Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 2011 … Biblical Patience

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 [see bold/underlined portion] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Yes, if you’ve been following what I’ve journaled into this January, we’re still in Eph. 4: 1 - 2 and learning about the qualities necessary to live lives “worthy” of our calling as Christians; and today the focus (see bold/underlined text above) is on “PATIENCE.” And as I write this, I wince a bit with conviction because this is one of the Spirit-given fruit that all Christians have been given by the Holy Spirit upon conversion (see Gal. 5: 22, 23). I wince, however, because patience is one Spiritual fruit that is not well matured in my life; and I believe it’s, more generally, in short supply in our 21st century world. I’m sure you’d agree that we live in a MacDonald’s mentality world. “Faster is better” is the anti-patience value in our culture!

The Greek term for patience, “macrothumia,” is also translated “long suffering” or “long tempered” in various versions of Scripture. It was, and it is now, a quality that the Apostle Paul was teaching as absolutely necessary if one was to exhibit Christlike meekness [i.e., gentleness]. And John MacArthur in his exposition about this attitude wrote that Christ certainly modeled three aspects of “macrothumia” during his walk/ministry on earth.

First, the patient or long-suffering Christian never gives in. And in scripture we certainly have a model for this in the long-suffering of Abraham as mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments (see Genesis 12, Romans 4: 20, and Hebrews 6: 15). Sure, Abraham had lapses, like the business involving Haggar; but all-in-all, old Abe stuck in there waiting for God’s promises to unfold. I’m afraid, all-too-often, I find myself not willing to wait when I’ve prayed, and God’s response seems to be … “Wait!” But I’m growing; and prayerfully one day I can have a long -suffering spirit that will have the “patience of Job” as I seek for and live out God’s purposes for my life.

Secondly, patient Christians are able to cope with difficult people. This is the “long tempered” translation for “macrothumia;” and in this aspect of this fruit of the Spirit, I would say that I do better. I’ve learned, in my dealings with people over the years, that flaring back with reactive anger NEVER HELPS when I’m confronted by hurting or angry people. We can read; and I think I’ve learned God’s prescription for reactive anger in both Old and New Testaments …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 15: 1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Thessalonians 5: 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

It’s always been interesting to me that I can do better controlling myself in reaction to out-of-control people than I can when I’m in out-of-control circumstances. I seldom ever lose “my cool” when I’m handling angry people; but put me in a parking lot after a football game, when I’m at the mercy of hundreds of cars trying to get home, and I become the personification of anti-macrothumia. Yes, more growth is needed for this Christian when it comes to situational patience; and maybe I can learn to apply some of that “cool” I have with people in Memphis, TN, traffic – someday!

Finally, attempting to grow in patience (i.e., “macrothumia”) the patient Christian is able to accept God’s plan for EVERYTHING. You probably know the verse, but Romans 8: 28 is worthwhile quoting here …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Rom. 8: 28 And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been [the] called according to his purpose.

Therefore, the Christian who truly believes and lives out the consequences of this truth will be filled with Christlike “macrothumia.” How many of us believe, in our head, that God is in control; but when we’re confronted by the tests, trials, temptations, and/or tribulations, how many of us really operate as if we believe Romans 8: 28? – or 1st Cor. 10: 13, for that matter …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1Cor. 10: 13 No temptation [also translated … “trial, test, or tribulation”] has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

How many of us get in this “here-and-now” mentality when we’re being tested by trying circumstances or extremely trying people? If it were an adolescent who couldn’t wait for what they wanted in the here and now, we’d label them as impatient and immature. Or maybe we even have a “temper tantrum,” as would a toddler not getting what he/she wants. But what about the adult Christian who cries out to God for what he wants in the here-and-now? Yes, you’re right; … we are immature Christians at times, aren’t we? And we let our impatience rob the joy that can even be found when we trust God and pass our cares onto the One who can carry our burdens for us (see 1st Peter 5: 7 and Matt. 11: 28 - 30 and you go and look those passages up if you don’t know them).

Well, I’m doing better with regard to “macrothumia” in my later years; but I’m afraid I’ve still got some training to go to build my worthiness when it comes to patience. But also, I do know that God will deal with me in His time and His way, until I’m a more patient, more Christlike Christian. See Phil. 1: 6 “… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

My Prayer Today:
Lord, help me to accept life as a crucible to burn off the dross of impatience which dwells in my soul … to mature my fruit of patience to be sweet like Yours. Amen

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