The fourth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is patience.
In his book, The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes:
What if there is hope? What if the sun will rise again tomorrow on a new day with new mercies? What if God’s promises are really worth trusting in and holding to? These are the questions we must ask while living patiently. (pg. 56)
When we think of patience, we often think of waiting without complaining. But from the Biblical view, as Piper’s questions point to, patience is more about waiting with hope. Romans 12:12 tells us to “be patient in affliction.” But how can we wait with hope when things seem to be going bad?
We look forward to the return of Jesus.
This is why James wrote in his letter: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8)
James uses a practical illustration to make his point: The harvest is the good thing longed for by the farmer, but he can’t force it. He has to work the ground, plant the seed, wait for rain, and wait for it to grow. But he waits with hope and expectation, knowing that the crop will come.
In the same way, life has its ups and downs. We experiences gains and losses, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains–in the good, we wait for the even better to come with Jesus, and in the bad, we wait for the perfect joys to come with Jesus.
But patience isn’t simply directed at our longing for Jesus’ return. We’re also to be patient with others, just as God is patient with us (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Peter 3:9). Patience realizes that we are all works in progress in this life and that God isn’t finished shaping us until we breathe our last breath.
So, we strive to be patient with ourselves as God works in us, and we strive to be patient with others as God works in them. And it is the Spirit that helps shape patience in our lives. The Spirit reminds us of the hope we have in Christ and keeps it as a light in our heart during times of struggle. The Spirit also changes our perception of others, helping us to see them through Jesus as either our brothers and sisters or potential brothers and sisters. This, also, helps us to grow patient hearts.
So let us pray for greater patience–waiting in hope as God works his plan in the world and in the lives of others.
Next time, we’ll consider the fruit of kindness.
All scripture references from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).