Today we begin to look at the subject of longsuffering. It is a word with an interesting meaning and background.
Longsuffering, by implication, is not always pleasant. Thankfully, it is once again a fruit of the Spirit.
In most popular songs containing the fruit of the Spirit, and on most plaques sold in Christian bookstores, the word longsuffering is replaced with one of its synonyms: patience.
However, to simply say longsuffering is patience, would be to diminish the real meaning of the word somewhat.
Longsuffering is a synonym of the word “longanimity.” If you are like most of us, you have never heard that word before either. This word is actually made up of two latin words.
It literally means long-souled, or long-spirited. Sort of like when we say the opposite is to have a short fuse.
It also means to have strength of soul or fortitude. To be able to bear up under affliction or difficulty.
It is patience, yes, but so much more.
Patience is my daughter trying hard to wait for her food to come at the restaurant.
Longsuffering is having the fortitude to face an extended trial with grace and dignity. It is, as the word implies, suffering long.
We don’t like suffering.
In Matthew 17:17 Jesus uses the word suffering in this context:
Matthew 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
The word he used means “to put up with.”
We see another use of this word in relation to the Spirit of the God.
2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us–ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come torepentance.
1Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
There are many more verses we would look at, and I challenge you to find some of them and meditate on them today.
I think it is fair to say, without any fear of contradiction, that God has been incredibly longsuffering toward mankind in general, and me in particular. He puts up with us for a very long time. He does holds back his wrath and judgment because he desires men to be saved. He holds back his chastening because he desires his goodness to lead us to repentance. He will not hold off forever, but who can say that God has a short fuse? Certainly not me? He is truly longsuffering.
So then, this God, this longsuffering God, dwells in the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of longsuffering belongs to Him.
One of the evidences of a life in submission to God will be the fruit of longsuffering. A Christian who brags of having a short temper is simply exposing their lack of submission to God. The Holy Spirit makes us longsuffering when we walk in submission to him.
No, I believe that each us of struggle in different areas. For some, the fruit of joy may seem to come more easily than longsuffering. Some people have a naturally low-keyed spirit even before they come to Christ. I do not. I confess that I have a short temper, and am prone to reacting too swiftly.
The Scripture is clear that a man is to be swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to get angry. Some of us struggle more than others with this. The fruit of the Spirit in us will help us to do, the power of God, what we cannot do through the power of the flesh.
As we spend the next couple of days looking at the subject of longsuffering, I challenge you to examine your own life and see if you could be said to be “long-souled.”
Heavenly Father, you know each and every one of my weaknesses. You made me. You know everything about me, and therefore you know that I am prone to losing my temper. You know that longsuffering is not something I tend toward naturally. Father, you have not called me to live a natural life, but a renewed, Spirit-filled life. Help me to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow the fruit of longsuffering to be developed in my life today. In Jesus name, amen.