PATIENCE: Fruit 4 of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22d
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Love, joy, peace, patience – patience is love, joy, and peace being calm under pressure. Patience entails not seeking revenge when we are wronged.

Believers must not retaliate when hurt by others. We must be hesitant to assert our own rights when injured.

In not seeking revenge, believers must go much farther than unbelievers go. Watchman Nee told of a Christian in China who had a rice field on a hillside. During a drought he used a waterwheel, worked by a treadmill, to lift water from a stream to his field. In the night, his neighbor made a breach in the dividing bank and drained off the water. The Christian fixed the breach, and pumped water again, only to have the same thing happen several times. He consulted Christian friends, “I have tried to be patient and not to retaliate, but is it right?”

After they prayed, one said, “If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right.” The brother was deeply touched. Next morning he pumped water for his neighbor’s field first, and in the afternoon pumped water for his own field. He had no more trouble keeping water in his field. His neighbor was so amazed at his action that he began to inquire the reason, and soon became a Christian.

Nee also told of a Japanese Christian lady whose home was broken into by a thief. She prepared the man a meal and gave him her house-key. The man was so overwhelmed and humiliated by it that he began to investigate the reason for her action and later became a Christian.

Patience makes us similar to God. Few acts are more Christian than being able to revenge ourselves yet not doing so.

As Christians, our standard for patience is high and preset. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).

We Christians are to forgive as God forgave us. Five reminders of how God forgave us will help and challenge us.

One, God forgave us without retaining a grudge. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God casts all His people’s sins “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Hezekiah confessed, “You have thrown all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17).

Our sins are gone. God shows no vestige of displeasure. Consequences abide, and we must someday give an account, but our ongoing relationship with God here on earth can be as absolutely flawless as if the sin were never committed.

In interpersonal relationships, the believer should always have all accounts up to date. With people who have hurt us, we should be as bold as a lion, no hesitation in our handshake, no fear of looking anyone in the eye, no need to avoid a certain hallway or store for fear of seeing a particular person. Others may hold a grudge against us, but we must refuse to sink to their level.

Two, God forgave us eagerly and spontaneously. With absolute cheer, He enjoys forgiving us. He gladly runs to hug us, plus puts the ring and best robe on the returning prodigal.

If affronted, spontaneously pray, “How can I initiate reconciliation?” And when the chance comes, “do not dwarf the opportunity, but enlarge it, and when thou dost forgive, have so much forgiveness left that thou couldst do it seven times again, and then seventy times seven; for thou drawest thy forgiveness from the fountain of the cross” (Parker).

Three, God forgave us freely. We did not earn forgiveness by sacrifice or good works. It came by grace.

The one who wronged us may not deserve our forgiveness. We did not deserve God’s. The forgiveness we enjoy was unmerited, and since we cannot forgive God in return, we express our appreciation to Him by forgiving others who do not deserve our forgiveness.

Four, God forgave us before He was asked. Technically and legally, our sins are forgiven when we repent and ask for forgiveness, but we know His forgiveness was seeking us before we sought it.

New believers think we find God, but mature saints know God finds us. God’s forgiveness of us took wing before we were born, and began to fly our way long before we turned to receive it.

Has someone hurt us, and not yet apologized? Have we forgiven them already, even before they ask our forgiveness? If they ever do speak to us about it, can we honestly say the incident is already a thing of the past?

We are not to endure injury without open resentment while harboring ill will within. A lid left on a seething pot of water forebodes disaster.

The lid will blow off, or the pan will explode. Keep flushing out ill will by prayer. See “that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many” (Hebrews 12:15b).

Bitterness, the opposite of sweetness, is an inner sourness, an acid within, a slow-moving cancer of the soul which gnaws at the very vitals of inner comfort, contentment, and tranquility.

Bitter people are the world’s most miserable people. They make themselves and everyone around them miserable.

Bitterness can be resentment against others internalized and smoldering. It often begins in a refusal to forgive a personal wrong done to us by another.

Our grievances against those who hurt us may be genuine, but as we internalize our frustrations, they make us angry at life in general. Once this happens, we are actually angry against God, for He rules in human affairs.

We may not consciously realize it, and may deny it, but it is true. The bottom line of bitterness is anger against God.

Circumstances and events are ultimately in God’s control. Patience proves we know in whose hand our cause is lodged.

Patience is the sticking point for many a believer. Love, joy, and peace have often tripped, and soft hearts have hardened, over a wrong done to us by others which led to a grievance being long nursed in us.

This is tragic. The depth of our commitment should not be determined by the actions of others. Do not let the ingratitude and harshness of others defile our spirituality.

Five, God forgave us though it brought Him pain. When people hurt us, our first impulse is to pay back the evil-doer, but we must do what Jesus did ( bear it.

Pain in damaged interpersonal relationships can be removed from the earth only if it is absorbed by one of the offended partners. Otherwise it continues to bounce in all directions, hurting people.

Someone must take the daggers into their own heart and there let them rest. This is what Jesus did for us. On the cross, He absorbed our pain.

Most people are congenial and soft as long as they are properly treated. Even Scribes and Pharisees were kind and tender-hearted when all went well for them.

Friendliness and congeniality are often too much an echo, returning exactly what they receive, and nothing more. We find it much harder to be kind and tender in the painful experiences of life. When hurt by someone, Christian living tests its mettle.

We are to forgive others as God forgave us in Christ. My immediate reaction to this command is desperation and hopelessness.

I cannot do this. We all stand condemned before this challenge. Adherence to this standard requires an absolute miracle, which is exactly what God provides.

Every command of Scripture is a promise by God to supply the power needed to obey it. He has commanded us to do this, and will empower us to do it.