By Basilea Schlink
Patience is listed among the fruits of the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures (Gal. 5: 22). So impatience is a fruit of the flesh, a sin, and we cannot excuse it by saying it belongs to our personality. Rather we must make a great effort to change from an impatient person into a patient one.
Again and again the Bible exhorts us to be patient. "A man of quick temper acts foolishly" (Prov. 14: 17). Because impatience is a sin and sin always makes us unhappy, we will experience the consequences. Impatience makes us liable to be defeated and incapable of mastering difficulties. Our impatience makes us hit our heads against the wall. We do not achieve anything by this, but only cause damage.
Impatient people race around as though they were riding "upon swift steeds". This is the picture the prophet Isaiah paints for us after he has admonished the people, "In quietness and trust shall be your strength". But the people did not listen to this admonition; they said, "No! We will speed upon horses". Isaiah gave the Lord's reply, "Therefore, your pursuers shall be swift" (Isa. 30: 15 f). There is nothing edifying in impatience, nothing peaceful. It only brings commotion. Yes, impatience can lead to disastrous false reactions. Against this picture of the swift steeds is set the picture of our Lord Jesus, the picture of the Lamb, who was always patient. As the patient Lamb He attained the victory. How? Jesus, the Lamb of God, was patient, because He had surrendered His life to suffering. Jesus stands before us as the Man of Sorrows, quiet as a lamb, who bore all disgrace, scorn, condemnation, chains and fetters, anguish of body and soul.
So the patient are the true disciples of Jesus. The Apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Thess. 5: 14 (A.V.) "Be patient toward all men". And James writes, "Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast" (Jas. 5: 11). The revelation of John confirms this fact. After the angel reports about the Antichrist and how most of the people fall prey to his dominion and come under dreadful punishment, he turns to those who remained on God's side and says, "Here is the patience of the saints" (Rev. 14: 12). What dreadful consequences there will be, if we do not learn how to master our impatience in the small things of everyday life. Whoever cannot wait for the small problems to be solved will never be able to wait until God's time comes for the big ones. In trouble and affliction we reach for means that often bring us into sin. When we are sick or in need some of us are even tempted to go to sorcerers or fortune-tellers. Then our impatience if it causes us to become involved with the occult, will lead us into Satan's snare, just as many believers who do not endure in patience will become bound to the Antichrist in the last times.
We have to begin to learn patience today, before we enter the great tests of patience. The first step is to commit ourselves to the Lord to be patient and wait for the hour when God will come with His help. Only those who are willing to wait can be patient. It involves suffering, if we have to wait for a long time until God's help comes. Even in small things, it is difficult for us, if we cannot have our own way, if we cannot attain what we want, or if things do not happen the way we want them to at that minute. It involves suffering, if we continually have to wait for things and are continually disappointed.
It also involves suffering, if our bondages are not broken quickly or if we do not attain our goals of faith as soon as we wanted. That can apply to ourselves or to others for whom we are praying. We have to take a stand against this "spiritual" impatience, which can quickly develop into discouragement and rebellion. Otherwise we can ruin our whole spiritual life. The Holy Scriptures often speak of "growth" in spiritual life. Just as we can hinder the growth of a plant by impatiently trying to hurry it along, so we can also harm spiritual growth by impatience. Here too it depends upon the humble commitment of our wills to the leadings of God, patiently keeping faith; and faith will never let us perish.
The key to being able to endure patiently is the sure faith that God will never come too late. When His time arrives, help will come mightily. God is Love, and His love will surely come. Therefore, I can wait patiently. The knowledge that God's will is behind everything, even behind all frustrating circumstances which seek to make us impatient, will help us practise patience in everyday life. God's will is behind all the decisions of our superiors, unless they ask us to do something against our conscience. The minute we give up our self-will and commit ourselves to the will of God, trusting in His love, we can bear the situation patiently.
In practice that means consciously committing our wills to the Lord for all the frustrations, difficulties, delays, etc., that the day will bring; and all day long, whenever impatience seeks to get its hold on us in difficult situations, we must believe that every situation comes from God.
Again let us picture Jesus, who always completely yielded His will to God and therefore could be patient in all trouble and suffering. His love for the Father enabled Him to do this and let Him acquiesce to His Father's will. He, the Lamb, yielded His will and won the victory over all opposing powers. Through patience Jesus proved that He was the strong Lord, who conquered hell and Satan.
Love and trust in the Father make us strong to go the way of patience. Only then do we prove we are true disciples who are following the Lamb on His way. This way will end in glory. All who bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, including patience, will inherit the Kingdom of God, in contrast to those who bring forth the fruits of the flesh. So the fruit of patience has to be found in our life. And if we are very impatient by nature, we have to take up the fight between flesh and spirit (Gal. 5: 17) until we have overcome.
For Jesus says, "He who conquers shall have this heritage" (Rev. 21: 7). If we proclaim the name of the Victor and Redeemer ever anew over our sin of impatience, we will become more and more transformed into the image of Jesus, the patient Lamb of God. For this He has redeemed us with His precious blood.