Living in the Spirit #5
A certain preacher overheard two women talking about the sermon he had delivered that morning. The first woman said, “That was an amazing sermon the pastor gave on patience, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” replied her friend, “but he went five minutes too long.”
Patience. When I told Mary what the topic of this week’s message was about she started laughing. You see when it comes to the big things, car wrecks, surgery, people and that sort of thing, I have all the patience in the world. But when it comes to those little things like the stupid toothpaste cap that won’t go on straight or the nut that won’t go on the bolt right or all those little things, I’m not very good. I grumble and mumble and don’t have much patience at all. She even bought me a book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”
Patience, we all need it and we all want it, now. How can we as a society that exists on minute rice, instant mashed potatoes, instant coffee, microwave macaroni and cheese, high speed Internet, movies on demand, fast food. texting and instant messaging ever learn or teach patience? And yet, patience is not only a virtue but one of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Let’s look at those two passages. Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)
 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Colossians 1:9-12 (NRSV)
 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully
 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Please Join me in a responsive reading. Your part is in yellow.
“Love is the key. Joy is love singing.
Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring.
Kindness is love’s touch. Generosity is love’s character.
Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness.
Self-control is love holding the reins.” (1)
Last week we talked about the Peace of God which passes all understanding and how that peace helps us feel content. Out of that contentment rises Patience.
There are times when I really wish I had the patience and temperament of our last dog Midnight the Wonder Dog. Of all the dogs we’ve had, she was the most patient especially with our grandchildren. When our oldest grandson Zach was little, he loved to crawl all over Midnight. He pulled her whiskers or ears and poked his fingers in her mouth looking at her teeth and tongue. Midnight didn’t flinch or growl at all, instead her tail continued to wag and thump contentedly.
Midnight’s favorite spot was laying with her back against the sofa. Zach’s favorite position was sitting on Midnight. She was his easy chair. There were times when he simply used her as a step stool to get up onto the sofa. And the day he learned he could do that, he must have used Midnight as a step about 50 times.
Midnight didn’t seem to mind at all. She seemed to sense that Zach didn’t intend to hurt her. If she got tired of it, she didn’t growl or snap, she simply got up and moved into the kitchen or somewhere else. She was the picture of Patience.
This word Patience has been interpreted in a number of different ways in a number of versions of the Scripture and I think it’s a little of all: Patience is Steadfastness, Endurance, Longsuffering and Perseverance.
A. Being Steadfast is standing firm and steady. It also has a connotation of being loyal as in being faithful. One of the best stories that illustrates Steadfastness lived out in our daily lives is an old one.
A few years ago during the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally challenged, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the sound of the starting gun they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with the relish to run the race, to the finish and win.
All, that is, except one boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy crying. They slowed down and paused. Then they all turned around and went back. Every one of them. One girl with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed the boy and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for 10 solid minutes. (2)
Those young men and women were steadfast in every sense of the word. They were steadfast to their friendship. They were faithful and loyal to each other. Winning the race didn’t mean anything to them unless everyone could cross the finish line.
B. That’s the sense of Steadfast Patience God has with us. How many times have we blown it? How many times have we willfully turned away from God and still God calls us. Still God offers His steadfast love. Still God reaches out to us with the steadfast offer of forgiveness and a welcome home. That’s steadfast patience that wants us all to cross the finish line. And you can only learn that from God.
Then there’s the Patience that is Endurance. Patience which is endurance is kind of like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when YOU get tired. You quit when the Gorilla gets tired. Patience is the capacity for calm Endurance.
Let me give you an example. A department store announced a promotion in which it would give free televisions to the first one hundred people who came to the store on the first day of its Grand Opening. The store was scheduled to open at 9 AM, but the line of people began hours earlier. At the very front of the line was a large, burly man who had waited longer than anyone else and he wasn’t about to let anyone get in front of him.
Just before 9 AM a little old man walked up the door of the store and squeezed in front of the large, burly man at the beginning of the line without even acknowledging the fact that there was a long line of people who had waited for hours to get their televisions. This large, burly man had waited too long to accept such rude behavior and disregard. He pushed the little old man to the ground and told him to go to the end of the line. The crowd cheered.
However, the little old man picked himself up from the sidewalk, brushed himself off, and returned to the door. Again the man threw him to the ground. And again, the little old man picked himself up from the ground and returned to the door.
When this happened for the third time, a policeman came over to find out what all the commotion was about. The large, burly man explained to the policeman that he had stood in line for hours, and this rude man cut right in front of him just when it was time for the store to open. The policeman then turned to the little old man and asked him for his side of the story.
The little old man explained, “Everything he said is true. But if he keeps throwing me to the ground, I’ll never be able to open the door and let everyone into the store.” (3)
Through the Love, Joy and Peace of God in our lives, God enables us to endure even when we keep getting thrown to the ground. This is the Patience of Endurance which God supplies so we can go on. And we need God’s endurance because even the Energizer Bunny’s battery eventually wears out.
That brings us to Longsuffering. I can’t remember the last time I even heard anyone use this term for Patience and yet it is an extremely important aspect of what Biblical Patience is all about. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you learn it from suffering over a long period of time, though you do. Longsuffering has to do with patience during difficult times and situations. A couple of people have put it this way.
“Longsuffering is the ability to let your light shine even though your fuse is blown.” (4)
“Longsuffering is the ability to keep your shirt on when you’re hot under the collar.” (5)
Longsuffering is swallowing angry words so you don’t have to eat them later.
There was a First Grade teacher who had just finished putting the last pair of galoshes on her first- graders, thirty-two pairs in all. The last little girl said, “You know what, teacher? These aren’t my galoshes.”
The teacher removed them from the girl’s feet. Then the little girl continued, “They’re my sister’s, and she let me wear them.” The teacher quietly put them back on the girl. That’s Longsuffering.
A. Then there is Perseverance. This is Patience born of Trust, Trust in God which keeps us going. One cold February day a snail started climbing an apple tree. As he inched slowly upward, a worm stuck its head from a crevice in the tree and said. “You’re wasting your energy. There isn’t a single apple up there.”
The snail kept slowly climbing and said, “There will be when I get there.” (6)
That’s Perseverance. This is the Patience that allows us to go on because we know going on is the right thing to do. It may be hard but still we continue. This sense of Patience is born of the Love, Joy and Peace which we have experienced in God through Christ.
B. A young man in London wanted to be a writer but the cards seemed to be stacked against him. He had only four years of school and his father was in jail because he couldn’t pay his debts. Just to survive the pain of hunger, he got a job pasting labels on bottles in a rat infested warehouse. He slept in an attic with two other boys from the slums. With such little confidence in himself and his ability to write, he secretly slipped out and mailed his first manuscript in the middle of the night so nobody would laugh at his dream. That manuscript, along with countless others, were rejected. Finally, one story was accepted. He wasn’t paid anything but the editor praised him for his writing. That one little compliment caused him to wander aimlessly through the streets with tears rolling down his cheeks. That editor’s compliment inspired him to continue and improve. It also led to a brilliant career for Charles Dickens. (7)
Dickens had a dream and had faith in God and he continued despite the rejection letters. That’s Perseverance.
Patience helps us put the brakes on our own ego and our selfish desire to be first through God’s Steadfast love in our lives.
Patience helps us put the brakes on our willingness to give up or take the easy path. It encourages us to Endure because we know it’s the right thing and the courageous thing to do.
Patience helps us put the brakes on the barbed retort to an insult. Longsuffering allows us to pat someone on the hand or the back or the head when you feel like bashing it in.
Patience helps us put the brakes on our apathy and indifference and give us the strength and energy to keep going even when we’re exhausted.
Patience subdues our pride, sweetens our temper, bridles our tongue and strengthens our spirit. And all of these are only possible through Christ. Patience comes from God through that sense of Peace that passes all understanding which rises from the Joy of knowing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
“The will of God will not lead you where the power of God cannot enable you and the grace of God cannot keep you.” (8)
Patience is one of those things you can’t order on the internet or buy at your local convenience store. You can’t just go pick it and put in your pocket. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit that grows from a life of faith; a faith whose seeds are planted deep; a faith which is watered with unconditional love and fertilized with the joy and peace of an abiding relationship with God.
A word of advice. Never pray for patience. If you do, you will be tested in order to strengthen your patience. Instead, pray that God will help you use the patience God has already given you. If you do that, not only will you have patience, but it will multiply. Then your Patience will be strong.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. I don’t know who to attribute this to.
2. A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup For the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson, (1996, Health Communications, Inc, Deerfield Beach, FL) p. 70.
5. WordSearch Illustration Database
7. (Homemade, Volume 16, Number 3, March 1992, p. 1) IOWMAR92
8. From Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson, pg. 75