“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” - Galatians 5:22
One of the characteristics applied to fruit of the Spirit is “patience”. The Oxford Dictionaries defines “patience” as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. I acknowledge that I am not a patience man by nature. Even in the flesh, there are different levels of patience a man can possess and I am not among the few who are endowed with an abundance of this gift. Exacerbated by my sinful nature, which knocks at the door and tries every opportunities to force its way through, my impatience or rather lack of patience actually turns me into a recovering patient capable of relapsing. But the fruit of the Spirit is patience.
The Greek word for “patience” in Galatians 5:22 is “ makrothumia”. It is also used in James 5:10, where the Scripture refers us to the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of patience (makrothumia) in the face of suffering. Hence, the use of “long-suffering” by the older translations in lieu of “patience” may not look as weird as it may first appear. While patience often appears in the context of suffering or tolerating something negative in the Scripture, what would patience look like in the absence of these negativities? James 5:7 seems to provide a positive portrayal of patience. In that verse, patience is painted as a farmer waiting for rains and the land to yield its crops in due time and finally the harvest. The emphasis is on waiting.
Patience is being able to wait, even though we do not know if the rain will come or if the land will yield its crops ultimately. Patience is also about resting. It is about not getting worked up or worried under any circumstances, when facing any nuisances, crying children, irritating weirdo or any mess we may find ourselves stuck in between. A lack of patience will likely lead to worry but more often than not, anger. This is because the cause of a lack of patience is due to pride or self-righteousness as Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 put it, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” So the self-righteous is a fool who lacks patience and gets angry easily. On the other hand, wisdom yields patience as written in Proverbs 19:11.
According to 1 Timothy 1:16, Jesus possesses the perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. It would have been unachievable, if we were left to our own devices to replicate that perfect patience. But today, the same Spirit of Patience who is with Jesus, also dwells in His believers. As long as we have the same Spirit as Jesus, the Spirit will train us into Holiness, Godliness and Christlikeness. We only need to pay attention to what the Spirit is speaking to us, and repent whenever He convicts us of our sins and weaknesses. And be thankful that God is first and foremost long-suffering towards the stubborn and stiff-necked, like ourselves. The fruit of the Spirit is patience.