How many times have we heard people say, “Don’t pray for patience! God will bring trials and sufferings into your life if you pray for patience.” The problem with such a perspective is that it uses fear to deter us from seeking growth in an important area of our spiritual fruitfulness. You remember the fruit of the spirit, don’t you: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23) So patience is part of the fruit of regeneration.
I just preached on God’s amazing patience on Sunday, but as I write this article, I must confess that I often struggle and fail as I strive to be patient. As a type “A” personality, I am driven to complete tasks, and my patience is tested when persons or events keep me from completing those tasks in the way and time I would like. Many times I have found myself having to repent of impatience. Many times I have had to ask the Lord to help me cherish Christ and all the wonderful people I love rather than having my own plans and tasks as my ultimate priority. It is hard, but then again, sanctification is often hard; hard but beautiful.
It is out of such experiences that I want to share some of what God has shown me about cultivating patience. Patience is not something to run from, and the trials and difficulties that help nurture patience are not something to fear. How could we fear that which draws us closer to Christ? Furthermore, praying for Christ’s grace and strength to help you cultivate patience is not the equivalent of asking God to send great trials. Often, God will teach you patience through His word and His Spirit and through the dozens of smaller challenges that you face every day. That being said, let me share some pointers on how to cultivate patience in your life.
FIRST, Consider Jesus. This was the first point of Pastor’s Tom’s sermon Sunday evening from Hebrews 3:1. There is much that we must “do” as we strive, according to the grace of Christ, in the process of sanctification. However, the point of origin for obedience is Christ’s person, not our self-effort. We must labor, but rather than fighting failure by just trying harder, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. (Heb 12:2) Specifically, consider the patience of our Savior. He labored diligently for the glory of the Father, but His heart was always at rest; never in the turmoil of selfishness and impatience. He was patient with His own family members when they misunderstood Him, patient with His own disciples when they failed him, and patient with those who had rebelled and wrecked their lives through sin. His patience was displayed in how he met every one of these challenges with grace and in how He used these circumstances to serve His redemptive purpose.
SECOND, Rest Specifically in God’s Good Sovereignty. A disobedient child, an unproductive co-worker, an over-bearing teacher, a late delivery, a slow (or crashed) computer, and traffic are all examples of God-given opportunities to cultivate faith and patience. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father. (Matt 10:29) The difficulties that so often illicit our frustration and complaint are sovereign orchestrations of our God, ordained for His glory and our good. That disobedient child is meant to develop you into a more Scriptural parent. That un-productive co-worker will help you to learn more about leadership, service, and conflict resolution. That crashed computer will develop your self-discipline, lead you to a witnessing encounter, or perhaps be the means by which you procure better resources for what is ahead of you. And traffic, that is a God-given time for worship, to be still and know that he is God. Cultivate patience by trusting in His sovereign hand. (Romans 8:28)
THIRD, Develop Biblical Priorities. Our lack of patience is often owing to unbiblical priorities. We can often be impatient with our spouse because we are not getting our way or not getting what we want. But in those moments, we must stop and consider that we have elevated our personal wants and desires above our desire for Christ’s glory in our marriage, above our desire for our spouse’s heart and their growth in Christ. Getting your family or children to an appointment or event on time is a challenge that often tries our patience. But should our quest for timeliness nullify the command to be like Christ? At those times when you are tempted to be impatient, frustrated, or even sinfully angry, take just a moment to ask yourself, “What is really the most important thing here?” And just in case you find yourself wondering about the answer, here it is: The most important thing is the glory of Christ, in your life and in the lives of others. Keeping this biblical priority at the forefront of your thinking will help you to cultivate patience and love in all the circumstances of life.