The Fruit of the Spirit that Keeps Producing — Longsuffering

The Fruit of the Spirit that Keeps Producing — Longsuffering

Fruit grows from healthy root systems. The fruit of the spirit also grows from the evidence of God’s deep and often invisible working in our lives. The more liberty we allow the Holy Spirit in and with us, the more fruit He produces through us.

“But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.”
Galatians 5:22-23 TPT

Most of us skim through this list, mentally highlighting those attributes we find most appealing while overlooking other less desirable traits. We say a loud, “Amen!” to love, joy and peace. We affirm kindness, virtue, faith, and gentleness. Yet, patience and self-control become far more difficult to applaud! Nonetheless, God works in us to produce all the fruit of the Spirit.

Yet, I have personally witnessed patience, or more accurately longsuffering, to bring the greatest transformation in both my life and in the lives of others.

Longsuffering

The Greek word for patience or longsuffering, makrothymia, is associated with mercy and more particularly patience in respect to people. It exhibits self-restraint before proceeding to action. Longsuffering is the quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.

This fruit of the Spirit gives one both forbearance and fortitude. However, God never intends longsuffering to be a putting up with, or a tolerance of, things and circumstances that are evil or destructive. Longsuffering enables one to withstand very difficult circumstances, while having the spirit-led fortitude to bring godly transformation. Often, those changes first begin within us.

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV

Longsuffering partners with the “full assurance of hope” in the driest and hardest places. Through it, we “inherit the promises” of God.

Refines

Paul captures this idea in a beautiful prayer for the Colossians.

“…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12 NIV

Nothing prepares us for eternal inheritance as well as forbearance, patience, and longsuffering. It’s called longsuffering because it lasts longer than we hope, takes more than we feel we have to give, and requires more than we are humanly capable of offering.

Longsuffering demands moment-by-moment, day-by-day, year-by-year trusting in Someone bigger and stronger than us. Longsuffering leans into God’s Presence and relies on His Spirit. But longsuffering refines us, producing in us a tenderness and mercy we otherwise would never obtain.

Molds

Longsuffering molds in us a reflection of God’s own heart. Because of His forbearance and patience toward us, we inherit the goodness and benefits of His Kingdom in relationship with Him.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 NIV

While pressed through the sieve of suffering, God softens and molds us into an increased reflection of Himself. This fruit of the Spirit, longsuffering, begins to ripen and sweeten in our lives, bringing nourishment to others.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 NIV

What is your place of longsuffering? Is it robed as a difficult marriage or a sudden loss? Perhaps, it cloaks itself as mental or physical illness? Have you been contending for your faith despite addiction, abuse, abandonment, or rejection? I write this with tears, knowing we all face enduring circumstances that wring us dry of everything but God.

There we find that God is enough. Amazed, we discover the fruit of the Spirit thrives where nothing else could.

Prayer

I glean today’s prayer for you and me from James 5:7-11

“Father, I come to You in the mighty name of Jesus, interceding on behalf of all those walking through a valley of suffering. I ask that the beautiful fruit of the Spirit — patience — would blossom and grow in each of our lives until the Lord’s coming. Just like a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, we patiently wait for the autumn and spring rains of Your Spirit to drench us, softening us to the core. Enable us to be patient and to stand firm in whatever circumstances immerse us, because Your coming Lord is near. We quench all grumbling and judgment from our hearts and lips. May we become an example of patience in the face of suffering, being counted as blessed as we persevere. Remind us of others in the faith like the prophets and Job who also suffered. Yet You, Lord, brought about great victory and blessing in their lives. Through them we see vivid and beautiful examples of how compassionate and merciful You are and always will be. O Lord may faith rise. May strength be our portion. May forbearance, patience, and longsuffering produce in us heaven’s fruit for earth’s feast. We look beyond our grey today to the glorious tomorrow You have promised. Your love is enough! Your grace is enough! Mold us, Lord! Create in us the full fruit of Your Presence during this season of suffering.
Amen.

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Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Are you rooted and grounded? Planting takes only moments, but roots develop and spread over a lifetime. Fruit appears last of all. By allowing God time to send our roots outward, we will flourish wherever He plants us. But lately, I’ve been a little frustrated with my personal growth and progress — feeling stagnant and unproductive.

As a long-time gardener, I have gained experience in rooting and planting annuals, perennials, and trees. Though I experimented with newer species, my gardens often contained tried-and-true varieties, originally passed from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens. In our northern climates, the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter offers a more limited palette of vegetation than in other parts of the world. But no matter where you live, a healthy root system is the key to any plant’s longevity and growth.

What holds true in the natural holds true to our spiritual condition as well.

“Having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.”
Colossians 2:7

Planted

Each plant thrives in a specific location and environment. And so do we. While shade loving plants wilt in dry sunny locations, the reverse is also true. But even when planted in the perfect location, a gardener focuses on root development. Trees need to be staked for the first few years until their roots spread far enough to support them against even the cruelest winds. Weekly watering routines become essential, as well.

Where has God planted or perhaps transplanted you? Do you feel fragile? Are you fearful that the winds of adversity may topple you?

As we give God time to expand our spiritual roots, we gain greater stability in our lives. Shuffling from one thing to another hinders spiritual progress. We may look healthy on the surface, but it is the hidden strength of being rooted and grounded that helps us to withstand the storms of life.

God says of the righteous,

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Psalm 1:3

Cut Down

Without success, I have attempted to “trick” certain plants to grow where they weren’t designed to flourish. But when I followed instructions and planted the seedling in their preferred location, the resulting growth was stunningly obvious.

We have all felt my tender roots pulled up from soft fertile soils, only to be pushed into one restriction or another — without room or stability. We have felt the stretch and strain of being “planted” in unfavorable and unfamiliar territory, including hard and rocky circumstances. I, and perhaps you, have resisted God’s choices, believing we could never grow in such adverse conditions. Yet, God knows where our roots of faith and trust in Him would grow the best.

Job felt it, too.

“For there is hope for a tree. When it is cut down, that it will sprout again. And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant.”
Job 14:7-9

Where roots grow, hope remains. And we, my friends, have been rooted and grounded in Christ. Every external circumstance must bow to Him.

Trust

Jeremiah encourages us to trust “in the LORD,” because our trust “is the LORD.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

God birthed within us the desire to reflect such vitality, growth, and maturity. But, it takes time. Spring, summer, fall, and winter repeated year after year. Some seasons kind. Other seasons harsh.

Yet, as we trust in the Lord, and our trust is the Lord, seasons pass as strength builds and and we become rooted and grounded.

Rest

We can either resist God’s process or rest in it. Resisting comes easy. Rest takes courage and faith to remain rooted and grounded.

A tree never strives to grow. It rests while growth naturally occurs. God has formed us the same way. The more we strive, the more we pull apart our fragile roots. But as we rest in His goodness and sovereignty, our roots push ever deeper and wider.

May God give us the courage to stay, wait, and rest. Unlike a tree, we can pull ourselves out and force ourselves into something we believe more conducive and comfortable. Shade sounds good. Shelter invites.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Psalm 92:12-13

Gratitude

As I look back over the seasons of my life, I feel a sense of equal gratitude for both the easy and trying seasons. The seasons of apparent spiritual drought, dis-ease, pruning, and struggle have caused a deeper maturing as sin has been exposed and confessed, ungodly attitudes have been unearthed and removed, patience has been tried and pressed, and Christlikeness has been refined.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:5-8

God directs us to places we don’t understand and to circumstances we might resist. When people damage us, abuse us, use us, wound us, rob us, or mistreat us, may we send our roots of trust in God deeper, knowing somehow, some way He will use it all for our good. Richer fruit will come from our lives.

Just like a tree goes through a season of dormancy before sending out new blossoms and shoots, so must we. The season of fruitfulness will come. Each season prepares us to produce greater and better fruit.

If you are in your fruitful season, be grateful. If not, rejoice! Your time will come, if you remain rooted and grounded.

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Wait Patiently for the Lord: The Lord is Sufficient

Wait Patiently for the Lord: The Lord is Sufficient

More than once, someone has encouraged me to “wait patiently for the Lord.” Dare I say these are not my most cherished words!

My dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” Understandably, my name is not inserted near that definition as a prime example. As a matter of fact, my children laugh at the way I carefully choose routes of travel to avoid stop signs, traffic lights and construction zones. Neither the words “wait” nor “patiently” form the foundation of my genetic makeup.

How about you? What thoughts enter your mind as you read this passage?

Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Psalms 27:14

Note the double emphasis David used. Perhaps first to remind himself and then a second time to remind the rest of us.

Wait Patiently

The Hebrew word for “wait” means to bind together and to expect. I’m not alone in choosing more tangible, readily available things or people to “bind” myself to rather than trusting and relying confidently in God as my soul support.

Israel had a similar problem. They had a habit of “going” when God specifically asked them to “wait”; they “mumbled and grumbled” instead of “patiently” binding themselves to God as the source for all they needed. No finger pointing here! I associate more with their twisted attitude and off-centered focus than with the psalmist’s clear directive.

God is loving in all He does; He is an inerrantly good and gracious Father. As such, He works His friendly persuasion to lead us to rely on Him as our soul support and help.

“The Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will take away from Jerusalem and Judah
everything they depend on:
every bit of bread and every drop of water.”
Isaiah 3:1

If God were to do the same with me, removing every level of support and supply, every attempt to protect or sustain myself, every self-created prop I so confidently depend upon, what would remain? I fear that I would quickly realize how little, rather than how much, I am actually waiting patiently on God.

Trusting on God

Two years ago, I purchased a small weeping birch tree. Although it was about eight feet tall, the trunk was quite slender and weak. To protect the new addition to my landscape, I staked it firmly on three sides, and tied it securely with soft cords. Weekly, I gave it the water and fertilizer it needed for steady growth and root development. There it stood flexing and bending during the summer storms.

In early winter, however, a fierce winter blizzard hit with freezing rain. The gale force winds and weight of icy boughs broke the support cords, pressing my little tree horizontal to the ground. All natural support had failed! I gently broke the ice from its frail branches and retied the little sapling, hoping it would somehow survive winter’s assault.

“But I am trusting you,
O LORD, saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:14-15

Man made help and support might be adequate for the everyday “storms” of life, but only God is sufficient for all seasons and circumstances. David learned this truth on the hillside protecting his sheep from lions and bears — a truth reinforced while hiding in desert caves from a king who put a bounty on his life.

How willing am I to wait patiently on the Lord declaring, “my future is in your hands?” If I find it difficult to trust Him in this moment, with patience, how will I possibly trust Him with my unknown tomorrows?

Grace to Wait

Though I look impatiently to the destination God is pointing me toward, He is creating in me the grace to wait. He patiently develops my character with a greater “capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” With God, patience is an attribute of His character: for me, however, patience is a process.

Although I don’t experience it moment by moment, through hindsight I vividly see the grace, strength and ability to endure taking form. What once caused a great deal of anxiousness and annoyance, now has far less power to control my emotions. Progress may be slow, but God continues to faithfully work in me.

My little tree doesn’t need artificial staking and support any more. It has developed an ability to bend and flex in the wind and endure extreme conditions. The trunk has thickened sufficiently to support the tree through the worst weather thrown its way. The unseen roots have spread out to securely anchor the sapling, producing vibrancy and growth. I hope the same can be said of each of us.

If we back up a few verses in Psalm 27, we discover the reason for David’s ability to wait patiently for the Lord with strength and courage. We see clearly where he plants his spiritual roots for optimum growth.

The LORD is my light and salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

The Lord Is!

When God removed every previous support system that David had once depended on, David was still secure, confident and solidly grounded. Why? God was enough! When all else is stripped away, we discover (often to our surprise) that the Lord is enough — He is sufficient to satisfy our every need.

Herein lies the joy of having all human and artificial supports removed from our lives. What nothing and no one else can bring, God supplies within Himself.

One thing I ask from the LORD this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock. . .
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!
Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Psalm 27:4-8

When we finally come to realize that the Lord is all we need, the essential for our lives, we too possess an ability to wait patiently for Him. In Him, we find the strength and courage not just to wait, but to move ahead into what God is calling us to do — trusting fully that our future indeed is in His hands.

Looking Ahead

This one thing I want to remind myself of and encourage you with, “God is enough!” As we enter a new year, either with trepidation or optimism, we wait patiently for the Lord to lead us through.

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6,7