A Spirit of Peace and Patience

girl sitting in the sunset

We’ve been studying Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit. What we sometimes miss in this is that Paul describes all of these attributes as a single fruit. They work together to make one unified product. These are qualities of our Lord and qualities that should also be present in each of us if we’ve truly allowed His spirit to live in us and guide our lives. We’ve looked at being joyful and loving as well as living self-sacrificially. Building off of those, let’s talk about two qualities I’m sure all of us could use work on: peace and patience.

Peace and Patience in Our Savior

We serve a Savior whose entire ministry was characterized by peace and patience. From His fist lesson atop the mount in Galilee to His crucifixion, Christ taught and lived peace and patience. Jesus lived peacefully with those around Him. He demonstrated inner peace against all trials, and He showed extreme patience throughout His work with others.

When Jesus’ critics would try to antagonize Him or provide Him, Jesus answered softly. Take the opening of Matthew 9 for example. Twice in that chapter, the scribes and Pharisees they to provoke Jesus, and each time He answers them with quiet confidence and authority. He does not answer with harsh words, nor is He quick to anger. Even at the cross, Jesus endures with peaceful patience.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

– I Peter 2:21 – 23

This is the Spirit of peace and patience we inherit in Galatians 5. It is a peaceful way of life that leads to patience in all circumstances, and we should treat His teachings about peace and patience with the same seriousness that we would His teachings on morality or obedience.

Living Peace

Romans 12:14 – 21 calls on us to be overcome with good. To do this, Paul instructs us to avoid repaying hurt for hurt, to live in harmony with others, to be humble, and even to be generous to those who might seek to harm us in some way. It is a type of conduct that seems to go against common sense, but this is the kind of peace we should be living. In verse 18, Paul says we should be doing all we can to live peaceably with those around us.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus blesses those He calls peacemakers in verse 5, and He expands on this in verses 38 – 48. He tells us that, if any should want to take something from us, we should give them that and more. He tells us to love and pray for those who treat us harshly. He tell us to never refuse those who would beg or borrow. In all things and at all times, we should be sharing peace with others.

This is possible because of the peace we have within ourselves. Philippians 4:5 asks us to be a reasonable people, not giving into anxiety, but rather being filled with a peace that passes understanding. Romans 15:13 tells us we should be filled with all joy and peace in God so that we may overflow with hope. If we have that kind of all-encompassing peace, then we will live our lives peaceably and as peacemakers.

Living Patience

Patience and peace go hand-in-hand. If we are filled with peace, then that will produce patience, and practicing patience will bring us greater peace. To let patience completely fill us, there are three areas we need to work on our patience:

  1. Patience with Others. In Matthew 18:22, when Jesus tells Peter to forgive a brother seventy times seven times, he’s teaching Peter and us about patience with others. People will let us down and disappoint us. They will frustrate us, but we have to exercise patience if we hope to have a positive spiritual influence on them. Whether you are growing frustrated with a public figure, another Christian, a slow cashier, or your spouse, practice patience.
  2. Patience with Ourselves. Perhaps more difficult than remaining patient with others, we also have to be patient with ourselves. I don’t know about you, but when I start trying to improve myself, sometimes I get really annoyed when I slip up. It may even cause me to give up, but we can’t let that happen in our spiritual lives. Think of how many times Peter could have simply given up when he failed, but he didn’t. Neither should we.
  3. Patience with God. You know what Job, Abraham, Paul, and Elijah all have in common? They all had to be patient with God. Psalm 27:14 simply tells us to take courage and to wait on the Lord. Sometimes we want to know why God doesn’t take care of something for us right now, but we should be patient with He is with us, as Peter describes in II Peter 3:9. We have to be able to wait.

This patience is also translated as long-suffering. To suffer long means the waiting is not always pleasant. Jesus suffered long on the cross. God suffers long with our sins. So should we be able to suffer long with the faults of others, our own shortcomings, and God’s timeline.

What Does This Look Like?

Peace is more than the absence of conflict. It is the ability to be contented without conflict. Likewise, patience is more than an ability to wait. It is being contented while waiting. What does this look like in everyday life? What can I practice to increase a spirit of peace and patience within myself?

  • Practice patience and peace when driving. When you are in heavy traffic, when someone cuts you off, or when the lights just aren’t cooperating, practice remaining calm and at peace with the situation.
  • Practice patience and peace at home. If you’re like me, it’s easier to be patient with a stranger than with those closest to you.
  • Practice avoiding unnecessary arguments. That someone doesn’t agree with you on some secular issue is not a reason for you to push your viewpoint.
  • Practice non-retaliation. Just as Jesus and Paul never flung stones or insults back to those who would ridicule and diminish Him, so should we be avoiding belittling or insulting those who might look down upon our beliefs.
  • Practice paying it forward. Anticipate when you will need patience. Look for situations where you can build bridges, strengthen relationships, and help peace.

This also means we may have to consider influences we allow into our lives. We might need to turn off television or radio personalities that encourage a confrontational or hostile world-view. It might mean we have to let go of interests — even sports or politics — if we see these things negatively affecting our ability to be peaceful and patient. In Matthew 5:29, Jesus tells us to be willing to go so far as cast away and eye or a hand if it continues to make us stumble. How much easier is it to just turn off the TV or radio? If we are going to be peaceful and patient people, then we have to focus on influences that promote, rather than malign, those qualities.

Patient and Peaceful As a Rule

Much can be said about the couple of times in Jesus’ ministry when He did seem to lose His patience. In Matthew 21:12, Jesus drove out those who had turned the temple into a place of commerce and greed. Then, in Matthew 23, Jesus says some very strong words to the scribes and Pharisees, but you know why these stick out so strongly? It’s because these times were exceptions to Jesus’ behavior rather than the rule.

Yes, Jesus demonstrates that there is a time and place for stronger words and actions, but those times are rare. His life was otherwise defined by patient peacefulness. Our should be too. It can be tough, and Galatians 6:9 exhorts us to have endurance, to not grow weary in doing good. This includes living by peace and remaining long-suffering with others, ourselves, and our God.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 simply tells us the end is better than the beginning, and a patient spirit is better than an anxious one. This life is just the beginning. We peacefully wait for something better when all of this ends.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Hebrews 12:1 – 2

We serve a Prince of Peace. We can patiently and peacefully endure the things of this life. Sometimes, like our Savior, we may even have to suffer long through the trials before us, but we can overcome. Let’s do all we can to be patient with God, ourselves, and others, to live peaceably with everyone around us, and to be filled with the Spirit of peace — peace that passes all understanding and that gives us hope that the end will, in fact, be better than the beginning.

lesson by Robert Smelser

Love and Joy in the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

Last Sunday, we kicked off a series about living spiritually, and we’ve based these lessons on the fruit of the Spirit we find in Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit is comprised of qualities we are each supposed to have as children of God, and His Spirit dwells in us through these qualities. These are qualities of our Lord, and we are more like Him when we let the Spirit guide us to better demonstrate these qualities in our lives.

The Challenge of Joy

Two qualities that show God’s Spirit in us are love and joy. And sometimes it can be challenge to find joy in the world around us, but I Thessalonians 5:16 calls on us to pray ceaselessly and to rejoice always. Paul tells us to avoid quenching the Spirit in our lives. Whatever we are facing, we can put things in God’s hands. We face a world full of things that can quench our joy and love, but His presence in us can combat those influences.

Depression is real. It is a clinical condition that affects a good 10% of people in our country. We cannot write off or discount the effects of depression on others, but there is intentional joy in the Lord. We can be joyful by design. We can work away from the darkness of the world, and God’s word can help us with that. Intentional behaviors can have a positive impact on our self esteem, our worldview, and our most basic level of happiness.

Intentional Joy

When asked how challenging it was to be blind, Helen Keller once reportedly responded, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Vision gives us something to work toward, something we can look forward to. Vision keeps things in perspective, but God’s perspective may cause us to look to different things with new priorities.

50% of our happiness is attributed to genetic inheritance. 10% is affected by our work and other life pursuits, and 40% is affected by intentional behaviors. We have a great deal of control over the joy we experience and share with others. Galatians 2:20 records Paul testifying that he has died to self and is now alive to Christ. This is a man who had great reasons to feel depressed or have low self-esteem. He gave his life over to God, and he found peace and contentment in God regardless of circumstance. His joy was an intentional one.

The Joy of Love

Having strong relationships with family and friends has a large impact on our personal happiness. We have greater joy in the Lord when we have strong relationships with our church families. If we want a joyful congregation, we need a congregation that builds and maintains loving relationships. Acts 2:42 describes the closeness of the early church, people who had all things in common and who daily relied on each other for support and encouragement.

This loving joy is active. It involves doing meaningful things, looking after the interest and well-being of others. How much do we see that in the life of our Savior? How often did He intentionally seek out those He could lift up and help? His Spirit should be guiding our pursuits and activities. It should make us more altruistic, more generous, more interested in others and less interested in self.

How does all of this fit in with the very real things that can rob us of joy — losing homes, losing jobs, losing loved ones? The psychology of it is this: the more involved you are in intentionally lifting others up in joy and love, the more quickly you can recover from tragic events in your life. Ephesians 3:14 has Paul speaking of Christians who are rooted in love, serving others, and strengthening each other in God. Being grounded in these things will always help us recover from tragedy.

Seeking After Love & Joy

Mark 4:13 begins an explanation of the parable of the sower, and Jesus speaks of those whose roots are cut off by the cares and concerns of this world. We should be seeking to strengthen our roots, so nothing can pull us away from God. We help form these roots by taking our focus form self, letting His Spirit dwell in us, and serving others in joy and love.

When we focus on fulfilling our own wants, we will always want more. There is no joy to be found there. It takes an intentional choice to cease chasing after the things of this world and looking to higher and better goals. People who work toward making things better for others and the world around them consistently find more joy and fulfillment in their lives than those who have more selfish goals.

So many passages speak about love, and they consistently talk about our love focusing on others and focusing on God. As children of God, our focus should be on building others up, on forming strong family bonds, and on making the world a more godly place. We have something higher to anticipate than the next car, raise, or other material purchase. This higher calling will make us more loving and happier people, and then we can better share that joy and love with others.

lesson by Steve Jones