But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)
There is an expression in Latin that says, “maxima enim, patientia virtus,” which means “patience is the greatest virtue.” Patience is most certainly a virtue, but it is one that is difficult to attain. Human nature being what it is, many of us find it nearly impossible to be patient, especially in the face of adversity, or in the face of persecution. But patience is important in the life of a follower of Christ. This is why Paul counts patience as a fruit of the Spirit. Exhibiting patience is next to impossible for us to do on our own. The help of the Holy Spirit is needed in order for the fruit, patience to be produced in us.
Why is patience so important for a believer? Patience is an attribute of God. Despite the rebellion of the Israelites, God did not abandon them in the wilderness but led them through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He did this because He is a God who forgives, a God who is gracious and merciful, and a God who is slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:16-19). God was patient with His people then and still is today. It is because of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience with us that we are led to repentance, which leads to eternal life (Romans 2:4).
Since patience is an attribute of God, then we as followers of Christ should live lives characterized by patience. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul makes it clear that patience is important to a believer because he prays that the Colossians (and all of us) will be strengthened through God’s power to demonstrate endurance and patience (Colossians 1:11). And in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul exhorts believers to be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Patience is also an attribute of the first fruit of the Spirit, love (1 Corinthians 13:4).
So, what exactly is the fruit called patience? In Galatians 5:22, the Greek word translated as patience is makrothymia. which literally means “long-suffering.” It refers to the ability, even when being provoked, not to lose one’s temper. It means staying calm and not becoming irritated, angry, or vengeful, even when dealing with persecution or adversity at the hands of people or circumstances. This would also mean having the ability to bear pain and suffering without complaint. Of course, the greatest example we have of this is in Jesus Christ Himself, who endured pain, suffering, humiliation, and even death without complaint (Isaiah 53:7).
Patience does not come naturally to us. But when we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, it is a fruit that can and will be produced in our lives.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.