©Copyright July 3, 2016 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
Over the last several weeks we have been looking closely at the character traits that indicate whether you are living according to the flesh (the sinful ways of the world) or by the Spirit. How you live reveals who you follow.
Last week Rick looked at the first three character traits that should be seen in a true follower of Christ who is living in the freedom given by the Holy Spirit. These traits are love, joy, and peace. Let me remind you again these are not things we need to do to BECOME a follower of Christ, these are traits that are the RESULT of being a true follower of Christ.
I hope you have already seen that these are not burdensome things the Holy Spirit is trying to cultivate within us. The Holy Spirit is working to make us into people who live and act more like Jesus. The things that draw us to Christ are the very things the Holy Spirit is seeking to develop in us. We should crave these things rather than resist them.
These are the very traits so painfully lacking in our world. These character traits are more the exception than the norm. However, they are the very things we need as a country and as a world! But . . . we must also reiterate that these are also things that can only come about by the work of God in our lives. They are NOT natural. They are supernatural.
This morning we will look at the next three character traits: Patience, Kindness and Goodness. I want to acknowledge the great resource that Jerry Bridges and his book The Practice of Godliness was to my outline today.
I can’t imagine anyone who would say they don’t need a little more patience. The concept of patience, or long-suffering, is a rich one. As you look at the various words and ideas behind this word patience, you will see that it has many different facets.
There are different areas where we need patience. First, we need patience when mistreated. Jerry Bridges describes this element of patience better thn I can,
This aspect of patience is the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter. The occasions for exercising this quality are numerous; they vary from malicious wrongs all the way to seemingly innocent practical jokes. They include ridicule, scorn, insults, and undeserved rebukes, as well as outright persecution. The Christian who is the victim of office politics or organizational power plays must react with long-suffering. The believing husband or wife who is rejected or mistreated by an unbelieving spouse needs this kind of patience.
In other words, this is the ability to trust God even when you are being victimized. One of the best examples of this kind of patience was Joseph. He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, charged with a rape he did not commit, and was forgotten in prison after he accurately interpreted some dreams. Joseph did not get angry. Even when he had the opportunity for vengeance, he did not take it. Joseph trusted God. He waited for God to vindicate him.
We also need patience when provoked. This is different from the times of mistreatment. When we are victimized we are powerless. When I mean provoked I mean times when we are attacked and we ARE in a position to do something about it. It is the restraint of power. We can retaliate and punish swiftly and harshly, but we choose to be patient. We act rather than react.
The reason this is a godly trait is because this the way God treats us. He is slow to anger and abundant in mercy. He does not treat us as our sins deserve but seeks to redeem every situation. That is the reason behind for being patient with others who provoke us.
We need patience in dealing with the imperfections of others. We are quick to get irritated with people who don’t act or do things the way that we think they should. Somehow we seem to feel that we are smarter and more capable than those whom we criticize. Again, Bridges goes to the core of the issue.
It may be the driver ahead of us who is driving too slowly, or the friend who is late for an appointment, or the neighbor who is inconsiderate. (Anyone else see themselves in these words? Italics mine). More often than not it is the unconscious action of some family member whose irritating habit is magnified because of close daily association. The kind of patience it takes to overlook these circumstances is probably demanded of us most often within our own families or Christian fellowships.
Boy, Bridges is right, isn’t he? The first place where we need patience with others is in our homes. We must learn to celebrate our differences rather than condemn them. We must learn to set aside the arrogance that seems to feel that if someone does not do things the way I do, they are wrong, and I am right.
We all have “issues”. Your issues are likely different than most of the people that irritate you. However, don’t forget that your “differences” have an effect on others (they bug people) and I would wager that you want others to be patient with you. The Lord is patient with us as we grow. We should likewise be patient with each other.
Fourth, patience is needed in times of adversity. There are things that happen in life that we, quite frankly, do not understand. We can become angry at God, the circumstance, or at life itself OR we can patiently wait to see what God will do through the circumstance. Jason Gray has a song that says, “If my life never would have got broken, then my hands would have never been open, and my heart would have never been stolen. But your love came to me in my lowest and I’ve been singing ever since that moment.”
It is desperately difficult to trust God when life seems to be crumbling around you. It is difficult to be patient when we pray and answers don’t seem to come. It is even more difficult to patiently trust when the answers are not what we prayed for. We need patience because we do not understand. The quintessential example is Job. When his life fell apart (and it really fell apart) his first response was, “Naked I came from my Mother’s womb and naked I return; The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Now that is faith – patient faith. As you know the story, the friends of Job began eating away at that faith. They continued to say God was punishing Job for something. Eventually, the Lord came and reminded Job that he can trust God’s wisdom even in the hardest of times.
The character trait of patience is like a hub that has many avenues drawing from it,
- Patience in mistreatment
- Patience when faced with provocation
- Patience in tolerating the shortcomings of others
- Patience in times of adversity
Like many of the character traits we have looked at so far, our reason for pursuing patience is because God is patient. We are created in His image and when we practice these things we find life open to a greater and greater sense of healing and freedom.
I love the fact that Paul includes kindness in his list. Have you noticed how rare it seems to be to find someone who is simply kind? Kindness comes from being aware of other people and being alert to how to be thoughtful.
Tim Keller sums up kindness in his commentary this way,
Kindness, an ability to serve others practically in a way which makes me vulnerable, which comes from having a deep inner security. Its opposite is envy, which leaves me unable to rejoice in another’s job. And its fake alternative is manipulative good deeds, doing good for others so I can congratulate myself and feel I am “good enough” for others or for God. (p. 154)
Before we can truly be kind we have to be able to see beyond ourselves. When we are all wrapped up in our little world we will look at others in terms of how they can enrich our lives and help us to meet our goals. The truth is: we are not the star of the show . . . we are walk-ons, extras, in this drama called life. If you will, we are part of an ensemble cast and need to treat each other well. Kindness sees other people.
- The mom who is exhausted from caring for the children, managing the house, and trying to work.
- The dad who needs something to relieve the stress of the demands on him.
- The worker who is longing for someone to encourage them in their work.
- The teenager who needs someone to see something positive in them.
- The one devastated and in need of forgiveness and restoration.
- The person who “just ran into the store” to get an item (and is now behind you and your shopping basket full of groceries).
- The sick person that needs love and care, not probing questions.
- The person seeking truth that wants honest answers not condemnation or lectures.
- The animal that needs a drink
- The child that longs for someone to get on their level and “see” them
- The person who is speaking but no one is listening
- The person trying to leave a parking lot but no one will give them a chance to do so.
- The one who can’t keep up on the things at home because of the crisis they are going through
- The person who has made horrible choices in the past and needs someone to give them a chance to prove they are better than that one mistake.
The list can go on and on. I suspect you have longed for kindness. If you received that kindness, then it has probably already jumped to your mind. God is kindhearted. He wants us to be the same. I think it is safe and accurate to say that we would like to be known as kind people. But Jerry Bridges has yet another good insight,
Our natural inclination is to show kindness only to those for whom we have some natural affinity—family, friends, likable neighbors. But God shows kindness to those who are most despicable—the ungrateful and wicked. Have you ever tried to be kind to someone who was ungrateful? Unless God’s grace was working in your heart in a significant way, your reaction to his ingratitude may well have been, “I’ll never do anything for him again!” But God doesn’t turn His back on the ungrateful. And so Jesus says to us, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35).
The last trait is Goodness. Goodness and Kindness are siblings. Kindness is about feelings and compassion; goodness is about action. Most of these actions will be “little things”. It is serving other people.
The best example is Jesus as he washed the feet of his disciples. He deliberately took the role of a servant. He set out to show His disciples that they were loved and He told them that this is the way we will show others that they are loved too.
The person who is beginning to see the trait of goodness developed by the Holy Spirit will find that they are becoming more and more a person of integrity. They will be the same person in every situation. They won’t have to “think about” doing what is kind or loving, it will come naturally – flowing out of the heart.
A young lady named Sally relates an experience she had in a seminary class taught by her teacher, Dr. Smith. She says Dr. Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into the seminary and knew they were in for a fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts.
Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone they disliked or someone who had made them angry in the past. Then he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.
Sally’s friend drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on the face. Sally was pleased at the overall effect she had achieved.
The class lined up and began throwing darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn, but was filled with disappointment when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats.
As Sally sat down, thinking about how angry she was because she didn’t have a chance to throw any darts at her target, Dr. Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus.
A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced.
Dr. Smith said only these words, “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
No other words were necessary…the tear-filled eyes of each student focused only on the picture of Christ.
In Galatians 6:10 Paul tells us to do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers. We should be kind in all our dealings but we should start by being kind to each other . . . even in the church. It is as simple as greeting another, sharing in someone’s joy or sorrow, and maybe praying with them. We make allowances for each other because that is the kind and loving thing to do.
We can move this in one step further. The heart that is developing goodness begins at home. It is a sad fact that we often are guilty of giving our best to others, leaving merely leftovers for our family. We are kind, thoughtful, patient, and accommodating to others but we often expect our family members to read our mind and live up to a standard of behavior that is unrealistic. You would not expect anyone else to live up to this standard.
Patience, kindness and goodness are all simple things that have a profound impact. These characteristics increase joy in our living and impact people around us. The problem we face is that we easily get discouraged. We try to be kind and we receive indifference, hostility, or perhaps worst of all, a sense of entitlement from others. We ask ourselves: “What’s the use? Why bother caring at all?”
What happens and has happened to many of us is we become discouraged. Then we move to cynicism (believing everybody is trying to rip you off). From cynicism we move to self-absorption. You hear people more and more say, “I have to do what is right for me.” By this people mean, “I have to pursue what will make me happy rather than care about anyone else.” This in turn leads to isolation.
The best response to this attitude of discouragement is a simple question: What if Jesus had taken that attitude toward you and me?
The best part of exercising the fruit of the Spirit is the pleasure it brings to our Father in Heaven. His approval or His “Well-done” is worth every effort. But that is not the only benefit. A simple act of kindness (The “pay-it-forward” movement) can change a person’s day. That person will be a little kinder to the people they encounter during the day. If we do this consistently people will be drawn to us like a magnet. We are starved for people who will be kind, good, and patient with us.
As we walk in the Spirit we will begin to see PEOPLE and not problems or obstacles to be overcome. As we walk in the Spirit we will be touched by the stories of those around us. Life will be richer for us and for them. We will learn things about people that warm our hearts and at other times will break them. As we demonstrate goodness we will see more smiles and more people will look at us in the eye. You will be remembered! And if you are patient . . . you will begin to see the Holy Spirit starting to change your family, our church, our community, and a little of the world . . . through you.
©Copyright July 3, 2016 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
 Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1983), 168.
 Ibid. 172–173.
 Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1983), 191.