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How do I develop patience with difficult people?

Copyright by Bob Rogers

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” Galatians 5:22

patience You have probably heard the saying, “I like my church (job, family, or fill in the blank with whatever else) it’s the people I can’t stand!” No wonder we say, “Patience is a virtue.”

When studying the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), people generally agree that one of the most difficult characteristics to develop in our lives is patience. There are two different words for patience in the original Greek language of the New Testament; one word means patience with circumstances, and the other means patience with people. The word used in Galatians 5:22 means patience with people; thus the 2011 revision of the New International Version translates it “forbearance.”

It may be easy to be patient with kind, sweet people. But how do I develop patience with people who try my patience? Here are some guidelines from other scripture:

1) I must remember that I am a recipient of Christ’s mercy, and follow His example. First Timothy 1:16 reminds me, “But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” Yes, the starting point of patience with others is to remember how Christ is patient with me. I am a sinner deserving Hell, but God patiently called me to faith, and He continues to work with me and develop me, even as I struggle and fall along the way. Since Christ has set this example for me, I should be motivated to follow His example, as a testimony to the gospel.

2) I must help those who are struggling with weaknesses. Romans 15:1 says, “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” If I am strong in a certain area of my life, I must be patient with those who are weak and struggle in that area. We have a tendency to be patient with those who have the same struggles we have. God calls us to be patient with those who are weak where we are strong. After all, they may be strong in another area where we are weak, and we will desire that same patience from them.

3) I must not keep a scorecard. In the love chapter, Paul says, “Love is patient… is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If I keep score of how many times I’ve been wronged by another person, I am much more likely to snap and lose it. I must ditch the scorecard.

4) I must accept people as they are, not as I want them to be. Ephesians 4:2 says, “With patience, accepting one another in love.” Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on… patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another…”  My irritation with others is often a result of unfair and unrealistic images that I project on others. While I want others to do better, I must decide that I will love and accept them as they are now. It helps to remember that I want others to love me with my faults, as well.

5) I must not quarrel. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, “The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.” Notice that this passage does not say that we cannot disagree. It is in the context of talking to opponents, people with whom we disagree, that the scripture commands patience and gentleness. We must learn to disagree calmly, without raising our voices, and without attacking the other person.

6) I must be quick to hear and slow to speak. James 1:19 commands, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” It is human nature for me to not truly listen to what another person is saying to me, because I am focusing on what I will say in reply. I would display patience and avoid many unnecessary quarrels if I would slow down, focus on what the other person is saying, and then reflect on what I heard before I said a word. Whenever I practice this communication tool, I am allowing the spiritual nature to rule over the human nature.

I’m praying daily to bear more of this fruit of the Spirit. Please be patient with me as this fruit ripens in my life. How about you?

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Saturday, the day of waiting

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in Mark’s Gospel about what happened on Saturday, but we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting, and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard. For a couple of months, my family has been waiting to find out why my father had a spot on his lung that was discovered in January when he had another surgery. Finally, they ran the test on a Friday in late March and the doctor said the outside cells looked fine, but he could not tell if the cells on the inside were cancer, so he needed to send it to the lab and would have the results on Tuesday. On Tuesday, my parents called the clinic and they said they would have to call back, but the nurse never called back. All evening, my parents sat by the phone, and I kept calling to see if they had news. Mom said she was going crazy, sitting by the phone, waiting. They went to bed Tuesday, still not knowing if he had cancer. On Wednesday morning, the nurse called to say the doctor had been sick, but would try to read it that day and give her news. Later that day, the nurse called but got no answer because my parents’ phone wasn’t working. Finally, my mom drove to the clinic, and the nurse explained the good news: the doctor had studied the lab report, and dad had no cancer! Many of you can relate to that, because you have just about gone crazy waiting for something. Maybe you have waited and waited for that loan to come through; maybe you have waited for a test score to see if you passed your class or so you could get a job; maybe you have waited and waited for that guy you are dating to finally pop the question; maybe you have been passed over for a promotion but you’re waiting, hoping it will finally come; maybe you’ve waited and waited for your children to call you and come see you; maybe you waited for medical test results to come back. Waiting can be very, very hard. So you know how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. Maybe you waited but you didn’t get good news like my Dad got. Maybe you were turned down for the loan, failed the test, rejected by your boyfriend or boss or children. Maybe you got the bad news that it was cancer. The disciples who waited that Saturday were expecting bad news, too. They were expecting bad things to happen to them. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified. But you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine. So as you go through difficult times, remember that as a believer in Jesus, you can wait on the Lord, when you know that even though you may waiting right now like it is Saturday, don’t forget that Sunday is coming!