It was a great experience to travel to Sweden to see my Grandfather’s homeland and meet relatives for the first time. My daughters were travelling with me. It was on this trip that I received a serious lesson in the virtue of patience.
After meeting up with an older cousin and a short stop at her son’s apartment to freshen up, we headed for the ferry that was to take us across the Baltic Sea to the Island of Gotland. It was on that Island, about 50 kilometers in length, my Grandfather was raised and where many people in his family still lived.
As we got to the ferry launch, this American was met with a staggering sight. There were hundreds of people pressed into a large room all waiting to get to the ticket counter to purchase their tickets for the four-hour ferry ride. We were supposed to leave shortly and there was only ONE TICKET AGENT. My American brain couldn’t handle it. I turned to my cousin with my stress meter pegged and said, “We are never going to get on the ferry! This is impossible! There is only one sales agent handling this entire mob of people! There is no way!”
She looked at me and said, “I’ll take care of it. Follow me.” She excused her way through the mass of people and budged in front of everyone with us in tow. The ticket agent dropped what she was doing and sold us the needed tickets. Not one person objected to our budging.
I was horrified and ever so glad to leave the room full of quietly waiting people and get on the ferry. How embarrassing! What an example I had just shown to my girls. What a poor example I had been as a Christian and as an American. I had never been in a room of such patiently waiting people. And you know what the icing on the cake was? The ferry left on time.
What is patience? A noun meaning having the capacity to accept or tolerate delay or disappointment, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.
In a news report in an edition of the USA Today, in a report on motorist running red lights it says the following: The report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that running red lights injures a quarter of a million people every year and kills at least 800 people. The annual cost of people running red lights in the United States is 7 billion dollars. The average amount of time saved by running a red light is 50 seconds.
We are always trying to figure out how to cram more and more things that need to be done into less and less time. We allow less and less time for things. We don’t want to waste time because we feel the pressure of all we think we have to get done. The time crunch is felt by almost everyone.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
“It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities.” Proverbs 16:32
By “testing” our patience – God gives us true patience. It is easy to appear patient when everything is going your way. But what happens when things aren’t going your way? How patient are you?
How does God test our patience? The first test is interruptions. We have all experienced these. You sit down to dinner and the phone rings. Or you are in the bathtub and a salesperson comes to the door. Or you are working on a deadline and visitors arrive.
Jesus’ disciples were just a human as we are. They disliked interruptions. They became impatient with people who interrupted Jesus’ busy schedule. “Then some children were brought to Jesus so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14 How do you handle interruptions? That is the first test of your patience.
Inconveniences are the second test of your patience. How do you deal with inconveniences in your life? Americans hate to be delayed. We have a microwave mentality, we want what we want when we want it. We have a Minute Rice, instant oatmeal, instant coffee, and fast food approach to life. We don’t like to wait. We have a heart attack if we miss the green light! We can’t wait.
Luke 10:40 tells us about a woman who had trouble being patient in the face of inconvenience. Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha. Martha was busy preparing a meal for the guests. But Mary was not helping. So here is what happens: “Martha had her hands full of the work of the house, and she came to Jesus and said, “Lord, is it nothing to you that my sister has let me do all the work? Say to her that she is to give me some help.” Luke 10:40
Martha was upset with her sister because Mary had left her to do all the work. Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt that the load you were carrying was not fair? Are you patient despite the inconvenience?
The third test of your patience is irritations. Those little things in life that bug you. Slow traffic, long lines, hot weather. Most of irritations aren’t controllable. So, we have to learn to deal with them. How do you handle them? It takes patience.
For many of us our greatest irritation in life are people. We run into people who are irritating or get us down somehow. Maybe we need to learn the lessons of the oyster. The oyster takes an irritation, a grain of sand, and turns it into a pearl. Learning to respond to irritations positively will enable us to transform your irritation into pearls.
The fourth test of your patience is inactivity. Most of us would rather do anything but wait. We hate to wait in the doctor’s office or wait at the stop light or wait in line at the supermarket.
We often speak of the “patience of Job.” Job is an example of a man who could do nothing but wait. He said: “All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes.” Job 14:14b We can learn much from Job’s example.
What causes impatience? A lack of peace. Perhaps that is why God put patience right after peace in the list of fruit of the Spirit. When you have peace in your heart, almost nothing can make you impatient. But when you do not have peace in your heart, almost anything can make you impatient. So how can you learn to be a patient person?
First, develop a new perspective. Find a new way of looking at the situation or the person that is giving you problems. When I am impatient, all I see is myself: my needs, my desires, my goals, my wants, my schedule, and how people are messing up my life. The root of impatience is selfishness. So, I need to get a new perspective on life. I need to learn to see things from other people’s point of view.
God is in control. He uses every situation to make me better. “Man’s steps are ordered by the Lord.” Proverbs 20:24
This means you may experience some heavenly interruptions. Sometimes God will put irritating people around you for the purpose of teaching you something. Get a new perspective. Look at it from God’s point of view. Patience is a mark of maturity. Most children are very impatient but maturity involves the ability to wait.
A second way to become a patient person is to develop a sense of humor. Learn to laugh at your circumstances. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to have joy in every situation. “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Scientific studies show that people who laugh live longer. Humor is a tension dissolver. It is an antidote to anxiety. Laughter is life’s shock absorber.
The third step in becoming a patient person is to deepen your love. First Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient…” When you love someone, you care about that person’s needs, desires, hurts, and point of view, not just your own. When you are filled with love, almost nothing can provoke you to anger or cause you to be impatient. Ephesians 4:1-2 “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…”
The final step in developing patience is to depend on God. Patience is not just a matter of human willpower. It is the fruit of the Spirit. You cannot just psych yourself up and say, “I’m going to be patience today if it kills me.” It will. Patience is not saying, “He doesn’t really irritate me,” when deep inside you are really thinking, I hate that guy. If it is God’s patience you feel, you will have a genuine inner peace. Certain situations won’t bother you the way they used to.
Patience is a form of faith. You believe that God has his hand in these irritations and can use them in your life for good. Faith helps us look at life from God’s point of view. Faith helps us say, “God, what do you want me to learn in this situation?” instead of saying, “Why did this happen?
Noah had to wait 120 years for the promised rain to come. That is a long time to be patient. Abraham waited a hundred years to have a son. That is a long time to be patient. Moses waited forty years in the desert and then spent another forty years leading the children of Israel across the desert to the Promised Land. That is a long time to be patient.
The hardest kind of waiting happens when you are in a hurry and God is not. It is hard to be patient when you are waiting for an answer to prayer. But remember, God is never late. His timing is perfect. He may not move according to our schedule but he is always on time. “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” Psalm 37:7a
“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.” 2 Peter 3:9
You are awesome. You are powerful, and you do impossible things. I come to you and pray that you would transform me so that I enjoy the beauty of patience. May I become the patient person that you are leading me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray,