Charles Stanley - The Powerful Attribute of Patience
I wonder how often you and I may miss the promises of God in our lives somehow. If you and I would just think back how many times God has told us to wait, we felt we ought to wait, but somehow deep down inside, we didn't wanna wait, and we just moved ahead, stepped ahead and somehow got impatient and it didn't work. Well, I want us to understand what patience is really all about. And as we go through this whole series all the way to the patience of God, I think it'll help you to understand better how very important this particular characteristic is in your life. So let's think about the whole idea of what it is and to define it. If you were to pick up a dictionary, for example, you would read patience is what? Patience is that calm, listen, that calm response to stress, not anger, not frustration, not getting upset, it is a very calm, uncomplaining response to stress or some annoyance in your life.
Now, if you look in the New Testament, for example, or in the scripture, you'll find about thirty times in the New Testament, patient or patiently as you found. Then about five times in the Old Testament, two wonderful passages of scripture that probably a lot of us already know. In the thirty-seventh Psalm of the seventh verse, he says, "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him". And in the fortieth chapter of the Psalms and the first verse, "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry". So, as you and I think about patience and we think about, well now, isn't patience just? And sometimes it's very difficult for us to define.
It's interesting in the scriptures, New Testament, there are two basic words for patience. And the two Greek words, one of them is hupomone, which simply means and the emphasis is to persevere, to wait, to persist. That is, don't give up and don't yield under pressure. The other word, makrothumeo which simply means to wait also, but the word oftentimes is translated longsuffering. Now, the reason I mention those two is this, that oftentimes in the different translations, there will be words that we have memorized and we've learned these scriptures all during the years and somehow another translation comes along and we say, "Well, what does that word mean"?
Well, in the New American Standard, which is what we use, it's always translated patience. But sometimes, for example, in the King James Version, you oftentimes see the word longsuffering. It's just a different word meaning patience. That is, we suffer long or we wait longer, we delay in what we expect. And so, simply to say to you that if you and I had to define patience as simply as we can, it is willingness, it's the will to wait. The will to wait is what patience is all about. It's the will to suffer delay when we want something, when we think God has said He's going to do thus and so. When we're praying and we have a particular prayer request. It is the will to wait. The willingness to wait upon God, the willingness to suffer some particular delay in our life without irritation, without frustration, without getting angry because impatience is very clearly directed and oftentimes related to anger and some other aspects of life, which we'll get into in one of the other messages.
So, we're talking about the will to wait, and oftentimes that is very, very difficult. Now, when you think about what patience really is, let's talk about it for just a moment. Patience is not a natural trait. That is, you and I don't come into this world with a gift, we would sometimes say, or the capacity to be patient. Now, an example of that is if you have, for example, a three-month-old, and that child awakes you in the middle of the night and he or she is hungry, you don't walk over to the bed and say, "Well, sweetheart, you dear, I love you with all my heart. But it's so early in the morning, I don't wanna wake up at three-thirty in the morning, so if you'll just wait a little while I'll feed you later".
Well, how much do you think that counts? Because in about thirty seconds you're gonna hear this blasting crying, why? Because that child is impatient, does not want to wait one bit longer. They're hungry and they wanna be fed now. And you know what, some of us never grow up, do we? We just keep on doing the same thing. We want it now, this is the instant generation, and you know, if I can't have it now, I want to know why. And so, it's not a trait. It's something we develop. It, listen, it's not a trait. It's something we develop, and that's very difficult for some people to understand. It's not a matter of being indifferent, it's not being indifferent to the situation, because you can be very concerned about the situation and still, when you develop patience, you can be patience. It's not, for example, a matter of just being weak and saying, "Well, you know what, I just don't wanna handle that. I don't feel adequate to handle that, and so I'm just gonna walk away".
Patience is not weakness, it's not indifference, it's not a trait, and it's not a matter of simply avoiding adversity. You're not being quiet and calm because you're afraid of adversity. That's not what patience is all about. Neither is it a gift. And oftentimes people say, "Well, you know, I've been praying for God to give me patience". Well, let me ask you, how many of you have become patient as a result of asking God to make you patient? Well, I can answer that. Not any of you because patience is not a gift. Somebody says, "Well, what about Galatians chapter five, verse twenty-two? Doesn't the Bible say the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, and so forth"? Yes, he does. The fruit of the Spirit, not a gift. Because you see, apart from the Holy Spirit, you and I will have a very difficult time developing the awesome quality and characteristic of patience.
It is a very important aspect of our life. In fact, you can't think of a single area of your life, single aspect of your life in which patience, to some degree, is not required at some time or the other. And so therefore, it isn't just a matter of being a gift, it's something we have to develop in our life. Nor does it mean that you never get angry. Somebody says, "Well, if you were being patient, you wouldn't get angry". Well, there are times in our life when righteous indignation is the right thing. You see somebody being abused and misused in the wrong way or treated wrongly, and sometimes we have to become very firm and very strong. And sometimes you may get a little angry at your children because of what they're doing. They need to see that you don't just put up with things and that you just don't back off and let them get their way.
Now, let's go just a step further and say, "Okay, then explain to me what would be some examples of being patient". Well, I'm patient when I can calmly tolerate. When I can calmly tolerate some difficulty or some hardship or some delay that might cause me confusion and some annoyance in my life, and I can calmly respond to that. Then I'm exercising patience. Then it means also that I have the ability to let go, listen, to let go some need for immediate gratification. And this is what gets a lot of people in trouble. They do not have the capacity to be able to wait for God to give them what He has in mind. And so patience says I'm willin' to let go my need of immediate gratification and I'm willing to wait for God to supply.
Sometimes people wanna, they wanna get rich quickly. Or they want sex now before marriage. They want this, they want that, they want it beforehand. And patience says I'm willing to let go whatever it is that I want or think I need until God's timing. It also means my calm acceptance of what God wants to give me in my life and when He wants to give it. It also means my calm acceptance of what God may choose not to give. And so there is a calmness, there's an inner quietness that is a part of patience. It doesn't mean that we don't feel the pressure. It doesn't mean we don't feel the stress. It doesn't mean we don't feel, for example, the need to persist, but it says that we calmly, quietly, and, see, that comes in degrees. And you're not gonna always be as calm and always be as quiet, but we develop that. We develop that because we see God at work in our lives in these different situations and circumstances and, over and over again, we realize what? That waiting for Him and His timing and His way is the wisest, the best, and the most profitable way.
What is patience? The willingness to wait. The willingness to wait for God's timing. The willingness to wait for God's way. The willingness to wait for God's plan. The willingness to wait for God's purpose to get it all done. Now, so we say these are the characteristics that are so combined, and they're all a vital part of who we are. And if you think about your own life, for example, you say, "Well, you know, I have some patience". We all have some patience. But what I want you to see is this. Listen, the greater the blessing God has in store for us, the greater the patience God requires of us. Now, watch this. And oftentimes, the bigger the blessing, the more fulfilling the blessing, the more awesome the blessing is, oftentimes, the more time we have to wait. And you see, we don't like that.
Let me ask you: Has God ever made a mistake? Ever been late? Ever been ahead of time? Then why in the world do we push Him? Why do we set deadlines and say, "Well, God, this is long as I'm gonna wait and that's it". Because we are shortsighted and because we wanna set deadlines. That's the flesh: we want it now! So, what I wanna do is I wanna give you thirteen, listen, thirteen reasons for saying patience is a powerful attribute. It's a powerful attribute, a powerful characteristic that we should all be seeking in our life. And the first one is this. It is essential to life of obedience to God. You cannot obey God, you will not obey God if you're not patient. Because you see, sometimes God gives us exactly what He wants us to know, but then we have to wait for His timing. Obedience to God is absolutely essential.
A second thing is this. It's a vital element in every good relationship. If you're married, I don't have to tell you, you have to be patient with her or with him. Right? Only the women said right. We have to be patient with each other. You think about this. Whether it's a friendship or marriage, or it doesn't make any... we have to learn to be patient with each other because the very best, dearest friends we have we won't always agree with about everything. And sometimes they'll do something, we just have to be patient and say, "You know, that's their personality and I love 'em the way they are and I don't expect 'em to be perfect. And they may be perfect and I may be imperfect," and so you know, we're patient with each other. Listen, you can't have any decent relationship if you don't learn to be patient. If you always got to have your way in your timing, it's got to be the way you want it, then you know what, you're not gonna ever have a loving relationship with anybody. It's absolutely essential to good relationships.
A third thing is this. That it gains respect in the lives of other people. When people see us being patient and waiting upon the Lord, and they see us oftentimes maybe abused or criticized or gossiped about or persecuted in some fashion, we don't fight back, we don't blare back, we don't get angry, what happens? It builds their faith. It helps in them, in their Christian life to realize, well, you know what, I don't have to blow my stack. I don't have to lose my temper. That I too can learn to be wise and respond the right way.
A fourth thing is this, it's a strong form of protection. That is, learning to wait is a strong form of protection because that's what you teach your children. Now, you know what, this is fine but not yet. For example, let's take your son, let's say, for example, that he wants a knife, a certain kind of knife. And it's fine for him to have a knife, but not at this age. Now, sweetheart, or son, you can have it, but not now. Or they want to get behind your wheel in your new automobile and they want to learn to drive now at the age of thirteen. Well, one of these days you can learn to drive, but not at thirteen. In other words, you teach them to be patient, why? Because it's a form of protection.
A thirteen-year-old behind the wheel of an automobile on the expressway, can you imagine what that would result in? Or giving a five-year-old a pocketknife that closes quickly. And sometimes we want it now and we just don't like the idea of having to wait for God's timing. It messes up so many things when we're not willing to wait. So, listen, it's a strong form of protection. Now, watch this, sometimes people who wanna get married, they wanna get married right now, they're not willing to wait to find out what the other person's all about, what's really deep down inside that flesh of theirs, what they're really like. In other words, what baggage are they bringing into this marriage? In other words, let's get, oh, we'll fix all that later. Well, you don't get fixed by it, you get frustrated by it. And so, that's not the way it works. And so what happens is, it's a strong form of protection.
Any, listen, anytime God is saying to you: wait, He's loving you enough to protect you from something. This is not the right, it's not gonna turn out right at this moment. So, we have to be careful. Then of course, we, listen, when we're patient, it's very important that we're patient to recognize, listen, the value of timing in decision-making. Listen, every war, in every war, timing is absolutely essential. In financial decisions, timing's absolutely essential. There are times when you can sit down with your children and teach them an awesome lesson. There are some time they not gonna listen to one thing you say. So, if you're going to have good timing, you got to have patience. It's also, listen, it's essential to settling disputes. If you're gonna settle any kind of argument or dispute, you've got to be patient. You got to be patient, let the other person tell you what they think, why they think it, blow their stack, say whatever they wanna say, give you all their excuses, all their rationalizations, all their reasoning. In other words, you gotta be patient to listen.
And see, one of the aspects of our lives that we don't oftentimes think about when it comes to this is sometimes God wants to say something to us and we wanna get on with life. We're too impatient to wait and listen to Him. Somebody says, "Well, God doesn't speak to me". Oh yes, He does, you're just not listening. God speaks to all of His children. He desires that we hear Him and He desires that we hear Him say, He desires that we hear Him say, "Yes, but wait. Yes, this is not the right time, and if you could just see what I see and know what I have out here for you. If you just wait, wait, just wait"! Very important that you and I understand the decisions, oftentimes we're gonna settle disputes, we have to learn to wait. And sometimes all of us have had disputes with God.
Now, you say, "Well, I don't think I ever have". Whenever you and God have disagreed about something, you've had a dispute. Now, you didn't raise your hand and say what you were gonna do because that would-a been foolish. Because you're only gonna do what He allows you to do. But a dispute is a disagreement. And so if we're gonna settle disagreements wisely, we do it patiently, calmly. We lay it all out and we keep talking until we come to the right kind of decision. Patience is absolutely essential. Then of course, it is absolutely essential to persevering in prayer. We come to Him and we make a request. Most of us gonna ask God for whatever it is and we'd like to have it when? We want it either now or we preferred it yesterday. And so, what happens is, listen, if you'll think about how many times you've begun to pray about things and then you quit in about two weeks. And it may have been that God was gonna give you exactly what you asked for, and you know what He's doing? He's getting the circumstances ready.
Sometimes we make requests that God's getting the circumstances out here ready, and because we pray a couple of weeks or three weeks or a month or so and it doesn't happen, then we give up and say, "It wasn't God's will, just forget it, I'm gonna quit prayin," and we miss the blessing of God. It's absolutely essential to be patient when we're praying. Because sometimes it's gonna require a lot of praying, and sometimes it's gonna require a long period of time. And then I think also, it's probably one of the keys in whether you and I succeed or fail in life. If we learn to be patient and wait. And oftentimes people think they've gotta get to the top fast, whatever the top is. They got to be number one fast, whatever that means. And then after they get there, you see, watch this, when you get somewhere you don't belong and you're not ready for, number one, you're not happy. Number two, you're not secure. Number three, you're full of fear. Number four, you're gonna make mistakes. And number five, it's not gonna work.
When you try to get somewhere before God's timing and you're not ready, all you're gonna do is fail eventually. And so the key to success and failure in our life is to be patient, to wait for God's timing to get us ready, get the circumstance ready, get the people ready. And then God says here's what I want to provide for your life. Likewise, it creates a sense of stability in our life. If you have developed patience in your life, there is a sense of quiet stability. Things that will bother some people will not even bother you. Things that will trouble them and cause them to be upset, get angry, frustrated, anxious about life, you won't feel that-a-way at all, why? Because you've learned to be patient, you've learned to realize that God is in control of your life, listen to this, He's in control of your life and He said He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.
So I'm gonna say that in every one of these messages, because if I don't believe He's in control and I don't believe He's working things out for my good, then I'm gonna get anxious and I'm gonna want to go ahead and just take it myself and do it myself in my own timing because, after all, it looks like that circumstances are such that what I've done is I have excluded God from the circumstance and decide if I want it, I better get it now. If I believe He's in absolute control, and I believe that He's working everything for my good, I'm going to be willing to wait, willing to wait. Then, also it enables us to endure suffering. Now, suffering can come in lots of fashions. It can be emotional suffering, physical suffering, material suffering. Patience enables us to suffer through. It enables us, listen, to walk through difficult, trying circumstances without losing our faith, losing hope, reacting in a way that oftentimes would ruin and wreck our testimony, or cause us to begin to stray from the Lord because we're not patient for God to act in the way that we thought He ought to. Enables us to endure suffering. You're there, you can't fix it, and here's what you have to do.
Finally, you have to say I give up and I surrender. Then of course, it's always to say it's essential to peace and joy and contentment in our life. A person who is just, almost it looks like by nature and personality, just impatient, they're not happy, they're not content, listen, they can't ever get enough, they can't ever do enough, they can't ever accomplish enough, they can't ever sit, in other words, nothing's ever quite enough. There's no peace and joy and contentment and happiness in a person's life who is, person who is continually being impatient. Well, they didn't get to work on time. Well, the dinner wasn't ready, the kids did this and that. Can you imagine living with somebody like that? And there are a lot of people who live with people like that all the time, you can't please 'em no matter what. It's never enough, never on time, never the right timing, can't please 'em, always impatient. And then of course, listen to this, this is so important.
Patience allows me to see God at work. One of the most awesome lessons of life is to see God at work. And here's the wonderful thing about living a pretty good while. The longer you live, the more you watch God work, the greater your faith, more your patience, listen, the greater your sense of confidence and assurance that God is in control. He's working everything out. What happens is it allows us to see God work, because you see, when we're patient and we back off and say, "Lord, no deadlines, no requirements, I'm gonna watch You work this out". That's exactly what David said. He said, "God will deal with Saul in His own time, in His own way. And until He does, I'm not gonna be the king". That's real patience, waiting for God to do things His way and watching God work.
Now, let's face it. All of us see what happens when people don't wait for God. We see that, but do you ever stop to think about and look to see what happens when we do trust Him and wait upon Him? It allows us to see God at work. And then the last thing I'd mention is this, and that is that patience is an attribute of God. He's patient. Think about how patient He's been with all of us down through these years. How many times He forgiven us? How many times have we told Him what we were gonna do and we didn't do it? And how many times have we told Him what we were never gonna do again and we did it anyway? How many times have we said, "Well, I forgive 'em, Lord. But"! And we walk away, and He forgives us and finally He gets our attention.
I've given you thirteen reasons why we say that patience is a powerful attribute. It affects every single aspect of your life. Now, if you're wise, here's what you'll do. You'll take this list, because this week you're gonna need it. And God's gonna challenge you. And what you have to do, if you'll just read these over and just say, "Okay, Lord, now You said it's essential to being obedient to You, and I'm being really tested, God. I, mmm, I'm really feeling the temptation here, and do I want to indulge myself now because I'm afraid I might lose this, or am I gonna wait for You"? I guarantee you, God will give you enough experiences in a week to start putting some of this together. Because listen, listen carefully. The more patient you and I are, the more God can trust us with.