“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
~ Galatians 5.22, ESV
Have you ever prayed for patience?
In my experience, whenever I have asked the Lord to give me patience, He answered by providing opportunities to develop patience. I wanted the actual patience. God, in His wisdom, always supplies the better gift. Unfortunately, I often fail to recognize the perfection of His ways and simply get frustrated.
In writing to the Galatians, Paul describes the “fruit of the Spirit” which ought to manifest itself in the life of every Christian. Couched within this list is the fruit of “patience.” Patience is a characteristic we recognize as necessary and yet highly elusive. We want patience, but we want it now—without the effort necessary to cultivate it.
There is a reason patience is described as a fruit.
We are so used to dropping over to the store and getting whatever fruit we want, whenever we want it, that we fail to recognize the vast amount of effort involved in it’s growth. Most do not observe or experience the devastating consequence of bad weather nor the amount of time invested in watering, feeding, protecting and pruning.
When Paul mentions bearing fruit, we unconsciously believe it should be as easy as selecting our crate and dropping a twenty-dollar bill. We naturally become frustrated when it doesn’t work the way we think it should.
We want patience and we want it now. (Oh, the irony…)
Real fruit growth doesn’t work that way, and neither does the fruit of the Spirit.
At present, I’m trying my hand at growing strawberries in temperamental west Texas. I grew a small patch in California’s High Desert, so I thought I would try it here too. From the time they flower, strawberries take about 30-60 days to produce fruit. From the time the strawberry starts are planted in the ground, it’s more like 90 days. If one of the plants in the patch dies, it’s not a huge loss because the runners can fill in the empty spaces later in the season.
Oranges on the other hand are far more challenging to grow. From the time it’s planted in the ground, an orange tree can take around three years to produce fruit. After it produces, the tree needs pruning, a certain number of chill hours, fertilizer, and the watchful eye of the gardener. If an orange tree becomes diseased or dies, the loss is far more devastating than the loss of a single strawberry plant because the amount of money and time invested in that tree is far greater.
Fruit growing requires time, and some fruits require more time and effort than others. So it is with patience.
Patience is not a strawberry.
Patience is like an orange, requiring significant time and effort to develop.
How Do We Grow the Fruit of Patience?
Physical fruit requires many things to grow, but for purposes of this discussion, let’s zero-in on four of the most important:
- Light – preferably from the sun
- Water – no plant can survive without it!
- Pruning – keeping the plant properly trimmed for good health.
- Dormancy – allowing the plant to rest for a minimum number of “chill hours.”
These same elements must be present in order to grow the fruit of patience in our lives:
The Bible names two primary sources of light:
“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” ~ 1 John 1.5
“Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ John 8.12
God the Father is light. Jesus, God’s Son, is also our light. We cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit without them. In order to bear fruit, we must dwell in their light, turning our hearts toward them, and absorbing the rich warmth of their teaching. Without their light, we will certainly wither and die.
During His time on earth, Jesus made reference to the Holy Spirit as living water:
“Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John 7.37-39, ESV
The Holy Spirit, and the word inspired by Him are our sources of living water. Without the Spirit, we cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit gives us all we need, but just as with light, we have a job to do. We need to absorb the guidance of the Spirit, drinking from the Bible He inspired so we can bear the fruit we were made to bear.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
~ John 15.1-2, ESV
I found the following insight on pruning from a gardening article:
“Pruning done in the early years of a fruit tree’s growth is focused on shaping the tree to a functional, strong structure. The pruning process allows you to choose the best branches to form a balanced tree shape…
“It seems counterproductive to remove branches when you want a bumper fruit crop, but that’s exactly what fruit trees need for quality production. Too many branches and buds on the tree mean all that fruit has to compete for space and energy from the tree to grow. The fruit is often lower quality if the tree is loaded with too much fruit and it may not grow to full size. Trees that are regularly pruned produce fruit with a higher sugar content and consistent ripening.”
Pruning a fruit tree has multiple purposes. Early in a tree’s life, the goal of pruning is to shape the tree into a solid structure. Early in our Christian walk, the discipline we undergo is designed to do the same thing. If we are weak, the strong winds of pain and suffering will break us.
Later in a tree’s life, the goals of pruning are fruit production and disease prevention. The pruning doesn’t stop just because a tree is 15 years old. That tree continues to be pruned annually or as often as necessary in order to keep it healthy and productive. There is no fruit-bearing retirement for the Christian. We are expected to bear fruit until Jesus calls us home. If you are at a stage in life where you are wondering why life is hard or why the tests just keep on coming, here is a reason to rejoice: The Lord delights in your efforts! He is pruning you to bear that precious fruit of the Spirit.
Pruning yields better quality fruit. As the excerpt noted, a tree that is not pruned may yield smaller, lower-quality fruit. The Lord recognizes that in order for me to have a deep and abiding patience, I have to endure pruning. Without pruning my patience will only be on the surface, easily broken under pressure.
In our next post, we will discuss the element of rest as it pertains to bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Lord willing, we will cover the following aspects of patience in the coming weeks:
- Getting rest to improve our patience
- When God’s Timing Doesn’t Make Sense (Patience in waiting on the Lord)
- Patience, Even When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense (Patience in suffering_
- Patience with others
What do you find most challenging in exercising and developing patience?