Last night my husband and my 7-year-old son were watching an HBO boxing clip on YouTube. My son piped up and said, “Hey Dad – Wouldn’t it be funny if there was an ‘O’ after the ‘H’ on HBO?” Hobo boxing?! Where does this kid get his stuff? I didn’t even know he knew what hobo meant. I chuckled for a good while on that one.
So how could I get short tempered with a comedian like that around? I don’t know, but I did last week. I was feeling a little under the weather. Financial pressures were bearing down on me. A somewhat nerve-wracking visit to a new church (with a possible ministry position) was scheduled. I was struggling with some other hurts and attitudes. I just wanted this time to be over. I wanted to pursue a direction, settle into life, and have everything be OK.
I tried to write, cook, clean, or anything to keep my mind busy. But my kids wouldn’t let me hide. The same two little guys that I usually enjoy and appreciate became needy, annoying little monsters who were trying to torture and sabotage me. I ignored them as much as I could and snapped at them when I couldn’t.
The problem? Patience. And guess what the sermon topic was when we visited that new Church? Yep—patience. Only, it wasn’t like any other sermon I’ve heard on the subject. The pastor pulled out the Greek and showed that the word translated ‘patience’ in most cases is μακροθυμία (makrothumia). Literally, long-wrath. This obviously is not referring to an especially long, ugly fit; rather, it speaks of an extended delay of wrath. It means to bear with people and circumstances—to not lose focus, despair, freak out, or blow up. It means to trust God and realize that even the scariest or most aggravating of circumstances are temporary. Most will end in days or weeks. Some might be years. But all of them will end one day when God makes all things new. That truth is the reason we can and should practice patience.
I appreciated all of that as a reminder that I desperately needed. But then a very interesting point was made—a tie that I hadn’t really thought about too much. Patient is how God describes Himself.
Exodus 34:6 (NASB)
6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Patience is not just an item in our arsenal of polite and appropriate behaviors to give Christianity a good name. It is an essential part of God’s character. This is about conforming to the image of God. This about being more like Him—the way I was created to be. If I am following Jesus, this is not optional.
Intersting, too, that patience is listed among the fruits of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22 (NASB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…
If I am walking in the Spirit, patience will increasingly characterize my life.
Last week, I felt like I was bearing up OK. But really I was just trying to hide. I didn’t lose my cool and blow my top at God. Instead I let the pressure of my impatience squirt out the sides at my kids. I should have taken the time to face up to how I was feeling, why I was feeling that way, repent of my doubt and fear, and once again commit it all too God.
I think I’ll try that this week.
Here is the audio file of the whole sermon. It’s really quite good. The Wisdom that comes from heaven: Patience, by pastor Chris Stuart.