But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
All Christians know this verse. When exhausted or weary, this is one that readily comes to mind. Just reading it refreshes us as we think about flying like an eagle above the worry and tiredness of daily life, so high in the sky gliding on thermal currents, no flapping over our cares or workload.
The question is, could something hold us back from flying high?
Last Sunday, I preached on longsuffering, the fourth spiritual fruit recorded on Galatians 5:22-23. Longsuffering is made up of two words:
Suffer/suffering. What are we meant to suffer? For how long? Can we put boundaries in place? Are there things we don't need to tolerate or suffer? For instance, should we suffer a cheeky child or a rude person serving us in a store? No. Does longsuffering mean we are a doormat? No. Does it mean we find faith for the long Christian journey and keep our mouths in check? Yes. Are we to go the extra mile in love and patience, even though it's not asked for? Yes.
Long. How long is long? It means different things to people. For instance, we ask the average person how it would take them to cross a road? The answer would be, "A few seconds?" Now ask a snail the same question, and we'll get a very different answer. Long has a very contrasting interpretation from one person to the next. When getting through life, sometimes others are the snail, and other times it's us. Long is fifty percent of longsuffering—50%! Therefore, it means long.
Not everyone suffers long. Some suffer for a very short time and even find that hard to do. They are full of pride, whining and comments, and can be quite impolite. Galatians 5 implies we are called to suffering long. It's a part of the Christian walk and we are meant to grow that spiritual fruit bigger than it is now. Longsuffering also has a marriage word. Found in 1 Corinthians 13:4. It shows us God's heart. "Charity suffereth long, AND is kind;." It doesn't say, "Charity suffereth short and is rude." God shows His kindness as He suffers us. We, therefore, show kindness as we suffer others.
How is your longsuffering with others? Do you suffer long but are a smart mouth about it? Maybe a bit opinionated? To grow longsuffering, we need to take a long view into the future. Because somewhere way out there, our longsuffering comes to a completion.
Numbers 14:18 show us how the Lord suffers when He waits for us to mature. "The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression...."
That description shows what our hearts should be like when dealing with other people—great mercy, forgiving people's transgressions against us.
The New Testament explains Longsuffering this way. Strongs concordance G3115 Noun makrothymia (mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah) Perseverance, slowness in avenging wrongs.
It often costs us to endure. But the Lord is no person's debtor.
The Apostle Paul show us the type of heart that allows the growth of longsuffering. He highlights the precious qualities that seem to surround it. He speaks of lowliness, meekness, and forbearance (patience and understanding), tender mercies, kindness, and humbleness of mind.
What depth of love we can acquire when we put on Christ.
Ephesians 4:2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
Colossians 3:12 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”
In Paul's letter to Timothy below, he doesn't speak from head-knowledge but experience. Paul shows the wonderful state of his heart and manner of life. “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,” 2 Timothy 3:10
Similarly, 2 Peter 3:9 shows us the reality of God's longsuffering toward humanity. If only we could have hearts as deeply yearning for others as His! "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Most times, longsuffering means loss without mentioning it, love when we are exhausted, going the extra mile when we only have the capacity for half of the first mile, and showing understanding when little understanding is returned. Furthermore, longsuffering is done in complete faith, relying totally on God to help see it through.
Is this what we want? Because if we desire to fly with eagles, longsuffering brings us to a crossroad of decision.
Ex 19:4 “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.”
Why would God use the term eagles' wings? This statement seems so odd until we look deeper. Until we look at our key verse, Isaiah 40:31.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for longsuffering is 'ārēḵ (aw-rake’) meaning longwinged (as per an eagle), long pinions. (Strong's concordance Hebrew H750).
Longwinged is not a reference to the length of a wingspan, but the pinions. Pinions are those feathers that get cut from birds to stop flight, as in chickens. When stopping chickens from flying over the coop fence, we don't trim the wing-span, but the long feathers at the rear of the wing. In the same way an eagle needs to be longwinged to fly, it appears we need longsuffering, like God, to soar.
It seems odd, but longsuffering appears to be required if we are to soar above the weariness of the walk, and not flap about in pride and anxiety when the going gets tough. It is a foundation quality of God Himself. Otherwise, we'd all now be dead and in hell.
In genuine longsuffering, 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 humbled into suffering long with those we would not associate with or suffer long outside of prison.
Longsuffering is very much about disrobing and burying our personal desires and working toward God’s end result without grumbling. This quality is about denying ourselves for as long as God requires. It is important to get longsuffering right because 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 we don't pass it on. We become ‘superior’ and self-righteous when confronted with others' errors.
Without longsuffering God's way, we never soar to the heights of peace we see in some people. Instead, we find ourselves flapping about over small issues, critical of others as if we're something great. All the time exhibiting a lack of understanding only seen in a novice.
Three things we can take away from this brief study.
Suffer long AND be kind, because God does that for us.
Keep our cool (remember Jesus told Peter to forgive 7 x 70) Keep long pinions, not opinions.
Nothing is more precious to God than a soul saved from hell.
And remember, WE are precious to God. Suffer ourselves long. Do not lose heart.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, I can see how important longsuffering is to you. Please help me understand it further—to be able to suffer whatever situation you have placed me in, and to appreciate your heart more as you suffer my follies and inconsistencies.