Sunday, July 10

Peace and Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness--Galatians 5:22

Galatians 5: 16-26 describe two types of people--those who live by the spirit and those who gratify the desires of the sinful nature. I have often thought of this list of the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit as qualities that we as Christians must demonstrate to one another. While I still believe that this is true, I also think that this fruit is part of what we cultivate on a personal level when we commune with God. In light of Paul's description of two types of people, I think it is important to consider the fruit of the Spirit not only as outward expressions of our Christianity, but rather, our inner character and our one-on-one relationship with God.

As I read verse 22, I can think of another verse that mentions joy, patience and faithfulness. Romans 12:12 says to be "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." It is in times of affliction that our relationship with God is most often tested. If we are living in the Spirit as it says in Galatians, then we are able to stand up to the challenges of the world. Our strong love for God and our faithfulness to Him gives us the fortitude we need to find peace and patience no matter what the circumstances.

I find it interesting that peace and patience are listed side by side in this verse. Perhaps this is because you can't have one without the other. Impatience can quickly lead to anxiety and worry, and that is certainly not a peaceful feeling. I remember a song I learned as a child about being patient that describes the importance of peace and patience:

Have patience, have patience
don't be in such a hurry
when you get impatient
you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient too and
think of all the times when others stopped to wait for you.

Rather than think of when others have been patient with me, I think of the times that God has been patient with me. There have been times when I didn't like the way that God was working things out in my life. Rather than living in the Spirit, I tried to make things happen of my own accord. Doing so led to exactly the types of things Paul describes about the people who live by their sinful natures. Without patience I felt jealous (Gal. 5:20) of people who seemed to be getting special blessings from God. I also gave in to selfish ambitions and basically did what I wanted to instead of what I knew God wanted me to do (Gal. 5:20). In addition to my feelings of jealousy, I felt envious of those who didn't struggle with the same things I did. (Gal. 5:22) Needless to say, none of those actions were particularly peaceful.

I have seen a bumper sticker that very concisely sums up the second half of Galatians 5. It reads "No God, No peace; Know God, Know Peace". How very true that is. It is my continual goal to know God and to know peace. The best way I know how to do that is to spend time with him on a regular basis, allowing him to tend to the garden of my heart where the fruit of the Spirit can grow.

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