The joke goes like this: a man goes to his pastor and tells him how much he needs more patience and asks that the pastor pray for him in this matter. The pastor agrees and suggests they have prayer right there. As he prays, he prays that this man would have trials come into his life and have many struggles. Right in the middle of the prayer, the man stops his pastor. “That’s not what I asked for.”
“Sure it is,” his pastor replied, “the way to patience is through just such trials. Paul himself told us that tribulations work patience.”
If that’s the case,” the man answered, “I’ll be glad to wait a little longer to get it.”
Unfortunately, we have overworked this joke to the point of discouraging people from praying for change in their lives. Since change requires trial, I will just do without it. We understand that prayer for growth in our character is often answered by bringing challenges into our lives. We often decide that we are pretty happy where we are.
In prayer for character or spiritual growth, we contact the Almighty God and ask for His help. We usually want Him to wave His hand over us and say a few words and, wa-la!, we are changed. However, just as with Naaman (2 Kings 5), the Lord usually has us do something demeaning like dip seven times in the muddy Jordan. That is, He brings us into circumstances that bring about this growth in our lives. Although not necessarily, prayer for patience may indeed bring new trials; especially since patience is a quiet and steady faithfulness to God and other duties in the midst of trials.
However, the fact that trials may be used is not an argument against praying. This fear is further evidence of the spiritual shallowness of our times. We want the best of everything without having to pay more than a nickel for it. Character costs. Spirituality costs. Holiness costs. Salvation is free—to us. But dedication to God costs. And God says that we are unworthy of being a disciple of His if we are not willing to pay.
I have prayed prayers in my life that I knew were going to cost me something—and they did. However, I have found that when God offers something at a steep price it has inestimable value. In other words, we always get a real deal from God.
My daughter uses this in her testimony. She was once practicing to sing the song Whatever It Takes. The song is a very powerful statement of a willingness to go through anything in order to break our heart for His sake. I told her not to sing the song unless she meant it. She said she did and now she is in China serving Him. We need to learn to mean business with God.
Another aspect of her surrender is that her mother and I gave our children to the Lord to use as He saw fit. Now, we will likely only see her occasionally for the rest of her life. If she later gets married and has children, we will not get to see our grandchildren grow up on a daily basis and may only see them every few years. There is a cost to serving the Lord. But did I tell you that it is worth it all?
If God is dealing with you about praying for patience or for any other character or spiritual change, PRAY! Don't let someone else's coldness keep you from praying. God never allows us to face anything that He will not help us get through. Neither does He beat up on us. A prayer for patience may bring trials. However, it may not. God may just work in our lives to help us handle the trials we already have.
Do not be afraid of God working in your life. Do not be afraid to approach God on any subject. He does not upbraid His children for asking. He does not give them a serpent when they ask for a fish. The Holy Ghost intercedes for us when we do not quite know how to pray. So, pray!
The Qualities Associated with Patience
Patience and related spiritual traits have a central part in our Christian lives. There are really quite a lot of these related traits. Together, they seem to define what is meant by the spirit or mind of Christ. Of course, there is no way to draw a distinct boundary and say which traits are similar to patience and which are not. However, I would like to list a good number of spiritual qualities that we are told to have in the Bible. I think they will be plenty of a challenge for any person. I know they are for me.
These traits center on our inner spirituality and how that spiritual nature relates to the world around us. That compares to patience itself, which deals with both an inner strength and how we deal with others and the problems of this life. Here they are:
PEACE: that inward calmness of spirit that remains unperturbed in the face of the stress, confusion and the hurriedness of this world. It is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). It is maintained only by keeping our minds stayed on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3-4). As Christians, we are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15).
PEACEABLENESS: dealing with others in such a way as to promote peace and avoid quarrels. We are to attempt to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). The wisdom that is from above is peaceable (James 3:17).
LONGSUFFERING: bearing injuries, insults or troubles. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); we are to practice it with joyfulness (Colossians 1:11).
- FORBEARANCE: to control oneself under provocation; to keep our emotions in check when provoked. We are to forbear one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). This includes forgiving those with whom we have a quarrel (Colossians 3:13).
PATIENCE: A quiet and steady faithfulness to God and other duties in the midst of trials. Of course, as we have been discussing, tribulation works patience (Romans 5:3). We are to be patient in tribulation (Romans 12:12). We are also to patiently wait for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
- CONTENTMENT: that gracious and quiet acceptance of the lot in life given to us by the Lord; including what material things God has given us and the daily circumstances under which we find ourselves. We are to be content having only food and raiment (1 Timothy 6:8) in whatever state we find ourselves (Philippians 4:11). Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). I believe that contentment is one of the least understood and least practiced traits of godly livingespecially for Americans.
QUIETNESS: calmness, stillness; not pretentious or loud. We are to study to be quiet (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and to work with quietness (2 Thessalonians 3:12).
- GENTLENESS: not bringing harm to others or treating others harshly. Paul was gentle among the Thessalonians as a nurse with a child (1 Thessalonians 2:7). The servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle to all men (2 Timothy 2:24).
- GOODNESS: always seeking the benefit of others as opposed to seeking our own benefit. We are to bear one another's burdens. Goodness is the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).
KINDNESS: sympathetic, friendly, tenderhearted, showing concern and care for others. As the elect of God, we are to put on kindness (Colossians 3:12). We are to add to our godliness, brotherly kindness (2 Peter 1:7).
HUMILITY: a lowering of self in order to exalt others; the opposite of pride. We are to act in humbleness of mind (Colossians 3:12). Paul served the Lord with all humility of mind (Acts 20:19). We are all to be subject to one another and to be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5).
- MEEKNESS: not exalting or promoting self; dealing with others in a quiet, self-effacing manner. We are to instruct those who oppose themselves in meekness (2 Timothy 2:25). We are to show meekness to all men (Titus 3:2). We are to answer others with a spirit of meekness (1 Peter 3:15).
LOWLINESS: not thinking highly of self. Jesus was lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). We are to esteem others better than ourselves with lowliness of mind (Philippians 2:3).
- MERCY: withholding censure and judgment from those who deserve it. We are to be full of mercy (James 3:17) and to have bowels of mercy (Colossians 3:12).
Overwhelming, isn't it? How often do we hear the above items preached? They may not fit into our western style, macho-oriented Christianity, but they are Bible. Jesus was a man's man. But no one ever exhibited these traits more than Him. We need to learn to be more like Him.