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The Fruit of the Spirit - Longsuffering

A Fusion of Patience and Power

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Longsuffering: A Fusion of Patience and Power

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Longsuffering is no longer an everyday word, but it is a virtue needed more than ever when impatience, intolerance, oversensitivity and impulsive anger are so prevalent.

Anger and animosity can be the result of many negative influences. The evil influence we all are infected with is our own selfish nature. And our human abilities to make major improvements are pitifully weak. We need God’s help!

In Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
, the apostle Paul refers to our human nature as “the flesh” and our selfish tendencies as the “works of the flesh.” These include “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders”!

Clearly we need the antidote for these traits, which is God’s Spirit!

Paul went on to say, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout). What an amazing contrast!

All these beautiful virtues work together and support each other. Think about how longsuffering relates to the other attributes.

Two important words

Listed fourth among the fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful quality translated “longsuffering” in some Bible versions and “patience” in others.

Those two English words are closely related, both associated with endurance. More important and fascinating is learning about the two corresponding Greek words in the New Testament.

One Greek word— humpomonee —is translated “patience” in almost all Bible versions and implies patient endurance.

The other Greek word is even more interesting. It is makrothumia, translated “patience” in some Bible versions but more accurately as “longsuffering” in others.

The Greek word makro (which gives us the English prefix macro ) means “large” or “long.” The root word thumos means “temper.” Therefore makrothumia literally means long-tempered, the opposite of short-tempered or having a short fuse.

Without makrothumia, we human beings tend to be temperamental —having an irritable temperament and bad temper. We tend to “lose patience” and “lose our cool” and even “blow up” (like an impatiens plant).

We’ll focus primarily on makrothumia since it is the word used in Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×
. However, please keep in mind how these two words overlap in meaning and are both important to our spiritual understanding and growth.

Longsuffering and love vs. anger and hate

Longsuffering is virtually the opposite of anger, especially of “outbursts of wrath” (2 Corinthians 12:20 2 Corinthians 12:20For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found to you such as you would not: lest there be debates, contentions, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, arrogance, tumults:
American King James Version×
).

When a traffic light turns green, some drivers will impatiently honk their horns if the car ahead doesn’t start moving within two seconds! No longsuffering there! Even worse is the epidemic of road rage with cursing and actual violence.

Many people tend to overreact. They quickly get on the defensive, interpret remarks as attacks and then strike back. Many people carry a lot of inner anger from their past. Every small hurt or annoyance adds to the storehouse of anger. The slightest provocation brings the anger to the surface and into the open.

Anger usually involves a spiteful attitude of retaliation and revenge. But God forbids this: “Bless those who persecute you … Repay no one evil for evil … do not avenge yourselves” (Romans 12:14 Romans 12:14Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
American King James Version×
; Romans 12:17 Romans 12:17Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
American King James Version×
; Romans 12:19 Romans 12:19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord.
American King James Version×
). The Bible teaches mercy and forgiveness.

People tend to excuse their anger, but most human anger is self-centered and sinful. “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20 James 1:20For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.
American King James Version×
).

Hardly anyone will admit to hating people. But the Bible defines love and hatred largely by people’s actions. Love is expressed through helping people, while hate is demonstrated through harming people (see Romans 13:10 Romans 13:10Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
American King James Version×
).

Paul described the behavior of love: “Love suffers long and is kind … [It] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 4 Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
American King James Version×
). The New International Version renders his words this way: “Love is patient, love is kind … It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Our thoughts and attitudes are likewise important, as they are the source of our actions and words: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 Luke 6:45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
American King James Version×
).

Therefore we should honestly examine our attitudes. Each of us should ask: Am I motivated by love, respect, patience and compassion, or am I motivated by resentment, contempt, intolerance and hardness of heart?

Slow to anger, quick to forgive

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psalms 145:8 Psalms 145:8The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
American King James Version×
). That’s the way He expects us to be!

Consider carefully these wise words about being “long-tempered”: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29 Proverbs 14:29He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalts folly.
American King James Version×
). “A wrathful man stirs up strife , but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (Proverbs 15:18 Proverbs 15:18A wrathful man stirs up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeases strife.
American King James Version×
). “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11 Proverbs 19:11The discretion of a man defers his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
American King James Version×
).

James wrote, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19 James 1:19Why, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
American King James Version×
). Then if and when appropriate anger is expressed, it will likely be under control.

You have probably heard the good advice of “stop and count to 10” and “take some deep breaths” rather than lashing out with words you’ll regret—words that will escalate conflict rather than make peace.

Truly the first step of longsuffering is to exercise restraint and do nothing. We must think first! What does God want me to say or do?

If your feelings are hurt and you feel the need to immediately say something, speak softly and don’t say anything to hurt back. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 Proverbs 15:1A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
American King James Version×
).

Then take as much time as you need to pray and plan regarding the wise and constructive way to approach the other person. Your goal is to act lovingly rather than reacting  hatefully.

When a person is too concerned about winning an argument, he can end up losing a friend. Don’t be too concerned about who is right or demanding your rights. Learn to be agreeable even when you disagree. Pray for God’s help with this.

Solution to impatience, short tempers

Even without God’s help, people can learn to be calm and patient much of the time because they see the advantages.

But these good intentions and good habits are not nearly as powerful as God’s supernatural gift of longsuffering. Good interpersonal relationships depend on you doing your best plus trusting God with the rest. We human beings are pitifully incomplete without God’s Spirit.

How does one obtain the Holy Spirit? The apostle Peter briefly explained in Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

To truly be “sons of God” we must be “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
).

In Colossians 3:12-13 Colossians 3:12-13 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.
American King James Version×
, Paul describes the nature of someone who is led by God’s Spirit: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (He states something very similar in Ephesians 4:1-3 Ephesians 4:1-3 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
American King James Version×
.)

Notice how these qualities tie together and give us an expanded view of longsuffering. We need to patiently “bear with one another” rather than allow ourselves to get irritated!

Longsuffering and eternal life

Waiting for others is a test of our patience and an opportunity to build patience. And the Bible has much to say about our need to wait on God. We want God to solve all our problems right now, but God knows the best timing. He often tests our patience and perseverance before answering our prayers.

When the Bible mentions waiting, patience, perseverance or longsuffering, it is often in connection with trusting in God to intervene for us in our need, as He assuredly will: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 Isaiah 40:31But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
American King James Version×
).

This patient waiting is ultimately focused on the second coming of Jesus Christ: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28 Hebrews 9:28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation.
American King James Version×
).

Only those who remain faithful to death or to Christ’s coming will be rewarded in His Kingdom. After warning about end-time persecution of Christians, Jesus said, “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 Matthew 10:22And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.
American King James Version×
).

“Endures” means continuing to be led by God’s Spirit and continuing to bear the fruit of His Spirit to the end of your life or the second coming of Christ, whichever comes first.

As James 5:7-8 James 5:7-8 7 Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be you also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near.
American King James Version×
exhorts us: “Therefore be patient [literally, longsuffering ], brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” 

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