I’ve been trying for over 25-years, in ways large and small, to let God take away my character defects. I’ve been called a lot of things; blunt, cold, irritable, terse, obtuse and many other names. When I saw myself as effective and achieving, others found me difficult to be around. Only through a miraculous spiritual substance God uses to transform our minds have I actually been able to accomplish much of anything. That miraculous substance, in King James English, is known as “longsuffering.”
The idea is not exactly tantalizing, or even attractive at face value; putting up with difficult people and situations. Who is actually happy about enduring the unpalatable? But it is actually much larger, more empathetic, and of a Divine Source. This is a concept that goes beyond the “patience” that many translations use to express the thought in modern English. It would be better to know longsuffering as a divine mixture of love, mercy, hope and patience – all in action together.
Gotquestions.org offers a solid explanation of the idea expressed in the KJV-English word:
The word longsuffering in the Bible is made up of two Greek words meaning “long” and “temper”; literally, “long-tempered.” To be longsuffering, then, is to have self-restraint when one is stirred to anger. A longsuffering person does not immediately retaliate or punish; rather, he has a “long fuse” and patiently forbears.*
As we draw closer to God through the Holy Spirit, we see His fruit expressed all over our lives. The Apostle Paul enumerates the work of the Holy Spirit that emerges as a Christian grows in Christ; many of which are very attractive:
Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV) “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Who doesn’t want to be known for the love, joy, peace or goodness they bring? But longsuffering?… Not everyone lines up to get into that club. Why would we? It requires a lot of tolerating what we may not like, and in a microwave society we live to ignore or dismiss what we don’t like very quickly. But perhaps when we do we miss out on the great joys of our lives. By doing hard things, we are forced to lean on our faith, and that sets us up for outcomes that are molded by God’s divine hand.
Two great examples of experiencing greater outcomes through longsuffering are Alex and Brett Harris – authors of the teen-oriented book Do Hard Things. Years after writing the book with his brother, Alex has seen the value of longsuffering:
“There are so many ways in which doing hard things as a teenager and in college prepared me what I’m doing today,” said Alex, who is in his last year at Harvard Law School, alma mater to both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney among many more of the nation’s elite, past and present. He is an editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and plans to clerk for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals next year in Colorado.**
Brett distills the concept and divine purpose of longsuffering as a way he and his brother have prepared themselves for what God’s plan has in store for them:
“We do hard things, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved,” Brett told me. “Our willingness to obey God even when it’s hard magnifies the worth of Christ, because in our hard obedience we’re communicating to the world that Jesus is more valuable than comfort, than ease, than staying safe.”
William Carey, the linguist and missionary to India, wrote about struggling for seven years before securing his first convert. Over the course of 47 years, Mother Theresa went from founding a missionary society of 13 members in Calcutta to a mission of over 4,000 sisters worldwide serving the needs of the poor, AIDS suffering, orphans and others. There are millions of examples, famous and unknown, who have grown a mustard seed of faith into amazing works for God.
We are promised a great return according to God’s plan as we employ the gift of longsuffering. On the surface it may not be the most attractive gift of the Spirit. But even, especially, when it is employed unseen, the gift of longsuffering allows the investment in faith to uniquely shine through with God’s grace. Longsuffering is exactly what Christ was teaching of in the Parable of Talents:
Matthew 25:19-21 “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
There has never been a time when God failed to live up to his promises. Longsuffering is genuinely a gift, and it give us the opportunity to realize greater impacts of God’s power. As a person of faith, longsuffering grants the believer the opportunity to have a front-row seat to some of the greatest, most special events and seasons of God’s glory.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on longsuffering. I hope you’ll leave a comment if you are so led.
Gotquestions.org. (2002 – 2016). What does the Bible mean by longsuffering? Retrieved 02 11, 2016, from Got Questions Ministries: http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-longsuffering.html