Thought: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Rom 8:14

The Preciousness of Longsuffering
Tuesday 7th January, 2014

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, - Galatians 5:22

INTRODUCTION
The longsuffering nature of God is a prominent quality of His character; without it man could not be saved. As a direct outgrowth of love, it tempers God's wrath against man's persistent rebellion and gives man a chance to respond to God's relentless love in an environment that is non-judgmental and accepting. The divine quality is not an abstraction left to the exclusive domain of philosophers and theologians; it is a practical attribute that reveals how God relates to imperfect mankind and how imperfect humans should deal with each other. In salvation history, we see models of God's longsuffering nature in His dealing with rebellious Israel; Hosea's dealing with his unfaithful wife; the father's dealing with his prodigal son; and Jesus' dealing with disciples who were ill-natured and self-centred. The Holy Spirit is eager to give God's people that divine gift of longsuffering now.

UNDERSTANDING LONGSUFFERING
But what does the word "longsuffering" mean in the context of Scripture? In the New Testament, the Greek word ",Makrothumia" (longsuffering) literally means "long-tempered". It is the opposite of anger and the embodiment of self-restraint under provocation. God's long-suffering is often associated with His mercy and compassion towards mankind (Ex.34:6, Num. 14:18, Psa. 145:8 etc.). Yet, God's longsuffering, though related, is distinct from His mercy. In exercising longsuffering, God first exercises control over Himself, and repeatedly shows mercy to the wicked, though He has the power to avenge Himself. Thus, divine long-suffering is mercy repeated again and again in the face of repeated injury by the offender.

But divine longsuffering is even more impressive when we consider God's power to act as He pleases without any one asking, "what doest thou?" Further, God's longsuffering is neither a sign of weakness nor moral indifference. The wicked misconstrues this divine excellency. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil"(Eccl.8:11). Instead, it is a demonstration of His love and mercy to the sinner again and again, consistent with all his attributes including His justice. God still shows longsuffering to the world today amidst a sustained, calculatedly evil, unjust and ungodly culture. He is still "longsuffering to us-ward not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9).

The FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Galatians 5:22 states clearly, that longsuffering is an integral part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is not innate or hereditary. One can only be longsuffering when one lives by the Holy Spirit. "So I say, Live by the Spirit," Paul declares, "and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature" (Gal. 5:16, NIV). What is natural to man is his sinful nature. When the Holy Spirit is in control, He transforms the old nature of the Christian into a spiritual nature that bears fruit in its entirety as outlined in Galatians 5: 22, 23.

Scripture denounces superficial, half-hearted spiritual change. The imperative is evident: "Be filled with Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). The presence of the Spirit in the Christian brings new life. In fact Pau,l in Romans 8:11, asserts that the Holy Spirit gives resurrection life. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." The word "quicken" in the text literally means "make alive", presupposing that the sinner was dead in his trespasses and sins prior to the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is a radical process. This is why it is called a crucifixion in Galatians 5:20 and a rebirth in John 3:3. And the Holy Spirit is that seed (sperma) in 1John 3:9 which dwells in us and gives us total victory over the crippling dominance of sin. A life, therefore, that is filled with the Spirit will spontaneously bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit, including longsuffering. For the conscientious Christian, there is no other alternative.

CHRIST'S EXAMPLE OF LONGSUFFERING
Christ modeled divine longsuffering excellently. The apostle Paul testifies that he, the worst of sinner, was a recipient of Christ's unlimited patience [longsuffering] (1Tim. 1:16). He was, thus, shown mercy again and again until Christ saved him, a self-righteous Pharisee. Hallelujah! Who then can be saved without the unlimited patience/longsuffering of Christ?

However, Jesus' dealings with Peter represent, most poignantly, the extension of divine longsuffering to a struggling sinner. In spite of Peter's "carelessness of spirit and unsanctified temper", Christ saw salvivic potential in Peter and sought him with unlimited patience. In the book, Desire of Ages, the prophetess says of Peter: "The eye of Christ rested upon him, reading his character and his life history. His impulsive nature, his loving, sympathetic heart, his ambition and self-confidence, the history of his fall, his repentance, his labors, and his martyr death,--the Saviour read it all, and He said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone" Christ (139).

Clearly, Christ loved Peter just as he was and patiently pursued him for what he would become. He saw a diamond in the rough that with longsuffering care would become desirable and precious. Ultimately, it was Christ's pity and patience with Peter even as the rooster confirmed his denial of his lord that drove him back to Gethsemane where he wept bitterly. That was the beginning of a transformed Peter. How true! "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (2Peter 3:15).

LIVING BY THE SPIRIT WITH ALL LONGSUFFERING
Divine longsuffering is relational. God is longsuffering with mankind and man in turn should be longsuffering in his dealing with his fellowmen. The good news is that with the receiving of the Holy Spirit comes the gift of the Spirit enunciated in Galatians 5; 22, 23. The excellency of Christ is not yet fully radiant in His Church because the Church is yet to be filled with the Holy Ghost. There will only be revival when the Church is filled with the Spirit, and reformation will only be evident when the fruit of the Spirit is seen in the practice of His people.

Yet the imperative is urgent. The apostle Paul declares: "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. And above all these things [put on] charity, which is the bond of perfectness"(Col. 3:12-14).

As a church we need to be Longsuffering in Soul-winning.
Our labour for souls must not be treated as a take-it-or-leave-it enterprise. Nor must we approach the salvation of others as a five week venture. We must pursue the task of saving souls in all longsuffering with much prayer and love. In the manner that some crops need more time in their readiness for harvest, some souls need more teaching, prayer and urging before they respond positively to the gospel. How often we demonstrate irritability and disgust when people don't respond in a given time. We need to give sway to the Holy Spirit; let Him soften and woo hearts to the kingdom of God. Our role is to preach and teach with urgency and power, and yet to relentlessly pursue those who seem too deliberate in their response.

The prophetess gives wise counsel in the above regard: While some minds are quick to catch an idea, others are slow to comprehend new and startling truths which involve great changes and present a cross at every step. Give them time to digest the wonderful truths of the message you bear them.{Ev 177.1}

As members we need to be longsuffering with fellow members.
In the body of Christ every member is different yet precious. So were the disciples of Christ—different and precious. Thomas was doubtful, James and John were fiery and power hungry, Peter was impulsive and quick-tempered, and the list goes on. But Christ never gave up on them. He patiently rebuked, encouraged and restored them as they slowly developed in spiritual maturity. Here is how the prophetess describes John's conversion experience: "But as the character of the Divine One was manifested to him, he saw his own deficiency and was humbled by the knowledge. The strength and patience, the power and tenderness, the majesty and meekness, that he beheld in the daily life of the Son of God, filled his soul with admiration and love. Day by day his heart was drawn out toward Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master" (Steps to Christ. 73).

In the body, there are Johns and Peters too. Some are too timid; some are too self-assertive and ambitious; and some too quick-tempered; yet all are potential candidates for heaven. Like Christ, irrespective of the struggles of our brother we need to lovingly and patiently seek to restore him. Didn't Scripture declare, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). And Jesus in Matthew 18:10 states: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." There is still too much resultant bitterness and rancor in our attempts to reconcile differences with each other. Let us imitate Christ in all longsuffering and meekness.

As members we need to be longsuffering to each other in the family.
Imperfections are most obvious and glaring in the family. The home environment tends to encourage spouses and children to be less inhibited in their expression of strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows. That's O.K. The home should be a laboratory where character is developed. There is potential for the explosion of human chemistry, but properly directed there is great potential for phenomenal outcomes. In marriage, intimacy is not achieved overnight, and in child-rearing values take a mighty long time to stick.

In cultivating our home garden, we need more patience than a farmer. In our dealings with each other we should take heed of inspired counsel: All may possess a cheerful countenance, a gentle voice, a courteous manner; these are the elements of power. Unkindness, complaining, and anger shut Jesus from the Dwelling (D.A. 421-422). Furthermore, "This work requires heaven-born patience, willing to work and watch and wait" (Ed. 292). This is good counsel for both marriage and child-rearing. We must stubbornly work to achieve satisfaction in our family. Let's make family life priority. There is no other alternative.

CONCLUSION
Divine longsuffering is a precious attribute of God made available only through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When the Christian is filled with the Spirit he will bear fruit, the full fruit outlined in Galatians 5: 22, 23. Thus, this divine quality must be Spirit-cultivated and nurtured. We should be grateful for God's patience toward us, and pattern our longsuffering towards our fellowmen after models set by Christ. This precious quality will strengthen our witness to the world, buttress our inter-personal relationship with fellow-believers, and encourage our families to grow in a more nurturing environment. May God help us to admit our imperfections and cling to His perfection as we seek to imitate Him in all longsuffering.

Pastor Johnson Frederick
President, St. Lucia Mission

 


Gentleness and Meekness