Power in Patience
Read Proverbs 16:32 (ESV)
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
How is someone who can control their temper more powerful than someone with brute strength or political power?
Are you familiar with the book of Esther? The events of this book take place after the nation of Israel had been conquered and the Jewish people were living as exiles in foreign lands. One of the main characters is an angry Persian official named Haman who hated the Jews. And in Esther 3, we learn that the king had promoted him to a place over all of the other officials. The king had also commanded that people bow down and pay homage to Haman.
But along came one man who would not bow down to Haman. His name was Mordecai and he was a Jew. And this refusal of Mordecai to bow down to Haman made the official furious. And Haman became even more angry when he learned Mordecai was a Jew. So, in his anger, Haman plotted the demise of not just Mordecai, but all of the Jews in the kingdom.
Now, earlier, Mordecai had discovered that some of the king’s officials were planning to overthrow the king. Mordecai exposed the plan and protected the king but did not receive any public recognition for his honorable deed. But Mordecai did not become bitter or angry about this.
So, when Mordecai became aware of Haman’s plan to destroy all of the Jews in Persia, he wept and fasted at the king’s gate. He also enlisted the help of his niece, Esther who had been, providentially, made Queen. Eventually, Queen Esther was able to expose Haman’s wicked plan to the King and her people were saved from destruction.
Today’s verse is a proverb—a general truth or life principle. And the story of Haman and Mordecai shows how this proverb can unfold in real life. Haman was mighty and had the upper-hand but he was bitter, angry, and extremely temperamental. He had control of the city of Susa but he didn't have control over his own spirit. In the end, we see Haman’s pride and lack of self-control lead to his demise.
Mordecai, however, is a model of courageous patience and humility. He doesn’t seek power and honor. He doesn’t demand recognition. Even when he is hated, oppressed, and his very life is threatened, he doesn’t lash out. He responds with discernment and righteousness. And in doing so, he helps save his people from complete annihilation. In the end, his ability to “rule his spirit” and be “slow to anger” led to his elevation and promotion in the kingdom.
Friends, it can be tempting to think of self-restraint and patient submission as signs of weakness. Our culture tends to value people who fight back and don’t let others “walk all over them.” But that is not the pattern found in Scripture. Over and over again in the Bible we see that there is great power in patience and self-control. Perhaps the greatest example is found in Jesus!
Do you struggle with anger? Are you prone to lash out and lose your temper? If so, ask God to help you learn to “rule your spirit.” There is great strength in self-control and there is power in patience.
Lord, I confess that I often struggle with losing my temper. But I want to be more like You. Help me learn self-control and restraint. Help me control my emotions so that they don’t control me. Amen.