“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
First note: patience is one of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit in your life. You can do damage control with self-help books – there are certainly ways you can manage impatience in such a way that you look better on the exterior than you used to – but a true, interior source of genuine patience comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life.
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Second note: patience is something that is commanded, because on this side of heaven our fallen spirit is going to fight with God’s Holy Spirit. In my life, there is going to be time that the fruit of Anthony is going to show. God’s presence moves in when we accept Jesus, God is faithfully at work until we die transforming us into the image of Christ, but that transformation is not complete until we get a new body and a new nature in the New Heaven and Earth.
So we are in the tension of what theologians call the “now and not yet”: we have God’s presence NOW, but our completion is NOT YET. So we live in this tension. Perhaps this is why Paul writes elsewhere:
”We have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)
Third note: Prayer for God’s miraculous work in this area is crucial. “We have not stopped praying for you.” Yes, we will have to work at “being patient with everyone,” but unless the Lord builds this house, we will labor in vain.
I would like us to take some time this morning to look at how patience is crucial for everyone. I’m going to do my best to unsettle all of you, but keep in mind that’s it’s not because I want us to feel hopeless in our sin. I want us to be able to see it for two reasons:
• So we know specifically how to pray for God’s help and ask for accountability with others. • So we can enjoy the freedom that Jesus offers when a surrendered and transformed heart flourishes in the Kingdom of God
* * * * *
The Impatience of the Strong – Unrestrained Power The Patience of the Strong – Restrained Power
• Exodus 34:6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth…”
• Nahum 1:3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
• 1 Peter 3:20 “Who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark.”
• Acts 13:18 "For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.”
• Romans 9:22 “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
Strength and power are not bad things or God would be bad. Unrestrained or poorly channeled strength and power are terrible things. We call that bullying. God models for us the restrained, purposeful, appropriate use of power, and a key aspect is patience. God constantly withholds what he is capable of doing for our sake.
For those of us with power – and that’s all of us – do we withhold what we are capable of doing for the sake of others?
• I can verbally crush others. Ask guys I used to play basketball with. I am ashamed of the many times I just belittled people. I can overwhelm my wife with words to the point that she just doesn’t want to talk with me about hard topics. Words have power – do I withhold myself for the sake of others?
• I can make my kids follow my agenda. But is it for my sake or their sake? Do I want them in bed by a certain time for my sake or their sake? Do I want them to immediately respond for my sake or their sake? Do I want them to always pick up after themselves for my sake or their sake? I can snap at them so they know just how irritated Dad is – but should I?
• I can pressure others into doing what I want. That can be legitimate: if you are in charge of something, things need to get done. But if I’m not careful, I can do that by bullying them or passive-aggressively manipulating them.
Do we know how to withhold what we are capable of doing for the sake of others?
* * * * *
The opposite of the strong are, of course, the “weak,” and by that I mean those who are victims of something that is done to them. In this case, patience is sometimes called endurance or perseverance.
• “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance [patience] of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10-11).
• “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:2-4) The Impatience of the Weak – Whining/Cynicism/Despair The Patience of the Weak - Perseverance/Character/Hope
I need to clarify two important things.
First, patience is not the same as passivity. Putting up with abuse without trying to end it or get out of it is not patience; it’s victimization. Patience does not require laziness, apathy or unmotivated. Patience still fights for justice and truth and goodness.
Second, being patient doesn’t mean we have to dishonest about our unhappiness. It’s just important that we do it honestly and purposefully. Patience is not the same as silence (though it can be). Complaining to God in prayer is well documented in the Bible.
• “Why, O lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
• “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” Psalm 44:24
• “I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” Psalm 142:2
Never be afraid to voice to God what God already knows you feel. The Bible says that for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2) – but he still cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?!?!?” (Matthew 27:46). The challenge – the thing we ask God to help us do – is to wrestle with our pain and confusion productively. If you are going to shake your fist at the heavens express your anger at God, just don’t walk away. What did Jacob say when he wrestled with God in Genesis 32? “I won’t let go until you bless me.” And God did.
The danger when we are weak is that we are too impatient to keep wrestling. We want our sickness to be over now, our marriage to be healed now, our finances to be better now, our depression or anxiety to end now, our temptation gone now. Suffering…perseverance…character …hope. That’s the Bible’s progression, not mine.
* * * * *
The Impatience Of The Proud - Judgment The Patience Of the Proud – Humility
• Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
• Philippians 2:3 “In humility, value others better than yourselves.”
Here’s why I am contrasting judgment and humility. Have you ever been standing around after church or at a party and thought you saw someone making a beeline for you? And you thought, “I don’t want to talk with them. If I talk with them I won’t get to talk to these other people”? Set aside times when you genuinely have a conversational mission you have to accomplish. Can I just ask what makes that person less deserving of our time? I think the reasoning goes something like this: “I only have so much time, and my time is better invested in someone else whom I like more or I think is more important.”
If you think I am being too harsh, let’s try a contrast. What if a person you really admired and really wanted to get to know started making a beeline for you? Would you not put your other plans for conversation on hold? Because now, THIS is a good use of your time, right?!
This will ruin you. You will always be on the lookout for someone you think is more important, rather than looking around and seeing people who all bear the image of God. We miss holy opportunities: What happens when we do something for “the least of these?” We do it for Jesus. And, I think, we find out there is no “least” in the Kingdom of God.
* * * * *
The Impatience of the Driven: Relentless Restlessness The Patience of the Driven: Rest
• Habakkuk 2:3 "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
• Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
• Psalms 27:14 – “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart….”
Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.”
Psalms 37:7-9 – “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him…”
Psalms 130:5 – “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word do I hope.”
Let’s talk about waiting for God’s plan to unfold.
Let’s start by talking about driving behind slow drivers or waiting in a check out line or a drive through forever or watching your phone refuse to load. “I don’t have time for this. I have to get to this next place and do this next thing.” Have to? Are you sure? I was in a situation recently in which I was getting impatient about how long the meeting was taking. You know why? I wanted to go home and see if I could find something worthwhile to watch on Netflix. Who’s to say God does not have a plan for your delay? We can overspiritualize this into just big issues in our life. Why wouldn’t this apply to driving through Wendys for half an hour? What are we missing in our haste? Prayer time? Introspection?
I got stuck in a half hour traffic jam with Braden on Friday as we were driving to Cornerstone to meet with an admissions counselor. My first thought pulling on to the parking lot of an interstate was, “Seriously? I’ll be late!” But I’ve been prepping this sermon….
So I called Cornerstone and told them we would be late, and that was fine. And then I listened to a new CD. And Braden and I compared shortcuts on our phones and figured out a way to avoid the traffic. And it all worked out just fine, and my blood pressure didn’t go out the roof, and I didn’t say anything in front of Braden that I would have to apologize for later.
I can become hyper focused on getting from one place to another, and I don’t mean geographically. It could be doing this task, or fixing this argument, or being involved in someone’s life. I usually tell God what I’m doing: “Hey, I’m headed over there. Just a heads up.”
Several years ago, a spiritual mentor challenged me on this in terms of how I felt driven to be involved in people’s lives. We had worked through my issues about trying to fix myself instead of trusting God work in me (or should I say we were working through them ☺) One day I was talking with him about being burdened by life situations I saw around me where I felt this relentless need to intervene, and he said, “You trust God to work in you; why don't you trust God to work in others?”
Oh. You mean I can wait and let God do his work before Anthony’s all-important work begins? That’s….not a bad idea at all.
* * * * *
The Impatience of the Defensive - Self-justification The Patience of the Defensive – Waiting
What do we do when someone insults, attacks or gossips about us?
• “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)
• Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God will justify His children. We are free from putting out every gossipy grass fire that springs up in our lives. Live according to God’s purpose for you – that is, follow and love Jesus – and let Him defend you.
* * * * *
Now, I would like to put all of these under one big umbrella, and I don’t like it any more than I think you will.
We lack patience because we lack faith that God is sovereign in us or our circumstances.
Impatience has one of two common subconscious thought: “My life and time are too important to have to wait around like this,” or “I don’t think God’s got this. I need to take this matter into my own hands.”
“Patience is a Christian virtue, which is deeply rooted in the Christian’s absolute confidence in the sovereignty of God and in God’s promise to bring all things to completion in a way that most fully demonstrates His glory.” – Albert Mohler
Here’s the big questions: Do I trust God?
• Do I trust that God has a plan and a purpose? • Do I trust God’s timing? • Do I trust that God is working in others? • Do I trust that God is faithful and present?
This, I think, is the question to ask when we are impatient. Is there something lacking in my trust in God that is bringing out this impatience in me?
Then, rather than trying to grit your teeth and merely self-help, surrender that to God in prayer, and ask for his miraculous intervention in your life. Then tell a friend. Be accountable. Then keep reading God’s word (maybe do a study on patience). Let the Holy Spirit work in you, through your friends, and through His word.