Our internet has been down for three days and still counting. This makes normal daily tasks, such as bill paying, a bit more difficult to pull off. It also makes other normal daily tasks less enjoyable. For instance, I usually listen to podcasts and bible teaching while cleaning the house, which I can’t do without the internet. In spite of knowing people are dealing with far greater trials because of the massive storms sweeping over the state of California, I have found myself becoming impatient with the reinstatement of our service. This forced time of waiting is a mere inconvenience in the grand scheme of life.
Rather than being the annoyed (and annoying) customer calling multiple times a day, I am showing patience with my internet provider. I know they are working as hard as possible to fix my internet connection. It is not a personal affront to me when my service (and their business) has been disrupted. But what about when we are called to have patience with people we know? To respond with long-suffering toward those who have sinned against us?
This is truly where the rubber meets the road for every Christian. In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul says,
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Avoiding Road Rash
Life hurts and many times the source of hurt is someone with whom I am most intimately related. If I meet someone on the road and they are harsh, mean, judgmental…whatever, toward me, I don’t really care. Most likely, I will never see that person again and their opinion of me isn’t important. The same can not be said when it is someone I am close to relationally. Someone who knows me and is ascribing ill motive to me or isn’t considering my feelings when they make statements or decisions; those are the times it really hurts.
When suffering hurt at the hands of another, my response will reveal my heart. Patience and long-suffering are displayed as I exercise self restraint before proceeding to action or speaking. I am able to avenge myself but refrain from doing so because the Holy Spirit is at work in my heart. Somehow, miraculously, I manage to not say the first thing that pops into my head. Instead of sowing to the flesh and walking in sin, I choose to sow to the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, which yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness rather than the rottenness that is me apart from Christ.
The Impossible Made Possible
When we suffer long with someone who has injured us, we are simply reflecting the character of God as empowered by the Spirit. In reality, exhibiting patience isn’t difficult with the help of the Holy Spirit but it is impossible without His help; we don’t even desire to be long-suffering. It is an act of love toward God and toward others when we choose to die to ourselves in that moment and bear with another’s weakness or sin.
For those who claim the identity of Christian, the normal heart attitude is to want to look like our Heavenly Father. God declares His character in Exodus 34:6.
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,”
What a beautiful testimony of what God is like! What a beautiful description of who we can be when we walk in the Spirit!
Even a casual drive down the freeway will give opportunity to display the gracious and patient character of God to those in close proximity. If we can show restraint in the midst of getting cut off in traffic (and we should for safety sake!), how much more should we show patience to those in our sphere of influence. For God’s sake, for conscience sake and for the sake of our relationships with image bearers of God (i.e., people), we should ask the Holy Spirit to grow us in patience. It is a prayer He will be pleased to answer in order to bring glory to His name and show His handiwork in our lives!