Dougal was my beloved bearded collie of fourteen years; a most handsome chap, I’m sure you’ll agree. This was him at just a few months old so you can imagine the gentle giant that he grew into. Being an inexperienced dog owner, I have to admit I didn’t teach Dougal many lessons that I should have. For example, I probably should have taught him that not everyone who came to the front door would enjoy having his paws wrapped round their neck as he greeted them with a passionate wet kiss! No, I didn’t teach Dougal much,but in contrast Dougal taught me a lot. One thing he taught me was a lovely picture of patience.
We often think of patience being our ability to wait for things; that is part of it and we’ll explore that tomorrow, but the word used in Galatians when Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit is better translated as long suffering (doesn’t sound pleasant!) and refers to having patience with others. Some commentators describe this as:
“the spirit which has the power to take revenge but never does so” (John Chrysostom)
“the spirit which refuses to retaliate” (JB Lightfoot)
“the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.” (W Barclay)
Now back to my story. Time to meet Lily.
Lily was my feisty feline, pictured here terrorising my third pet Gilly. She sadly met the same end that all overly curious and courageous cats meet when they live beside a busy main road. I’d have loved a photo of my pets all together but that was never going to happen. You see, Lily hated Dougal…with fierce passion. At first her reaction to him was the kind of behaviour I’d only ever seen in cartoons – all her hair would stand completely vertical and her tail would become like a massive black toilet brush, but as time went on her boldness grew. Dougal was oblivious to her negative feelings towards him. He would consistently greet her the same way he greeted every living thing; with an enthusiastic wag of his tail.
This was the scenario one particular afternoon. Dougal, now getting old and spending most of his day napping, was having a little snooze in his usual place, when into the kitchen appeared the black and white furry terror Lil. Ever keen to make friends the big boy rose from his nap and advanced towards her, tail wagging. But Lily was having none of it and with paw fully outstretched, claws unleashed and every ounce of power and speed that she could muster she landed a magnificent right hook onto a very stunned Dougal’s big soft nose.
After a sharp intake of breath all onlookers awaited carnage in the kitchen. After all, Dougal was literally ten times her size and with one snap of those powerful jaws, Little Miss Bold as Brass, would have learned a very painful lesson.
What followed, however, was a true picture of the dignified patience we want to consider today. Dougal was stunned, granted, and recoiled slightly in shock. Then, with the same gentle look in his eyes, he simply turned away and waddled back to his little mat in front of the stove to continue with his nap. Some battles just weren’t worth fighting and after all, the young furry friend had still a lot to learn.
Do you get the true meaning of patience? It’s that ability to refuse to react in a negative way,
- even when we’re severely provoked
- even when we’re in the right
- even when we could, perhaps with a sharp sentence or two, ‘put someone in their box!’
Some personalities struggle more with this than others. I do! Some of us are naturally argumentative and like to get the last word to feel we’ve won. Some of us have quick tempers and short fuses. But remember, if we have given our hearts and lives to the Lord, we all have the seeds of patience within us!
Ephesians 4 v 1-2
Colossians 3 v 12-13
Matthew 18 v 21-35
You may want to begin by writing out one of the definitions of patience given above, or why not write one in your own words.The verses in Ephesians and Colossians are quite similar. Make a list of the qualities we are told in both sets of verses that every Christian should have in their lives. Highlight any that appear in both lists.
Obviously Paul felt this behaviour was very important since he was writing about it again and again.
In Ephesians, note down the phrase that comes after the word patience. The Amplified version explains it as “bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.”
Think of people in your life who you are tempted to lose patience with. Perhaps it is a younger brother or sister who wants your attention when you don’t want to give it, an elderly family member who can’t do things as quickly as you can or someone in your class who you find annoying. Write down any helpful thoughts you could practise next time you feel impatient, which would help you to “make allowances.”
Sometimes we can lose patience because we have been badly treated when we didn’t deserve it. Our natural tendency may be to fight back. “Making allowances” in this case may be trying to remind ourselves that perhaps this person has lashed out because they are experiencing some difficult things in their own lives that we know nothing about, or they may have ‘a lot on their plate’ at the minute. While it is unfair for them to take it out on us, we need to remember that we are called and equipped, to show supernatural behaviour!
In Colossians we are told to “clothe ourselves” with some lovely qualities. These mornings when it’s so cold outside and yet so cosy in bed, wouldn’t it be lovely to just flick a switch and have our clothes on without going to any effort? But it doesn’t work like that. We have to make the choice of what to wear and then put effort into getting dressed. Some days we’ll make more effort than others, with added accessories and all things matching!
Do you ever think about your spiritual clothes in the morning? This verse tells us we have to make the choice of what to put on. We shouldn’t assume that these ‘clothes’ will just naturally appear as we go about our day. There is effort required. Write down what you could do in the mornings this week to help you ‘put on your spiritual clothes’. Perhaps as we get dressed with each item of our actual clothes we could be praying about each of these spiritual clothes.
In Colossians 3 v12 we are described as God’s ‘chosen ones’. Some translations explain this as God’s representatives.If we are representing God, why do you think we need to show patience?
The third reading will help with that answer!
A tale of two servants: Matthew 18 v 21-35
This is a very challenging story. Can you summarise what it is saying in your own words in a few bullet points?
If we are to represent God on this earth, we must show his characteristics to others. God is extremely patient in His dealings with us. Just think of all the times we let Him down and fail; yet He still loves us, cares for us (watchfully and affectionately), gives us every good gift and delights in us!
Let’s remember how much we need God to be patient with us even though we don’t deserve any of it, and then go into our day, to show that patience to others.
We’ll only build up our patience muscles by ‘working out’. Look out for those people who are going to come along today to give you that workout!
I’m discovering that by studying the Fruits of the Spirit it also gives us a lovely picture of the character of God. All these beautiful qualities are who God is through and through. Spend some extra time reading about how patient God is with us, even though we don’t deserve it. As we focus on this more and more it should make us more patient with others.
Romans 2 v 4
1 Timothy 1 v 16
2 Peter 3 v 15