By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
The fruit of the Spirit is a set of virtues Spirit-filled believers must exhibit; it's a set of conditions that should characterize the life of every believer. The fruit of the Spirit is a nine-fold virtue made up of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).
The primacy of love in inter-personal relationships, whether of God and man or of man to man, is without question. But fourth in ranking after love is long-suffering! How many believers who claim to be Spirit-filled exhibit this fruit of the Spirit?
It's perhaps the hardest virtue to demonstrate even under heavy anointing!
Long-suffering is patience, fortitude; it's bearing up under trial, persecution and testing -and not complaining nor giving up faith! It is the paring of two words which normally don't belong together – cheerful endurance!
The apostle James puts it this way:
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (trials)" (Jam 1:2).
Rejoicing in the time of trial can only mean the presence of the critical element of faith defined as 'the evidence of things not seen'! And to expect things not yet seen necessarily introduces waiting! Altogether, then, long-suffering entails endurance, waiting and faith.
Without long-suffering, faith itself may well waver leading to fruitless waiting. The apostle James wrote:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,…
"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (while he waits). For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
"For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (Jam 1:5-7).
The endurance bit is the crucial element needed to keep faith alive! Because you endure the hard times in expectation of God's deliverance, you don't give up faith! Long-suffering then is the demonstration of unyielding faith in times of trial and difficulty. It is the kind of 'defiant faith' Job verbalizes in Job 19:25-26 and Isaiah articulates in Isaiah 50:7:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall 1 see God."
"For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed".
Long-suffering is waiting in pain by faith! This is the waiting that God eventually rewards by renewing our strength – to overcome all obstacles:
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
It is the waiting King David recommends in Ps. 37:7: "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him …"
It is the waiting that worked for the same King David and about which he testifies:
" I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
"And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it. and fear, and shall trust in the LORD" (Ps. 40:1-3).
In the horrible pit of persecution and trial, David "waited patiently" in constant prayer, and the Lord heard his cry and brought him out and set his feet upon a rock and established his goings!
King David demonstrated the spiritual virtue of long-suffering. And he rejoiced at the end.
The apostle James tells us :
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (trials): for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (Jam 1:12).
If temptation is a blessing in disguise and a source of joy, why then does verses 13—15 (of James 1) describe it as evil?
We must understand that the book of James talks about two types of temptations. Properly rendered, the first type of temptation is trial – the testing of our faith by outside pressures and difficulties such as persecution. This is the type of temptation (trial) that demands, and indeed, produces long-suffering (Jam 1:3-4).
The second type of temptation James discusses comes from our own moral failings; it originates in lust and leads to sin and death (v 13-15).
One trial leads to the crown of life; the other (faced without a plea for God's help) leads to death!
We will survive the trial of faith brought on by satanic difficulties if we exercise long-suffering. Under no circumstances will our God abandon us. He has promised us that He will not allow the tempter to tempt us beyond what we can bear. He will provide a way of escape, a way to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13).
In the Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes), Jesus (without naming it) devotes much of His opening talk to the subject of long-suffering. He began:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).
The Greek word translated 'blessed' ('makarioi') has a deeper spiritual meaning than what it's usually understood to mean in the ordinary sense i.e., 'happy/fortunate'. It stands for the satisfying joy that results not from favourable circumstances in life, but from being indwelt by Christ; the joy of salvation! It is the realization that Christ (Emmanuel) is with us and in us in all situations, good or bad.
But then, only the 'poor in spirit' qualify for this state of blessedness.
So who are the poor in spirit?
Being poor in spirit is not to be confused with the ordinary poor state! Again, the original Greek word highlights the difference: 'Ptochoi' (poor in spirit) refers to a poor person who is 'helpless" as opposed to "penes" which means "poor but able to help oneself.
And God promises to help the poor man who has no helper (Ps. 72:12)! In Rev. 3, Christ assures the church in Philadelphia, poor in spirit with little strength of her own, that He has set before her an open door which can never be shut (w 7-8).
Long-suffering is indicative of the fact that we wait upon God and God alone for deliverance, that although we are helpless (poor in spirit) the inner joy that flows from His indwelling Spirit is assuring enough of His salvation! Simply put, long-suffering is waiting upon God in joyful expectation – without being bothered, or shaken or broken by the problem!
Ordinarily, this is not the way to live. That is why long-suffering has to be fruit of the Spirit. It fits in with the abiding character of God's Kingdom – which is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom 14:17; Phil. 4:4).
Indeed, when we are "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power," we are said to have entered a blessed state of "patience and long-suffering with joyfulness" (Col. 1:11).
In good and bad times, we are in God's Kingdom of peace, and we must not be anxious over anything:
"Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds (from worry and fears) through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).
In the time of trial, let's not try to force the hand of God; we cannot! He will bring victory and deliverance just at the right time; He won't tarry (Hab. 2:3).
While He asks us to let Him arise and thereby let His enemies be scattered (Ps 68:1). it is not in our power to choose when He punishes the wicked. Vengeance – and the time He chooses to execute it – is His and He'll repay (Rom 12:19). What if He decides not to punish the wicked until the day of Christ's return?
The apostle Paul wrote to comfort the persecuted Church in Thessalonica:
"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you, and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels". (2 Thess 1:6-7 see also I Tim 5:24).
Long-suffering is of God, and we must show the attribute in resemblance to Him as His dear children (1 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 1:16, Eph 5:1). With long-suffering, we shall not waver in faith in the time of trail, but endure for a prize more precious than gold (1 Pet 1:7).
Long-suffering is a mark of our spiritual maturity. It shows we know Christ enough to believe in His assurances of deliverance (2 Tim 1:12). It is the testimony of our faith!
The word is “long-suffering”, but God in His mercy does not unduly delay. And when He does send salvation He completely vindicates why long-suffering is a virtue we must live: He gives more blessing at the end than at the beginning – as exemplified by Job:
"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is pitiful, and of tender mercy" (Jam 5:10-II).
We now look at long-suffering in its sense of forbearance – putting up with the foibles and 'bad altitude' of a brother! It's having a forgiving spirit. The apostle Paul addresses this aspect of long-suffering in Col. 3:12-15:
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
"And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
"And let the peace of Christ rule your hearts (in place of animosity), to the which (peace) also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful".
Where there's long-suffering – forbearance towards one another – the peace to which Christ has called us reigns supreme. He has bonded us together in peace (John 17:11), and we should make every effort to preserve this spiritual unity of believers.
Eph. 4:2-3 shows us how:
"With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbear one another in love;
"Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace".
What a crucial role long-suffering (forbearance) plays! Without it, the body of Christ could literally tear apart!
Again, it is a divine attribute at play – bearing with one another and forgiving one another as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us (Eph 4:31-32).
Long-suffering is a vital fruit of the Spirit. With it, we ride out the storms of the devil, and with it we preserve the unity of believers.
Both ways, we show tremendous spiritual maturity, and God is glorified! Halleluia!.