Patience is a great virtue. It is also a great challenge!
As the apostle Paul wrapped up his first letter to the Thessalonians, he did so with a staccato burst of priceless principles. Each one is like a gem in a necklace, a wise truth to wear around our necks as we chart our way through life (Proverbs 3:3). Standing out among these principles is the command to be patient.
In the Greek, Paul uses the word makrothumeo, a word that literally means “long-hearted” and that the Scriptures usually use to describe the character of God (for example, Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 1:16; James 5:10). Patience is not quick-tempered with those who fail. Paul tells us to have this divine type of patience as we deal with the idle, the fainthearted, and the weak. Encountering each provides us with an opportunity to live out godly patience.
How do we gain this kind of patience? It does not come naturally! So we need, first, to look at God. We have a God who is “gracious, slow to anger [makrothumeo] and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). He looks upon our rebellious hearts and yet forgives us. He looks upon our repeated failures and yet does not give up on us. He looks upon our doubts and anxieties and yet is gentle with us. We are called to mirror this patience. And so we need, second, to ask God for help. This supernatural patience is something that only God, by His Spirit, can produce within our lives. Paul, for example, prayed that the Colossians would be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). Every one of us needs someone to pray that prayer on our behalf, as well as to pray it for ourselves. Every one of us ought to be doing the same for others, because it’s a prayer God is eager to answer. When God’s power is unleashed in our lives, we can endure when we feel like quitting, and so we can extend patience when we feel like flat-out losing it.
How will you respond to the nuisances of everyday life—while waiting in line at the drive-thru, or at the green light when the car in front of you doesn’t move? How will you respond to your brothers and sisters who are idle, or fainthearted, or weak? Let your watchword in those situations and with those people simply be patience. The people around you won’t be particularly impressed by your theological knowledge, but they’ll surely notice your impatience, which communicates that you think your time and interests are more significant than theirs. But conversely, they will notice your patience, which tells them that you are prizing the interests and well-being of others above your own (Philippians 2:3)—just as your heavenly Father does.
No doubt you will have opportunities today to show divine patience when you are tempted to display human impatience. In those moments, recognize the immensity of God’s patience to you and you will surely grow in your patience for others.
9And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12giving thanks4 to the Father, who has qualified you5 to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
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