You likely know them. They’ve been around a long time. If you befriend them and let them in, they feel they are welcome, and will settle down and stay. They are determined creatures. If you order them out, they may not budge. Or they may appear to leave, and come right back in. Call them “rascals,” and they may feel complimented. They may even think you “need” them to support you. But don’t be fooled—they are characters we don’t want around.
Not if we want to meet God’s standard.
Not if we want the hundredfold of peace He has promised.
Not if we want God’s eternal blessings.
Who are these “imps” that get in so easily? Here are their names:
Imp 1: IMP-ulsive
Imp 2: IMP-lacable
Imp 3: IMP-udent
Imp 4: IMP-atient
Quite a family, don’t you agree?
But before we look at the imps, we need to meet their antagonist, who is on the other side. He is equally as determined as the imps, and will be a lifelong friend if you befriend him. He has a long name: LONG-suffering.
The imps all live on the earth-level. LONGsuffering is from heaven. In fact, LONGsuffering in Scripture is most often associated with the character of God Himself! No better association than that!
What is the meaning of “longsuffering” in Scripture?
In the original Hebrew, it means literally
“long feathered, long winded … long of pinion, as theeagle, in metaph.; elsewhere always of feelings, as the patient of spirit; one slow to anger (CDWG Lexicon)
In Greek, it means
patience, forbearance, long-suffering, slowness in avenging wrongs,
calm…state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome, patience, steadfastness, endurance… state of being able to bear up under provocation, forbearance, patience toward others (Thayers and BDAG)
A great virtue, isn’t it? One we all need and want.
How many times do we read that the Lord is longsuffering? The common translation is “longsuffering,” or “slow to anger.”
Psalm 103:8 8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Exodus 34:6 6The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Psalm 86:15 15But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Here is another:
Numbers 14:18 18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Are we missing something here? What is wrong? Does God visit (punish) iniquity on the innocent? We need to look further, and what do we find but a clear explanation of God’s way of working.
Deuteronomy 5:9–10 9Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
There are two sides to God’s justice: on one side the penalty, on the other side, mercy. When he
visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
it is on “them that hate me.” At the same time He is, Verse 10,
Deuteronomy 5:1010…shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
It is all part of His long, longsuffering. This is the quality God is looking for in us. He wants to see that same long quality in us.
What about the imps? How does Longsuffering get along with the imps?
Let’s refresh their names, 4 of them:
Imp 1: IMPulsive – acting quickly under stress or emotion, on the spur of the moment
Imp 2 – IMPlacable – not easily appeased or pacified; wanting retribution
Imp 4 – IMPatient – resorting to a spirit of “be done with it” or “I can’t wait”
Longsuffering is “out” with the imps, because the imps are so inclined to act quickly, without thought or care.
From the other side, the imps are all about time. As the imps see it, longsuffering is impossibly long on time—literally. Longsuffering is:
Holding on long – over time.
Holding in long – over time.
Deliberating long – over time.
Suffering long – over time.
Longsuffering suggests endurance, holding on when it is difficult to hold on.
Doesn’t that “suffering long” describe the charity or love Paul wrote about?
1 Corinthians 13:4 4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
And note what Paul wrote to Timothy, to “hold fast,” the pattern of sound words he had heard from Paul. He had given them the right knowledge, and they needed to hold to it. This suggests that there would be forces pulling against it.
2 Timothy 1:13 13Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
What did Jesus say about holding fast?
Revelation 3:11 11Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
The four imps are all about short, quick, done. From the viewpoint of longsuffering, by their hasty actions they can cause more tangles than it is possible to unravel. They are like the proverbial little foxes that spoil the vines.
What advice does Scripture offer to counter the imps?
Conquer Imp 1 – IMPulsive: acting quickly under stress or emotion
Can we tolerate this imp when Proverbs says:
Proverbs 16:32 32He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
The real strength is in control: he who rules his spirit is the greater conqueror.
Conquer Imp 2: IMPlacable: not easily appeased or pacified; wanting retribution
What do we have to battle this imp? 1 Thessalonians 5:15 gives clear instruction:
15See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
What do we do with this imp that wants to disregard the interests or feelings of others when Paul advised,
Philippians 2:3–4 3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
How diligently we need to watch this imp that cares only about what is ours. He would steal our eternal life! Paul warns again:
Galatians 5:26 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Conquer Imp 4 – IMPatient – resorting to a spirit of “be done with it” or “I can’t wait”
What did Jesus say?
Luke 21:19 19In your patience possess ye your souls.
And don’t forget James:
James 1:4 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Solomon said the same, about the “patient in spirit”:
Ecclesiastes 7:8 8The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Who do you want for your friends, the 4 little imps or loving Longsuffering? James says this against the imps:
James 1:19–20 19So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
That isn’t the way the imps think. And that is why we don’t want them.
Let’s be diligent to get the imps moved out, then longsuffering can take over, and we can experience that perfect peace the Psalmist described:
Psalm 119:165 165Great peace have they which love thy law: And nothing shall offend them.
Or as it is phrased in the NKJV:
165Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.