It’s certainly an accurate idea, based on Romans 8:25: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience” (ESV). James 5:7 conveys a similar idea: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”
But perhaps we equate patience with waiting a bit too much. Patience is more than that. When we define patience in this narrow way, we forget about the distinct fruit of the spirit also called patience.
Patience, as a fruit of the spirit, also includes the idea of being gracious with others. In relating with our Christian brothers and sisters, we must ask if we are ever guilty of saying, “If she criticizes me one more time, I’m going to… (blank),” or, “If he looks down his nose at me like that again, I’ll show him!” I’ve had these thoughts hundreds of times. Often patience means showing grace in the face of other people’s faults.
There’s another word for this type of patience: longsuffering. That’s the idea that we are willing to put up with difficult circumstances and the mistakes of others for the cause of Christ. We see this throughout the New Testament:
- “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:10-12, emphasis added).
- “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, emphasis added).
This eagerness to tolerate of the errors of others is crucial in the process of making disciples. But the real testing ground of patience is teamwork.
Teamwork: The Test of Patience
What does the apostle mean in 1 Peter 4:18 when he says, “love covers a multitude of sins”? Simply this: if we love each other, then by definition, we will be gracious and patient with each other in spite of our sins.
Sometimes I feel as though God sent me as a missionary to Togo in West Africa solely to teach me patience. And I must not have learned it yet, because I’m still receiving lessons on a regular basis. The testing of my patience is real and happens regularly. I’m frequently called to wait with a good attitude and to exercise grace in my relationships with others. I’ve also found that as my responsibilities on the field increase, I’m realizing that I need to ask others to be patient with me as well.
One of the greatest blessings of serving with ABWE is working on a team. At the same time, team settings also expose our areas of weakness where we still need growth. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The team structure in ABWE’s DNA is probably the biggest reason my wife and I joined ABWE over any other organization. There are no lone gunslingers, and I don’t think I could join a ministry where there were.
In my moments of weakness, I’m tempted to think that ministry would easier and less frustrating without a team. Yet I also know that without our team, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish even 10 percent of what we do when we work together. I rely so heavily on my teammates, in both ministry and fellowship, that I know I wouldn’t even be able to make it without them.
What does teamwork require? Patience. Not only do I need patience, but my team certainly needs patience in order to deal with me! And when we minister alongside each other with longsuffering, bearing with each other, we’ve found that marvelous things happen.
We must minister both with each other and to each other to effectively make disciples for Christ. Let’s cooperate and serve the Lord together as we all grow in patience.