We live in a world of instant gratification. Terms like “fast food” and “on-demand'' permeate our society. We can have what we want in a matter of a couple of days or mere minutes. Patience is no longer a virtue that society aspires to because it is not necessary. But as followers of Christ, patience is a quality we are called to exhibit and is evidence that the Spirit is at work in our lives. So how do believers live a life of patience in an instant gratification world?
Patience is an attribute of God. Simply defined, this means that God is long-suffering and enduring. Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
Across the sands of time, God has held back His wrath on our sinful world and patiently waited for mankind to return to Him. His desire has always been that the world would seek repentance through Christ and gather around the throne in worship of Him. His sovereign plan required His perfect patience.
How believers can exhibit patience
Patience is one of God’s communicable attributes. This means that as His image bearers we too can exhibit patience, though not in the perfect way that He does. Some attributes like His sovereignty, omniscience, and eternality are incommunicable, meaning only God can exhibit them. But patience is one of several attributes that God gave man in the Garden in order to reflect His character to the world. But sin has affected our ability to exhibit patience, and the other attributes, well. If you have ever been around a newborn when they get hungry, you know humans are born with an inability to be patient. Patience takes time to grow under the guiding hand of our gracious God.
We can be patient because God is patient
One of the best ways to grow in patience is to remember just how patient the Lord is with us. Even a quick study of the Old Testament shows us God’s patience with the continually rebellious Israelites. The prophecies in the Old Testament can sometimes seem like they are filled with wrath and judgment, but sprinkled throughout those passages are verses like the one below that remind us who our God is and the love He desires to lavish upon us. For example, Isaiah 30:18 reminds us,
Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for him are happy.
This verse is nestled in a chapter that predominantly speaks about the judgment awaiting the southern kingdom of Judah for their rebellion against the Lord. Even though discipline was coming, God reminded His children that He patiently waits to show them mercy and compassion. Yes, He is just, and discipline is required, but He also desires to pour out His love on them. That love arrived when Jesus came and brought salvation, forgiveness, and hope eternal. In Christ, all of God’s mercy and compassion have been poured out. His patience continues as people across the world come to the throne and receive salvation.
How patience impacts our happiness
But notice the last line of that verse, “All who wait patiently for him are happy.” Our happiness is directly tied to waiting patiently for the Lord. This applies to waiting patiently for Him to reveal a decision, waiting patiently as you walk through a difficult season, being patient as you study the Bible, and growing steadily and patiently in your walk with the Lord. Patience breeds contentment in the Lord. When we wait patiently for God to move, we acknowledge that He alone satisfies our needs. And when He satisfies them, and not the world, our happiness comes from knowing the Lord in a deeper and more intimate way.
Patience is not just enduring things begrudgingly. Patience is a joyful response to endure with hope through the Lord’s strength. When the world sees our lives marked by patience, they catch a glimpse of God and we become the image bearers we were always meant to be. A life of patience declares that true satisfaction and happiness come from God alone. Instant gratification only sustains us for a brief time, which is why we seek it again and again. The patient and persistent pursuit of God will give us the complete satisfaction our hearts crave. It seems ironic, but happiness comes from patiently waiting for the Lord. May our prayer be to wait well, to wait patiently, and find true joy in the journey to eternity.