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Opening Question

The lyrics of a song say that waiting is the most bitter lesson a believing heart has to learn. Do you agree?

Delayed gratification. Patience. Waiting. Hoping. Putting our desires behind those of others. Looking to the end-goal rather than now. These are the experiences of people struggling to be all they can be yet mired in difficulty and struggle. We look a the patience of God this week, and trust that God Himself is our model and example.

Two Long Noses
In the Old Testament, God declares himself (Exodus 34:6-7, and later in Numbers 14:18) to be the God who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. The phrase “slow to anger” or “longsuffering” in some translations is literally “two long noses.” For those who argue for a literal, word-for-word translation of the Hebrew text, we would have no idea what do make of this translation. But when we understand the background of the idiom, it makes sense. The nose was the place of anger and intensity, because from a physical standpoint, our nose gets hot and red when we are angry. The longer your nose, the longer it takes to get angry. But God is not like us. He has two long noses! He is supernatural in his ability to suffer patiently with injustice. He can keep his anger under control much longer than we. God’s wrath is slow to come; He is able to wait!

How does this picture of God help you understand His reaction to sin and injustice in the world, and even those who would rail against Him?

The Fruit of the Spirit
Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit. One of those fruit is commonly spoken of as patience, but the Greek term macrothumia is more closely tied to the Hebrew idea of long-suffering or large-passion. That is, a person with patience suffers greatly. Think about how the fruit of the Spirit actually work: most of them cannot be grown in a vacuum. They require us to be in community where the fruit itself is required! I cannot develop love if there is nobody who requires my love. Likewise, I cannot develop patience unless there are people who push my buttons and tend to make me angry.

Where would you rank your level of patience? What are those subjects of types of people that most try your patience?

What can be our response to those who most require us to be patient and long-suffering?

Patience comes when we must wait for someone or something, or a trial to end, or for some joyous occasion. The Bible speaks often of waiting, especially when there is a seeming delay. We see delays in the parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25 and the previous parable of the servants in Matthew 24. Habakkuk reminds us to wait for the vision, though it tarries, wait for it. And the disciples often wanted the Kingdom to come before Jesus was ready to bring it as they had hoped. The lesson notes how David had to wait for years to become King even though he’d already been anointed by Samuel, and how Elijah ran ahead of Jezebel in fear of his life immediately after his victory over the prophets of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel. David also was never able to build the temple, Abraham never built a city in the land he was promised, and my own father and grandparents never saw the return of Jesus, though they’d longed for it.

The lesson notes a number of benefits to waiting learning patience. How do such learning opportunities help you cultivate the gift of patience?

Closing Comments
Trials that are painful cannot end quickly enough. We learn patience for such times by learning patience when things are easy. Who is faithful in little will be faithful in much!

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