In this month of December, we are focusing on the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. All of these are excellent characteristics of the follower of Christ. If we are honest, most of us probably struggle with at least one of these; or would like to be more fruitful in at least one of these expressions of the Christian life. The fruit of the Spirit as the thermometer of our behavior, and the Spirit (God) is as the thermostat, the one who regulates our behavior. Each fruit illustrated to us in the Bible are of great value in the life of those of us who want to honor God, but today, I will focus on just one of them, Patience.
Although patience is called a virtue, many of us tend to avoid using this word in our daily conversations. I admit, I too struggle to bear this fruit in abundance. Who wants to be patient when we live in a society that is always in a hurry? Who honestly like to wait? When I was in the military, one of our daily routines was to hurry up and wait. In other words, we had to hurry up to get in formation, and then wait to receive instructions for the day. I remember during the first two years of my term we were ordered to rush to formation on a very hot day for a ceremony. We must have stood in formation for nearly two hours before the ceremony began. Being a new soldier, I wanted to stand perfectly, without flinching. However, I learned the hard way that there was a proper way to wait in formation. It was necessary to bend my knees, but instead, I stood there as stiff as a board until finally, I was on the ground. My legs gave out because I did not stand and wait properly. I learned later that it is important to occasionally bend your knees while in parade rest, otherwise, blood does not flow properly to the legs. Once I learned the importance of bending my knees while waiting in formation, I was much better off. It was still difficult sometimes, but much more doable. A little strategy in waiting took me a long way.
In our personal life, we often find ourselves having to wait. Even our highest performing technology often require us to wait. When I was a new Christian, one of my prayer requests was for patience because I was anxious for positive changes to take place in my life. Somehow, I thought being patient would make things happen faster. Well, if you have been a Christian for long, you know that praying for patience means “trouble”. For some, this might sound strange or offensive, but the book of James says: “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need” (James 1:2-4). From this I gather, as strenuous exercise is to the body to produce muscles, so are troubles or difficulties in our life necessary to produce patience.
Most of us have heard of the “patience” of Job. Hopefully, none of us will have to experience anything close to what he went through. However, it seems his story and this phrase is to remind us that patience requires waiting, and waiting can be difficult, especially when it is not done properly as was my initial experience in the military. We must learn how to wait. It may not remove the difficulty, nor make things happen faster, but it will make waiting more bearable with minimum delay.
Therefore, I suggest the way to wait patiently must be to rely on God’s help. Those of us who have experienced weight training know that when lifting heavy weights, it is highly recommended to have a weight trainer or someone present to help if the weight becomes too heavy. After a few repetitions, it is easy to get stuck and unable to complete the set of repetitions, but a trainer or partner can easily help in time of need. When we are going through difficult times, it is necessary to have someone there to help when the weight gets too heavy, first God, and then friends who will help carry the load. Relying on others to help might seem like bending your knees while in formation, or like being less than perfect, but we must remember, we are all a work in progress. Therefore, when waiting, bend your knees every so often to avoid a fall. Remember, you are a work in progress, so if you do fall, you just get up and improve your strategy.