Patience is not easy, but it is worthwhile. One of the values of patience is that it influences others to do right. People do not change readily and if they will change they need parents, teachers, leaders, and mentors that are patient.
Of those that have influenced my life not a single one of them did so through anger, but all of them were patient with my sins, mistakes, and stumbles. This is simply the power of loving a person. The first quality given from God that characterizes love is “longsuffering” (I Corinthians 13:4). When we are impatient we are not loving and when we do not love someone, they will not learn from us or follow us.
God gives spiritual leaders practical instruction on how to influence people, especially those that oppose their teaching. One of the main qualities is that of being patient with people.
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth”. (II Timothy 2:24-25)
The words “oppose themselves” (2:24) mean “to dispute with another because of a settled position”. Speaking truth is not always easy and will not be received enthusiastically when it is the opposite of the person’s lifestyle or beliefs to whom you are speaking. The word “strive” means “to quarrel” and carries the idea of a fight or a war.
God is saying that a spiritual leader is not to be looking for a fight. There will be times when it is necessary to stand alone, but we ought not be adversarial in our attitude toward people.
When Paula and I were in premarital counseling the counselor gave us a powerful, but visual example of how easy it is to get into a fight over something insignificant. He was seated on one side of his desk and both of us were on the other side.
He took a piece of paper and put it in the middle of his desk and stated, “Let this be a picture of an issue about which each of you are disagreeing. Rick, you will be on one side of the desk and Paula will be on the other side of the desk as you are taking a different approach to the issue. Initially both of you are trying to work toward an understanding and you are attacking the problem”. As he said the word “problem” he pointed at the paper in the middle the desk.
“Before long, if you are not careful, you will begin attacking each other rather than attacking the problem”, and as he said this, he pointed from the paper to us across the desk from him. I never forgot that lesson. That’s good for parents, spouses and leaders dealing with others that disagree with them, too.
As pastors teach God’s Word there will be rejection and misunderstanding sometimes. They must be patient with the person and focus on the problem rather than the person. (I know, sometimes the problem is the person!) We still must follow God’s Word as we minister in times of reaction, even from hateful people – “…be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves…” (II Timothy 2:24) There is never a time for a person to be personally unkind to another, even when they are opposed.
Being patient is not simply enduring while you count-down until you can blow your stack. Rather, it is enduring with a gracious and kind spirit. This is why even when we are opposed we are to be “gentle” (:24) and teach “in meekness” (:25). It is one thing for someone to react to my position, that cannot be helped; but it is another matter for someone to react to my disposition which can be changed.
From a pastoral, teaching or leadership perspective patience, gentleness and meekness are incredibly important both in our teaching and leadership, but also when others disagree with us. In that sense, the messenger is the message. One’s attitude is far more important than we realize in others learning from or following us as we teach and lead (:25).
Someone said, “Patience is not passive: on the contrary it is active; it is concentrated strength”.
If your role as a spouse, parent, leader, teacher, or coach is not giving you influence with those around you, perhaps it is because of a lack of patience. Or as God says about patience, it’s really a lack of love (I Corinthians 13:4).