Perhaps you've uttered the American's Prayer at some anxious moment recently:
Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it right now!
This rare and remarkable virtue is within the and-so-forth section in Galatians chapter 5. You know how we quote that passage . . . "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, and-so-forth." That lazy habit has caused a very important series of virtues to become forgotten. Allow me to quote Galatians 5:22–23—in full.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Notice, please, the fourth on the list. Patience. The original Greek term unloads a lot of meaning upon us. MAKROTHUMIA is the term, and it's a compound word. MAKROS means "long or far," and THUMOS means "hot, anger, or wrath." Putting it together, we come up with "long-anger." You've heard the English expression, "short-tempered"? Well, I suppose we could coin an expression for patience—long-tempered—and not miss the accurate meaning very far.
Generally speaking, the Greek word is not used of patience in regard to things or events, but of patience in regard to people. Chrysostom defined MAKROTHUMIA as the spirit which could take revenge if it liked, but utterly refuses to do so. I find that this characteristic is a needed quality for the pastor of a flock. Listen to the Lord's counsel to me as a Christian minister:
Giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, . . . in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. (2 Corinthians 6:3–4, 6)
If one attempts to lead a congregation without this Spirit-given virtue, he is driven to frustration, irritability, and severity. His pulpit becomes an avenue of anger, his preaching a diatribe of demands, and his person insulting and intolerant as Diotrephes of old. No, God encourages me and my ilk to be "long-tempered."
But there is more. This beautiful characteristic of Christ is equally important among all Christians . . . and that includes you, my friend. Without it, you cannot walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1–2; Colossians 3:12). And you are to demonstrate it before everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14). That includes children, spouses, employers, neighbors, slow drivers, people who make mistakes, senior citizens, and God! In fact, patience is a by-product of love (1 Corinthians 13:4).
If you and I were asked to name an example of this enviable quality, Job would be our man. Now I am of the opinion that he didn't sit down one day and make up his mind to be a patient person. Surely he never tried to bargain with God for that virtue. In fact, the term doesn't even appear in the entire book of Job—check for yourself. James 5:11, however, makes a remark about the "endurance of Job" and we know from that comment that he was one who was patient.
How did Job become a patient person? The secret is found in the original term in James 5:11, rendered "endurance." It is HUPOMONE, meaning "to abide under." Job rested and endured under the load of suffering. He determined that he would "abide under" the blast furnace of affliction regardless of its heat. The result was patience. As the slag of self-will, phony pride, stubbornness, and resentment floated to the top under the heat of heartache, grief, pain, and sorrow, patience formed—like the purifying process of raw gold. That explains why Paul says that trials and tribulations bring about patience and perseverance within us (Romans 5:3–4).
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