|THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT - LONGSUFFERING
T. David Sustar
HIS GLORY REIGNS
March 7, 2008
This fruit of the Spirit is expressed through the Greek root word makrothumia, is generally translated "longsuffering" or
"patience." While this word group suggests self-restraint in the face of unsatisfied desire, a New Testament synonym,
hypomone, points to bearing up under suffering or despair. It is simply suffering long. Patience is steadfastness in
obedience to God despite pressure to deny Him.
The Cure for Impatience
We are daily bombarded by the pressures of the world; they are here because of sin and the curse God placed on the
world and its activities. God's people are not immune to them as it rains "on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew
5:45). Jesus promised, "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). In His high priestly prayer Jesus said, "I
pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." John 17:15.
Our Intercessor is still praying in our behalf. There is also a second intercessor working on our behalf, the blessed
While the impatient man is continually upset over injustice, harm being inflicted or things not going right, the Christian
is not. For the Christian, patience and/or longsuffering is the result of spiritual discipline. This very grace comes when
one is able to persevere in tribulation. The apostle Paul valued the outgrowth or harvest of this experience so much
that he said, "...tribulation worketh patience" Romans 5:3.
When things that frustrate our plans occur, we often resent God's timetable. We forget about the sovereign God who
has assigned us a schedule based on a plan of which we are usually ignorant. This ignorance often creates
frustration, the seemingly senselessness of delay, loss, or failure. Through suffering long, we usually have time to see
the goodness of the Lord revealed!
An Attribute of God
Longsuffering is one of the communicable attributes of God. Although sinners are avowed enemies of God, He
continually expresses goodness and forbearance with them. They persist in their wickedness and obstinance, but He
tirelessly calls them to repentance rather than visit them with immediate judgment, "And thinkest thou this, O man, that
judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despiseth
thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth
thee to repentance." Romans 2:3,4.
The mystery of His longsuffering continues, "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known,
endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of
his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory..." Romans 9:22,23.
We are thankful that God does not act under pressure which might force Him to be either too lenient or too harsh.
When the time for judgment comes, the Righteous One metes out a condemnation that fits the crime. We,too, must
assume this attribute. To be impatient, to take matters into our own hands, either denies God's prerogative to judge or
else raises doubts as to His capacity to do so.
Patience Must Become Our Virtue
The Holy Spirit shares with us this attribute of God. We are to know this forbearance, fortitude and longsuffering
patience. The Christian is instructed to "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies,
kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any
man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." Colossians 3:12,13.
Many circumstances, as well as people, test our patience. Sometimes fellow Christians can create problems to try our
souls. Sometimes the testing ground is within our own homes or at work or school. In each trial God gives us
opportunity to be an example in patience and endurance.
The weak and immature will always be with us. If they are to have a chance to become productive in their walk with
Christ, it will come through those who are mature. The apostle Paul told the Romans, "We then that are strong ought
to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." Romans 15:1. Bishop Gerald Kennedy says, "As one
grows older, one comes to the conclusion that more lives are destroyed by impatience than any other sin."
Longsuffering in Action
"Longsuffering is manifested basically to people, and patience is manifested toward things. Longsuffering has the
power to avenge, yet refrains. It does not mean being long-faced, but it is the power to bear irritating events and
irritating people without being irritated." (Bernie S. Triplett, "A Contemporary Study of the Holy Spirit").
That reference could easily have been penned with the apostle Paul in mind. The man who carried such weighty
credentials with the world found himself totally disdained as a Christian. By his own testimony, he was
"defamed...made as the filth of the world, and...the offscouring of all things..." 1 Corinthians 4:13.
He knew what it meant to be hungry, thirsty, reviled, persecuted, and regarded as a fool. He was in constant danger
wherever he traveled. His sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) were enough to make anyone question God. Instead
he declared, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most
gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take
pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am
weak, then am I strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.
Strength Out of Weakness
But how does one grow in times of distress? We do so by reacting as a Christian should. We remind ourselves that
we are not the only ones to ever suffer, that God is faithful and that we will be a better person for having endured.
1) We are not the only ones. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that all our temptations and trials are
"common to man" (1 Corinthians 10:13). It has happened before, and it will happen again to others. Life's problems
are run-of-the-mill occurrences for Christians.
2) God is faithful. Every trial has a way out, provided by the faithfulness of God. The apostle Paul was quite alone
when he wrote Timothy the second time. "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray
God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me
the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the
lion." 2 Timothy 4:16,17.
3) We will be better for having endured. Patience has her perfect work; we are glad for the trouble after we have
As John W. Sanderson said, "As the shadows fall on western civilization, the saints had better major in patience. It may
be all that is left to us."
Patience Means to "Suffer Long"
Longsuffering is the opposite of being short-tempered or impatient. This refers to the patience of the believer who is
trusting God to accomplish His purpose. It reflects the believer's evenness of temper, his patient endurance when
injured by another or when tried by circumstances he cannot control. Yet we allow our circumstances to dictate our
level of patience in our daily drudgeries and delights. It might be well to think of these examples when we overreact to
the spilled milk or late bus. The next time we "lose it" over trying to potty train our child or get a lazy teen in gear, or
blow a fuse in the grocery line or explode during a traffic jam, let's remember that God's Spirit should make a
difference in our lifestyle. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the
things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
God Has a Timetable
The missionaries who worked with T. David Sustar in Africa gave his team the greatest examples of self-control. In
Western Africa, it was 14 years after the first missionary arrived before one convert was received into the church; in
East Africa, 10; in New Zealand, nine years before one baptism and two more years before one communicant; in Tahiti,
it was 16 years before the first harvest.
William Carey labored seven years before the first Hindu convert was baptized. In Burma, Adoniram Judson toiled for
seven years before he had a convert. He once wrote home, "'Beg the churches to have patience. If a ship were here
to carry me to any part of the world, I would not leave my field. Tell the brethren success is as certain as the promises
of a faithful God can make it.'"
Church of God missionary J.F. Rowlands labored in Africa for seven years before his first convert was reported.
However, before his death, over 50,000 Church of God members had been won because of his endurance.
To better understand the endurance of these ministers of God, we should turn to the writings of the apostle Peter,
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to
usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:8,9.
God's Greatest Revelation of Longsuffering
The greatest expression of the longsuffering of God is revealed in Christ Jesus. When mankind had done its best to
turn from God and all roamed in darkness, God sent a Savior, "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage
under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a
woman, made under the law. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of
sons." Galatians 4:3-5.
The author's interpretation of "when the fulness of time had come" is "when God could not stand it any longer." His
longsuffering heart cried, "I must hear someone say 'Hallelujah' one more time. I must have someone to love,
someone to wrap My arms around and pull to My bosom. I must have someone to share My glory. I will send My Son
to take care of the problem of sin and death."
Andrew Murray said, "Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessings doubly
precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fulness of time, ere He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands; He
will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help and not delay one hour too long."
That same assurance was given by Isaiah as he declared, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their
strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not
faint." Isaiah 40:31
Longsuffering is the Mark of a Saint
Those who love, who are members of the Beloved, will allow the Spirit of God to shed abroad a special love in them,
"Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity [love] envieth not; charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up..."
1 Corinthians 13:4
* Longsuffering marks the life of a faithful minister:
"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the
Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ
to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but
the spirit giveth life." 2 Corinthians 6:3-6.
* Longsuffering is the object of the apostle Paul's prayer for the church:
"That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the
knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering
with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the
saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear
Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" 1 Colossians 1:10-14.
Only the Spirit can produce such an attitude in the life of the Christian. Any person full of the Spirit will be a patient
person, not given to short-temperedness. What Paul wrote will become a reality in their lives: "With all lowliness and
meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love:" Ephesians 4:2.
A Layman's Guide to the Fruit of the Spirit, by T. David Sustar, Copyright 1990, Pathway Press.
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