The Fruit of the Spirit 5: Patience

By John Webster

Parts one, two, three and four of this series can be found hereherehere and here ~ Mark McDowell, the Editor
As he unfolds the ways in which the Spirit renews and animates our lives, the apostle has spoken of love of God and our fellows, the fountain of the other virtues; of joy, the pleasure which believers take in the presence of the good things which are promised to us in our new condition; and of peace, the settled state which accompanies life well-ordered in relation to God and to others.  Yet in our present state, this side of the heavenly consummation of God’s entire remaking of us, love, joy and peace are never unmixed; even as they begin to provide the shape of our lives, we find them opposed by the persistence of sin and disorder in ourselves and in all that surrounds us.  Reconciled to God by the Son, made alive and active by the Spirit, marked out by Christian baptism as members of the communion of saints, nevertheless we remain incomplete.  Our incompleteness does not indicate the fragility or uncertainty of our present state, so much as the fact that we exist in a condition of promise rather than full possession.  Christian life and experience now is always accompanied by the reality that those lovely things of God of which we are assured and of which we have conviction are hoped for, not seen (Heb. 11.1).
In this state, we are required to exercise a virtue which enables us to face affliction in a steady and collected way, that is, the virtue of patience.  How does the gospel instruct us as we seek to think about and fulfil the command: ‘Be patient’ (Jas. 5.7)?
Christian patience is an excellence of regenerate human nature.  Knowing that we are chosen, called, justified and sanctified by God, and that day by day we are preserved and sustained by his goodness as we move to an inheritance of great glory, patient Christian people tolerate difficulties and encounter present obstacles with equanimity and steadiness of purpose.  Our unfinished condition means labour and a certain lack of fulfilment; patience is the composure and readiness to wait which does not allow the good things of God to slip from our grasp.
Patience appears routinely in apostolic moral and spiritual instruction.  By it, believers are enabled to endure the present interval before the return of Christ and the end of history, and to face the afflictions which fill the present.  ‘Be patient … until the coming of the Lord.  Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early rain and the late rain.  You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.’ (Jas. 5.7f.)  ‘May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.’ (Col. 1.11)

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