Recently in my preaching we have been studying the characteristics of a New Testament church. For the final characteristic, Love, I have been taking my people through the “Love Chapter” to see how Paul defines and describes biblical, self-sacrificing love.
God in his goodness, through a text we often use for comfort, has brought some discomfort into my life by revealing how “unloving” I can be at times. I figured I would share some practical wisdom from the Word that has helped me achieve the standard that God demands of all his children.
First on the list is “patience”. How do we demonstrate godly patience?
- The patience that God expects us to show toward others grows out of the relationship we have with Him. There is no way you can exhibit godly patience in your own strength or through your own efforts. But the good news is that you are not alone. God is with you and God desires to work His patience through you. We must daily devote ourselves to God and abide in His love through obedience. You see, when we walk in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in our lives. Contrary to the deeds of the flesh, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…" (Gal. 5:22).
- You must remember how patient God is with you. Praise God that He doesn’t have my level of patience. The Bible says, "(God was) patient toward you, not wishing for (you) to perish but…to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 1:16). When all I deserved was instant judgment, God was patient with me through years of rejection and then gladly received me when I called upon His name. "It becomes…difficult," says R. C. Sproul, "To fathom when we see a sinless Being being more patient with sinful beings than sinful beings are with each other". Think of it this way, the godly response is God’s response to us!
- Remember the example of Jesus. Hebrews 12 teaches us to throw off our encumbrances, fix our eyes upon Jesus and run with endurance. We are to consider Him who endured the cross and such hostility by sinners. He did not lose heart nor grow weary and neither should we when it comes to doing what is right. So consider the patience of the One who tolerated so much from His disciples and after being nailed to the cross by wicked men, cried, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34).
- Keep a right perspective of yourself and others. Remember that we all have a natural tendency to think too highly of ourselves. "Every man’s way is right in his own eyes," says Proverbs 21:2a. As I often say, “we always paint ourselves with broad strokes.” We have no control over others, but we have total control over how we treat others. Never forget that Jesus died for others in the church. He takes it personally when we are impatient with members of His body.
- Trust in the Lord. Oftentimes impatience is our feeble attempt to execute justice. We want our proverbial “pound of flesh”. Trust in the justice of God. Leave vengeance to Him (Rom. 12:19). Instead of extending wrath, extend mercy, love and forgiveness! Once again, Jesus set this example for us. "While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23). Believe His promises, obey His will and leave the judgment to Him.
I was so convicted as to how far I fall short in being patient with others as God demands — especially with my family and with my church — those whom I love the most. How are you doing? Remember ... “Love is patient.”