By Charles Blake
Just as an apple is the fruit of an apple tree, Christlike character is the “fruit of the Spirit.” We cannot “grow” love, joy or another other “fruit” through our own efforts. They are the natural products of a
life controlled by the Spirit of Christ (Gal. 5:22-23).
But the development of such godly fruit is neither automatic nor instantaneous. Unlike apples growing on an apple tree, Christlike character doesn’t develop without diligence on our part.
Believers must not only resolve to produce fruit, they must also determine the kind of fruit to be produced. Even then, the desired fruit will be brought forth only by much prayer and great effort.
In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit doesn’t end the warfare between good and evil in the life of a believer: “The sinful nature desires what is
contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other” (Gal. 5:17, NIV).
Though the Spirit doesn’t eliminate the evil desires of a person’s old nature, Paul insists that He does make ultimate victory possible. But those evil desires are only subdued to the extent that the believer
“lives by the Spirit” (5:16), is “led by the Spirit” (5:18) and “keeps in step with the Spirit” (5:25).
I believe this is especially true in reference to patience, the fourth trait listed among the fruit of a Spirit-controlled life (Gal. 5:22-23).
Patience is the ability to graciously endure less than a desired state over an extended period of time. It involves longsuffering, tolerance, endurance and perseverance.
Patience is putting up with unpleasant people or circumstances without losing faith, without becoming bitter and without behaving improperly. It is demonstrated in self-restraint in the face of provocation to
react in haste or anger.
he apostle Paul informed us that he developed patience through a process of learning and determined struggle: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know
how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13, NKJV).
Paul stressed that he had to “learn” patience-which means it didn’t come automatically when he was filled with the Spirit. He could “do all things”- including patiently endure all manner of difficulties-because he had learned to see things from God’s perspective and to draw on Christ’s strength.
Patience is an essential element in Christian living:
* It comes through the working of God’s power within the believer. “Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Col. 1:11, NIV).
* It should characterize the way we share the gospel. “Preach the Word… with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).
* It is the key to receiving God’s promises. “[We want you to] imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb. 6:12).
* It perfects Christian character. “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4, NKJV).
* It is the pathway of blessing. “As an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have
heard of Job’s perseverance and what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10-11, NIV).
One of the most difficult aspects of patience involves waiting-and waiting is something very few people want to do. Most people look at waiting as a negative experience. But success is usually determined by
how a person uses such waiting periods.
When I completed my master’s degree in theology, I was disappointed that many in my graduating class were called immediately to pastor large churches in various parts of the nation. When I received no
pastoral call, I traveled back home and served faithfully on staff at my father’s church.
After three years, I was finally called to West Angeles Church, which had only 50 members at that time. Only after many years did I experience what might be called “success.”
Some would say I had to wait a long time. But I say God sent me through an extensive period of preparation so my skills could be developed and pride subdued.
It may be that what you feel is a period of adversity and standstill is actually a waiting period of preparation for a task for which you’re not yet ready. The character, abilities and experience you gain during this period may prevent failure in the future. So let patience have its perfect work in your life.
A distressed king by the name of Jehoram once asked the prophet Elisha,”Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kin. 6:33). Many who are sick, economically deprived, tempted, abused, stressed or unhappy are asking that same question today.
Jehoram’s city, Samaria, had been surrounded by the Syrians. The Syrians had imposed an extended embargo, permitting nothing and no one to enter or leave the city. Samaria’s food and water supplies were soon exhausted. The people were reduced to eating donkey’s heads and dove droppings, and some resorted to cannibalism. It was then that Jehoram said, “Why should I wait?”
Elisha encouraged Jehoram and the people to trust God and wait for their deliverance. That very night, God drove their enemies away and gave to them from the enemy’s camp all the food and treasure that they needed.
Even when the situation looks hopeless, patience does not surrender to despair. Hold on, my friend. Be patient. Your deliverance is on the way.
(The above information was published by CHARISMA, May 1993)
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