The Fruit of The Lips: Patience

FOTL 3-2

Love is patient


One of the first attributes that we learned about love when we recently studied First Corinthians chapter thirteen was that love is patient. It has a long fuse before any eruptions take place. Patience is a way of showing love by restraint. When irritation comes, love doesn’t prioritize the need to correct over the need to serve. Love would rather be irritated but patient than rebuke in anger, even if the correction is needed. Especially when the correction is needed.

Part of love hoping all things and believing all things is that it is optimistic, waiting patiently in faith over against the desire for anxious and immediate control. Instead of letting our speech be like bullets that demand instant response, no matter the blood spatter, patient speech is more like the sowing of seeds or the tending of flowers, words which sow and cultivate–words that serve.

When we react with impatience speech versus responding in patience, we are demanding instant change and growth from others while often giving ourselves immense levels of patience and tolerance.

After all, who are we most likely to be the most patient with? The high standard that Jesus gives us for loving others is to love them like what we have come to love the most: namely, ourselves. We usually give ourselves the most credit, the best motives, and the most patience.

In our speech, being patient is to love.

And what does that practically look like? It looks like not cutting someone off mid-sentence, not raising your voice to overpower, not using exaggerated language and hyperbole to describe someone’s actions, not slandering, not shouting, not cursing, not huffing, or grunting, or sighing. It might look like answering the same question to your child for a seventh time, or telling your husband something again (without snark)) about the dinner that was planned on Friday evening. And, sometimes, it might look like refraining from saying anything in response. It might look like asking clarifying questions, or affirming someone with words of affection.

We take on this fruit of the Spirit in our speech because God is patient and speaks patiently with us.


God is patient

When Moses asks God to “show him his glory” (Ex. 33:18), God responded by hiding Moses in the cleft of a rock, protecting him from being consumed by His holiness and declaring “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, (Exodus 34:6-7). This self-description from God is what he wanted us to see about his magnificence. He didn’t disclose raw power or cold justice, but mercy and patience, love, and faithfulness. Glory be to God! This is why Micah is left in awe, asking, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18, ESV). God likes being patient. It is glorious to Him that His love is steadfast, dispensing mercy and grace when his justice could have been immediate. This glorious patience isn't to be presumed upon, though. He delights in steadfast love, but He will by no means clear the guilty.

To our great surprise, God does not speak to us in short-tempered, and exasperated tones, although we deserve it. He condescends to our weaknesses, cultivating new life in us by love and pardoning our sins. Even before repentance, God patiently gives us the grace of forbearance, as Romans 2 says, letting his kindness lead us to repentance. This is how Paul described his own conversion in First Timothy, when he says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:15–17, ESV).

As Jesus tells us in the parables of the mustard seed, the leaven and the wheat and tares from Matthew thirteen, the kingdom of heaven is built on earth slowly, with patience–even allowing the weeds and the grain to grow together. It’s no wonder then that God speaks to us patiently–that is a central dynamic of His work in us. And it would greatly benefit us to match this pattern of patient building in our own work of discipleship, our church life, the cultivation of our marriages, and the raising of our children.   

Patience, though it is one of the most difficult of the virtues to practice, is  accompanied by glory. As Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV). As fruits of the Spirit are meant to do, they pierce into our world of hard hearts and blind eyes to display the God who is the source of them. When you speak with patience in your home, there is a glory and weight given to the God who rules over you. But when we speak with impatience, not overlooking offenses, but looking at all of them with a microscope and a notepad, snapping at the slightest provocation and bearing our frustration on our face and in our tone, then there is another glory present–the weight of self and disappointment, judgement and accusation.

Patience sees beyond the immediate. It looks to the future with hope and love and it responds to the present needs with forbearance instead of reacting to the present with frustration and anxiety.



To see how these principles break down into practice, the Proverbs have much to say:


The Fool

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16, ESV)

Much of what frustrates us needs to pass over us like water on a duck’s back. It is the fool who retaliates to every insult, causing those around them and in their home to walk on eggshells–or worse, repulsing those in their home. Love is patient and love covers.


Slow To Speak

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19, ESV)

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19, ESV)

The patient speaker doesn’t always have perfect patience in their heart, but they can and should get a reign on their mouth as the heart takes time to assesses the situation. Sometimes we say, “I’m just thinking this through as I talk it out”. This isn’t a wise strategy when provoked. When words are many, transgression is not lacking. Many things are better left unsaid. Letting the leash off of your tongue, whether it is with frustration, or rebuke, or gossip, or sometimes simply oversharing. At best, oversharing and the accompanying high rate of transgressions is taxing on your relationships, and at worse it is like running through your home with a sledge-hammer trying to swat flies–you do way more damage than you bargained for.


Ponder How To Answer

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” (Proverbs 15:28, ESV)

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27, ESV)

Instead of being a fool who gives full vent to his emotions through his speech, the righteous man ponders how to respond. As we studied in a previous lesson, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear” (Proverbs 25:11–12, ESV). How often do we just shoot from the hip? Do you consider your wife, your husband, your children, your friends? Do you contemplate how to serve them by your speech or do you haplessly make a bigger mess of things with rash words?

This brings up the dynamics of motivation. When we are provoked, we are motivated to speak, but those high motivations would often lead us to correct sinfully, even when correction is needed. We may need to respond, but not in anger or slander or callousness. So, we might be motivated but we are not in that moment qualified to correct. But when things cool down and we become qualified to speak, we often are no longer as motivated. This is a good opportunity to know if we should let love simply cover the issue and move on, or if we should respond after pondering how to present our case with a sober-mind, for it is he who has a cool spirit that is the man of understanding.


Ending Prayer

  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, ESV)