“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,”–2 Timothy 3:10 ESV
The Christian faith depends upon not only faithful discipleship, but on faithful disciples who continue in the pattern they have received. In their last three posts in this series we looked at 4 ways we need to follow ( or strive to be) a godly Christian leader:
- Follow the Same Doctrine
- Follow the Same Conduct
- Follow the Same Purpose
- Follow the Same Faithfulness
5. Follow with the Same Patience
The KJV uses the word “longsuffering” here, which I always like. Makrothumiarefers to the patient enduring of pain or unhappiness. Literally, this is longsuffering!If we are an impatient society, which we are, then we don’t really practice longsuffering very well most of the time.
Why was Paul patient?
Because the Lord had always been patient with him! “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.” (1 Timothy 1:15–16, ESV)
To whom should we be patient?
Not the false teachers of vv. 1-9! Look at v. 5. It says, “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:5, ESV, emphasis mine).
Also look at what Paul wrote in Titus 3:10-11, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10–11, ESV)
We are to be patient with one another, and most notably with immature Christians. “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV)
There is a repeated refrain you hear throughout the Old Testament—Israel is a “stiff-necked” people (Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5, 9). The people are “stubborn” (Deut 9:6, 13). They are “rebellious” (Deut 31:27). The best example this is in Isaiah 48:4, where the Lord said, “Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass,” (Isaiah 48:4, ESV)! Wow!
The Lord is longsuffering with his people! We are all too often guilty of being stiff-necked, stubborn and rebellious. But I want you to think about this. The steadfast love of the Lord is never ceasing! That phrase “steadfast love” occurs 393 times in the ESV translation, with the majority in the book of Psalms. The steadfast love of the Lord is made most evident in his longsuffering with us. That is why it was sung by Israel, because God’s people know how much we deserve wrath, and yet we receive his patience and love instead!
Paul had learned this about the Lord, and so should we. How would Paul address that troubled church that was so mired in its sin and broken in disunity? How would he speak to them and about them? In 1Corinthians 1:10, Paul begins, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV). He appeals to them! He calls them “brothers!”
And when Paul wrote to his friend about a runaway slave, we find a similar patience in his words. In Philemon 8-9, Paul wrote, “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—” (Philemon 8–9, ESV)
O how we need to learn longsuffering with God’s people! What faith we will need! If you need to grow in you patience with people, then you will need this last characteristic of a godly leader—love. We will look at this in the next post.