How to Develop Patience
Patience (long suffering) is one of the nine qualities the apostle Paul described as "the fruit of the spirit." And, while it may be contrary to human nature, Paul placed emphasis on it because it is part of the nature of God. And if we, as Christians, are sincere about being transformed to be like Christ, then we must do all we can to constantly develop patience.
The Bible further teaches that we should "count it joy" that God often uses problems or trying times and situations to teach us different things we need to learn in life. Therefore, when we find ourselves facing problems or challenges, it is a good idea to view these times as "continued education." But, we often miss out on lessons that could possibly take us to the next level in life, because we have not cultivated the kind of patience that’s needed to endure long enough to learn the lesson.
As the Book of James tells us (James 1:2): “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
We need patience at all times in life, the good and the bad, but it is the trying times and circumstances of life that are designed to test our faith. The more we’re tested, and the longer we remain determined to endure or persevere, the stronger we will emerge from any and all trials.
Three Traits That Lead to Success . . .
The Bible teaches us about three traits we can have that will help lead us to success. These traits are courage, character and endurance.
1. Character. There are people of dubious character who have attained a lot of financial success in life, but since money is not God's measure of success in life, true success cannot be based, solely, on the size of a person’s bank account.
Character refers to features that make up or distinguish individuals one from another. It also refers to moral excellence and firmness. When we put these two descriptions together, we have a word that refers to features containing moral excellence and firmness that help to distinguish one individual from another. Character is realized in the way a person carries him or herself through life. It has to do with things related to an individual’s nature—their temperament, personality, disposition, moral fiber, integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and spirit. Our character, therefore, can help lead us to godly success in life. True success is a life that is lived according to God’s way that we can offer to God for His blessings.
2. Courage. Without courage, we become weaklings that bend to anyone else‘s will. When we are weak, we cannot possibly make the best decisions for ourselves and our lives, and we cannot stand firm in our quest to live a godly life. Weakness opens us up to evil influences. When we cannot stand firm, we buckle under the slightest pressure. Courage is what God gives enabling us to stand firm in faith no matter what happens to us in life. When we need to resist the devices of those who would take advantage of us and use us, God gives us courage. When our spirits need to be bolstered because it seems no one on earth cares whether we live or die, courage keeps us alive.
Courage is defined in Webster’s as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” This secular definition gives a good description of something God desires that we use as our fortress against fear. I believe God wants us to use our mental and moral strength not just to stand up for ourselves when the need arises, but to also stand up for His word and His way. I believe that if we trust in God, He will empower us with the courage we need to put into action His way in our lives.
3. Endurance. Slow and steady wins the race. Ecclesiastes 9:11 teaches us: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Endurance is the ability to withstand; to persevere. Every person acts within time and space. But having even great abilities to act does not mean you will always achieve your goal. The fastest runner will not always win the race (something can happen that can cause a slower runner to get ahead and win). The strongest opponent won't always win the battle. Smart, learned, skilled people will sometimes come to ruin.
There will be hindrances and occurrences in life that will sometimes create blockades to achievement, no matter what. And it is the ability to persevere--to have the stamina that it takes to go through suffering and to remain, to continue the struggle--that will make the most difference, because it is God, alone, that gives the victory (Psalm 33:16).
Patience: Why We Need It
Although our technological marvels that are designed to save us time definitely have their pluses, they have their minuses too. And one of the biggest minuses is that they help to overindulge us in the continued shortening of our patience.
We live in a fast-paced world where we’re being constantly taught to expect instantaneous results. The line at the bank couldn't get us to the Teller fast enough, so now we have ATM machines. We punch in a few digits and out pops money (if you're lucky enough to have some in your account!). When the stove and the oven became too slow for us, the microwave was introduced to give us a much quicker way to “radiate” our food using nuclear energy. Instead cooking using conventional methods so that we could eat what might be a better prepared, better tasting meal, instead, we get to choose to wait seconds or minutes to heat up what is often substandard food. And don't even get me started on the dumb things we're doing these days while using (and worshiping) our technologically advanced-keep-me-connected-with-no-time-away-from-it-ever "smart" phones.
Yes, it is important to seize the time you have to seek opportunities, but even when you do, there can still be hindrances and oppositions. A lot of people have a lot of different kinds of abilities and talents, but by themselves, these traits are not enough. That's why we all need to develop good character, good courage, and patience--the ability to endure, or we will not last to win the race for God.
God wants us to learn how to be patient or long suffering, so that we can endure what comes. He needs us to be of good character, so that we can fully understand and appreciate the need to endure, to have patience. Hebrews 12:1-2 teaches: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Life doesn’t always go the way we want. That’s true for all of us. And because it doesn’t, we need to be prepared, spiritually, for whatever comes. Learning to cultivate a spirit of patience, therefore, can help us become better prepared for the "down side" of life's ups and downs.
If we never learn how to activate our patience, when trouble comes, it will seem easy to just give up and give in to whatever life sends your way. But human beings weren't created to give up easily, because that would mean we would always be willing to accept less than what God wants for us, and less than we are capable of achieving in life. But there are major challenges being waged in our lives against the development of patience, and that's a tragedy. Because even though we hear, constantly, that the only constant in life is change, it still takes patience sometimes to wait for some things to change. Waiting, even when you have faith in God's ability and willingness to help you, requires patience, something we're learning--as a society--to not have much patience with.
Patience is Key to Overcoming Setbacks and Challenges
Developing patience is one of the keys to overcoming. It is a key to success in life. As we allow ourselves to be trained to be impatient, we're learning to accept, many times, something less than what is best for our lives. The same principle applies to working and waiting for answers when we’re faced with problems during tumultuous times.
We were created to be successful in our lives on earth. But sometimes we need to let go of some things, in order to grow our ability to persevere in spite of setbacks, snafus, and wrong turns. In other words, things are not always going to go smoothly for us, and they won't always turn out the way we want. And, when we don't get what we want or even what we've worked hard to achieve, it becomes hard to learn the lessons our efforts can teach, if we don’t learn how to focus on the important people and things that matter, or on how to tune out things that really amount to no more than either pleasant or unpleasant distractions.
A phone that rings constantly, tons of email that we have to sort through, the temptation to spend too much time in front of the TV or the computer; all of these are some of the things that we allow to place us at risk of losing out on opportunities to grow spiritually. Especially if we don't learn to manage or to let go of them, so that we can spend some time developing a patient spirit.
When you're struggling in life already, and then you become faced with a big challenge--a problem you need to spend time solving before you can move ahead, the first answers that come your way might appear on the surface to be appealing. But, often those answers are more "right now" than they are "right" for you and your situation, and it could be that you need to work harder, have more patience, and learn to wait a little longer for the answers you really need.
Always wanting and expecting to get quick or fast answers to all our problems or challenges is chipping away at our ability to develop patience. Why? Because you learn patience from being patient. And if there is never a need to be patient, we don't learn that there are spiritual rewards to be gained just from having patience.
Patience, which the Bible tells us is a virtue, is becoming just something else in life that takes too long. When we become too impatient to allow the time that's needed to seek and to find the best possible solutions to problems, it becomes easier and easier to simply jump on board the first thing that rolls your way. It becomes too easy to always take the path of least resistance, mainly because it saves time.
Here's a true story that provides a good example of the rewards of having patience. I know someone who recently started a new business. In the initial stages, he was looking for investors for his business. Because there was a need for quick start-up cash, he found himself turning to people who were less than reputable to point him to possible money sources. A Christian, this man was someone who believed in and did his best to live his life based on God's instructions. His beliefs wouldn't allow him to feel “right” about some of the sources of quick cash that were being put in his face, and as he searched high and low for funding, he told me he decided to pull back for a moment before making a quick decision. Doing that, he said, allowed him to realize what he needed to do. That's how he came to the conclusion that he needed to "wait on God" to send him the answers he needed.
His wait paid off, and even though it took longer for him to get started in business than he originally planned for it to take, his business is now up and running. He told me he's glad that he listened to God’s voice that was speaking from inside his heart, and by doing that, he was able, eventually, to find even more sources of funding than he started out looking for. God was ordering his steps, he said, so it was not possible for any person to keep him from getting what God wanted him to have. And since he waited to hear from God before signing on the dotted line with anyone, he ended up being pleased and joyful about the choices he made.
Being impatient can lead you to give up on things that are important: dreams/goals, opportunities, and other things that are important or even vital for living your best life on earth. And, even though good things don’t always come to those who wait, being impatient, also, does not always produce good things. The good news is that patience can be developed. The next time you’re tempted to be impatient, slow down long enough to ask yourself:
- Why do I need to do this in such a hurry?
- What will happen if I don’t do this right now?
- What will happen if I take longer than a few minutes to think about this?
- Is this one of those things that, perhaps, should not be rushed?
The Apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 4:11-13:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Until we learn to be content in our present circumstances, God will make His success elusive. We must be content, and learn to rely on God’s grace to supply us with the answers we need to achieve. No matter what dreams or goals you may have for your life, it is likely that you either have, or you will encounter difficulty in realizing them. Being discontent or impatient can be a signal that we’re not trusting God. He wants us to be patient, to understand that there is nothing we can do to make things happen. Only He can make things happen. We, therefore, need to rely on His grace and His strength, no matter what comes against us, and no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
God wants us to depend on him to become empowered, so that we can remain steadfast in our determination to achieve. He wants us to see beyond our present circumstances in order to envision the fullness of the blessings He has in store for us. He does not want us to live a defeated life. He wants us to press on in faith. He doesn’t want us to give up in disgrace, He want us to give over to dependence on Him. He wants us to know that His strength is all the strength we will ever need to persevere and to have the victory over strife. When we allow God to guide us to success in life, our determination combined with patience becomes a shining example for others to follow.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD