Abounding Love // Forbearing

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By: Dr. Wendell Cantrell
Welcome to our fourth issue on Abounding Love based on Philippians 1:9. Today, we will look at one of the more difficult tasks that this type of love requires from servants of the Lord. We are going to dig into the idea of forbearance, or “bearing with” one another. The Greek word anechomai means to endure, to put up with, or to suffer. It is used 17 times in the New Testament. NASB calls it “showing tolerance for” and NLT translates it as “making allowances for each other’s faults. The frequent usage indicates that this is a critical virtue that is invaluable in maintaining teamwork in our ministry partnerships. If you read to the end of the last devotional, you read a quaint little saying that I used as a lead-in for this topic that so defines the need for this type of love. The author clearly contrasts our heavenly hope with daily reality.

To live above with the saints we love, Oh, won’t that be such glory?

To live below with the saints we know,Now that’s another story.

As I write this, I am following several scenarios where forbearance is essential to the maintaining of vital ministry opportunities. First, there is a pastor in my family that is dealing with the resignation of an associate, with unnecessary accusations being made and fear of a church split looming. Second, our local church is trying to help reconcile two of our missionary couples. The difference between the two wives has reached a boiling point and one of the couples is threatening to head home. Guess what the number one reason is that missionaries give for leaving the field? If you guessed team conflict, you were right on. The critical point to take note of is this: God commands us to love the difficult and irritating people in our lives. This may be family members, close friends, work mates, or ministry partners.

It is essential that we understand this virtue from a biblical point of view, so we will look at examples from both testaments. Finally we will examine how this can be lived out in our lives today. Let’s look first at the man described as “after God’s own heart”, King David. In 2 Samuel 11-12, we read the story of David and Bathsheba. Most of you would be familiar with this story. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed his horrendous acts (adultery and an arranged killing)? In reading this account we see that God waited patiently and eventually allowed David to be confronted by Nathan the prophet. It was at least nine months as Bathsheba’s gestation period had ended by the time of Nathan’s confrontation.

In 11:27 it is clear that God has judged the matter as evil, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” We see that the Lord forbore with David with divine purpose. In one of the most powerful Psalms (51), we see a broken and repentant King David. We hear from his broken heart in verses 1-4, Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. I think you could make a strong case that God’s forbearance with David led to this amazing “character building moment”.

For a New Testament lesson on forbearing, we just move toward the end of book containing our theme verse. In Philippians 4:1-7, we see a familiar story of two coworkers in gospel ministry, Euodia and Syntyche, who are having a major disagreement. The details are unknown, but it is serious enough that Paul feels the need to address it in this letter that was read publicly to the church. He tells them in verse 4, Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. He is calling for all in the body to have a Christ-like consideration of each other’s faults as they deal with this conflict. This is an aspect of our abounding love that is essential for leaders to be modeling for their disciples.

So Paul writes this note two thousand years ago, telling us (and the Philippian church, of course) that it is a time to be showing forbearance and exhibiting it to everyone.   This virtue should be at or near the top of our list for personal character building for us and our disciples. We need to let our gentleness, our graciousness, and our forbearance be known to all we encounter. Our squabbles and fights, especially in ministry, are a disgrace to the gospel. I am convinced that our lack of this character quality is daily used by our Adversary to destroy ministries and minimize the gospel.

If there was a forbearance test with a scale from 1 to 10, with #10 being total patience and #1 being quick intervention, how would you grade yourself? I am afraid that many of our ministries (churches, missionaries, non-profits) are failing the forbearance test. It doesn’t mean we ignore evil, but that we give our brothers and sisters a chance to change. If there is no change, then we must start down the road of reconciliation , and we will address that next issue.

Our search of scripture certainly shows that God doesn’t necessarily smack offenders at the moment of the offense. Had that happened, men like David wouldn’t have become heroes of the faith and the great examples that they are for us. His forbearance is clearly a vital tool in fashioning His family for His glory!

Here is a personal application for this devotion. Think of someone you are close to who sometimes annoys or angers you. Ask God to give you more humility, gentleness, and patience so that you may bear with that person in a loving way.

*devotional ideas from Jonathan Mcleod and Richard Ritenbaugh.

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  1. This was a much needed devotion for me today. I am struggling to teach a disobedient child. We have taught him to do what is right since he was small not by our standards but by what Christ teaches. He is very strong willed and wants to do it his way on his terms. He is compliant at times but is very head strong. Thank you for these words of encouragement.

  2. Tom Juergens

    When we have doubts enduring the faults of others, we just have to look at how God endures all of our daily sinning with unending love and forgiveness. Humbling.

  3. James Crawford

    What a great message! Psalm 51 (I read it aloud) is one of my favorite “go to” chapters in the Bible to activate 1 John 1:9 in my life. And so true about humility, gentleness, and long suffering which are fruits of the spirit. I will not only pass this on but ask God, as you suggest, to help me love several people more in this way. Thanks!

  4. Michelle Bartus Nelson

    This is a great reminder to all of us, Wendell. I have seen this played out in local churches too many times. I believe the enemy uses this weakness often to attack the church universal. Sad to hear that missionaries struggle so much in this way. I suppose there is a strong and independent streak in each of us that can be helpful, but also hindering to the Gospel if it is not tempered with humility. Wonderful devotion for all of us, whether doing ministry locally, or across the world!

  5. Great message! A reminder of the deeper dimensions we have to train our spirits in LOVE so we can be very effective for our Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks!

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