“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, NKJV)
The word patient is the same word used for “long-suffering” in Gal. 5:22.
James illustrates patience with the picture of a farmer. A farmer plants, weeds, waters, cultivates. Every day he does two things: he watches and he waits. Because he knows that you cannot hurry the harvest, but he also knows that the harvest will come in due time.
Do you know that what is true of plants, is also true of people. That is why he says in verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”
Now the word for “patience” or “long-suffering” is a combination of two Greek words: the word “macro” which means “long or slow” and the word “thumia” from which we get the word thermos or thermal, which means “anger.” It literally means to be long-tempered as opposed to being short- tempered. In other words, patience is the ability to be slow to anger, rather than being quick-tempered. God is this way. Psalm 103:8 says: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”
Someone has said that “patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Now please understand that patience is not passivity. It is not indifference. It is not that fatalistic attitude toward life which sits back, twiddles its thumbs, and simply says: “It is what it is or whatever will be will be.”
Patience does not mean that you never get angry. Because anger is not always wrong. Sometimes a lack of anger is wrong. Patience simply means you are slow to anger, and quick to get rid of it. Too often we are just the opposite. We are quick to be angry, slow to get rid of it, and that is when the acid of anger turns into the burden of bitterness. Then we either hold grudges or try to get even.
Sometimes we look like we are being patient when we’re really not. I read a story this week about some American soldiers during the Korean War who had rented a house and hired a local boy to do their housekeeping and cooking.
This little Korean fellow they hired had an unbelievably positive attitude—he was always smiling and jovial and happy. So they played one trick after another on him. One day they nailed his shoes to the floor. He would just get up in the morning, pull those nails out with pliers, slip on the shoes, and keep on smiling.
They put grease on the stove handles. He would just wipe each one off and keep smiling and keep singing all the way.
They balanced buckets over the door. When he would open the door he would get drenched. He would just simply dry off and never fuss and just keep on smiling.
Then one day, they became so ashamed of themselves that they called him in and said: “We want you to know that we are never going to trick you again. We really do appreciate your patience.”
He asked, “You mean no more nail shoes to floor?”
“You mean no more sticky on stove knobs?”
“You mean no more water buckets on door?”
He said, “Okay then, No more spit in soup.”
Are you patient? Are you slow to anger or are you quick tempered? Do you look like you’re being patient on the outside when the reality is your anger is boiling on the inside?
Why not start today by praying this prayer of patience:
Dear Lord, today I feel like every task is a race and I’m falling short on giving grace. In this moment, I need your abundant love and grace. Teach me to be patient in life, with people, and with myself. Jesus, replace my restlessness with patience, contentment, and peace. I release my feelings of impatience and anger into Your hands and trust that Your timing is perfect. I turn away from selfish striving and embrace the opportunity to abide in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.