Seeking Patience for This Busy Season

 
Sinclair Ferguson | 21 Dec 2023

Love is patient.

(1 Corinthians 13:4)

A colleague once told me about a very embarrassing experience. He had flown out of town for a speaking engagement. The flights were badly delayed and so he arrived at his hotel very late and exhausted. The young man at the reception desk asked for his name, looked for his reservation, and after a few minutes said, apologetically, “I’m sorry sir, but there’s no record of a reservation in your name”.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. More pointedly, it destroyed the theologian’s patience—he flew off the handle.

Eventually the young receptionist found him a room and asked my friend to sign the paperwork. He wrote his name, and then the address of the (well-known!) theological seminary where he taught. The young man looked on in amazement and gasped, awestruck: “You’re really Professor _____ from _____ Seminary? I just became a Christian a few months ago. What a privilege to meet you!”

It can happen to the best of us! Something makes us snap. Later, we protest in embarrassment, “I don’t know what came over me. I’m usually very patient!”.

Love Is Patient

But that’s not true. It is just that we have never really been tested. Only impatience-stimulating situations show whether we are patient or not! The Christmas season will present plenty of opportunities to test our patience: packed trains, traffic jams, crowded shops, orders we made on websites arriving too late—or without batteries—not to mention difficult relatives or over-excited children!

Only impatience-stimulating situations show whether we are patient or not! The Christmas season will present plenty of opportunities to test our patience.

The English word “patience” can be used to translate several different words in the Greek New Testament. Paul’s verb here (makrothumeoĚ„) means “to be long-tempered”. He seems to have associated this with humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4 v 1-2; Colossians 3 v 12). It shows itself in the way Christians “bear with” one another.

The Perfect Example of Patience

The child in the manger is the perfect example of divine patience. The rest of his life gave expression to it. How longsuffering he was. He experienced opposition, virtually from the moment he stepped into the world. Later he tasted misunderstanding in his own family, who didn’t trust him. And then those disciples—so often foolish, at the most critical juncture in his life, they disappointed him. “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?” Jesus asked Philip (John 14 v 9). “Could you not watch one hour?” he asked Peter, James and John (Mark 14 v 37).

If you want to know what patience is, what longsuffering looks like, all you need to do is to read through one of the Gospels.

And then, on top of it all, there was betrayal by a man who had broken bread with him a matter of hours before—then an illegal trial, false witnesses, a judge with no moral fibre, a wrongful conviction. And then the spitting, the abuse, the humiliation, and the shame and agony of the cross.

If you want to know what patience is, what longsuffering looks like, all you need to do is to read through one of the Gospels. Yes, “love is patient”. Jesus was patient. And if the Lord of loving patience lives in you, your love will be patient too.

But there’s more. For if you think about it, the greatest illustration you know of his longsuffering is the way he has been so longsuffering towards you.

Reflection

Who or what has tested your patience in the past few days? How did you respond? How do you imagine Christ would have responded if he were in your shoes?

Today’s blog is an excerpt from Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson. This advent devotional on 1 Corinthians 13 reflects on the ultimate source of authentic, divine, and transforming love—Jesus Christ

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love Came Down at Christmas

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Advent devotional on 1 Corinthians 13, reflecting on Jesus—the source of authentic, divine, transforming love.

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