Longsuffering: a Fruit of the Spirit

A Patient Endurance – the definition of longsuffering

Longsuffering isn’t a word we use much any more; it has nearly faded from modern vocabulary. We often substitute the word ‘patience’ instead – and rightly so, because they are so similar in meaning. Patience has the connotation of waiting, while longsuffering has the undertones of enduring / forbearing. Longsuffering comes from a compound word, easily translated: “slow to wrath.” To explain this quality in someone, we would say they had “a long fuse.” The fruit of the Spirit is the work of lengthening that fuse.

Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit. These nine graces are developed by God, the great Gardener, in the life of any Christian under the control of the Spirit. This fruit is a supernatural growth of God’s nature in us, not of our nature in Him. These are God’s attributes that He reproduces, like a harvest, in us. Longsuffering is the fourth evidence of God’s character growing within us. Numbers 14:18 states: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression…”

Pure Expectations – the key to more fruit

‘Hurry up and wait.’ That ought to be my motto – but I hate it because it’s all-too-true. Much of life is waiting and most of our frustrations come from unrealistic or improper expectations about life and others. We think longsuffering is a good quality for the driver behind us, but never for the one in front of us! We presume that others should give us a liberal amount of slack, yet we fail to deliver the same. This only leads to more frustration, impatience, and anger.

Jesus didn’t go through life disappointed, frustrated, and angry. He knew there would be interruptions – He even welcomed them. He knew people would let Him down – He showed mercy. He raised the bar while lowering His expectations. He showed more love than He was shown, He gave more than we ever received, and it will have to be that way in our homes, with the ones we love, in order to see God’s fruit of longsuffering grow in us. (See Ephesians 4:26-32 – forgiveness, patience, love – in the context of family.)

Powerful Examples – the life of Jesus

A woman of sin was brought to Christ, for judgment (condemnation) by the Pharisees. He only showed mercy. He hated the sin and knew in His heart this was a most serious violation of the law, yet He deferred punishment until later (John 8:11). He pushed back justice until later. This is longsuffering.

Peter swore and, for the third time, denied His Master. Just then, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’ When the Lord heard the rooster’s crowing, He turned and looked at Peter in the eyes (Luke 22:60-62). It was not a look of hatred or anger – but one of love and forgiveness. Christ could have used this opportunity as an “I told you so” moment, but He did not. His look was enough to turn Peter’s heart to repentance.

Jesus had been to the cross and overcome the grave. As He meets with his disciples, there is one who doubts, one who must see for himself (comment: Was he from Missouri? – the ‘show-me’ state). Christ doesn’t scold Thomas, He invites him to have his faith strengthened with a touch (John 20:27-28). Thomas didn’t deserve this mercy and show of patience, yet the Lord’s longsuffering won out!

A Perfect Effect – the benefit of longsuffering

James 1:4 states: “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Longsuffering has a completing quality like no other. We often think of patience as passive – and for the Christian, it is. But patience is actively working a good in you that nothing else can accomplish. Enduring the fire in your life will be difficult, but it will yield something more valuable than purified gold. Bravely bearing the pressures of temptation and trials will transform the simple coal of your life’s soil into a faith that is stronger and more beautiful than diamonds. As we wait, we are conformed into the image of Christ. Stand firm on the promises of Romans 8:28-29 & Philippians 1:6.

Purposes Eternal – the grand plan of a longsuffering God

The Bible reveals God’s plan: past, present, and future. In every age, with each generation, God was faithful to be longsuffering. Even when man was at his worst, God was patient: giving men more than enough time to repent, postponing the flood and other judgments, sending prophets to wicked and undeserving nations to give them another chance, etc.

We live in the blessings of God, even as sinners, because of the longsuffering of God. The last two thousand years were termed the ‘age of grace’ by the Apostle Paul, but it will not always be this way. Jesus promised to return and to judge, yet He waits. Why? He is patiently desirous that more sinners are saved, that another person believes on Jesus as the Christ. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise… but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” You were saved because God is longsuffering (v15) and now God is giving others the same opportunity – a 2nd, 3rd, & 4th chance – an opportunity that’s far too benevolent to be fair and too gentle to be justice. Thank God for His longsuffering by allowing Him to reproduce this fruit in your life!

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