All people need patience, don’t they?
But do we really want to do what we have to do in order to get it?
One of the first things I heard when I was a new “born again” Christian was “don’t pray for patience. God will put you in situations where you will need to have it and you might not like those situations.”
What is this warning all about?
Testing…“Patience is closely related to testings or trials in the Bible, and that is only logical. We may be patient in ordinary life, but how do we react when trials come? It is then that we especially need the fruit of the Spirit—patience” [ Graham*, 259-60].
There you have it…the reason why Christians should think twice about praying for the Holy Spirit fruit of patience. Patience seems to grow most in hard times.
But let’s think a bit more about those testings or trials. Can those times be good for us? What does James mean when he writes “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Yes, testing or trials can reap good results. We can have stronger faith, we can find ourselves drawing closer to God, we can be more active Christians, able to help others who are going through trials.
I am not a weight lifter, but I understand the theory behind resistance training. It is all about the development of strength. You have to lift weights and tear down your muscles in order for them to recover and grow stronger. Patience development works the same way. The more we have regular challenges and recover from those challenges, the more we can have strong faith development. Regular patience trials help in the day to day frustrations we face and when the major battles come [and they will] we will have enough Holy Spirit God power to endure.
It does not have to work this way; all of this can go the opposite direction. Trials and testings can erode a person’s heart. Graham says what many suspect; that sometimes people are attacked by Satan. Some don’t know enough to recognize this or maybe they refuse to believe that Satan is real. Some don’t have enough faith to call on God.
There is a remedy for these attacks. You can call on God instantly when you feel you are being assaulted. I have a habit of praying when things go wrong because I know God can handle any situation by giving me strength that I do not have, wisdom that I have never considered, and protection from barbs that come from Satan. For Pastor Graham, “the best time to pray is the very moment a tense situation or an unspiritual attitude overtakes me. God the Holy Spirit is always there, ready to help me gain victory in the spiritual battles I face—big or small.”
Don’t wait to pray; do it instantly and spontaneously; do it voluntarily and consciously. It needs to be a part of your life, an integral part of who you are as a Christian.
This brings up situations that are so negative that we wonder why they happen. It has been my experience that searching for a reason for a trial in the midst of a trial is not very helpful. Graham quotes Charles Hembree about affliction and the fairness of God: “In the full face of affliction it is hard to see any sense to things that befall us and we want to question the fairness of a faithful God. However, these moments can be the most meaningful in our lives” . When things go a negative direction, it would be best for the Christian to take the words of the Psalmist to heart “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning [Psalm 30:5].
It sounds like Godly help in times of weeping will come quickly, but many will tell you that it may not. At times in my life, it has seemed like God comes to help very slowly, certainly not the next morning when a trial comes at night. At times like this there is a concept called longsuffering. Longsuffering is hard to endure but people who can endure for long periods of time and maintain a strong faith in God show the world an awesome witness as they continually turn to God to help them through their time of trouble. They don’t give up. Jesus told His disciples “By your perseverance you will win your souls.” Longsuffering wins souls as people see firsthand the power that blesses the Christian.
Pastor Graham says that we need to be careful about this kind of witness, because some may misunderstand it as failure to take action. Instead of suffering for a length of time, critics think the afflicted person should take action. Of course there are certainly times when we need to speak out, act out, to have righteous indignation. Jesus drove out all those who were using the temple for buying and selling. He should have taken action against the long-standing practice of worldly commerce in a sacred location. People who actually suffer for a long time don’t choose to suffer; they just endure their pain and keep their faith.
Think about it; all people need patience. Sometimes life just does not respond to our immediate requests. Life can be complicated and stressful and we find ourselves in many trials and tribulations. Should we pray for patience? Why not? We really won’t be asking for God to send hard times our way like the opening quotation says. We don’t need to worry about trying times coming because we pray for patience. Difficult times come for the believer as well as the unbeliever regardless of our prayers.
What good is the Holy Spirit fruit of patience?
When those hard times come, we will be able to handle them…
*from his book The Holy Spirit