Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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11. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Patience – Part 1

Galatians 5:16-24

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a]you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

It’s here in Galatians 5 that we come to the fourth fruit, that of patience. Patience is not just something we are called to possess but something we are called to put it into practice. A truck driver sat down to eat at an all-night restaurant. The waitress had just served him his meal when three guys riding Harley’s showed up and swaggered into the diner. One grabbed the man’s hamburger; another took a fistful of his French Fries; and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. The trucker responded with great patience. He calmly got up from the table, picked up his check, walked to the front of the restaurant, put his money on the cash register, and headed out the door. The waitress watched as the big truck drove off into the night. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “He wasn’t much of a man, was he?” To which she replied, “He’s not much of a truck driver either. He just ran over three motorcycles out in the parking lot.” As we look at cultivating the Christ like character of patience we need to recognize that this is the fruit we are most likely to try and pass on. One of the reasons we dislike this fruit has to do with the greenhouse in which it is best grown. Patience is best developed through difficulties. Contrary to what we want patience is cultivated in the challenges not in the coddling. While we may want to grow in the good times the truth is that most growth occurs in the groaning times. We all struggle with practicing patience in fact for many of us our impatience seems to be insatiable. I’m wired for action and its easy for me to get frustrated with how slow things move at times. But as I take the time to look at my heart and do a personal inventory of my life, I have come to realize that a large portion of my sins are linked to my lack of patience. While I might not drive over motorcycles, (which as a biker I see as the unforgivable sin just kidding), sometimes I actually do much worse, I drive over people. The road of impatience is not just paved with problems and pain, but it almost always leads to spiritual disaster. So why is it so difficult to be a patient person? Why is it that the only people that seem to have lots of patience are doctors!! Well there are at least 2 reasons why patience is so rare today.

  • It goes against human nature.

From the moment we’re born we want things taken care of right away. When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry, it doesn’t lie there and think, “I know mom and dad are tired, so I’ll just wait until breakfast time.” No, the baby cries impatiently until it receives the attention it demands. Many of us have never grown up, and so we are still acting like babies demanding that everything be about us and now. The second reason why patience is so rare today is that:

  • It’s contrary to our culture.

Those of you who have had the privilege of traveling to other countries recognize that in the western world people are wound pretty tight. That reminds me of the man whose car had stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. As he frantically tried to get his car started, he was greeted by a chorus of honking horns and angry faces. He finally got out of his car, walked back to the driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk the horn for you.” We live in a fast food instant gratification world, were we expect to get what we want, how we want and when we want it.

Last time as we looked at the fruit of peace we saw that we cannot fully experience this Christian character trait until we have peace with God which leads to the peace of God, allowing us to have peace with people. Now these fruits are all connected with each other. Only one who demonstrates peace can truly display patience, just as patience is a necessary prerequisite for establishing peace. Unfortunately, many of us pray “Dear God, please grant me patience, and I want it right now.” Galatians 5:22 makes it clear that patience is a fruit of the Spirit which is a surprise to some because we tend to think of patience as a personality trait. When we do we may be tempted to believe that some personality types are more prone to patience than others. And usually we have determined that we are not one of them! But we need to remember that patience is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He alone is the source and supplier of patience because He is the God of all patience. Only as we are filled with the Spirit and stay connected to the vine will we be able to know and experience His patience. Just as we can’t manufacture love, joy or peace on our own, we certainly can’t pretend to have patience when we don’t. Patience is not the result of self-control but the Spirits control. So, what is patience, the KJV calls it long-suffering. Patience is the Christ-like character that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb to challenges. It is that quality of self-restraint in the face of being provoked. Patience is a calm endurance based on the certainty that God is in control. So, what about you, do you possess patience and are you putting it into practice with the people and problems you face? Or are you just maintaining a calm exterior while inside you are seething with frustration that fuels your desire to seek revenge? We are called to practice patience not be passive aggressive.