Key Scriptures: Luke 15:11-32, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 4:2, Psalm 37:7-9, 1 Corinthians 13:4, Proverbs 15:18, Colossians 3:12-13, James 1:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Peter 3:9, James 5:7-8, Luke 8:15, Proverbs 25:15, Proverbs 14:29, Romans 2:4, James 5:10
Guiding Question: When does God want us to be patient and how patient does He want us to be?
Introductory Activity: Have several Kendama toys or games from Mindware that will challenge your Bible students’ patience as they try to master them. After a few minutes, ask them how many felt themselves getting impatient. Have them describe not only what it feels like to be impatient, but what they are tempted to do when they feel that way. Have some of them share situations where they feel impatient.
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Patience according to the dictionary is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset. There is a story in the Bible that we normally associate with forgiveness, that also teaches us quite a bit about patience. Read Luke 15:11-32. Who in this story is patient? What clues do we have that the father needed patience/was patient? Who displayed impatience in the story? (An argument could be made that both brothers displayed impatience.) How did they act when they were impatient? What did their impatience cost them?
We rarely talk about it, but the father in this story had to have a lot of patience! Can you imagine what your parents might say if you went to them and asked for the money now that you think you would inherit for them when they die 60 years in the future?! Not only was the father patient in his response, he even allowed the son to make what he knew would be huge mistake when the son wouldn’t listen to him.
The father had to be patient as the prodigal son learned a very difficult lesson. It must have been hard knowing his son was probably getting into a lot of trouble – trouble that could even lead to his death. There was no social media nor were there telephones or computers. The father probably had no idea what was happening to his son or even if he were dead or alive. When the son returned, the father could have lost patience and reacted harshly when the son repented, but he didn’t.
Finally, the father had to be patient with the older son. The older son had obviously lost all patience with his brother’s life choices. He expected his dad to be equally impatient and severe with his prodigal brother. Although the father chastised him for his attitude, he still patiently invited him to join the celebration.
When we talk about patience, we have to remember our ultimate goal in thoughts, attitudes and behaviors is to be as much like God/Jesus as possible. So we need to find out how patient God is. Read 2 Peter 3:9 and Romans 2:4. What do we learn about God’s patience from these verses?
God is extremely patient, but His patience has limits. He wants to give us every opportunity to repent and fully follow and obey Him. Eventually though, we will all be held accountable for our choices in life. Those who repent of their sins and become Christians (and Christians who repent of their sins after their baptism) are forgiven. Those who continue to reject God and disobey Him are living on what is known as “borrowed time”. They have no idea when God will lose patience with their rebellion. Honestly, many Christians (remembering the story of Noah and the evilness in our world) today are amazed God has not already ended the world and had judgment day.
There are two main types of Patience God expects from us. The first is for us to be patient with Him when He doesn’t do what we want Him to do on our timetable. The second is the Patience God wants us to have with the people around us. Let’s look at our patience with God first.
When are some specific times when people become impatient with God? Why do you think those situations tend to make people impatient with God? What are they forgetting in their impatience? Read Psalm 37:7-9 and James 5:7-8. What are two times the Bible acknowledges it may be difficult to be patient with God? Does either passage say it’s okay to be impatient with God in those circumstances since it is so difficult? Why do you think God wants us to be patient with Him? What are some things we can do when we are starting to feel impatient with God?
Read James 5:10. What Patience strategy does this suggest? James was writing to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. They were understandably over it and ready for God to intercede in some way. James warned them, the persecution may not ease and they should remember how the Old Testament prophets reacted when they had to suffer for obeying God. James wanted the people to remember the patience of people like Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea and other prophets and try to copy their patience.
Perhaps even more difficult is being patient with the people around us. Let’s face it. Most people can be pretty annoying at times (even us)! There are days when it can seem like Satan has tempted literally everyone we encounter to do something designed to make us impatient. God knows it can be difficult to be patient with people – we have plenty of examples in the Bible when even His patience reached its limit! But God doesn’t want us to go around constantly impatient with everyone. It doesn’t cause other people to want to learn about and follow Him.
So He gave us the Holy Spirit to help remind us to be patient. In fact Patience is considered a fruit of the Spirit. This means when others see our patience in comparison to the average person’s, they will realize we are Christians and have the gift of the Holy Spirit given at baptism to every Christian.
Read the following passages. What does each teach us about God’s expectations for our patience with others?
- Galatians 5:22-23
- Romans 12:12
- Ephesians 4:2
- 1 Corinthians 13:4
- Proverbs 15:18
- Colossians 3:12-13
- James 1:19
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14
- Luke 8:15
- Proverbs 25:15
- Proverbs 14:29
Skills Activity: Review the main points from the lesson. Ask students to help make a master list of the types of things that can make people their age impatient. As you create the list, have students share strategies for remaining patient in those circumstances. Make sure the following are included at some point in the discussion.
- Reading scripture
- Repeating an appropriate Bible verse over and over
- Counting or listing things until calm down
- Eat on a schedule and get plenty of sleep
- Take deep slow breaths
- Take a time out/walk away for a bit
- Practice doing things that increase patience like the games in the opening activity
- Remind yourself what is really important/that this too “shall pass”
- Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt (They just found out some bad news rather than they are out to ruin your day.)
- Try to find the humor in the situation
After students have created a list of strategies, encourage them to choose a few they can try the next time they begin to feel impatient. Remind them to use these strategies when they start to feel impatient. They work better than when they are used right before the person is about ready to,explode from impatience.
Application Challenge: Read the scriptures from the lesson. When do you tend to be impatient? Which of the strategies suggested in class do you think would help you the most? Try to use them this week as soon as you begin feeling impatient with someone.