Ministry Resources

Abundant Living

In this course the term fruit of the Spirit refers to the nine qualities of Christian character listed in Galatians 5:22–23. However, for the sake of identification we sometimes will refer to one of these nine dimensions of spiritual fruit, such as “the fruit of joy,” or “the fruit of self-control.” Keep in mind that each characteristic is but one facet of the fruit of the Spirit. Series written by Antonio Gilberto da Silva

Patience: The Fruit of Perseverance

Being patient . . . for healing, for deliverance, for guidance, for training … is often difficult. We want things to happen NOW, not somewhere in the distant future. Time never drags more slowly than when we are waiting for someone to arrive, or for something to take place. But the best things seem to require a great deal of patience. A doctor must study for seven to ten years before he can realize his goal. A parent must teach his child the same lesson repeatedly before it is learned. Most of us work hard and save our money for a long period of time before we can have something that is important to us. And the Spirit filled Christian must learn the secret of patience if a Christlike character is to be developed in him or her.

People often speak of the patience of Job. Job suffered long and waited patiently upon the Lord before he received healing and the restoration of his family and possessions. Moses spent 40 years in the school of patience before he reached his potential in usefulness for the Lord. We are advised to “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8). The development of patience is an important part of our becoming like Christ (see 2 Peter 1:5–8).

This lesson will help you to see the importance of patience, and will show ways you can cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He produces this fruit in you.

Patience Identified

Biblical Definitions

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience . . . (Galatians 5:22). The first three qualities of spiritual fruit—love, joy, and peace—are essential ingredients of our inward spiritual life, our personal relationship to God—that which takes place when the Holy Spirit abides within us. The next three aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, beginning with patience, are outward manifestations of love, joy, and peace in our relationships with others.

The Greek word which we have translated as “patience” is makrothumia (from makros, meaning “long,” and thumia, meaning “temper, nature, disposition”). The original word combines the ideas of long-suffering and being even-tempered, in divine dimensions. In other words, the person in whom the Holy Spirit is producing the fruit of patience is learning to wait upon the Lord without losing hope, admitting defeat, or being controlled by anger.

Patience as the fruit of the Spirit enables a believer to exercise self-restraint (holding oneself back) in the face of testing. It is not hasty to “get even” or to punish. At the same time, it does not surrender to difficult circumstances or fall apart under sustained trials. Patience in this respect is closely related to suffering, as we shall see later. It is perseverance or endurance. Without such patience we would faint. It is in our hardships that the patience of the Spirit is produced in us. All of these aspects of patience are part of the developmental process which conforms us into the image of Christ. This process is the subject of 2 Peter 1:5–8:

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance [patience]; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Biblical Usage

There is a strong relationship between patience and other aspects of the Christian life. We will consider some of them here in the light of what the Scriptures have to say about them.

  1. Patience and suffering. No one goes through life without some measure of suffering. This is part of our “schooling.” The psalmist said, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). Trials for the Christian may be likened to the work of sheep dogs: they keep the sheep close to the shepherd. Trials are the discipline of a loving heavenly Father who wants us to share in His holiness. Hebrews 12:7–11 explains this:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! . . . God disciplines for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

The young plant that is bent back and forth by the wind develops strong and deep roots. The opposing winds of this life help the Christian to develop strong and deep roots in Christ and to have a submissive spirit.

Many Scriptures reveal that to follow Christ includes a cross. In 1 Peter 2:21 the apostle wrote, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Because we live in a spiritually hostile world there are always enemies to be defeated. Jesus suffered at the hands of a pagan Pilate and an angry crowd from the outside world. But He also suffered as a result of unfaithful Judas on the inside. Whether we are required to learn patience by trials in the world or within the Christian fellowship, Jesus is our example. When He was tempted by Satan, He rejected the idea of a throne without a cross (Matthew 4:1–11). Again as He considered the suffering that lay ahead of Him, He rejected the same idea (John 16:17–33).

ixteenth century. Her life is an outstanding example of patience in suffering. When she was a young woman she was stricken with an illness which nearly took her life, and which left her paralyzed with a severe heart problem. For three years she was paralyzed; then slowly she began to regain the use of her arms and legs, crawling on her hands and knees to move about. She said, “I am resigned to the will of God, even if He leaves me in this state forever.” In her last letter before her death she wrote, “O that I could clearly explain the peace and quiet my soul has found! Everything in me is directed to the honor of God…. Sometimes God has me suffer without any inward comfort, but my will never swerves from the will of God.” She signed her letter not as she is presently known in history books, but as “Teresa of Jesus.”

  1. Patience and perseverance. Many Bible translators interchange the words patience and perseverance. Perseverance speaks of endurance, or holding on to that which you believe no matter what happens. Someone has said that makrothumia is love patiently waiting even in suffering. Colossians 1:9–11 tells us how we may endure with patience:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.

  1. Patience, joy, and hope. In Romans 5:3–4 grouped together are suffering, joy, patience, and hope: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” These verses show the progression of Christian development and maturity through suffering and patience, leading to hope. It is not too difficult to wait and hope when things seem to be working out, but when nothing seems to be happening to relieve the suffering, the natural reaction is to feel despair and hopelessness. Patience, as the fruit of the Spirit, is not a gloomy and blind acceptance of this kind of situation—it is being filled with joy and confidence in the Lord. Such patience makes us echo the psalmist, “You are my God. My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14–15).
  2. Patience and wisdom. Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” A patient person will try to understand all sides of a problem before he draws conclusions and makes judgments. This characteristic will help parents to train their children wisely; it will promote peace within the body of Christ; and it will help each of us in our daily relationships.
  3. Patience and peace. Patience as spiritual fruit is a powerful resource to calm a situation. Proverbs 15:18 describes what happens: “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” This goes back to the idea of being a peacemaker, which we studied in the last lesson. A patient man will not be controlled by his anger but will demonstrate the peace of God in his actions, words, concern, and assistance.
  4. Patience and strength. Strength is associated with an able-bodied person or one being heavily guarded or protected. Proverbs 16:32 tells us: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” In the spiritual sense, the strong person is the one who is patient.
  5. Patience and forgiveness. To bear with one another and forgive one another with love we need the fruit of patience. In Colossians 3:12–13 the apostle Paul exhorts the church:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Jesus told His disciples the story of an ungrateful man who would not forgive his fellow servant after he, himself, had been forgiven (Matthew 18:21–35). Jesus said that his master turned the man over to the jailers until he paid back all he owed. Jesus then added, “‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart’” (v. 35).

Patience as the fruit of the Spirit is the basis for forgiveness. So patience and long-suffering also include a forgiving spirit. We read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is patient, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, and always perseveres. All of the aspects of spiritual patience are included here.

  1. Faith plus patience. Faith is vital for the Christian, because the righteous will live by faith. But sometimes faith must be proved to be refined, and it is with patience that we stand the test. Faith, patience, and God’s promises are all involved in the beautiful passage of Hebrews 6:11–12: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Patience Described

Perhaps you will better understand the importance of patience as the fruit of the Spirit if we first consider it from the aspect of God’s patience. As we see in Galatians 5:22, it is descriptive of God’s nature and character. This is how God described himself to Moses:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6–7)

Every description in this verse speaks of divine patience in God’s relationship to man. The patience of God is a recurring theme throughout the Scriptures. Consider these examples:

  1. The people of Noah’s day were sinners of the worst sort (see Genesis 6:1–12). Yet the apostle Peter reports that “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (1 Peter 3:20). The patience of God was so great that He waited seven days after Noah and his family had entered the ark before He sent the rain (Genesis 7:9–10). Even so, none of the wicked people took advantage of the opportunity to escape destruction.
  2. God’s patience is demonstrated over and over in His dealings with the Israelites. Moses pled before God when they rebelled in the desert and wanted to return to Egypt, and he reminded the Lord of what He had declared: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion” (Numbers 14:18). Leviticus 26 records the words of the Lord to the Israelites, promising rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience. But His patience is revealed by these words in verses 40–42: “‘“If they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me . . .—I will remember my covenant with Jacob.”’”
  3. King David had committed some terrible sins. He recognized that he deserved death, and he said, “‘I have sinned against the Lord’” (2 Samuel 12:13). But he called on God, invoking His mercy and patience, and he was forgiven. Many of his psalms recognize the patience of the Lord and His forgiveness.

Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God. (Psalm 71:19–22)

This psalm indicates repeatedly that the Lord was patient to restore David and rescue him from his troubles.

  1. When Nehemiah, recognizing the many terrible sins of his people, made intercessory prayer for them, he expressed his trust in God with these words:

But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love . . . Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them . . . You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths. For forty years you sustained them. (Nehemiah 9:17, 19–21)

You need only to read the story of the Israelites and their wilderness journey to see how great was the patience of the Lord with them.

  1. The apostle Peter speaks of the Lord’s patience in his second Epistle: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

The Christian and Patience

Patience as the fruit of the Holy Spirit operates outwardly, towards our fellowman, and inwardly, towards ourselves, mainly when we are under trial. Hebrews 12:7–11 tells us that we are to face our trials with endurance, and accept them as discipline, because God uses them to teach us to submit to Him. Thus, endurance of trials is part of the process by which the Christlike nature is being developed in us.

Patience is essential in the family relationship. The home is the testing ground for the fruit of patience in your family life. Great patience is required to train children with love and correct discipline. The husband and wife need to practice patience with one another to maintain a loving relationship.

All of the aspects of patience we have mentioned—being longsuffering and even-tempered, slow to anger, having self restraint, endurance, perseverance, and a forgiving spirit—are produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we are called upon to exercise them daily in our relationships. The important thing is that we turn to the Holy Spirit for help when we face situations where patience is needed.

First Thessalonians 5:15 says, “Be kind to each other and to everyone else.” That means being patient with each member of our family, with our church family, and with every person we encounter every day of our lives. In our own nature this would be impossible. But when the nature of God is being perfected in us by the Holy Spirit, we can be patient with everyone.

The Ministry and Patience

The fruit of patience is invaluable in the life and work of a minister of the gospel. Patience is needed in preparation— prayer, Bible study, training, and development; in leadership and in ministering to others. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy concerning this need for patience:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. . . . keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2, 5)

Patience cannot be transferred from one person to another, or imparted by prayer, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, or any other such things. It is produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to form in us the image of Christ. Every trial, every test, every delay in your life can be an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of patience in you.

Patience Illustrated

Negative Examples

Sometimes it helps us to understand the importance of a Christlike attitude when we see what happens when the attitude is lacking. These negative examples from the Bible show some problems that a lack of patience may cause.

Abraham. God promised Abraham that his seed would become a great nation (Genesis 15:5). For lack of patience, Abraham did not wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise, but decided to take control of the situation himself. As a result, Ishmael was born out of the will of God. Ishmael was a source of problems for Abraham and Sarah, as well as Isaac, and there is still today conflict between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac.

Jacob. This young man did not wait patiently for the fulfillment of the word spoken by the Lord, that he would become a leader (Genesis 25:23). Genesis chapter 27 tells how he deceived his father in order to receive the blessing. For his impatience in waiting for the Lord to make him a leader, he suffered exile and many other hardships. His difficulties were summed up in his statement when he opened his heart before Pharaoh, “My years have been few and difficult” (Genesis 47:9).

Saul. When Saul was anointed as the first king over Israel, he was humble and anointed by the Holy Spirit. But he did not obey the Lord’s command to wait seven days until Samuel would come and tell him what to do. Because he was impatient, he assumed the priestly office, offered the burnt offering himself, and as a result lost his kingdom (see 1 Samuel 10:8–10; 12:11–14).

Jonah. It is hard to believe, but Jonah became impatient and angry with the Lord because of the Lord’s great compassion and patience with the city of Nineveh. Jonah said to the Lord, “‘I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’” (Jonah 4:2). Obviously, Jonah’s attitude toward the city was not as compassionate and forgiving as God’s.

In the following exercises, choose the response that best summarizes the principle we can apply to our lives from the various examples described.

Positive Examples

David. The psalmist learned how important it was to wait for the Lord. In Psalm 37:7 he writes, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Later he gives this testimony: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

Old Testament prophets. James 5:10 says, “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Think of Elijah, Elisha, the weeping prophet Jeremiah, and the many others in the Old Testament who patiently spoke on behalf of God to the rebellious people. Those saints of God had Spirit-given patience.

Job. We could not fail to mention Job, a man of such great patience that he is commended for his patience in James 5:11. Although Job suffered in every way possible—physically, emotionally, by loss of possessions and loss of family—yet his patience made it possible for him to endure all of his unbearable trials and say, in reference to God, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’” (Job 13:15).

Paul. In 2 Corinthians 6:4, 6, Paul acknowledges that he is a patient man. In the same chapter, verses 4 through 10, Paul describes the dark clouds of heavy storms in his life. It is not easy to be patient in circumstances like these, unless the fruit of the Spirit is a reality in your life. Later in 2 Timothy, which he wrote while imprisoned, Paul mentions again his patience, faith, love, and endurance (3.10). Paul was truly a disciple who learned patience from his Master. That is why he was able to write these words:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16)

And the writer to the Hebrews challenges us with these words:

Run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, KJV)

The second coming of Christ. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us the promise of His return. Centuries have passed, but the church still waits for the fulfillment of this promise with a thriving and lively hope. James reminded us of the need to wait in patience: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming…. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7–8). As we have already seen, the Lord will keep His promise, and one of the reasons He delays is that He is extending an opportunity for people to repent of their sins and be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

The concluding words of Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are: “To him who overcomes, I will give . . .” The one who overcomes is the patient one. As the apostle Paul implies, the eternal reward for patience makes it all worthwhile:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

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