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Fruit of the Spirit: 4. Longsuffering

Able to suffer much without grumbling. Longsuffering is the fourth named fruit of the Spirit.

Many people think they possess ‘longsuffering’ but to which spirit is it attached?

Moses had the character quality of longsuffering. However, on one drastic occasion he overstepped his position and entered a domain many of us abide within.

We notice, during a parched period in the Israelites desert walk, that Moses was instructed by God to ‘speak to the rock’.  This simple command was not carried out. Instead, in its place was disobedience, short-suffering and an elevated spirit.

Num 20:8-12

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

This apparent simple act of non-compliance, hitting the Rock instead of merely speaking to it, cost Moses his Vision.

What a price?

If we are genuine, we will see ourselves in this picture, often doing just what Moses did.

In our so-called ‘longsuffering’ we can easily become arrogant, putting ourselves higher than those for whom we are meant to be suffering long.  Christ put himself lower, so, how do we?

Moses, normally a very long-suffering person, in a temporarily irritated state, seemed to elevate both himself and his brother, Aaron, to the positions of 4th and 5th persons of the Trinity. For Moses’ brief error both were severely penalised.

Longsuffering does not mean we have the right to say to God, ‘how long must I put up with this person or this wrong?’

If we are honest, we will find we have said that in the past and probably still hold that same position from time to time.

In this state, we raise ourselves higher than our ‘servant’ role. When God asks us to demonstrate servant-love, we deliver superiority.

1 Corinthians 13:4 provides the definition of Charity, which is the end result of growing the fruit of the Spirit. One key quality of Charity is  longsuffering.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind”

Charity is of course Agape love, a godly love, deeper and more spiritual than other types of love, and is the epitome of humility. In true Charity, there is no place for superiority. We are simply servants saved by Grace helping out other people.

Prison taught me much about this topic, as we inmates wore green uniforms with no distinguishing features of superiority. We were all servants who mustered together when told, ate at times set by others, were locked away of an evening and let out in the morning by the real superiors, and were at their beck and call. If an inmate decided not to play the servant role any longer, and started fights with other servants or challenged his superiors in any real way, he was shanghaied (sent) to another prison.

We were humbled by law and, for the extent of the sentence, were also humbled into suffering long with fellows we would not associate with or suffer long on the ‘outside’.

Longsuffering is very much about disrobing and burying our personal desires and working toward God’s end result without grumbling. This quality is about humility and denying ourselves for as long as God requires.

It is important to get longsuffering right, as it is fundamental to the longevity of all relationships. We expect others to put up with our mistakes and idiosyncrasies whether we get around to saying sorry or not, yet, when it comes to the other way around, we put timeframes on people’s behaviour and get ‘superior’ when those timeframes are breached.

Creating boundaries is acceptable and biblical, however, having the attribute of longsuffering, for the same length of time God has suffered us and our nonsense, is gold tried in the fire.


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