Vol. 2 Issue 5 January 31, 2008
The weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
â€œBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no lawâ€ (Galatians 5:22-23).
Being â€œLong of Noseâ€
This is week four of a nine week study of the fruit of the Spirit and what it has to do with finding purpose in life. This weekâ€™s subject fruit is â€œpatience.â€ How does possessing patience relate to understanding and achieving my purpose in life?
First, letâ€™s define â€œpatience.â€ Merriam-Websterâ€™s Collegiate Dictionary defines â€œpatienceâ€ as: â€œthe capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.â€ Not much to go on there. We could look up â€œpatientâ€ or find another dictionary that might expand Merriam-Websterâ€™s un-generous definition, but you know by now, thatâ€™s not where I generally head next.
The Old Testament writers got their point across in Hebrew or Aramaic. The New Testament writers studied Hebrew (Luke was the only Gentile in the pack) and wrote in Greek. So to really understand what they said we need to understand what they said.
Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks going over the meanings of Greek and Hebrew words and Iâ€™d apologize if I thought I owed it to you, but a lot of this stuff is just too good to pass up and if I donâ€™t tell you whoâ€™s going to?
When your English Old Testament says â€œpatienceâ€ itâ€™s actually translating two Hebrew words, ×š×¨× (arek) â€œlongâ€ and ×£× (af) â€œnoseâ€. The literal English translation is â€œlong nose.â€
So having a long nose is a fruit of the Spirit? Maybe literally, but not really. Ancient Hebrews (possibly modern Hebrews) saw someoneâ€™s nose turning red as a sign that they were getting angry. Therefore the word for â€œnoseâ€ and the word for â€œangerâ€ became synonymous. If a person didnâ€™t anger easily, if it took a long time for his nose to turn red, he was, in Hebrew parlance, â€œlong of noseâ€; slow to anger.
Iâ€™ll bet not everyone knows â€œpatienceâ€ means â€œlong noseâ€ in Hebrew. You could corner the dinner table conversation with that one.
Bible translators probably didnâ€™t want to go to the trouble to explain all this so they substituted â€œpatienceâ€ for â€œlong nose,â€ which seemed to work out well.
There are two Greek words for â€œpatienceâ€ in the New Testament; both of them are worth digging into. The first is â€œmakrothumia.â€ Itâ€™s the same word the English Bible translates â€œlongsuffering.â€ â€œMakrothumiaâ€ means: â€œpatience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.â€
The other Greek word for â€œpatienceâ€ is â€œhupomoneâ€. Strongâ€™s Lexicon defines â€œhupomoneâ€ as â€œthe characteristic of a man [or woman] who is not swerved from his [or her] deliberate purpose and his [or her] loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.â€ Boy, I like that one. I could write a whole book on that one â€¦ maybe later.
So â€œpatience,â€ the character trait Paul mentions as a fruit of the Spirit, is a lot richer than I ever imagined. It means â€œslow to angerâ€ and â€œslow to avenge wrongsâ€ (turning the other cheek); but it means a lot more. It means â€œendurance,â€ the capacity to keep going or put up with pain and hardship for a long time; â€œconstancy,â€ loyalty as a partner and a friend; â€œsteadfastness,â€ adhering firmly and faithfully to a principle or cause; â€œperseverance,â€ trying hard and continuously in spite of obstacles and difficulties; â€œforbearance,â€ refraining from action, even when itâ€™s your legal right; â€œlongsuffering,â€ forgiving, resigned, tolerant, accommodating, selfless.
What kind of person could I be if my life was characterized by that kind of patience? What affect would it have on the world if believers demonstrated that kind of patience in their lives? Living out â€œmakrothumiaâ€ patience would make us better people and make the world a better place to live, wouldnâ€™t it?
But what do you think the Bible means when it calls patience a fruit of the Spirit? Why do you think it lists nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit at all? Is it to make us better people? To make the good, gooder? To make the world a better place to live?
I think itâ€™s something deeper. Let me show you what I mean.
â€œWhat if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathâ€”prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory â€¦?â€ (Romans 9:22-23)
â€œBut for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.â€(I Timothy 1:16)
â€œBear in mind that our Lordâ€™s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.â€ (II Peter 3:15)
Do you see it? Patience isnâ€™t a characteristic of man; itâ€™s a characteristic of God. His goal isnâ€™t to make us into good people; Heâ€™s making us to be like Him. Thatâ€™s what the fruit of the Spirit is describing.
Look at the list again; â€œlove, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.â€ Those arenâ€™t characteristics that come naturally to people, we know better than that; theyâ€™re characteristics of God. Heâ€™s got something much bigger in mind for us than just being good folks.
Something eternal is happening in you when the Holy Spirit dwells inside. The Holy Spiritâ€™s job isnâ€™t to remake you into a better person; itâ€™s to remake you into the image of God. Thatâ€™s the way it was in the beginning. â€œThen God said, â€˜Let us make man in our image, in our likeness â€¦.â€ (Genesis 1:26)
Godâ€™s intent wasnâ€™t to make us into the image of really good folks; it was to make us in His own image. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of a restoring process. It isnâ€™t an indication that weâ€™re being molded into good citizens of this world, but that weâ€™re being transformed into children of the next.
Godâ€™s characteristics are â€œlove, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.â€ The fruit of the Spirit is â€œlove, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.â€ See the connection? Weâ€™re not being made into a better version of the old man; weâ€™re being made into something new, into a reflection of God.
And that requires patience â€¦ on His part and ours. He is our example, weâ€™re to copy Him. Why should we be â€œslow to angerâ€ with those who have wronged us? Because He is â€œslow to angerâ€ with those who have wronged Him (youâ€™re in that group, by the way). Why should we endure – put up with pain and hardship?
Remember when God endured – put up with pain and hardship, even the point of being nailed to a cross?
Weâ€™ve been adopted into a new family, born into a new life. Patience is a characteristic of that new life and of the Father who has adopted us. Itâ€™s a characteristic that makes us better people, as this world sees things; but thatâ€™s only because it is a characteristic of that life weâ€™re intended toward, a reflection of what is to come. Like the other fruit, itâ€™s a piece of eternity allowed to us today.
Until next week, live in Godâ€™s image â€¦ practice patience.
Love & Prayers,
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