Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Getting through this trial: Longsuffering

But the fruit of the Spirit is ... longsuffering ... Galatians 5:22 (NKJV)

When I think of longsuffering, I don't think of it as a fruit -- and if I did, I would expect the fruit to be rotten. Longsuffering does not have the warm and fuzzy feeling that: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness and faithfulness have. (I purposely left out self-control, because that doesn't belong in the warm and fuzzy category either ...ha!)

Nevertheless, longsuffering is indeed a part of the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians five. In some interpretations, the word used is "patience," however longsuffering carries a much deeper and heavier definition:
having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.
Yup. Still no warm and fuzzy feelings here.

The word that stands out most in longsuffering is "suffer." Ask anyone the simple question: "Do you like to suffer?" and I'm almost sure it will always be answered with a "no," never mind suffering over a long period time and at the expense of someone else. Having hurtful situations and strenuous trials is difficult, but I've found that being hurt by others, especially by those we love, can make coping extremely more difficult.

Troubles produce good fruit
Despite the difficulty that longsuffering brings, there are references in the Bible that explain the need for this unpopular fruit:

Paul says in Romans 5:3-5: 

1) Troubles develop passionate patience [longsuffering] within us

2) Patience and endurance [longsuffering] develops strength of character

3) Strong character strengthens our confidence and hope

According to these verses in Romans, troubles are an OPPORTUNITY for us to grow and mature. Troubles provide us a practice ground to build our patience, our character (maturity), which then increases our confidence and hope in Christ. The ability to patiently endure in spite of troubles begins a strengthening process within us that we are going to need in this long journey we call life!

James says something similar in James 1:2-4, and advises us to count all trials as JOY. According to these verses:

1) Trials produce patience

2) Patience has a job to do within us, and that is to do a perfect work (perfect areas of imperfection)

3) Patience does a perfect work in us (if we allow it to) and in the end, we will lack nothing

Again we see that trials help us grow our patience [longsuffering], but James says something interesting here. He says that patience does a perfect work in our lives. I believe this means that when we embrace life's situations/hardships patiently, we relinquish control to God, and realize that we lack nothing when God is in total control of our situations. 

Wow! Those warm and fuzzy feelings are back!

Self evaluation
How do you respond to trials and troubles? The answer to this may be a sure indicator of where you fall on the maturity spectrum. How mature are you ... really? How strong is your character? Are you able to patiently endure through hard times or do you fold under pressure? Are you able to stand firm in the faith and cope or do you cave in to sin and temptation?

Knowing this about yourself is pivotal, because maturity is a decision and has nothing to do with age. Once you can admit and honestly evaluate your ability to (or inability) to stand firm in times of trouble, you can take new steps toward strengthening yourself in this area.

God is calling his people to mature and put away our fleshly desires. Decide to endure today. The almighty God is on your side fighting for you. Stand strong. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it!

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