The fourth fruit of the Spirit, or the fourth aspect of the Spirit’s one fruit, is patience. Christians should not be impatient people, and if the Spirit is active in their lives, they will become more and more patient. We have all seen impatient people who cannot seem to wait for anything, and want everything to happen now. In ordinary life, however, patience is not usually a difficult virtue to manifest.
In the face of suffering, however, patience becomes hard. When Job suffered, the temptation offered by his wife was “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Job was tempted to commit suicide, so to speak, and thereby end his torment. When we hurt we are impatient for healing, and we need the special blessing of the Spirit to persevere despite the pain.
Probably Galatians 5:22 has reference to patience with other people. Here again, it is when other people cause us to suffer, especially by slander, that we become impatient. We rightly desire vindication, and we are tempted to vindicate ourselves. Unless other people are suffering because of the slander, it is better to remain quiet and let God vindicate us, because He can do it much better and more thoroughly (Romans 12:17–20).
Notice how much easier it is to be patient with people who have money or power. If we want to keep someone’s favor, the favor of someone powerful, we are very patient and long-suffering with their foibles and idiocies. But let someone who is inferior to us get out of line, and we quickly lose our patience. True patience, however, is patient with inferiors, just as Jesus was. He put up with all kinds of slander and nonsense from people, yet showed great patience with them.
Spiritual fruit is also characterized by kindness. How would you like to be known as a kind person, a person who gives others the benefit of the doubt, a person who tries to look on the better side of people’s foibles? Sadly, we often find a sort of pettiness in the church that is opposed to kindness. Since we are picky, we end up magnifying the faults of other people. We are quick to correct the grammar or theology frequently to their embarrassment. We need the fruit of kindness, so that others will see God’s Spirit at work in us.
Consider today’s lesson as a test. As you review it, evaluate yourself in terms of patience andkindness. Are you patient with those who are inferior to you, like your children? Are you as kind andsensitive to other people as you should be? Do you need to claim God’s patience and kindness byfaith?