word used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself and who yet will not do it.  It describes the man who is slow to anger and it is used of God himself in his relationship with men.  In our dealings with men, however refractory and however unkind and hurting they are, we must exercise the same patience as God exercises with us.  Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength; it is not defeatism but rather the only way to victory.

Fosdick points out that no one treated Lincoln with more contempt than did Stanton.  He called him “a low cunning clown”, he nicknamed him “the original gorilla” and said that Du Chaillu was a fool to wander about Africa trying to capture a gorilla when he could have found one so easily at Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln said nothing.  He made Stanton his war minister because he was the best man for the job and he treated him with every courtesy.  The years wore on.  The night came when the assassin’s bullet murdered Lincoln in the theatre.  In the little room to which the President’s body was taken stood that same Stanton, and, looking down on Lincoln’s silent face, he said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”  The patience of love had conquered in the end.

In our dealings with men, however refractory and however unkind and hurting they are, we must exercise the same patience as God exercises with us.  Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength; it is not defeatism but rather the only way to victory.

Impatience still imprisons the soul. For that reason, our God is quick to help us avoid it. He does more than demand patience from us; he offers it to us. Patience is a fruit of his Spirit. It hangs from the tree of Galatians 5:22 : “The Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience.”

Have you asked God to give you some fruit? Well I did once, but … But what? Did you, h’m, grow impatient? Ask him again and again and again. He won’t grow impatient with your pleading, and you will receive patience in your praying.

And while you’re praying, ask for understanding. “Patient people have great understanding” ( Prov. 14:29 ). Could it be your impatience stems from a lack of understanding? Mine has.

Sometime ago one of our members complained after services because of a distraction during the Sunday morning worship. Two people were mumbling to each other, it seemed. Because I knew the situation, I was able to offer a quick and adequate explanation: “Forgive them,” I said. “I need to explain that one of the people is a new Christian and doesn’t speak much English, so the message is being translated.”

Something similar occurred here: a young man was wearing a baseball cap during the Sunday morning class…one of the members commented on it to me after class ended. I explained calmly that the person had just concluded chemotherapy and was conscious of the fact that he’d lost most of his hair. To that person’s credit, there was quick retreat from his words and thoughts.

All of a sudden everything changed. Patience replaced impatience. Why? Because patience always hitches a ride with understanding. The wise man says, “A man of understanding holds his tongue” ( Prov. 11:12 niv ).

He also says, “A man of understanding is even-tempered” (Prov. 17:27 niv ). Don’t miss the connection between understanding and patience. Before you blow up, listen up.

Before you strike out, tune in. “It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong” (Prov. 24:3 ).

Before anything else, love is patient. May I urge you to do the sa

me?  “God is being patient with you” ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ). And if God is being patient with you, can’t you pass on some patience to others? Of course you can. Because before love is anything else: Love is patient.

Fosdick points out that no one treated Lincoln with more contempt than did Stanton.  He called him “a low cunning clown”, he nicknamed him “the original gorilla” and said that Du Chaillu was a fool to wander about Africa trying to capture a gorilla when he could have found one so easily at Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln said nothing.  He made Stanton his war minister because he was the best man for the job and he treated him with every courtesy.  The years wore on.  The night came when the assassin’s bullet murdered Lincoln in the theatre.  In the little room to which the President’s body was taken stood that same Stanton, and, looking down on Lincoln’s silent face, he said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”  The patience of love had conquered in the end.

We should not be surprised to find that God is described by the term “longsuffering”:

6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22)

16 And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16).

20 Who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water (1 Peter 3:20).

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. … 15 and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

Years ago a man preparing for the ministry shared with me a bit of advice someone had given him: “Brother,” he said, “if you’re going to minister in these circles, you’d better have rhinoceros hide.” He was right. We do need to be thick-skinned when it comes to the hurts others impose on us. Christians are so thin-skinned and touchy they fall apart at a raised eyebrow. Let’s get tough, so we can suffer long at the hands of others and thereby demonstrate Christian love.

The word “abuse” is one of the great “excuse” words of our day. Let me be very clear that there are certain kinds of abuse no one should put up with, such as sexual abuse. However, the categories of abuse seem to multiply daily. For example, there is verbal abuse and mental abuse. But now, Christians seem to think that whenever the “abuse” word arises, every Scriptural command is put into a different category, one which does not apply. Turning the other cheek is out because that would be tolerating physical abuse.

And yet Peter speaks of our Lord’s silent enduring of verbal abuse as a pattern for all Christians (1 Peter 2:18-25). On and on it goes, but somewhere Christians must make up their minds to suffer at least certain kinds of abuse from others. In a day when our individual rights seem to have the highest level of priority, longsuffering does not seem to be a very popular characteristic, and yet it is one of two terms Paul uses to sum up the conduct of love.

The Greek word used here for patience is a descriptive one. It figuratively means “taking a long time to boil.” Think about a pot of boiling water. What factors determine the speed at which it boils? The size of the stove? No. The pot? The utensil may have an influence, but the primary factor is the intensity of the flame. Water boils quickly when the flame is high. It boils slowly when the flame is low. Patience “keeps the burner down.”

Helpful clarification, don’t you think? Patience isn’t naive. It doesn’t ignore misbehavior. It just keeps the flame low. It waits. It listens. It’s slow to boil. This is how God treats us. And, according to Jesus, this is how we should treat others.

Paul said that patience was a characteristic of his own heart (2 Cor. 6:6) and should characterize every Christian (Eph. 4:2). Stephen’s last words were ones of patient forgiveness: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). As he lay dying under the painful, crushing blows of the stones, his concern was for his murderers rather than for himself. He was long-tempered, patient to the absolute extreme.

The supreme example of patience, of course, is God Himself. It is God’s patient love that prevents the world from being destroyed. It is His patience and long-suffering that allows time for men to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). As He was dying on the cross, rejected by those He had come to save, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Robert Ingersoll, the well-known atheist of the last century, often would stop in the middle of his lectures against God and say, “I’ll give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I’ve said.” He then used the fact that he was not struck dead as proof that God did not exist. Theodore Parker said of Ingersoll’s claim, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in five minutes?”

He once told a parable about a king who decides to settle his accounts with his debtors. His bookkeeper surfaces a fellow who owes not thousands or hundreds of thousands but millions of dollars. The king summarily declares that the man and his wife and kids are to be sold to pay the debt. Because of his inability to pay, the man is about to lose everything and everyone dear to him. No wonder

the man fell down before the king and begged him, “Oh, sir, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.” Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. ( Matt. 18:26–27 nlt, emphasis mine)

The word patience makes a surprise appearance here. The debtor does not plead for mercy or forgiveness; he pleads for patience. Equally curious is this singular appearance of the word. Jesus uses it twice in this story and never again. It appears nowhere else in the Gospels. Perhaps the scarce usage is the first-century equivalent of a highlighter. Jesus reserves the word for one occasion to make one point. Patience is more than a virtue for long lines and slow waiters.

Patience is the red carpet upon which God’s grace approaches us.

Had there been no patience, there would have been no mercy. But the king was patient, and the man with the multimillion-dollar debt was forgiven.

But then the story takes a left turn. The freshly forgiven fellow makes a beeline from the courthouse to the suburbs. There he searches out a guy who owes him some money.

But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. “Be patient and I will pay it,” he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt could be paid in full. (vv. 28–30 nlt , emphasis mine)

The king is stunned. How could the man be so impatient? How dare the man be so impatient! The ink of the CANCELED stamp is still moist on the man’s bills. Wouldn’t you expect a little Mother Teresa–ness out of him? You’d think that a person who’d been forgiven so much would love much. But he didn’t. And his lack of love led to a costly mistake.

The unforgiving servant is called back to the castle.

“You evil servant!” [the king, a.k.a. God, declares.] “I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny. ( Matt. 18:32–34 nlt )

The king’s patience made no difference in the man’s life. To the servant, throne-room mercy was nothing more than a canceled test, a dodged bullet, a get-out-of-jail-free card. He wasn’t stunned by the royal grace; he was relieved he hadn’t been punished. He was given much patience but gave none, which makes us wonder if he actually understood the gift he had received.

If you find patience hard to give, you might ask the same question. How infiltrated are you with God’s patience? You’ve heard about it. Read about it. Perhaps underlined Bible passages regarding it. But have you received it? The proof is in your patience. Patience deeply received results in patience freely offered.

But patience never received leads to an abundance of problems, not the least of which is prison. Remember where the king sent the unforgiving servant? “Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny” ( Matt. 18:34 nlt).

Whew! we sigh. Glad that story is a parable. It’s a good thing God doesn’t imprison the impatient in real life. Don’t be so sure he doesn’t. Self-absorption and ingratitude make for thick walls and lonely jails.

What is given in these four verses is not a long, dry, methodical definition of love. On the contrary, the very acts of love are given—the very behavior of a person, the very way a person is to live among and with others. In living and moving among others in the world, a person is to love, and this is what loving others means.

Maybe you didn’t know God did that for us. Maybe no one has told you about “God’s … patience and willingness to put up with you” ( Rom. 2:4 cev ). Could be you dozed off the day the minister read Psalm 103:8 : “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” ( niv ).

If so, no wonder you’ve been edgy. No wonder you’ve been impatient. Bankruptcy can put the best of us in a foul mood. You know what you need to do?

Those thousand sunsets you never thanked him for? He could have put you on beauty rations. But he didn’t. He was patient with you.

Those Sundays you strutted into church to show off the new dress? It’s a wonder he didn’t strike you naked. But he didn’t. He was patient.

And, oh my, those promises: “Get me out of this, and I’ll never tell another lie.” “Count on me to stand up for you from now on.” “I’m done with temper tantrums, Lord.” If broken promises were lumber, we could build a subdivision. Doesn’t God have ample reason to walk out on us?

But he doesn’t. Why? Because “God is being patient with you” ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ).

Paul presents patience as the premiere expression of love. Positioned at the head of the apostle’s Love Armada—a boat-length or two in front of kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness—is the flagship known as patience. “Love is patient” ( 1 Cor. 13:4 ).

The King James Version renders it “suffereth long” (“suffers long,” NKJV). W. E. Vine indicates that longsuffering is the most frequent meaning of the term in the Bible, and he distinguishes “longsuffering” from “patience” in this way:

  • Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Ex. 34:6 (Sept.); Rom. 2:4; 1 Pet. 3:20.
  • Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; it is not used of God.174

Leon Morris adds this comment: “First, love is long-suffering. The word Paul uses indicates having patience with people rather than with circumstances (as William Barclay notes). In fact, Paul’s word is the opposite of ‘short-tempered,’ it means—if we may invent a word—‘long-tempered.’”175

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4, Matthew Henry says of the term longsuffering:

It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.176

David exemplifies longsuffering. King Saul persistently seeks to kill David, once he knows he will someday replace him as king of Israel. David not only endures this persecution graciously, refusing to take the king’s life when given the chance, he actively seeks to do good to Saul. David is both longsuffering and kind.

For the Christian, longsuffering is not optional. Longsuffering is named as one of the “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). We are commanded to be “patient” or to manifest “longsuffering” toward others:

2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).

14 And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

The Corinthians must have cringed as they read these words since they clearly fell far short of what God required of them regarding longsuffering. The Corinthians found it unbearable to wait for those who could not arrive before they started to eat the meal at the church’s weekly gathering. Paul had to command them to wait for one another. Had love been present in Corinth, it would have prompted them to wait (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). And when one Corinthian Christian irritated another, the response was, “I’ll see you in court!” (see chapter 6). This is not patience!

Before we begin to feel too smug, we are not doing all that well either. Christians in our part of the world are not inclined to endure ill-treatment from anyone. How often do you hear, “I wouldn’t put up with that!” Putting up with ill treatment is what longsuffering is all about. We are to put up with one another: “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13). We should silently endure ill treatment from unbelievers and believers alike, even as our Lord did (1 Peter 2:18ff.; see also Matthew 17:17; Acts 13:18). Let us not forget all that Paul put up with from the Corinthians (see 4:6-21).

James Dobson wrote a book on the subject of “tough love,” an expression I hear often these days. Certainly there is a need for tough love in the sense that we must “get tough” with those whom we love, like our children and other family members. I would suggest we also need another kind of tough love. We personally need the kind of love which makes us tough enough to handle the grief others give us.

Love’s patience is the ability to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person over and over again and yet not be upset or angry Chrysostom, the early church Father, said, “It is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.” Patience never retaliates.

Like love itself, the patience spoken of in the New Testament was a virtue only among Christians. In the Greek world self-sacrificing love and nonavenging patience were considered weaknesses, unworthy of the noble man or woman.

Aristotle, for example, taught that the great Greek virtue was refusal to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense. Vengeance was a virtue. The world has always tended to make heroes of those who fight back, who stand up for their welfare and rights above all else.

But love, God’s love, is the very opposite. Its primary concern is for the welfare of others, not itself, and it is much more willing to be taken advantage of than to take advantage, much less to avenge. Love does not retaliate. The  Christian who acts like Christ never takes revenge for being hurt or insulted or abused. He refuses to “pay back evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17), but if he is slapped on the right cheek, he will turn the left (Matt. 5:39).

Since Adam and Eve first disobeyed Him, God has been continually wronged and rejected by those He made in His own image. He was rejected and scorned by His chosen people, through whom he gave the revelation of His Word, “the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Yet through the thousands of years, the eternal God has been eternally long-suffering. If the holy Creator is so infinitely patient with His rebellious creatures, how much more should His unholy creatures be patient with each other?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Galatians 5:22).

“Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11).

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

1) Patience is a duty

We need to make this point clear because in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is basically descriptive versus being imperative. “Take a look,” he says, “here is what love is, this is what it looks like.” The idea of duty stems from the fact that Paul’s whole point in this chapter is to show us an excellent pathway for our footsteps. This is the narrow way that Christ spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. The excellence of love is the way to obtaining the gifts and using them.

Description serves to map out the duties of love. Here is what love looks like; now that is what you are to look like in your conduct. There is the pathway; now walk in that way. Description is for subscription. Knowledge is for action; all Christian learning is for obedient learning and should be pursued to that end. We should always be looking for how to improve our conduct based on what we learn from Scripture.

Thus 12:31 governs every description like an overlay. If you think of each fruit of love as a separate page, the overlay of 12:31 can be placed on each page where it adds the dimension of duty to the picture. Excellence, excellent graces, Christian virtues are placed before our eyes in all their perfection to aid us and inspire us in the way of duty.

The extreme height of this duty is not a discouragement. It is helpful to have clear goals and to know that this goal and that goal are required of me by the Lord. That He requires it is all the assurance I need to know that He will be my helper and my rock of strength.

Very specifically then, it is your duty to cultivate the Christian virtue of patience toward God. We need to have a sense of duty and diligence. It is like pondering a road map very carefully so we can travel in the right direction.

2) Patience is rooted in Christ

This answers the question, “How could Abraham show such patience toward God?

It was the fact that he fixed his gaze on the Lord Jesus. Somehow, Abraham saw the day of Christ and rejoiced (Jn. 18:56). This is interesting language when we remember that Isaac means laughter and joy. Abraham saw the greater Isaac in his son Isaac. He embraced the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ. He believed that He would be the promised offspring of Eve who would bring restoration from all the effects of the fall.

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, cultivates patience. To be patient we must fix our gaze on Him not on the stormy waters surrounding us.

3) Patience focuses on the covenant keeping God

Abraham focused on God’s righteousness, His promise, and His ability as the Sovereign Judge of the entire earth. By imitating his example, we are enabled to wait for God’s time, place, and way of fulfillment without complaining and with a calm spirit within.

Did Abraham ever see his descendents like the sand of the sea? Did he ever possess the land? Did he ever see the blessing of the nations through his son and his greater son? No. But he did come to see God and to know Him better and better. He and all the patriarchs died not having obtained the promises (Heb. 11:13). Abraham was content to have nothing of this world for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10).

This is the outlook toward the future that we should likewise cultivate. No doubt we all have things that we desire deeply and that we thought the Lord would have given to us by now in our lives (life time goals, the salvation of the unsaved, etc.). So we pray, work, long, wait, and wait still longer. He is righteous and He is able. He will keep His promises. To this end the Lord assures us by adding oath to promise (Heb. 6:16-20).

4) Patience is first and foremost a matter of love

This specific fruit of love, loving patience, is rooted in our love to Christ. It is how we love Him. We long for Him. “O Lord Jesus how long, how long, shall we shout the glad song, Christ is returning, Christ is returning, hallelujah, amen.” Love means that we will look to our God as the covenant keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So we wait patiently. The key is waiting for Him to act; looking for Him to act. In other words, patience is a way of waiting with love for God because we wait for Him.

Love is Patient toward Sinners (1 Cor. 13:4)

Introduction

In the big picture, to be loving is the way to live a life that communicates meaning, that has music, significance, dignity, and value. Without it you are nothing and your life has no value (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love in this chapter has to be seen as a product of redemption because of the good fruits here that come from formerly corrupt trees. The love of the triune God is being reflected in the lives of redeemed sinners. It is reflected or manifested in specific ways. The first specific cited by Paul is patience (13:4).

On one hand, patience is a virtue intimately connected to God’s dealings with man by covenant. It is a way of waiting that is associated with faith since we are called “to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb. 6:12). So being patient is a way of loving God.

On the other hand, patience is a love fruit that has a human to human dimension involving patience toward sinners in the church and outside the church (toward sinners and sinner-saints).

Thus there is both a vertical direction and a horizontal direction to the patience of love. Today I will discuss two things about the horizontal direction: a) patience in ministry of the word, and b) patience in life in the world.

1A. Patience in ministry of the word

As we take up our duties in relation to others, the vertical direction must always be present in the back of our minds. In relation to God, patience means to wait for the Lord to keep His promises. It means to wait calmly in obedience without complaining. We thus wait upon Him as Sovereign Lord for His way, time, and place of covenant keeping. Therefore, there is a time between; there is a now and a not yet to the coming of the kingdom.

The time between the comings of the Lord Jesus is a time of promise and waiting for the fulfillment of promise. In the middle, we are given reiteration and confirmation of His promise by means of the preaching of the word.

Here patience applies to the flock in a distinctive way and it applies to the minister in a distinctive way. It relates to how I give and how you receive correction, rebuke, and encouragement in the preaching of the word (2 Tim. 4:2). The same thing applies in different ways according to our stations in life (with nuances peculiar to each).

1) Let’s begin with loving patience on the part of the flock. Again, patience is oriented to how you receive correction, rebuke, and encouragement in the preaching of the word both publicly and privately (2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20). So what is distinctive, at least, what is cited and stressed in this connection for our instruction? Distinctive in a patient receiving of the ministry of the word is to receive it without complaining and whining (expressing dissatisfaction in a grumpy manner). It is a Christian grace and the mark of a godly church.

A key text is Numbers 21:4-5. Impatience showed itself both against the Lord and against His servant Moses who led God’s flock by the word and prayer. Expressions of discontentment, dissatisfaction, and resentment cause distraction and lead to divisions. Thus patience is having a contentment of heart looking to the Lord of the covenant who has ordained the foolishness of preaching to confound the wise.

You need to be patient with me and I think you are. This is one of the joys that I have in serving you. I have never heard a discouraging or complaining word from any of you over the course of my labors on your behalf. This is remarkable to me because I know that I am a sinner and that I fail you in many ways. It is remarkable because you put up with me even though there are things about which we no doubt disagree. There are things I do that you would not do, that you do not like, or that you would do differently if you were in my shoes.

There has been constructive criticism. This is truly appreciated both in its fact and its manner. What I sense is that you are willing to wait. You are willing to give me time to do my work and you give time for the profit to come. You are looking for the benefit that God will give through the means He has appointed. You are waiting for the seed that is being sown to grow into a full harvest. You wait for it to grow by the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

You are waiting for the coming of the Lord with patience like a farmer who values the means as well as the ends (Jam. 5:7). Valuing the means God has ordained is a key to patient reception of the word preached.

It may be the case that at times the preaching of the word goes beyond “preachin'” to “meddlin.'” It may be painful to receive correction but you do not complain. I sense that you are taking up the word preached with a determination to understand it and to live by it. Patient receiving of the word seeks for obedience in all learning. It includes a willingness to change.

By your patient spirit, I feel loved and I am encouraged in doing my work. Biblically there is a full circle here because in the end it is to your advantage when you promote my joy as I watch over your souls (Heb. 13:17). Instead of complaining against me in your speech I sense that you are helping me by your prayers. For this I give thanks to the Lord Jesus.  You are to be commended. This is pleasing to the Lord. Just consider how He judged Israel for their impatience sending fiery serpents so that many died (Num. 21:6f) and what He tells us of His anger at Israel’s complaining (Num. 11:1, “His anger was kindled and the fire of the Lord burned among them”).

2) On the other side of the equation, what do you think would be most appropriate in the patience of the minister of the word (2 Tim. 4:2)? What is peculiar or distinctive here? What sin might commonly surface in this connection? Specifically, what element of patience is particularly called for?

One answer to this question or one way to answer it is to think through the “grow seeds grow” line in the children’s story of Frog and Toad. Toad got very impatient with the seeds he planted because they did not immediately spring up. Applied to preaching this may come out in the minister’s disappointment with the fact that things he preaches may seem to fall on deaf ears. It is difficult to see spiritual growth; it is like the pot that takes forever to boil.

I deeply desire the blessing of the Spirit and the fruits of righteousness in your lives. But I have to ask myself, “What if you don’t see my point or don’t agree if you do see it?” What if I am right and feel deeply convinced of your need on this, that or the other thing, but you do not see it? (cf. Sabbath keeping for example). What then does patience contribute to correction, rebuke, and encouragement with careful instruction? It seems to me that of the associated graces and virtues, the ones most needed and perhaps tested here are gentleness and steadfastness. When lovingly patient, the servant of the Lord will not be harsh, unreasonable, quarrelsome, and demanding (2 Tim. 2:24f). He will not give up easily but will press on toward the high mark of due diligence, carefulness, and faithfulness waiting for God to give repentance.

I think that this is most difficult for a minister if he does not fix his focus on the sovereign dealing of our covenant Lord with His church. Again, that is the true resource and strength. Over the years some of the deepest afflictions that I have experienced have been in the context of serving the Lord’s people (with my expectations, naiveté, and failings mixed in of course). I suppose it goes with having something that you deeply care about so the disappointments can be profound. Still, God is faithful and we have a worthwhile cause seeking His honor and glory above all else and amidst all the confusion.

Waiting for God (while trusting in His sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom) is a foundation for patience in the context of ministry of the word for both pastor and flock.

Patience is fundamental in our mutual relationships in the body of Christ as we help one another by warning, comforting, and upholding the unruly, the fainthearted, and the weak (1 Thess. 5:14). Any of us may be any of these things at one time or another, so we need a “one anothering” that demonstrates great patience. This is filled out in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Patience is needed in order to bear with one another. Interestingly, we have to admit to a tendency to irritate and injure one another. In this context of the people of God, we are to exercise patience toward sinner-saints.

We have given some thought to patience in the ministry of the word and in the life of the church. Let’s now turn to patience in life in the world.

2A. Patience in life in the world

Now we need to think about how love is patient toward unbelieving sinners (with implications here for patience toward sinner-saints as well). The hard truth is that love applies in our experience with those who sin against us. Attention is placed on how we are to love those who hurt and injure us.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul puts patience in the context of hardships, sufferings, beatings, and afflictions (1-6). A trick here is to learn how to be patient with complaining, grumbling, and impatient people (Jude 1:16, the ungodly are harsh grumblers, malcontents who follow their own sinful desires; note the three elements of impatience that imply three elements of patience). And Paul relates his experience to all that seek to live godly lives (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Evil people may injure us as they either oppose the gospel or simply pursue their sinful ways. There are many ways that people may hurt us deeply as you can well imagine (just think of something that probably just happened in your life). However, a contrast applies to Christians: “But as for you” (2 Tim. 3:14). Christians follow Paul’s teaching/living and thus his patience in relation to evil people (2 Tim. 3:10f.).

Love in this context is patient. Patience is the way we show love to sinful people at the very point where they cross our path and cause us grief and pain. This can be stated negatively and positively.

1B. Negatively

Negatively speaking, the patience of love means that we bear injuries without retaliating in thought, word, or deed. Perhaps, the best passage on this point is the teaching of Jesus on nonresistance (Matt. 5:38-39). We have to interpret this passage within the flow of thought of the Sermon accenting the inner man of the heart, the use of figurative language, the contrast with Pharisaic mis-interpretation, and common sense. Jesus is not being literal. He is not saying that if someone literally knocked the teeth out of one side of your mouth you are blessed if you turn the other cheek and let him knock the teeth out of the other side as well. This goes against the principle of self-defense and the promotion of life in the sixth commandment.

The problem is that the Pharisees took the eye for an eye principle of civil justice and applied it to personal vendettas. Thus, Jesus is not denying the eye for an eye principle of civil justice but He is denying the practice of personal retaliation. And the figurative language makes the powerful point that we are to be so far removed from personal retaliation that it is as if we were to literally turn the other cheek to our physical harm. In other words, turning the other cheek is going to an extreme physically, a point farthest removed from hitting back to harm your opponent. This serves to illustrate and drive home the point of how far we are to be removed from retaliation in the spiritual man of the heart. We are not only to be removed from returning physical harm for physical harm but we are to be so far removed from retaliation that we do not return evil for evil in any way in thought, word, or deed. That is what patient love is not; it is without retaliation of any kind.

On the positive side, patient love is calm, gentle, and forgiving.

  1. a) It means that the one who “owes us” is not made to pay. We are willing to give time with mercy. We are willing to forgive, which is the driving point of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21f.).
  2. b) Furthermore, if you do not retaliate in thought then your inner spirit is not filled with ill will wishing for revenge with malice boiling in your heart. One thing that will not be present in your soul if you are gripped by malice and ill will is calmness. You will not be at rest or have peace within. Patience means that you will endure afflictions at the hands of sinners with a calm spirit.
  3. c) Finally, it means that your responses to people will be gentle. Gentleness is an outward expression of an inward calm. If you do not lash out in retaliation, what do you do? You respond with deliberation and great care even when you must confront and reprove. Our Lord guides us to this way of love when He speaks of logs in our own eyes and specks of sawdust in the eyes of others. You must be gentle in the process of removing something small from someone’s eye.

In summary then we can say that stated negatively patient love responds to injury without retaliating in thought, word, or deed. Stated positively, patient love responds to injury with calmness, gentleness, and forgiveness.

Conclusion: Final Perspectives and an Objection

A. The “how” question and some perspectives

How can we have a calm spirit when injured and hurt by others? This could be frightening when we reflect on man’s cruelty. And no one likes pain though sometimes by our own folly we may appear to be gluttons for punishment. So how can we endure injury that causes us very personal pain? How can we bear it without retaliating in deed or thought? How can we bear it with a calm, gentle, and forgiving spirit? These questions raise some very important perspectives.

1) First, we need know that the Lord is with us.

This will enable us to be calm. It is by remembering what our Lord has said that grounds what we can say in the middle of it all. He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” so that we may confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6). Ponder, meditate on, and cling to this fact, “the Lord is with me in this.”

2) Second, we need to know that the Lord is in control.

When others hurt you, remember that ultimately this has come from your Father’s hand. That is a remarkable point that does not excuse people for their wrongdoing. When others afflict us as they pursue their sinful ways, they are accountable for their actions. Nevertheless, God is working out His purposes governing all things without fail. He is working all things in accordance with His will and for your good (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28).

This means in the end that how we react to the wrongs that strike us personally and painfully is first and foremost a reaction to Lord. It is not simply a reaction He sees (that is before Him). It is a reaction to Him. It is absolutely imperative in this present evil age that we fix our thoughts on this fact. No one can do anything to afflict us unless the Lord so designs it (In the words of the hymn writer God says, “I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”).

3) Third, we need to know that the Lord will right all wrongs.

Thus, the Lord is not pleased with the sins of men against us. These are sometimes difficult thoughts to keep together. Here is a rich complex of thoughts: that injury at the hands of men is from the hand of God and that it displeases the Lord who will take vengeance in His appointed time. He says that He will repay (Heb. 10:30). We are not to try to make this payment. It is His job and not ours. He will right all the wrongs!

4) Fourth, we need to know that the Lord gives us warning.

The harshness of the unforgiving servant is severely punished. The Lord tells us that we will be judged according to how we judge others; the way we measure the sins against us is how our sins will be measured (Matt. 7:2). Will it be with exactness, precision, and harshness without mercy? Then that is how God will measure our sins. If you forgive, the Father in heaven will forgive you. However, if you do not forgive sins and injuries against you, then you will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:14-15).

5) Finally, we need to know that the Lord Himself is our great example. Just think of what the Lord Jesus endured, how He endured, and for whom He endured injury at the hands of sinners. His own received Him not. He was faulted by all, opposed on every hand, challenged by the religious leaders, and hated without just cause. The Lord of glory was simply in their way. He was a rejected stone cast aside by the builders of God’s house in Israel. More than once the people tried to kill Him. Finally they succeeded by a mockery of civil justice. Even His friends forsook Him: “Friends through fear His cause disowning, foes insulting His distress. Many hands were raised to wound Him. None would interpose to save.” Nonetheless, with a calm soul and a determined heart, our Lord went as a lamb to the slaughter. On the cross He prayed that those who afflict Him may be forgiven. His patience was perfect. This excellence of His love in this regard is our example (1 Tim. 1:16) and God’s patience is our salvation (2 Pet. 3:15, “count the patience of our Lord as salvation”).

B. A common objection

We may reason in our hearts that the call to this excellence of loving patience is unrealistic. Some may say that we are talking here about evil acts of evil people on one hand and evil acts against me personally and painfully on the other hand. This is a double-barreled hurt that I cannot tolerate. J. Edwards asks some powerful questions to stop such rationalizing. I will paraphrase them somewhat (Charity, 92-95; the full text is well worth your reading).

Are these so-called “intolerable” injuries against you more than what you have offered to God by sinning against His matchless perfection? Do you not hope for patience from God for your intolerable acts against Him? When God is patient toward you, do you greatly approve of such mercy? Should you not imitate God in being patient toward others? Should God use all your objections to this grace against you? Did Christ give you a worthy example to follow? Is it a more provoking thing for men to tread on and injure you, than for you to tread on and injure Christ by disobeying Him by not pursuing the excellence of loving patience?

Thus, in the church and in the world, loving patience is an excellent way, “so walk ye in it.”

 

Control yourself! Anger is only one letter short of danger.    — Anonymous. Men of Integrity, Vol. 2, no. 3.

My seven-year-old daughter wanted to take violin lessons, so I took her to a music store to rent an instrument.  Hoping she would understand the importance of practicing, I explained that violin lessons were expensive so she would have to work hard. “There may be times when you feel like giving up,” I said, “but I want you to hang in there and keep on trying.”

She nodded and then in her most serious voice said, “It will be just like marriage, right Mommy?”    — Debra K. Johnson, Dublin Ohio, Christian Reader, May/June 1996, p. 58.

Sixteenth-century spiritual director Francois Fenelon clarifies a confusing biblical concept:

Self-denial has its place in a Christian’s life, but God doesn’t ask you to choose what is most painful to you. If you followed this path you would soon ruin your health, reputation, business, and friendship.

Self-denial consists of bearing patiently all those things that God allows to pass into your life. If you don’t refuse anything that comes in God’s order, you are tasting of the cross of Jesus Christ. — Francois Fenelon, The Seeking Heart, (Library of Spiritual Classics), p. 24, Leadership, Vol. 21, no. 3.

PATIENCE

“Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by.” Life is like that; one stitch at a time taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right like embroidery. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)

A delay is better than a disaster.

A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. Dutch Proverb

All comes at the proper time to him who knows how to wait. Saint Vincent de Paul (1581–1660)

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. Saint Francis of Sales (1567–1622)

Dear God, please grant me patience. And I want it right now.

Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly; many things lie unsolved, and the biggest test of all is that God looks as if he were totally indifferent. Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

God engineers our circumstances as he did those of his Son; all we have to do is to follow where he places us. The majority of us are busy trying to place ourselves. God alters things while we wait for him. Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

God often permits us to be perplexed so that we may learn patience. T. J. Bach

Have patience! All things are difficult before they become easy. Persian Proverb

He that can have patience can have what he wills. Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees? William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Never become irritable while waiting; if you are patient, you’ll find that you can wait much faster.

Never cut what you can untie. Joseph Joubert (1754–1824)

Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius.

Comte Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788)

No one will ever know the full depth of his capacity for patience and humility as long as nothing bothers him. It is only when times are troubled and difficult that he can see how much of either is in him. Saint Francis of Assisi (c. 1181–1226)

One minute of patience, ten years of peace. Greek Proverb

One moment of patience may prevent disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a life. Chinese Proverb

Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily. Johann Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)

Patience achieves more than force. Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Patience and diligence, like faith, remove mountains. William Penn (1644–1718)

Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice. George Jackson (1785–1861)

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)

Patience is the ability to put up with people you’d like to put down. Ulrike Ruffert

Patience is the companion of wisdom. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

Patience is the mother of expectation. Henri J. M. Nouwen

Patience means waiting without anxiety. Saint Francis of Sales (1567–1622)

Patience: accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it. Bill Gothard

Patient waiting is often the highest way of doing God’s will. Jeremy Collier (1650–1726)

Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.

Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work. Peter Marshall (1902–1949)

The Almighty is working on a great scale and will not be hustled by our peevish impetuosity. William Graham Scroggie (1877–1958)

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.  Arnold Glasgow

The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord. Joni Eareckson Tada

There is no such thing as preaching patience into people unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they hear. No man can learn patience except by going out into the hurly-burly world and taking life just as it blows. Patience is riding out the gale.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)

To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength. But I know of something that implies a strength greater still. It is the power to work under stress, to continue under hardship, to have anguish in your spirit and still perform daily tasks. This is a Christlike thing. The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise patience, not in the sick bed, but in the street. George Matheson (1842–1906)

Wait on the Lord in prayer as you sit on the freeway, sharing with him the anxiety of so many jobs to be done in such a short time. Watch your frustrations melt into praise as you sing hymns and choruses for his ears alone. Joni Eareckson Tada

We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.

Simone Weil (1909–1943)

We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and he will come. He never comes to those who do not wait.

Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)

 

Why are we so impatient? (Why is it difficult to cultivate patience?)
It’s difficult to be patient isn’t in an environment that is more suited to cultivating impatience than patience.

We are a culture of the quick fix rather than the long haul. We are the product of 200 years of the modern scientific age. A lot of good has come from that. But we have picked up some bad habits too. One of the most unfortunate results of the modern age is arrogance. We have assumed that we can solves any problem and along with advances in industrialization and transportation we assume that we can fix anything now. (If anything good is coming of post-modernism, it is that the consequences of our arrogance are now convicting us to be a bit more humble).

In every area of our lives we are often committed to the quick fix. Politics: “Why haven’t we rebuilt the Gulf Coast? It’s been weeks! Why haven’t we won the war on terror? It’s been years!” Health: “Do you want to lose weight instantly? Here’s the solution …” People seek out doctors to get the quick fix for what’s wrong with them, but they don’t realize that health is often the result of how they have been caring for themselves over the long haul. Faith: “I want to grow as a Christian and I want to do it now!” God saves us instantly, but salvation lasts for eternity. Some of us want to cultivate the fruit of the spirit right now, or at the end of this season. But cultivation is a lifelong process and in an impatient culture that is intimidating, but that’s the way the world really is. When we cultivate patience we learn that the best things take time. Olive tree farmers know that. An olive tree will only start to bear fruit in its 5th or 6th year, and doesn’t reach maximum yield until it is 30 or 40 years old. When the olive growers in the Middle East plant an olive tree, they say a prayer: “God protect it and make it grow so that my children’s grandchildren will benefit from its abundance.” Once I heard a story that an olive tree farmer said that he harvests the trees his father planted and he plants the trees his son will harvest. That is patience.

We are obsessed with speed and productivity. Because of that obsession, some olive trees have been forced to yield maximum harvest in 5 to 6 years. Now think, is that so we can have better olives or is it to make more profit more quickly? Our obsession with speed and productivity is rooted in greed which is the antithesis to patience.

A few weeks ago I was in Silver Dollar City watching the knifesmith. He described our culture as a throwaway culture. That’s why his trade (which is really just a hobby for him) is no more. The way he makes knives is just for collectors and hobbyists, but it used to be for everday work. The knife smith worked in an inefficient and slow way to make a knife that would last for generations. But now knives are pressed on a machine that can turn out thousands in the time it takes the knife smith to make one. That makes the knives cheaper and easily replaceable. But are they better knives? Are they items that can be passed on to your children and maybe even grandchildren?
Our obsession with speed and productivity has put even our faith on the clock. We want to attend to all of our spiritual needs in one hour a week. And God help us the church has sometimes catered to this fixation with productivity. A church in Orange County, California has a slogan “Give us 90 minutes of your time and we will change your life.” Well, that is a step better than Jesus who asks us to take up our cross and follow him for the rest of our lives. But then we are so much more advanced than Jesus was back in the first century, yes?

We regard time as a commodity rather than a gift. One of the advancements since Jesus is the clock. (The concept of the “second” wasn’t invented until the 1700’s). People have always had means for gauging time, but the mechanical clock allowed us to standardize time. And now we feel that what started as a tool has become a master. We are now a tool of the tool. This is toxic to patience because Our lives have become ordered by an unnatural rhythm instead of the rhythms of God’s created order. God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Do you see how God built patience into the natural rhythm of the created order. He gave us the lights in the heavens to order the times and seasons. But we have invented artificial light and weather so that we can order time our way! And we are more impatient and stressed out than ever. Think about it, what is the most common response you get to the question “How are you doing?” – BUSY!

This busy-ness has changed the way we view time. It is a commodity, not a gift from God. We hoard it and sell it. The language we use with time is unique to our culture. We “spend” time. We “invest” time. We “waste” time. We “steal” time and “take-up” time. We have invented the concept of quality time as an excuse to spend less time with people. We are apologetic of intruding on one’s time and we are disturbed sometimes when others want to take some of our time. Why? Because we all have the sense that there is precious little time – but more because we regard time as “my time, my day.” It is mine! Now how does that make us patient? How does that help us cultivate the spirit among us that is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

How shall we cultivate patience? If we want to cultivate patience we must actively resist the powers that make us impatient.

  1. Give away time in worship, fellowship and service.– Time is a gift from God. We are destined for an eternity, so time isn’t something scarce. Spend time with God in worship. Worship with others and let’s come to the table as if we are coming to a banquet not fast-food carry out. Let’s spend time with one another for no other reason than to know one another. (What I appreciate about our Care Groups and LIFE groups is that so many in our groups, especially our new ones, have said that they want to give up their “personal time” to spend it with others. They realize that there is a power of selfishness and impatience that needs to be challenged.) If we spend time in service with others, do it just to serve others not to be more productive.
  2. Appreciate the journey as much as the destination.– Our impatient culture wants to convince us that the end product or the destination is all that matters. The quicker you arrive there or produce it the better. In 2001 my family took a trip in an RV to New York, my father’s home. The journey is as much a part of that trip as the destination. In some ways even more so. How will our children remember our faith? By the destination or the journey. When we read the stories of the patriarchs, we see that the journey is even more important than the destination, because the goals weren’t always achieved in one generation.
  3. Trust the future to God.– Much of our impatience is rooted in the fact that we do not trust the future to God. We have forgotten the stories. God doesn’t abandon us. He doesn’t leave us with a set of Tinkertoys and Lego’s and say build it yourself. He is working in the details to accomplish all things in his own time and his own way.
  4. Forgive others.(See Matthew 18:23-35) – If we truly want to be patient, then we need to be as patient with others as God is with us. This is the point of Jesus vivid parable about the unforgiving servant. You have been forgiven of so much by a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. How dare you not be forgiving of others. “But you don’t understand they did …!” This isn’t about them. It’s about God. It is about cultivating patience. It’s about being like God.

[1] Bruce B. Barton and Gant R. Osborne, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999), 187.

[2] Joh+++n F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 337–339.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2022 in 1 Corinthians

 

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