PATIENCE AND LONGSUFFERING

God’s Glorious Attributes
PATIENCE AND LONGSUFFERING Part 9
By Rayola Kelley

My journey on Facebook has been interesting. For years I avoided getting caught up with technology. I knew that on top of all of my other activities I would not have the time or patience for it. I don’t know about you but I have a wrestling match over what I need to do, and I don’t need to add on other burdens or responsibilities.

      As some of you know, my attempt to avoid technology landed on its ear. I was reminded that Facebook is where the people are and my burden should be towards people and not my projects. As I considered my agendas that I wanted to accomplish along with Bible Study and Fellowship, my latest projects include writing a new book as well as finishing another one; improving my guitar skills, and once again going through my published books to correct obvious mistakes. When you consider such projects, you realize that there is no personal element in it. Since my determination to finish something is intense, I have to constantly remind myself that Jesus did not die for projects; rather, He died for souls. This is the only way I can step outside of my intensity, connect with the present world and make myself available to do God’s bidding.

      When change is required, I must change the intensity of my present focus to what is necessary and important to tune into what is before me. I have learned some interesting things on Facebook because it has opened me up to the world, but in many cases, it already confirms what I know about people. Many people are busy trying to live life outside of technology. They see Facebook in different ways. Some see it as a way to keep track of family, news and to keep others updated about their activities, while others see it as a way to get their name, products, religious and political causes out there. There are those who are on Facebook because it was the “thing to do” but rarely pay attention to it. Some are on it to keep on top of events or promote something, and others are isolated so it is the way they keep in touch with the outside world, and others are busy with life and occasionally check out what is going on in the world.

      Facebook also confirms the habits of people. Some are constantly on it, others rarely visit it, there are those who are sporadic, and some who set a certain time to be on it to ensure it does not dominate their day. People also seek different things out on it. Some seek out basic needs such as inspiration, encouragement, and understanding while there are those who look for answers, are seeking the truth, and are desperate to find lasting solutions in a world that seems to be going mad. There are also lonely souls seeking for companionship, along with predators from the dark and murky realm who use it to try and take advantage of people.

      The real challenge for me was being patient enough to learn Facebook because, as some know, I have a love-hate relationship with my computer and technology. I try to figure out how the programs work and to some extent I can get by, but for the most part if I am challenged outside of what I am comfortable with, my patience quickly ebbs away like water during low tide and comes flowing back in like hot lava that wants to mow down and consume anything associated with my technology.

      I also know even good things taken into the extreme can become hindrances or stumbling blocks to that which is excellent or worthy in light of the eternal. Since I had to get on Facebook, I wanted to understand how it worked and what the best strategy was to reach people in a constructive way, but I wanted to keep my activities in a right perspective. After all, it was obvious that Facebook presented a ministry avenue for me. 

      The Bible is clear that patience is not an option for a Christian. It is one of the ingredients in the fruit of the Spirit that entails some type of experience to either gain it or enlarge it. Clearly, we are not born with patience because we are selfish and self-serving, but we are instructed to actually possess our souls in patience (Luke 21:19). We can even sometimes confuse patience with personal strength to ensure the end results of a matter because something is ether very important to us, or the opposite is true where something doesn’t really matter, making it of little importance as to the end results. However, real patience is that aspect of character that will endure that shady area between great importance and holding little or no significance, but proves to be necessary if one is to advance. Patience is what allows a person to survive the harsh reality of facing his or her ineptness about something while trying to walk through the quicksand of drudgery, irritations, and frustrations.

      I realize balance was of the upmost importance in maintaining a right perspective and attitude about such matters as patience. As I embarked on establishing patience in my life, I had to ask an important question, “How do I maintain balance in my life to give patience room to be developed and grow in my life?” I have learned it comes down to having the right priorities. Without making something important, your character will lack the strength to endure the challenges that confront it. The strength to endure something points to patience.

      The word that describes God’s patience is longsuffering. The reason there is a difference between man’s patience and God’s longsuffering is that man must choose the character and way of patience, while God in His holy and perfect state must patiently suffer through man’s inept ways, contend with his rotten attitudes, and let man miserably fail in light of giving him the necessary space and time to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

      The truth is God gives individuals much rope when it comes to giving them time to do turn from their strange, perverted ways to do what is right, before pulling or jerking their rope. I remember God gave me a long rope that reached over seven years but I failed to learn some very important lessons during that time. After seven years, He pulled the rope and I will never forget how far I was jerked out of my compromising Christian life to face my pathetic state. It was clear that I had failed to develop the necessary wisdom to discern where I was in my relationship with the Lord.

      It took me a while to realize that in spite of all my religious activity during those seven years, I was still doing the works of the flesh. The flesh can only be measured by the law of sin and death which reveals that man is a sinner due to breaking the holy Law of God, and as a result he is found in transgression, standing condemned before the Law. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was a sinner, but there was always this idea in the back of my mind that there had to be something salvageable in me and all I had to do was look for the good in what I did to find it.

      When I hit the end of the rope, I started tasting some bitter consequences for wrong actions, felt the heavy hand of the Lord upon me due to my contrary attitudes, and had to face how far out in left field I had wandered because of doing it my way. I realized that I had substituted my Christian walk with religious activities, my service with deeds that were self-serving, wisdom with head knowledge, and any real spiritual maturity with a certain denial about what my fruits were saying. I kept telling myself that tomorrow I would get it right, but I did not realize that all my doing would never right what was wrong with me.

      When I hit the end of the rope, I had to come face to face with myself. I knew I was bad, but not THAT BAD. I knew I had character flaws but I had no idea how CORRUPT and FAR from the mark they were. As the reality of my state began to take hold, I begin to catch glimpses into how long God suffered with me in order to bring me to a place of greater brokenness, repentance, and forgiveness.

      It was God’s longsuffering towards me that made me realize that I needed to display patience towards others in their sin, struggles, and failures. Since patience must be established in us, I had to learn that without making something a priority, there will be no sound focus and strong conviction to have any real semblance of patience to face the challenges that are presented in trying times. However, to understand what patience really acts and looks like, I had to come to terms with the goal of God’s patience. 

      It was at that point I realized how far God must extend His mercy and grace to immature, struggling believers before they come to a place of maturity. When we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, it is because we realize we have sinned and we need to be saved from its deadly tentacles, but it took me awhile to learn I also needed to be saved from myself. I was in a fallen disposition and upon initially believing on the Lord, I found a place of justification that addressed my sin, but I did not realize that salvation is an ongoing work. It was not enough to simply stand justified in relationship to my former sins, but I needed to be established in righteousness in my daily walk. 

      Righteousness is associated with conversion, where I am actually being converted to what is Scripturally right. It became clear that I needed to be saved from my so-called “goodness” to discover the real goodness of God. I needed to be saved from my best to discover what was excellent. I needed to be saved from high opinion of my religious piousness in order to see the holiness and greatness of God.

      The world promotes image, while the Bible speaks about regeneration or a transformed, changed life. We often dress up the outside in religious garbs while consoling ourselves with the fact that in spite of our blatant flaws our religious beliefs and deeds will eventually tip the balance, but the truth is there is only one measurement that will tip the balance in our favor and that is Christ in us, our only hope of seeing and experiencing heavenly glory (Colossians 1:27).

      As I began to experience the great depths of God’s forgiveness, I started to realize the beauty of His willingness to suffer with my human failings and foolishness. It brought such awe to me as I recognized that His longsuffering was indescribable and priceless. We take much for granted when it comes to God. We think it is a great privilege for Him to put up with our rebellious ways, our unthankful attitude, and our foolish notions and excuses, while we fail to see it is something He must suffer with and through to avoid bringing judgment down on us.

      I had to constantly keep in perspective the reason God was longsuffering with people, and it is because people’s natural tendency is to make something that is wrong, right according to their own strength, logic, and plans. God has to suffer with each of us until we come to the end of ourselves to discover there is no way of making anything right outside of God’s will and His work of redemption.

      As previously stated, we are not born with patience and our idea of patience is being somewhat tolerant towards those whom we perceive need judgment, grin and bear that which is unbearable, or keep our temper or sanity when we are ready to lose it. Mercy addresses cruel judgment, while keeping one’s temper has to do with temperance, not patience; and holding onto one’s sanity has to do with choosing God’s truth and taking imaginations captive in order to bring them into the obedience of Christ.

      Clearly, patience must be developed in us. We must choose certain virtues in order to have patience formed in us. Ecclesiastes 7:8 tells us that patience is the opposite of the spirit of pride. As stated, patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit, but it is preceded by peace that finds its source in love and possesses an attitude of joy, to be followed by gentleness. It is clear that we can’t have this type of patience without godly love that has the conviction to be kind, and joy that can hold us to what is eternally important when we are being bombarded by challenges, allowing our response to be that of gentleness that will display a moral goodness that will benefit others.

      Romans 12:12 instructs us to be rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation and constant in prayer. Romans 5:2 tells us we can rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and then the Apostle Paul goes on to say in Romans 5:3-4, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience and experience, hope.” In tribulation we must choose the way of patience that enables us to endure. There can be no patience unless there is peace and hope in one’s spirit and the response will not be one of gritting the teeth in some form of restraint but one of gentleness. Choosing the way of patience during tribulation will give individuals the experience of knowing how to come to this inner place where this virtue can be properly and effectively exercised.

      In 2 Timothy 2:24-25, the Apostle Paul instructs, that as servants of the Lord, we must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient in meekness instructing those that oppose personal spiritual well-being in hopes that the Lord will be able to bring them to repentance and to acknowledge the truth. Once again, we must sometimes bear with those who are opposing us and endure their resistance in the hope that they can be brought to a true place of repentance before they are turned over to a reprobate faith that lacks Jesus, a reprobate mind that no longer retains the knowledge of God, and reprobate works that will be cast aside. (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Titus 1:16).

        Hebrews 10:36 tells us the end result of patience for the believer, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” It is clearly patience enables us to not only see the will of God to the end, but endure through the challenges, and what is the promise we will receive, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Keep in mind, at the end of our faith is salvation (1 Peter 1:9). We know that patience will allow us to inherit the promise of life, but James 5:7 tells us what we need to patiently wait for and endure: Jesus’ coming.

      James 1:4 gives us a wonderful insight into the work of patience, “But let patience haver her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Patience does the work of perfection in us. Ponder that for a second. Meekness is about being under the control of the Spirit and temperance is about controlling one’s appetites and responses, but patience points to that which disciplines the inner man. It is the inner man who becomes impatient, gets ahead of God, becomes anxious, and will hide or flee before a matter is resolved. Patience is what allows the spirit to be quiet and the soul to be still until God steps on the scene. It is for this reason that in 1 Peter 1:6 the apostle has patience preceded by knowledge and temperance and followed by godliness. We must temper the outer man because of what we know about our Lord, and once the outer man is tempered, the inner man can come into compliance, thereby, responding in a godly way.     

      I have learned many valuable things about patience. I still can be very impatient at times, but when I am, I have to come back to what is out of order in my own life. Is it my attitude or is my spirit agitated by something or am I having one bad day and I need to draw near to the Lord to get His perspective?

      The more I experienced God’s longsuffering in my life and in relation to others, the more I became aware of what being patient with others really means. The Apostle Paul instructed believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” I realized all ministry had to be seasoned with patience to be effective. It took a bit but I learned that if the Lord did not lay the conviction of a burden on me, I had no power or authority to accomplish anything for His kingdom. That conviction of burden disciplined my perspective attaching a priority to it. Once I came under His burden, He gave me the grace to walk it out until it was lifted.           How about you? Is patience present in your attitude? As we face grave times, we need to have the patience that will possess our souls until we complete our race.