Growing in Patience

Have you ever been tempted to pray something like this: “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me now”?  Coaching at any level often requires enormous amounts of patience.  Yet most of us would honestly admit being patient can be challenging.

We’re continuing this series of devotions on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  As God through his Spirit is growing us toward maturity, we’ll be increasingly marked by the qualities listed in these verses – including patience.  If we struggle with being patient, whether as a coach or in other areas of our life, how can we grow in this quality?

In Colossians 3:12-13, the Apostle Paul writes this: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  From these verses, consider three aspects of what’s needed to grow in patience:

1. Be secure in our identity. 

We may think that our impatience is caused by the failure of others to do what they’re supposed to do in a timely way, but this only accounts for what’s happening at a superficial level.  At the root of impatience is a lack of security about my identity.  Because of this, I depend upon others to do certain things – and to do them in the timing I want – in order for me to feel better about myself and my value.

When we surrender our life in faith to Jesus Christ, Paul says this is now true of our identity: we’re chosen by God to be part of his people through what Christ has done, we’re made holy by the work of Christ, and we’re dearly loved as demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice.  This is true of our identity no matter what’s happening around us.  When we are secure in this identity, we no longer need our players or fellow coaches to do certain things in a timely way in order for us to feel better about ourselves.  Instead, we’re freed up to work for their success, even as this takes time and requires patience.

2. Care about the whole person.

The other qualities listed in v. 12 leading up to patience are significant in helping us grow in patience.  Compassion, kindness, humility, and gentleness are expressions of recognizing that those we coach are more than just players on our team.  They are individuals created in God’s image and loved by him.  Each life has a story that includes far more than what we see.  In fact, often the things they do that test our patience come out of a backstory of needs or brokenness in the parts of their life we don’t see firsthand.  As recipients of the loving care of God in the midst of our own brokenness and sin, we now care about our players and fellow coaches in the same way.  Seeing them as people with far more to their story than what happens in the sports arena helps us to be patient with them.

3. Give people time and space to grow.

Paul follows the directive toward patience by instructing us to bear with each other and forgive each other (v. 13).  This is about giving people time and space to continue to grow as people rather being impatient and angry anytime they make a mistake – just as God is patient and forgiving with us.  As a coach, this doesn’t mean you lower the bar for your players or that you don’t address things that need to be addressed.  But you can be firm about needed improvements while also affirming them as individuals.  You can coach them up while patiently giving them the needed time and space to grow.

Remember, God has shown us “the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience” (Romans 2:4).  Out of gratitude for God’s patience and through the Spirit’s patient work in us, we can continue to grow in patience.  As you’re committed to doing so, Coach, you will point your players and fellow coaches to the Lord and his grace.  And you’ll enjoy the fruit that comes with coaching according to God’s good design for you.

For reflection:  In what situations do you struggle to be patient?  Bring these to the Lord, asking him to deepen your sense of being secure in your identity in Christ, to help you care more fully for those involved, and to enable you to give them the time and space needed to grow.