January 17, 2012

Patience, Forbearance

1 Timothy 1:12-17

I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience …
1 Timothy 1:16


When we hear the word patience, we probably think of the virtue that enables us to wait. That’s one way of looking at it, but Spirit-led patience is also much more. Patience is longsuffering. It involves more than passive waiting; it is active forbearance. It is a deliberate willingness to put up with disagreeable things in pursuit of higher goals.

The best example of patience in the Bible is God himself. A number of times, God is described as being “slow to anger” (see Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8). This phrase captures what true patience is. Patient people do more than just wait. They actively restrain their rightful anger and frustration. For a higher purpose, they put up with things that they know are wrong.

This is the attitude our longsuffering God has toward sinful people. For Paul, the “immense patience” of Jesus meant that God put up with all his wickedness for a long time before showing mercy to him. Paul calls himself “the worst of sinners,” reflecting back on the time of his life when he persecuted Christians (see Acts 7:54-8:3). But God had other plans for Paul (Acts 9:1-31; 13:1-28:31). That could easily be the testimony of every believer.

How wonderful that God’s love rests on his own capacity for goodness, and not our own!

Dear Lord, thank you for being patient with us. Forgive us for all we do wrong, and help us to be living testimonies of your mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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