January 15, 2006

Love Is Patient

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Preeminence of Love Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4


Love Is Patient

I Corinthians 13:4
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

After a three-week hiatus, it is good to return to our study in 1 Corinthians. We just concluded a section on Christian liberty in chapters 8-10. Normally we would begin the new section in chapter 11 that deals with head coverings and the Lord's Supper and then move to another section in chapters 12-14 that deals with spiritual gifts. Although I have yet to do this in the past, I have chosen to place these chapters on hold because I personally believe I need more time to study these difficult and controversial topics.

So where do we go from here? After much thought and prayer, I have decided to do something I have wished to do ever since I began a ministry in the pulpit. I plan to do a detailed exposition of the fifteen attributes of love found in chapter 13. I believe this series will be a blessing to your hearts as we examine in depth God's definition of a common term that is often misunderstood and abused not only in society, but also in the church.

The Bible says, "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:16). It also teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as our self (Mt. 22:39; Rom. 13:9). Furthermore, love is the indication of our discipleship (Jn. 13:35). Love is the proof that we are the children God (Jn. 14:19; 1 Jn. 3:10, 14; 4:7). Love is an obligation we have with one another (Rom. 13:8). Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10). All that we do is to be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14). And without love, says the Bible, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

Since love is so essential to the Christian faith, it is imperative that we understand and practice this concept. The world is a poor educator when it comes to love. Therefore we must break away from all erroneous thoughts and preconceived notions and see this word afresh from God's perspective as it is brought to us through the Scriptures.

Few other studies will bring us greater benefits in our relationship with God and our relationship with others, because I would venture to say that all of our problems in the home and the church stem from an absence of love.

Some preliminary comments before we begin the first attribute of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:

First, love is a difficult word to define in and of itself. Possibly it is best to think of love as an inward attitude of the heart that binds together all the virtues of Christian character. That's why Paul when forced to define love mentioned 15 different traits. Colossians 3:14 says, "Love…is the perfect bond of unity." So we could say love binds these traits together and enables us to respond to each other in a way that is most pleasing to God and most imitating of God. Looking to the loving disposition of God and then manifesting those traits in our lives with others is the summation of biblical love.

Second, biblical love is an action. There is nothing wrong with sentimental, romantic and emotional love, but the words used to describe love in chapter 13 are not adjectives, but verbs. They are visible actions. They are selfless elements of service where the ego must step aside for the sake of another. Far from this being a "feeling" love, this love calls us to action even when we don't feel like it.

Third, this chapter is not "Paul's Ode to Love." In the context, this chapter comes as a stern rebuke to the Corinthians. We have already witnessed the many problems faced in the Corinthian church. I heard it said recently that this church was a pastor's nightmare! So Paul writes chapter 13 as a personal admonition to teach them that the root of their problem was too much self and not enough love.

We now begin with the first attribute of love. 1 Corinthians 13, verse 4 says, "Love is patient."


When you think of patience, what naturally comes to your mind? I'm sure each of us would answer that question differently so it is necessary to determine what Paul is speaking of here in chapter 13.

This is not the patience that is necessary to attain the expected things in life. We are not talking about waiting for the ketchup to come out of the bottle or the daffodils to come up in the Spring or the nut that won't fit onto the bolt or the birthday party that is still 3 months away.

This is also not the patience that is spoken of in the Bible that is related to circumstances, or as we commonly say - "trials," that are more pressing and uncertain. Often the Greek word used in these situations is hupomone. It is a compound word that means to "remain under the weight" (like those big weight lifters in the Olympics) and is translated "patience" (1 Pet. 2:20), but more often "perseverance" (Rom. 5:3, 4; Rom. 15:4, 5; 2 Thes. 1:4; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 3:10; Rev. 2:2, 3, 19; 3:10) or "steadfastness" (Col. 1:11; 1 Thes. 1:3; 2 Thes. 3:5; Jas. 1:4) or "endurance" (1 Cor. 1:6; 6:4; Heb. 10:36; 12:1; Jas. 1:3; 5:11). As we go through these trials we are to be patient. We are called to persevere in the midst of them until God has perfected His purposes in our lives.

Furthermore, this is not the patience that is required to wait upon the Lord (Psm. 37:1; 40:1; Heb. 6:11, 15; Jas. 5:7-10). God's timetable is much different that ours. We want our prayers answered now. God knows it is often better for us to have them answered later or not at all.

Abraham was impatient with God when he went to Hagar to conceive the promised child (Gen. 16:1-3). Saul was impatient when he offered sacrifices in the absence of Samuel (1 Sam. 13:8-9).

We must remember God's way is best. For our own joy, we must be patient with God. For he who waits on God, said one author, never waits too long. An important aspect of patience, but again not exactly what Paul was speaking of in 1 Corinthians 13.

The Greek word for patience in chapter 13 is makrothumeo. It is a compound word that combines the words "long" (makro) and "wrath" (thumos). The King James Version comes closest to a literal translation with the term "suffereth long" or "long-suffering" (YLT). We could say it means having a "long fuse" or as James said being "slow to anger" (Jas. 1:19; cf. 1 Cor. 13:5).

And this term when used in the Bible often has its connection not with circumstances or things, but with people. It is to "put up" or bear with others when they hurt, irritate and frustrate us, not seeking retaliation, but rather extending love and considering their needs above our own. And unless you have lived in isolation all of your life, I believe you will all agree that this kind of patience is the most difficult to exhibit.

In summary of what we have just mentioned, R. C. Sproul said, "When the Bible speaks of patience…it speaks of it as a virtue that goes far beyond the mere ability to await some future gain. It involves more than the rest or peace of the soul that trusts in God's perfect timing. The patience that is in view here focuses more on interpersonal relationships with other people. It is the patience of longsuffering and of forbearing in the midst of personal injury. This is the most difficult patience of all" (Tabletalk, p. 6, vol. 28, no. 9, Ligonier Ministries).


Now that we have narrowed down our definition, let's expand our thoughts to the specific situations that require this form of patience. I'm calling the point "the diagram of patience."

There are many things that people do to us that cause us to be impatient. They range from inconvenience, like the individual driving well under the speed limit; to abused deadlines, like someone late for an appointment; to unpleasant character traits, to people who are obnoxious or slow or immature; to inconsideration, like the neighbor who plays loud music; to innocent or ignorant comments, like a joke that is taken in the wrong way; to unfair treatment, like persecution for righteous actions; to hurtful words, like gossip and slander; to being provoked, like the one who knows just the right buttons to push with you; to broken promises, like the friend or spouse who fails in a relationship.

We all face these aggravations and we will all respond in some way to these irritations. The only question is whether your response will honor or dishonor the Lord. There are many ways we respond to these aggravations in our lives. And the way you chose to respond will not only affect your relationship with God, but also your relationship with the person. Therefore we must begin to see each of these aggravations as opportunities or mini-tests given only this side of heaven to do what the Lord expects from His children. And what does God expect from His children during these times? Patience!

It is a test of our maturity. Someone once said, "Godly patience shines brightest when pain is inflicted upon us." The test of our Christian character is our ability to be patient with others when everything in our flesh is screaming the opposite. How mature are you?

That same Greek word for patience, makrothumeo, found in 1 Corinthians 13, is used elsewhere in its noun or verbal form.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul said, "We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone." There are different ways to treat different people, but regardless of the circumstances, we must exercise patience to all without exception.

In Colossians 3:12 we read, "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." We are to "put on" or adorn ourselves or clothe ourselves with patience.

In 2 Timothy 4:2 pastors are exhorted to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." All teachers of the Bible deal with those who are: slow to understand a concept or quick to argue a point or less mature than they lead themselves to believe or unfaithful as a student. Regardless, all are to be treated with patience.

Ephesians 4:2-3 says, "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Patience with one another is the necessity for a unified and peaceful church or family.

Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10, "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance" (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6). Paul singled out patience in the example he set. Are we setting this example for others in the body of Christ? Can we encourage others to follow our example of patience?

Let's be realistic. Regardless of how good they may be, every family and every church will have problems because both of these institutions are composed of people who sin. So where there are people, we will always be given the opportunity to practice patience.

I read a story this week about a household that was so happy, none of its members left (other than daughters given in marriage) for a duration of nine generations. The fame of such domestic bliss reached the ears of the Celestial Emperor, so he sent to enquire the secret. The old father of the house, taking a paper and brush, printed many characters, then handed his answer to the imperial envoy. When it was unrolled, there was nothing there but the character for "patience" repeated 100 times (Naismith, Illustrations, #773).

Positively speaking, I believe we can say patience is the passive ability to endure ill treatment. It is the capability to remain calm and in self-control. It has been said, "Patience is the grace of the man who could revenge himself, but chooses not to." But patience is not all passive as if we are permitted to avoid or ignore those who offend us. We can also say patience is the active ability to do good to the other person as well. It is an opportunity to extend mercy, forbearance and kindness. Lord willing, we will get to this other side of patience next week.

It is our Christian responsibility to treat all people at all times in this patient manner. There is not a final straw that "breaks the camel's back," so to speak (Mt. 18:22). Thomas A Kempis once wrote, "The man who will suffer only as much as seems good to him, who will accept suffering only from those from whom he is pleased to accept it, is not truly patient." Though the world extols patience, I hope you are beginning to see that God has a much different definition in mind.

On the negative side, God has given us many warning lights to know when we are acting impatiently. When we experience emotions like: bitterness, anger, resentment, superiority, arrogance, or haughtiness, we are being impatient with another. Often these inward dispositions of the heart are outwardly manifested in: dirty looks, argumentative spirits, self-pity, quarreling, criticism, rudeness, retaliation, vengeance, loss of temper, fault-finding, gossip, grumbling, complaining and quitting. All these emotions and actions are sin because they are indications that we are not being truly patient. They are deeds of the flesh and warning lights that we are not walking in the Spirit, and that is unacceptable in the sight of God.

Impatience is unacceptable to God primarily for two reasons:

One, it is a clear demonstration of pride. When we demonstrate a lack of patience we are basically telling the other individual that our ways, our perspectives, our intelligence, our timetable or our agenda is more important that theirs. We place ourselves in the seat or superiority. We treat others as inferior. We do not deny ourselves (Mt. 16:24) and consider them more important (Phil. 2:3) as the Scriptures teach.

When we demonstrate any of the deeds of impatience, we basically stand in judgment over another. But rarely do we know what another person is thinking. Rarely do we hear the other side of the story. Rarely do we consider another's pain and suffering. Rarely do we think we are wrong in our perceptions. Rarely do we give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We are way too self-orientated and it shows itself in impatience when things aren't going "my way."

Ken Sande in his book, The Peacemaker said, "If you respond to conflict like most people, you will tend to focus on the negative characteristics of the person who is disagreeing with you, exaggerating his faults and overlooking his virtues. The more distorted your perspective becomes, the more likely you are to imagine the worst about the other person, which may lead you to misjudge his or her values, motives and actions" (pg. 87).

We are prideful creatures. So quick to see the faults of others and then magnify them and so slow to see our own faults and then accept them. Any time we are impatient with another, we are implying either intentionally or unwittingly that we are better. That, beloved, is pride.

The second reason why God despises our impatience is because it is diametrically opposite of His attitude toward us. I'll return to this thought in a moment.


Well, I've given you a rather tall order. You might be thinking, there is no way I can achieve the standard you just presented. Well, I'm here to tell you this morning that you must. And I'm here to tell you this morning that you can. Allow us to conclude with the final point as I present five thoughts that will help you demonstrate the patience God expects.

First, on your own this command is impossible. There is no way you can exhibit godly patience in your own strength or through your own efforts. But the good news is that you are not alone. God is with you and God desires to work His patience through you. First we must be a Christian having trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Then we must daily devote ourselves to God and abide in His love through obedience. You see, when we walk in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in our lives. Contrary to the deeds of the flesh, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…" (Gal. 5:22). The patience that God expects us to show toward others grows out of the relationship we have with Him.

Second, you must remember how patient God is with you. Praise God that He doesn't have my level of patience. If He did, the world would have been wiped out a long time ago! The Bible says, "(God was) patient toward you, not wishing for (you) to perish but…to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 1:16). While deserving instant judgment, God was patient with you through years of rejection and then gladly received you when you called upon His name.

Even now, Christian, God extends His patience toward you every second of the day (Rom. 2:4). Oh if we only had a clue as to how often and how deeply we offend our Creator, but God forebears, suffers long, and is greatly patient with our countless imperfections. How can we be impatient with others for petty offenses when we have received so much grace from the living God? "It becomes…difficult," says R. C. Sproul, "To fathom when we see a sinless Being being more patient with sinful beings than sinful beings are with each other" (Tabletalk, p. 7, vol. 28, no. 9, Ligonier Ministries). Think of it this way, the godly response is God's response to us!

Third, remember the example of Jesus. Hebrews 12 teaches us to throw off our encumbrances, fix our eyes upon Jesus and run with endurance. We are to consider Him who endured the cross and such hostility by sinners. He did not lose heart nor grow weary and neither should we when it comes to doing what is right. So consider the patience of the One who tolerated so much from His disciples and after being nailed to the cross by wicked men, cried, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34).

Fourth, keep a right perspective of yourself and others. Here are a few random thoughts. Remember that others are often not as malicious as we make them out to be. Avoid judging motives and be quick to speak to another person when in doubt. Seek to see others in the best possible light. Remember that we all have a natural tendency to think too highly of ourselves. "Every man's way is right in his own eyes," says Proverbs 21:2a. Remember we have frailties and faults too. Remember we have no control over others, but we have total control over how we treat others. Remember how much it hurts when others are impatient with us and follow the Golden Rule. Remember that Jesus died for others in the church. He takes it personally when we are impatient with members of His body.

Fifth, trust in the Lord. Oftentimes impatience is our feeble attempt to execute justice. "Because you treated me this way, I'll be quick to get you back. I'll remove you from a position of favor and place you in a position of judgment." My friends, trust in the justice of God. Leave vengeance to Him (Rom. 12:19). Instead of extending wrath, extend mercy, love and forgiveness! Once again, Jesus set this example for us. "While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himselfto Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23). Believe His promises, obey His will and leave the judgment to Him.

The great preacher, Chrysostom, once said, "Patience is the queen of virtues." But according to the unknown poet:

Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman,
Never in a man.

I was so convicted this week as to how far I fall short in being patient with others as God demands - especially with my family and with my church - those whom I love the most. How are you doing?

For the sake of home and church unity, for the sake of our example to other believers, for the sake of our testimony to the lost and for the sake of God's expectations, we must take this seriously and be people who demonstrate patience in our dealings with others.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?" The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god." When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night air. When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you." God answered, "I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night" (Thomas Lindberg)?

May we this week look for these opportunities God brings our way to imitate God and be patient with our parents, our children, our friends, our enemies, our leaders, our co-workers, our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let's remember, "Love is patient!"

other sermons in this series

Mar 26


Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:7 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 19


Love Rejoices With Righteousness

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 12


Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love