There are two Greek words translated as "patience" in the New Testament. Hupomonē means "a remaining under," as when one bears up under a burden. It refers to steadfastness in difficult circumstances. Makrothumia, which is used in Galatians 5:22, is a compound formed by makros (“long”) and thumos (“passion” or “temper”). “Patience” in Galatians 5:22 literally means “long temper,” in the sense of “the ability to hold one’s temper for a long time.” The KJV translates it “longsuffering.” A patient person is able to endure much pain and suffering without complaining. A patient person is slow to anger as he waits for God to provide comfort and punish wrongdoing. Since it is a fruit of the Spirit, we can only possess makrothumia through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Patience comes from a position of power. A person may have the ability to take revenge or cause trouble, but patience brings self-restraint and careful thinking. Losing patience is a sign of weakness. We are patient through trying situations out of hope for a coming deliverance; we are patient with a trying person out of compassion. We choose to love that person and want what’s best for him.
As the Spirit produces patience in us, He is making us more Christlike. Second Thessalonians 3:5 speaks of the “patience of Christ” (ASV). Christ is even now patiently awaiting the completion of the Father’s plan: after Jesus “had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:12-13). We should be patient, even as He is patient.
God is patient with sinners. Romans 2:4 says that God’s patience leads to our repentance. Romans 9:22 points out that only God’s patience prevents Him from destroying “the objects of his wrath.” Paul glorifies the Lord for His “unlimited patience” that saved him, “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16). Peter highlights the patience of God in 1 Peter 3:20, pointing out that God had immense patience with the evil people of Noah’s day, delaying judgment as long as possible (Genesis 6). Today, “our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15, NLT).
James urges believers to be patient and not to complain as we wait for Jesus to return. James holds up the prophets as models of patience (James 5:7-11). The Old Testament prophets ceaselessly spoke God’s Word to unheeding and abusive audiences. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern (Jeremiah 38:1-16), Elijah was so worn out from his fight with Jezebel that he wanted to die (1 Kings 19:1-8), and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den—by a king who was his friend (Daniel 6:16-28). While God delayed judgment, Noah prophesied of the coming destruction, and in 120 years did not have a single convert (2 Peter 2:5).
The opposite of patience is agitation, discouragement, and a desire for revenge. God does not want His children to live in agitation but in peace (John 14:27). He wants to dispel discouragement and replace it with hope and praise (Psalm 42:5). We are not to avenge ourselves; rather, we are to love others (Romans 12:19; Leviticus 19:18).
God is patient, and His Spirit produces the fruit of patience in us. When we are patient, we leave room for God to work in our hearts and in our relationships. We lay down our schedule and trust in God’s. We thank the Lord for what and whom He’s brought into our lives. We let God be God.