Walking Victoriously, Part 2Published May 25, 2017 | Precious Truths, Bill Jenkin III
Last month we looked at two great qualities of authentic faith listed in Ephesians 4:1-3: lowliness and meekness. We concluded that we can only experience these victorious evidences when we are God-controlled. This dependence will apply as we study other characteristics—
Longsuffering—is the spirit of patience which never admits defeat, not because we somehow manifest it within ourselves, but because we are drawing on the resources of Christ. This patience will never be broken by any misfortune or suffering, disappointment or discouragement, and should continue to influence us more and more throughout our days. And here’s a sharper focus yet; it is the characteristic Greek word for patience with men. So as we yield ourselves to Him, we have a conquering endurance with others.
To use a very imperfect analogy I think back to my childhood and my dog Blaze. Blaze and I grew up together; Dad brought him home as a tiny puppy when I was four and he lived 19 years. He was very protective of me and loved a good fight, especially with any dog he thought might threaten me. More than once we had to bandage him up and then try to make amends with distant neighbors whose dog didn’t fare as well as Blaze.
But I remember a sharp contrast in behavior when watching Blaze with puppies we acquired throughout his long dog’s life. A pup would yap at Blaze, irritate him, bite him, and try to play with him (Blaze didn’t play—ever), and all the time Blaze could have annihilated the puppy with one quick snap of his teeth. Even though aggravated, he would tolerate the puppy’s impertinence with a forbearing dignity; in the same way, this glorious endurance is the spirit which can put up with unpleasant people with graciousness and without irritation.
Now I find this thrilling—the thing which best gives meaning to this spiritual concept of patience is that the New Testament repeatedly uses it of God as He demonstrates longsuffering toward us! Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (First Timothy 1:16). You see, God demonstrates it as a pattern to us! So now, through His enablement, I can show Christ-like characteristics to the one who is unkind, seemly unlovable, irritating, aggravating, and nasty while remembering that our Lord changes lives.
Biblical love comes next and was something so new that the Christian writers (through the Holy Spirit) had to employ a very unusual Greek word—agape. The real meaning of agape is unconquerable benevolence (gracious, big-hearted, overgenerous, unselfish). It means that we will seek the highest good of others even if they injure and insult us! That’s a hard one, isn’t it? It’s clear that this love is not an emotional thing (although it affects our emotions), but is primarily of the will; it’s a decision. It is the ability through Christ to retain unconquerable good will to the unlovely and the unlovable. It is that quality of mind and heart which compels us never to feel any bitterness or desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of others.
Because these qualities apply to our interpersonal relationships, this isn’t a matter of idly twiddling our thumbs and doing nothing while relationships fall apart. And while this longsuffering and love can be re-active qualities with others, I believe the basic application is pro-active. So we are actually looking for opportunities to demonstrate good works through Christ’s patience and love to others (Ephesians 2:10).