Longsuffering is one of those attributes or virtues that is either looked down upon or discounted altogether by many people. However, it is the fourth ingredient in the fruit of the Spirit. God thinks enough of longsuffering to place it after love, peace and joy, and if God thought so highly of the virtue of longsuffering it would be wise of us to understand its full meaning, and realize its importance.
Longsuffering is defined as long and patient endurance of injury, trouble or provocation. Although it is not widely taught on today, longsuffering has a prominent place both in the old and new testament.
Some perceive longsuffering to be indifference, others perceive it to be weakness, while others perceive it to be fatalism, when in fact it is none of these things. Although it has been called by different names, such as discretion, being slow to anger, or possessing a patient spirit, when you boil them down to their essence, one discovers longsuffering as the root of all these things.
Proverbs 19:11, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression.”
This is the foundation upon which longsuffering is built, and upon which it stands even in the face of storms. When the proverb speaks of overlooking a transgression, it does not mean to overlook sin, but rather a wrong that was committed against the individual. It is to your glory, if one has wronged you yet you overlook the wrong. This requires longsuffering as often the old nature is stirred up whenever we are wronged, or when we perceive that we have been wronged. Longsuffering, in the face of being transgressed against, is to a man’s glory.
The good judgment, or the maturity of a man, or as the proverb states it, the discretion of a man also makes him slow to anger. As we grow and mature in God, we grow in good judgment, and we consistently resist the desire to become reactionaries.
Too often even those we consider mature in the faith, react to a slight or an affront impulsively and hastily, forgetting the great lesson that the discretion of a man makes him slow to anger.
Longsuffering is also an integral building block of humility. It is in humility that we learn to submit to the authority of God, and learn to be dependent upon Him and His strength, rather than on ourselves and our aptitudes.
Ecclesiastes 7:8-9, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.”
One of the consistent marks of great men of God throughout the Bible is humility. Whatever capacity God used them in, however many miracles God did through them, they remained humble knowing the source of their power, knowing that absent of His leading they were as anchorless boats beaten about by the storms of life.
The world looks upon humility and despises it; they see it as a weakness rather than as strength; as a shortcoming rather than a virtue. The children of God however, find strength in humility, because the humble soul trusts God for its might.
Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
There are many attributes to longsuffering that make it a necessity in the life of a believer, and it is an attribute that God shares as well. Yes, God is longsuffering, and due this virtue, due to this attribute, He terries in sending judgment waiting for the sinner to repent, and be reconciled unto Him. If not for God’s longsuffering, the world would have been destroyed long ago, but God’s wrath is tempered by His longsuffering.
Joel 2:13, “So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”
God’s graciousness, His mercy, and His great kindness, as well as His being slow to anger are all byproducts of His longsuffering. This however does not mean God does not get angry, but that He is slow to anger. Words ring hollow to God’s ears, and outward shows of repentance without true repentance of the heart are as a stench in the nostrils of God. When He sees true repentance in the hearts of His creation God relents from doing harm, when it is only formality however, when merely rend our garments but not our hearts, His righteousness demands that He judge justly.
Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”
‘Well, it all sounds good, but up until now you’ve only quoted verses from the Old Testament.’
True, but this does not mean that there are no scriptures in the New Testament that encourage us to pursue longsuffering. I wanted to divide the need for long suffering between the Old and New Testament, to show the continuity of thought throughout the Bible concerning this ingredient in the fruit of the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
We live in an age when the idea of walking a walk worthy of the calling with which we were called seems archaic and antiquated. To many the only thing they must do in order to get saved, and so have access to abundant prosperity is raise their hand in a public setting, repeat a prayer, and live out the rest of their lives as they please. If we have been called out of the darkness into the light, if we have been called from death to live, then we must have a walk worthy of the calling with which we were called.
We love and embrace all the great privileges that God’s gracious calling bestows upon us, but we often shy away from the solemn responsibilities. One cannot have the privileges, without appropriating the responsibilities. When we are called of God, God’s calling establishes the criterion to which our conduct must conform.
When we have a walk worthy of the calling with which we were called, lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering are a constant companion on the path toward eternity.
The Word is clear on the fact that we serve a God who changes not. We see the continuity of God’s nature and the attribute of His longsuffering into the New Testament as well. We must also endeavor to keep at the forefront of our minds, that if God’s longsuffering and love for mankind is constant and perpetual, so are His standard, His righteousness, and His justice.
2 Peter 3:14-15, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him has written you.”
Peter makes the extraordinary claim that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. This is the epitome of God’s expression of His restrained love, grace and mercy. He is longsuffering in regards to the world, that He may perfect those who are His. God’s longsuffering extends only to His children, because with the wicked He is angry every day and merely forebears with them until the day that His wrath is poured out.
If one of God’s attributes is longsuffering, and if one of the ingredients that make up the fruit of the Spirit is likewise longsuffering, ought we not also strive to possess a longsuffering spirit?
When we possess the virtue of longsuffering, we grow in the likeness of Jesus. We learn to bear the burdens of our brethren, we learn to forgive, and we learn to have a patient spirit. Longsuffering compels us to forgive the slights and the insults; it keeps us from simply reacting to an affront on our character; it strengthens us in the face of the scornful, and manifests the character of Jesus in us. May we be wise, and seek to be longsuffering in all things.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.