06 Fruit of the Spirit: Patience - Bible Study | WednesdayintheWord.com

Patience as a fruit of the Spirit results from belief. We are longsuffering because we fix our hope on the promises of the gospel.

Key Points

  • Patience as a fruit of the Spirit is not waiting without complaint. It’s enduring because of what we believe. It’s best translated by the old-fashioned word, longsuffering.
  • Scripture talks about longsuffering in two main contexts: 1) enduring personal hardship; and 2) dealing with other people.
  • Abraham is an example of someone who patiently waited for the God to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 6:13-15).
  • James uses the analogy of farmers who work now because they trust in the future harvest (James 5:7-11).
  • Patience as a fruit of the Spirit is not passive endurance. It longsuffering, based on fixing our eyes on the hope of the gospel.
  • Greek Word: Strong’s G3115.
  • Passages: Matthew 13:20-21; Hebrews 6:13-15; James 5:7-11; Colossians 1:11; 1Thessalonians 5:14-15.

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Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

In the letter to Galatians, Paul refutes the argument of the Judaizers. The Judaizers claim that it’s not enough to believe in Jesus. They say, the Gentiles must also live like Jews, and keep the law. Paul writes this letter to refute that claim. He spends most of the letter arguing that faith in Jesus alone is sufficient for salvation.

In Galatians 5, where we find this list, Paul argues that law-keeping does not accomplish what it claims to accomplish. Keeping that Law does not make us good people. We may keep laws we used to break, but inside, we’re still sinners.

Conversely, Paul argues that true moral transformation comes from faith in Christ. Because we have been reconciled to God by the cross, God gives us His Spirit. His Spirit changes us from the inside out, producing a genuine moral change. The Spirit produces the fruit in us. In this series, we’re on a quest to figure out what these fruits are.


Today, we’re talking about the quality that my translation renders as patience. Today, we use the word patient to describe someone who sits in a waiting room for a long period of time without fidgeting or complaining. While that is a kind of patience, that’s not what we’re talking about in Scripture.

I’m about to break one of my own Bible study rules and talk about etymology. Etymology traces the evolution of a word and analyzes its component parts. Arguments from etymology are weak at best. The current meaning of a word is often far removed from what it meant when it was coined. The meaning of words changes and evolves over time.

In Bible study, we focus on how a word was used at the time the author wrote it. Even so, sometimes understanding where a word comes from can be a useful starting place. The word patience is one of those cases where the starting point is helpful.

Patience = longsuffering

This word ‘patience’ is made up of two Greek words. One means ‘long’ or ‘big.’ The other means ‘passion,’ ‘wrath’ or ‘anger.’ This word started out describing someone whose anger is a long time in coming.

In the New Testament, we often find this word in one of two contexts: 1) It describes our attitude toward the faults of others. In this usage, it means slow to anger, slow to respond, or slow to strike back. 2) This word describes our attitude toward difficulties. In this usage, it means persevering or slow to quit.

Probably the clearest English translation of this Greek word is the old-fashioned word ‘longsuffering.’ Today, we think of suffering as experiencing something difficult. But to suffer used to mean ‘to endure’ or ‘to put up with.’ You might have heard the expression, ‘I don’t suffer fools gladly,’ which means I don’t put up with fools easily. To be longsuffering means ‘to endure’ or put up with something or someone for a long time.

This Greek word means to endure. It is either to put up with the difficulties in our own lives, or to put up with the faults of other people for a long time.

Not all Patience is a Fruit of the Spirit

People may show a kind of patience that is not a fruit of the Spirit. The Bible exhorts us to believe the gospel and live in accordance with it. The fruit of the Spirit is rooted in a basic perspective of what is true. When we’re talking about a fruit of the Spirit, we’re not just saying be the kind of person who’s patient.

Suppose your neighbor is a pest. She comes over, uninvited, sits in your living room and bores you to death for three hours. She barges in, eats all your food, takes up your time and then leaves. Suppose you responded to this neighbor by being patient. You let her in. You don’t say anything, and you just put up with it.

You could endure your neighbor for many reasons that are not a fruit of the Spirit. Maybe your mom raised you to be hospitable. Maybe you’re too embarrassed to confront anybody about anything. Maybe your neighbor is the only person who will care for your pets when you travel and you don’t want to jeopardize that relationship. Maybe while you’re sitting there patiently taking it, you’re seething with anger inside. One day you finally explode in anger. The fact that you waited a long time before getting angry does not qualify as a fruit of the Spirit.

The biblical virtue of longsuffering is patient endurance for a reason. We patiently endure because we believe something to be true. We press on because we believe that God’s promises. Stifling my reaction to a difficult situation is not longsuffering. If I have no understanding or perspective on why I’m enduring, then I’m not longsuffering as a fruit of the Spirit.

Matthew 12:2-21

Let’s look at some passages. First of all, this word is used to describe our attitude toward the difficulties of our life in light of faith. In these contexts, this word patience is close to perseverance. We endure through the difficulties and do not let difficulties push us away from God.

For example, Jesus tells the parable of the sower who plants seed on different kinds of soil. The seeds that lands on the rocky ground grows immediately, but then the sun bakes down and kills it. The seed on this rocky soil lacks longsuffering. Jesus explains:

20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.  – Matthew 13:20-21

The seed on the rocky ground responded to the gospel without longsuffering. It sprang up in joy. But when trouble came, it disappeared. It had no roots. There was nothing substantial to it. To be longsuffering is to stand firm and wait patiently until God fulfills His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-15

The author of Hebrews gives Abraham as an example of someone who was longsuffering.

13For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.  – Hebrews 6:13-15

Abraham was promised a descendant. But he had to wait until he was an old man before God fulfilled the promise. His son was born in his very old age. God promised Abraham a homeland, but he never lived in it as a native of that land. God promised Abraham the whole world would be blessed through his descendants, but he didn’t see that fulfilled in his lifetime.

Hebrews describes Abraham as waiting patiently and then obtaining the promise. Why did he wait? Because he believed. He endured because of what he knew to be true.

The promises of God are the foundation for patience. We believe, as Abraham believed, that God always keeps His promises and therefore we endure. We wait patiently, expecting God to do what He said He will do. Why are we longsuffering? Because we believe the promises of God.

James 5:7-11

7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.  – James 5:7-11

James wrote this letter to people who were experiencing trials and persecution. He exhorts them not to abandon the faith no matter how difficult life gets. His exhortation to persevere is firmly rooted in this expectation for the future. Jesus will return to establish his kingdom and they should be longsuffering until he does.

James uses this analogy of the farmer who is waiting patiently for the produce of the soil. The farmer works hard in the field. He plants. He waters. He weeds. The farmer works because, as James says, he waits for the precious produce of the soil. The food he needs to sustain his life is growing from the ground he’s working. He works because he expects a good result in the end.

James says, think about your life as if you were a farmer. The farmer is longsuffering. He works, and he waits because he knows the harvest is coming.

Patience is enduring with a purpose. Longsuffering is enduring with hope and expectation. We go through the struggles of this life because we know God will bring victory in the end. We don’t give up because we know God is in control and He will get us there.

We can be patient because we know the outcome. We are longsuffering in this life because we expect to God to fulfill His promises in the next. Longsuffering and future hope are tied together.

Patience as a fruit of the Spirit is not mindlessly hanging on. Patience as a fruit of the Spirit is hopefully enduring.

Colossians 1:9-11

9And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;  – Colossians 1:9-11

Paul specifically pairs bearing fruit with increasing in knowledge. He prays that they would be strengthened for the purpose of endurance and patience with joy, but it all starts with being filled with knowledge. Because we embrace the truth, we live in a way that pleases the Lord. Because we stand on these foundational truths of the gospel, we endure with patience and joy.

That’s the first context in which we find this word. Longsuffering describes this hopeful endurance and perseverance through the difficulties in our lives because we believe the promises of God. We also find this word in the context of being longsuffering with each other.

James 5:9

In the middle of the passage about the farmer, James says:

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. – James 5:9

James reminds them the Lord is returning. He exhorts them to be patient like the farmer. But he also reminds them to have a longsuffering attitude toward each other. We should forbear with each other’s faults.

1Thessalonians 5:14-15

14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. – 1Thessalonians 5:14-15

We are to forgive and overlook each other’s faults. This is not saying, ‘I’m just going to grit my teeth and pretend you’re not there.’ This longsuffering is rooted in what we believe to be true.

All of history is on a collision course with the day of the Lord. One day, God is going to judge the world and bring about His kingdom. On that day, there will be mercy and justice. Both of these things ought to mean something to me now as I’m living my life.

Other people are hard to deal with. They take unfair advantage of us. They say bad things about us. How should we respond when we’re treated badly? It depends on what we believe.

Everyone faces the same future. God will solve the problem of sin in this world through either judgment or mercy. Each one of us must wrestle with the question of where do I stand? In the end, my future holds either mercy or justice. That means all of us are in the same boat. We are equally guilty before God. We need the same grace and mercy.

That’s the foundation for being longsuffering. As believers, we recognize any standard we use to condemn someone else also condemns us. Because we’ve seen our own tremendous need for mercy, we value mercy. We willingly and humbly show it to others.

The more we understand how desperate our situation is, the more we understand how great the mercy of God is. And that, in turn, becomes the basis for patiently enduring our problems with other people. We can afford to be forgiving and merciful to others because we know in the end God is going to make everything right.

The fruit of the Spirit is not a supernatural feeling that comes upon us. The fruit of the Spirit results from a new perspective on life. That new perspective results from our faith becoming strong and real. If the hope of the gospel does not capture our heart and minds, at best we can only plaster on a mask of patience. But that’s not longsuffering as a fruit of the Spirit.

Longsuffering endures for a reason. We can plaster on a smile and play the brave Christian. Or we can have the perspective of the farmer, keeping our focus on the promises of the gospel.

There’s this expression that Christians kick around. Some say, ‘he’s so heavenly minded. He’s no earthly good.’ I don’t like that expression. I don’t think there’s much truth behind it. I think the more biblical teaching is:

You can’t be any earthly good until you’re more heavenly minded.

The farmer is future oriented. He works because he expects the future harvest. If there was no harvest, he wouldn’t work in fields. He works because of his future hope.Who is more practical and down to earth than the farmer? He works in the earth every day. He’s not so future oriented that he ignores daily life. He attends to daily life because he is future oriented. His hope gives him perspective and priorities.

To wrap this up, here again we see this picture of the fruit of the Spirit as not being feelings but a perspective change. As the Spirit of God changes our perspective these qualities emerge. These qualities emerge not as a mask we wear to fit in at church on Sunday mornings. They emerge as a natural result of the fact that our eyes are fixed on the hope of the gospel.

Today we face choices like: How will I treat my spouse? How do I speak to my boss? Will I have a good attitude at work? Will I overlook that sarcastic comment that hurt my feelings? Do I join the office gossip and laugh at a coworker? Do I lie on my tax forms? Do I cut ahead of someone in line? All those choices, big or little, confront us with the reality of the gospel.

The legalists, like the Judaizers, have dodged the bigger issue. They live life with a faulty view of themselves and God. Ultimately that leads to works of the flesh. Understanding the gospel changes our worldview. That new worldview becomes the foundation for the fruit of the Spirit.

Longsuffering is built something substantial that will survive the storms, because it’s built on the promises of the gospel.

Copyright © 2024 · Krisan Marotta, WednesdayintheWord

Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash

Season 24, episode 06

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