If anyone has been a Christian for any length of time there are times when one might wonder does this process of God’s patience ever end? As years continue to pass since the resurrection of Jesus, it is possible for a person to have moments of angst over the seemingly snails pace of spiritual development and the unfolding of the next stage of God’s plan. How many generations have come and gone all with the hope of seeing the return of our Lord in their life times? It is said three score and ten and if by power longer relating to the length our vapor walk upon this earth but still we wonder how much longer Lord? What more could possibly be known about the human race and certainly an all-knowing God can see the end. Patience my Child, persevere, endure and remain steadfast in long suffering and know that our Lord knows the hour. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find myself antsy over the length of time that has passed even in my own life here and I wonder when some revelation of the timing of God will be forthcoming and yes another day passes and my anxiousness is somewhat subdued to rise again another day. Knowing that God is not regulated by time and is both in and outside of time this fleshly man knows only the constraints of the clock and his patience wanes and he is constantly apologizing to his Lord for his impertinence in believing he has anything to add in advising our Father on his mission or the purpose of his plan. Where were you Rob when I hung the stars …,stop Lord, I know where your going and you know and I know I have no answers. So I learn that my impatience is but unripened fruit and I learn the completed gestation of that fruit is required of me. When I go to the market and consider apples I don’t buy them until I first put one to my nose to see if it smells like an apple or tap a melon to see if it is ripe and ready for consumption. So too must I ripen and the Lord appraises us of this fact through Scripture: But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they which practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
Patience is a progressively learned grace, and has various levels, all of which must be developed within the Christian’s character. The Scriptures, and life’s experiences themselves, suggest four progressive aspects to this grace of patience: 1) Forbearance; 2) Longsuffering; 3) Endurance; and 4) Constancy. All four of these aspects of patience are necessary to its complete development. We know this because God, his son Jesus and many other examples of faithful individuals found in the Bible, had all of these:
Forbearance is the most basic form of patience, and it is most likely the aspect that the world understands something about—whether they actually practice it or not. As used in the Scriptures, the meaning of forbearance is similar to how most people would define patience. Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon give these synonyms for forbearance: self-restraint, to tolerate, to put up with.
Forbearance is usually thought of as an action—a relatively short-term restraint or act of tolerance. By definition, it is directed toward another person, group of people, or set of immediate circumstances, resulting from some wrong (or perceived wrong) having been committed against us. Forbearance may be shown with a truly loving heart. It can also be shown with much grumbling and little in the way of a loving motivation.
Longsuffering is similar to forbearance in its meaning and application. The chief difference is that longsuffering, as suggested by the word itself, is a type of forbearance which is not just exercised in the immediate moment of an experience. Rather, it is a character quality developed and exercised over the long-term course of many similar experiences.
Turning again to Strong’s and Thayer’s definitions, the Greek word for longsuffering means: bear long, slow to anger, slow to punish, slow in avenging, slow to wrath. In the Greek language, it is the compound word “macrothumeo.” “Macro” means “long in relation to time and place.” “Thumeo” simply means “wrath.” Putting the two words together—macrothumeo—means literally to go for a long period of time before exercising wrath. We see from this definition that the longsuffering aspect of patience represents progress beyond forbearance.
Described briefly, endurance is patience in all the experiences of life. This phrase—“all the experiences of life”—provides a clue as to why endurance is a significant step above both forbearance and longsuffering. Forbearance and longsuffering are most often directed toward the conduct of others, and demonstrate a proper patience to those who may say or do things in opposition to us. These attributes are to be developed in us—just as they are found in God and his son, Jesus—and evident in our dealings with all mankind.
Endurance, although including proper conduct in our relationship with others, also takes into account a whole new realm of experiences—those which do not involve others directly at all, but those experiences of life which are ours personally to live through, each and every day, and each and every moment of our Christian walk.
Constancy and its various synonyms, such as patient continuance, steadfastness, and perseverance, can perhaps be summarized by drawing on a familiar analogy. Our Christian walk is a multitude of different kinds of experiences. We say that some experiences put us on the high mountaintop of blessing, while in other experiences we feel as though we are deep in the valley of trial. Still many other experiences seem to be between these two extremes, coming to us on the various plateaus of daily life. Achieving constancy does not diminish the mountaintop joys, nor does it eliminate the valley experiences. What it does do, however, in the spirit of our mind, is to keep us, as New Creatures—the inner man—from feeling as though we are on a roller coaster. As we have seen through the Scriptures, this attainment requires time, spiritual maturity, and much faith. It requires success in forbearance, longsuffering, and endurance—multiplied by the full complement of experiences and lessons learned in the Christian walk.
So you see my historical shortcomings to which I confess and address to you the reader as my peers and possible co-conspirators. I seem to remember about grapes rotting on a vine. Grape anthracnose, also known as “bird’s eye rot,” results in the loss of fruit quality and quantity. In addition, vines may become infected and weakened. This disease can be very destructive once it becomes established in a vineyard.
Let’s just say I better shape up and allow sufficient time to ripen on the vine so that I am not cut off to rot away. Would this be akin to allowing God to have his perfect work?
Speaking of Fruit..
Have you ever heard a person state – “That’s like comparing apples and oranges”? Perhaps there is more likeness than difference in the comparison of apples and oranges than the user of the phrase might expect. For example, both apples and oranges belong to a larger group called fruit, and both begin as a tiny seed and when coupled with the right fertilization conception begins. When planted into the ground neither is seen for a time during the gestation period. Eventually a sapling emerges above ground and a small tree begins in its development. If cared for and given the proper nourishment the trees begin to grow until they are several feet above ground. With proper pruning, food and water, and time, the trees begin to blossom and soon bear fruit of their own. Each is similar in shape and each has seed within to grow even more as these seeds are planted so that their offspring can grow and develop. It is said that one seed upon becoming a tree produces up to 100 apples and if a seed from 100 apples is planted and grows to maturity an orchard or community has come into being. Both apples and oranges are full of vitamins and nutrients and are very good for us. Both have splendid color and are found in homes all over the world. Both have skin and when peeled away you find the goodness within. Both are weighed by the pound or measured by the peck or bushel. If one is found to be rotten it is removed from the others and the rest are saved, if it is not removed, the sum of the whole is ruined and lost to all. You can alter both and make them into refreshing drinks, pies or be consumed whole. Yes, I think even more comparisons could be made to exhibit that apple and oranges are more alike than different which brings me, to me and you, as the seed are planted ….. I think you get the idea.
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit; a rotten tree does not bear good fruit. … Every tree is known by its fruit. The good man produces good things from his store of goods and treasures; and the evil man evil things”. Jesus Book of Q