This is the fourth of nine pieces of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Patience is one of those words that has come to mean something different in our world today than it did in Scripture. Because of this, we might be quick to assess ourselves as either being patient or impatient – whatever the case may be – and move on to the next piece of fruit on the list. To measure our level of patience we reflect on ordeals such as waiting in the security line at the airport, driving through mall traffic, or waiting in the 10 items or less line behind the woman fumbling through her change purse or the man writing out a check for his fifteen items. These tried-and-true gauntlets are meant to plumb the depths of our character and reveal just how patient a person we are becoming.
But when the Apostle Paul included patience as one of the pieces of fruit that defines a follower of Jesus, he did not have security lines, traffic, or the checkout lanes in mind. The Biblical meaning of patience is much closer to that of endurance or perseverance rather than one’s ability to wait an extra five minutes without fussing and fuming. In fact, the words for patience, endurance, and perseverance are often used interchangeably in Scripture. We can even use both words together – patient endurance – to come closer to the original intent.
The perfect example in the devolvement of the meaning of patience can be found by comparing two translations of James 1:3-4. The old King James reads, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” More modern translations, however, have updated this passage to read, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” You see, it is not our notion of patience that brings about maturity, but rather perseverance.
Patience is most often associated with two realms in the Bible: relationships and circumstances. Relationally, it is not first and foremost our patience with strangers that Jesus seemed to be concerned about – though that may serve as an early warning system within our spirit – but patience with friends and family. Patience can be found among the one another commands used to instruct disciples how to interact with fellow believers. And yes, sometimes when it comes to relationships, endurance is the better word.
Patience is also a key characteristic in getting through our circumstances. When our circumstances get difficult, perseverance will be the true test of whether we learn and grow from those circumstances or whether we take flight and seek out comfort and security. There is little doubt that the Godly route to maturity takes the path of perseverance and not comfort. Truly, patience can be defined as “the discipline of hanging in there.”
So whether patience, endurance, or perseverance is the word that resonates with you, how is this Fruit of the Spirit manifesting itself in your life?
- Am I growing in my willingness to stick with my relationships and persevere through my circumstances?
- What relationships in your life try your patience and why?
- Are there circumstances you currently find yourself in, in which you might be called to learn something through them rather than trying to escape them?