Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.James 5:7-8
Let’s continue to look at the fruit that we bear when we abide in Jesus. Jesus assures us (in John 15) that he is the vine and we are the branches. And when we stay attached to Jesus, we will naturally bear his fruit. What is that fruit? Paul identifies this fruit in Galatians 5, in a list that calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are qualities of a spiritual life that naturally occur when we abide in Jesus. I have looked at three of these so far, love, joy, and peace. Now let’s look at the fourth: patience.
Love, joy, and peace are obvious fruits of the Spirit, aren’t they? They are church words, words we hear about often in sermons and in Sunday School, and words that are found throughout the Bible. But patience is not a typical church word. Perhaps it should be, not it’s not. And yet, patience is still a quality that all Christians bear in their life when they abide in Christ. When we stay connected to Christ, we are patient.
We live in such an impatient world, don’t we? And most of us, if we are being honest, struggle with this particular fruit of the spirit. How can we not, in this world in which we live? And yet, this is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists, and so it is an obvious quality that Christians have when they abide in Christ. We are patient.
We are not commanded to be patient. We are promised patience. And that is different, right? When we abide in Jesus, we bear fruit, and one of the fruit that we bear is patience. This fruit comes about by abiding in Jesus, by trusting Jesus, by having faith that he is, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, in charge of this world (John 16:33). He has overcome this world. We can trust in that, we can believe in that, and when we do, we have patience. We have patience with God, we have patience with one another, and we have patience with ourselves. Let’s take a brief look at all three.
First, patience with God. Let me offer a strange analogy: Think about people at a bus stop. When you think about it, every person there has one thing in common: They all believe that a bus will come. Otherwise, why wait? They may or may not be patiently waiting, but they are waiting, and only because they believe that the bus will come. So it is with God. We wait for God because we believe. We may or may not be patiently waiting all the time, but we believe, and so we wait.
In a famous prayer, the Prayer of Teilhard de Chardin, he begins with these words: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.”
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. God always keeps his promises, and answers every one of our prayers. But it takes time. And it takes patience. And it takes faith. The bus will come. God will come. Trust and believe.
Patience with God leads, I think, to patience with others. When we trust in the slow work of God, we have patience with others. When we trust that God is at work in their life, we are much more patient with them. We pray for them, and then we wait, patiently, to see how God will answer our prayers. We trust in the slow work of God, and this gives us patience, with God, and with others. And even with ourselves.
Sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. We are most impatient with ourselves. We don’t like to wait on our own progress. It takes faith, too, doesn’t it? Believing that God is at work in our own life. Using all that happens in our life to lead us closer to God’s plan for us. Our job is to abide in Jesus. To stay connected to him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. And like the farmer in James 5, we wait “for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” We wait for God. We trust in his promise. That our waiting is not in vain. Our labor is not in vain. Our trust is not in vain. God is faithful, and comes to all who wait on him. Thanks be to God. Amen.