How does God provide the help I need to deal with stress?
I am slow to anger and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.
The engineer asked, “What’s with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes.” The doctor agreed: “I’ve never seen such slow golfers.” The pastor noted, “Hey, here comes the groundskeeper. Let’s have a word with him.”
The pastor called out to the groundskeeper, “Say, George, what’s with the group ahead of us?” George said, “That’s a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”
The group was silent for a moment. The pastor sympathized, “That’s so sad. I think I’ll say a special prayer for them tonight.”
The doctor added, “That’s a good idea. In fact, I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if we can do anything for these guys.”
Then the engineer spoke up: “Well that’s great, but in the meantime, why can’t these guys play at night?”
I grew up in the time of Heinz ketchup glass bottles. The most frustrating part of dressing the hotdogs or hamburgers was patiently waiting for the ketchup to eke out of the bottle. As a child that was my early introduction to learning about patience.
The key verse today introduces us to the big christian virtue of patience.
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14:29
In this verse of Proverbs there is a comparison between the foolishness of short tempered people who will make quick and rash decisions as opposed to the patient or those who take a long time to become angry and by doing so make room for deeper understanding of what is taking place.
Have you lived long enough to see the wisdom of this saying? Can you look back on a situation in your life where instead of enduring and persevering through something you simply reacted often with a measure of anger only to regret that impatient decision?
Parents haven’t you noticed when you are patient with your children they achieve far more than frustrating them with your impatient demands to perform and excel!
Today we come to consider the quality of patience we are called to live out as followers of Christ. In fact scriptures tell us we are to clothe ourselves with with loving qualities that includes patience. (Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Col 3:12) When it comes to “faith fashion” patience is always a timeless look.
We may see the value of patience as a virtue worth practising in our lives but patience is bigger than that. we must see that patience starts with God – it is a divine disposition.
As one commentator describes the patience of God – it is one his attributes that “runs through the OT like a refrain – And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…Exodus 34:6
God’s patience with his people is an outstanding example of the virtue. Though Israel turns to idols and wickedness, God pleads with them to repent and call on his name. He tells Solomon…
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14 RSV).
God waits, sending his prophets for generations, before exiling Israel and Judah to foreign lands. As Nehemiah prays, “For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets” (Neh 9:30 NIV).
This is God revealing Himself and the quality of patience is described in his divine revelation. This means patience goes beyond a common sense virtue to a whole new level. We who are his dear children are called to imitate God in everything we do. (Ephesians 5:1) The patience of God serves as the source and pattern for our human patience. Our patience is rooted in the patience of God. Patience is big in the journey of one who is a disciple or apprentice of Jesus.
Patience is a Pain
- I want it now – We live in a time of speed. Our technology has made us impatient. We have access to instant information with instant made food. There are so many things we don’t have to wait anymore for.
- People drive me crazy. People are manipulative, fickled and foolish. We can easily rationalize our impatience. We far too often expect others to act now how we want them to act and if they disappoint us or let us down we are so fragile we walk away giving up far too soon.
- God is too slow. Behind it all our frustration with life circumstances and people in our lives is rooted in our thinking that God is too slow…We struggle to trust his timetable – we struggle to believe that God is really at work in our lives. When we don’t see God acting our behalf fast enough we take it upon ourselves to make things happen.
There is nothing new about our impatience with God. When God was delivering the people of Israel from Egypt rather than thanking God for the food they have, their freedom and his visible presence with them in the wilderness, they grumble because they are taking a long route. Here impatience is shown for what it is: selfish, whiny demanding. the self is placed above God’s purposes and demands that its desires be met immediately rather than according to God’s perfect plan.
So let’s take the time remaining and do a deeper dive on how we clothe ourselves with patience
THE TWO SIDES OF PATIENCE: WORK & WAIT
Patience has both an active and passive aspect to it. In fact we discovered that in the New Testament there are 4 Greek words to describe what it means to to be patient, to be steadfast to endure. In those four words we get a deeper sense on how to meet the battles of life. And we see there are two sides of patience. One in which we work and one in which we wait.
The first side of patience is that we work…
- Bear it and Keep Going
- Ephesians 4:2 NIV (…bearing with one another in love). The idea of this word means to hold up and stand erect. Do not sit down in the midst adversity. We love others by holding up others in times of struggle. We endure through the hard times with others.
- “I am going to stand with you” is a powerful and loving way to express an enduring love.
- (Root word – anechomai)
- Hebrews 11:27 NLT (… He kept right on going…) The force of this word is do something persistently in the face of opposition. In this passage it refers to Moses not afraid of the Pharaoh’s wrath but kept moving forward in what God wanted Him to do regardless of the resistance. What areas of resistance are you facing right now where you need to patiently keep going?
- I think of Jesus who who tempted to by Satan in the wilderness to shortcut his mission…but he was willing to work patiently in unfolding God’s plan of salvation.
- (Root word – kartereō)
The second side is that we wait by demonstrating…
- Perseverance and Patience
- 2 Thess 1:4 NIV ”…we boast about your perseverance” Paul is describing how early believers stood one’s ground. In the midst of life’s difficulties rather than remove oneself from the adversity one stays put. It speaks of a courage to stay in it rather than run away.
- (Root word – hypomenō)
- James 5:10 (NIV) “ …patience in the face of suffering…”
This last word for patience is about being long tempered not short tempered. Jesus demonstrated this with all those he meet. Especially in times of suffering – he yielded to arrest without resistance (Mt 26:52, 53, Ja 5:6, 7), and He refrained from returning scorn for scorn or threat for threat at His trial.
Jesus demonstrated that at the heart of patience is that instead of hasty action and anger we are willing to trust God especially in the midst of trouble and trials – that God will keep his promises. We are willing to wait in God’s time.
We are willing to show a patience with others because Christ has shown patience – he has a grace filled long temper . Look at Christ’s mercy toward Paul. He displays his unlimited patience and mercy – Paul speaks of this in his words to Timothy, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Tim 1:16
(Root word – makrothymia)
So in the midst of trying times will we have stay patient and work? Doing what we can do. Standing with others in love. Bearing with them. Will we be willing to keep going – moving ahead?
And in the midst of adversity will we wait.? Will we be willing to persevere by courageously staying our ground? Will we wait on God? Trusting that God is at work when there is nothing we can do but wait? We will not lash out in anger or seek revenge but leave it in God’s hands?
NO PAIN NO GAIN
- I’m trusting that God is at work
- I will do my part
The hard news is that when we speak of learning patience in God and with others it always involves a measure of pain and frustration.
I’M TRUSTING GOD IS AT WORK
The growth in my spiritual walk with God is measured to a very great extent in my patience. Our temptation is too often think I am the one in control of my life. When we begin to see how we are powerless over so much…The more I know God’s grace and presence – will I stop trying to be the manager but simply a laborer in God’s work where I say “Lord what is that we are about today in the your world and in your kingdom that is coming?”
I think what it says in Romans where Paul is saying how did so many who were part of the Jewish nation miss out on the Messiah Jesus. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. Cf Romans 9 (Message) – so often we miss out that God is at work.
Often in the midst of the pain of impatience/patience we are faced with the choice to trust to let go and believe that God is at work even when so much seems not to be working.
It doesn’t mean we will not feel sorrow or concern nor is it about that we resign ourselves in a passivity that is devoid of feeling and passion. I still believe we can have a passionate patience.
But we will wait upon the Lord. We will renew our strength in Him. Like Abraham of old waiting for the promise of his son scriptures say, – Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.(Rom 4:20 RSV)
Indeed often patience is a quiet revelation about our faith in God.
I WILL DO MY PART
As I wait to see how the work and ministry I am doing in my studies, job, my family in my church and greater community what is the “patient work” that I can do?
Patient work, in the midst of the waiting,
- Speak words of encouragement
- Learn and studying
- Listening for God’s voice and others
- Paying attention to what is in front of me
- Praying for strength and wisdom
- Serving in small ways while waiting for the big moment.
- Stay with others – Stand next to others
- Worship – Sing praises like Saul and Barnabas when they were imprisoned.
The greatest work of patience is to love…1 Corinthians 13 is what is known as the love chapter. As the late Haddon Robinson observed – Paul demonstrates what love is by showing what love does. For Paul love first of all is patient.
Paul knew this in his pastoral ministry to others within the church family.
- (1 Thess 5:14; Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone
- 2 Tim 4:2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
I know I am going off the rails when I become impatient, unforgiving, angry and demanding with others – love is leaking – I lost sight of God’s grace and patience with me.
Patience is listed among the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It comes when one is strengthened with the power of God (Col. 1:11). But that gift, that empowerment, is also an obligation. We are to clothe ourselves with patience.
Lk 8:15, And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest
Joseph Story in Genesis is a story where he learned patience in God and with others. Joseph is an example of what it means to wait patiently trusting God…