Love, joy, and peace sound nice, right? We can have warm, encouraging, and positive feeling about those virtues and experiences, e.g., “Oh, I’d love more of those!”
But this week, in our season on the Fruit of the Spirit, we come to a Fruit that, maybe, provokes a different type of response: patience.
The fuller meaning of the biblical word that is translated as “patience” is helpful in understanding our reactions. Patience isn’t a calm personality attribute, but rather is/involves:
- a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances;
- long-suffering, under trial endurance;
- a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation;
- slowness in avenging wrongs.
This Sunday, and next week in our Daily Worship Devotions, we turn a story about David (1 Samuel 25) that is all about patience, long-suffering, and losing it. In this story, David is “in the wilderness” and he naturally wants to get out. Biblically, the wilderness is a place of loneliness, confusion, hardship, and stuck-ness. David’s wilderness in 1 Samuel 25 is not a punishment. It’s not the specific consequence of some action he’s taken or failed to take. It’s a place of significant helplessness where the only thing he can do is wrestle with and wait for God.
Prior to 1 Samuel 25, David passed on two “legitimate” opportunities to make his life a whole lot easier – by killing Saul. After all, Saul was in the wrong. God had declared that Saul was no longer King. Saul was trying to kill David! But, while “legitimate,” it would have been wrong for David to take matters into his own hands. He could have turned to his loyal friends and asked them to do his dirty work, but the blood would have been on his David’s hands – and he would have caused his friends to sin. In fact, David’s friends had offered to kill Saul for him and David had to say, “No!” That must have been extremely hard.
David finally loses his patience in 1 Samuel 25. But God rescues him and restores him. It’s more than a great story. 1 Samuel 25 is a gift to all of us who struggle with patience, and it’s a reminder that God understands and that he can rescue and restore us. God saves David from himself. It’s tragic that David’s friends weren’t just silent, they saddled up with him and “strapped on their swords” to go get some vengeance. His friends failed him. But God rescued David in an arresting and beautiful way. He sent someone from the outside. God sent someone who knows that David is better than this. David is arrested by beauty and called to patience, dignity, and faith. It’s a great story. Perhaps it was following this incident that David wrote, “Be angry, but do not sin” in Psalm 4.
So, take some time to read and reflect on 1 Samuel 25 – and pray for the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of patience in your heart, mind, and soul. Hopefully the quotes below will help with this.
Yours in Christ,
The temptations that David faced in the wilderness were Adamic temptations: he was tempted to impatience, to seize forbidden fruit and take a juicy bite. One of David’s chief qualifications for kingship was the fact that he resisted these temptations. Any leader in the church today must have his senses trained to resist similar temptations – power grabs, taking advantage of opportunities to embarrass one’s opponents, mounting symbolic assaults. P. Leithart
David didn’t start out in the wilderness, and he didn’t end up in the wilderness. Everybody – at least anybody who has anything to do with God – spends time in the wilderness, so it’s important to know what can take place there. E. Peterson