I called our seventy-something-year-old handyman Joe recently to see if he could fit us into his busy schedule. He answered his phone in the middle of fixing a refrigerator and said that he would have to call back later that day. “But don’t worry,” he continued, “I have your number in my book at home.” “But Joe,” I replied with irritation, “can’t you just simply save the number I am calling from and return my call sooner?” “Not with my flip phone,” he said. I wanted to instruct him on his need for a smartphone. But then I remembered that I was calling him because ol’ Joe knows how to hang doors, install ceiling fans, and repair windows, and he has mastered other useful tasks that intimidate me before I even try.
Growing in patience requires vigilance over the course of our lives. The young believer can be greatly encouraged, however, at progress in patience, knowing that patience is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work: “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience” (Gal. 5:22). God will not quit the work He has begun (Phil. 1:6). Yet, we mustn’t delay the effort on our part to grow in patience, for as James reminds us: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Growing in patience without prayer is a fool’s errand. Therefore, you must ask God to give what flows from His character to yours.
A New Testament Greek word often used to express patience, makrothumia, means “long-tempered.” Instead of igniting like a quick fuse, a patient man “keeps his cool.” Patience is intrinsic to the nature of God: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Ps. 86:15, KJV). As God is the giver of all good gifts—and make no doubt, patience is a wonderful gift—you must seek the Divine Giver (James 1:17). Growing in patience without prayer is a fool’s errand. Therefore, you must ask God to give what flows from His character to yours.
A few prominent areas for growth in patience stand out. One relates to generational conversation. So often in our youth, we close the door in impatience toward the slow-talking or storytelling elders God has placed in our lives. We think, “I know! I know!” James helps again when he says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (v. 19). The next time you find yourself growing impatient with an older person and are ready to turn and walk away, remember to listen first. God has taught seasoned saints much in His sanctifying work.
Second, be patient as you wait on God’s vocational calling. The path is not as simple as the days of apprenticing for a skill your family has determined. The options are vast. Therefore, do not sweat the circuitous route as long as you work heartily “as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). Do not neglect thanking God for His perfect plan for you: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6). Aim at contentment in the wilderness journey. You cannot know fully what you are accomplishing through the acquisition of skills or relationships, nor the divine purposes you are serving in the salvation of God’s elect.
Another prominent place to practice patience and steadfast prayer is that of waiting for a spouse. In my pastoral experience, this has been a matter of great pain for so many. Hold high but sober-minded standards (remembering that you are a sinner too) for godly character and love for Christ in a potential mate. At the same time, question whether your check lists for physical beauty, financial comfort, or perfect compatibility are from the Holy Spirit or from this world’s illusory idol factory (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 John 5:21). Patience reveals one’s trust in God’s sovereignty, and this includes His provision in this most sensitive area of desire.
Matthew Henry is a shrewd voice in the cloud of witnesses who have come before. He puts the matter aptly when he says: “Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. . . . God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.”
Rev. Don Bailey is associate pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla.