Being patient is very hard for us.
We have an inbred sense of urgency, especially when it comes to getting things we want or feel we deserve. Patience is a virtue, to be sure; just not one we enjoy developing.
There is a story of unknown origin about a man who stopped in the grocery store on the way home from work. In aisle after aisle as he shopped, he repeatedly passed another father who had a totally uncooperative three-year-old boy in the cart.
The first time they passed, the three-year-old was asking over and over for a candy bar. The man heard Dad say, “Hang in there, Billy, this won’t take long.” As they passed in the next aisle, the three-year old’s whining demands had gotten significantly louder. Now Dad was quietly saying, “Billy, you need to calm down. We will be done in a minute.”
The next time they passed, the kid was screaming uncontrollably; but the Dad was still keeping his cool. In a very low voice he was saying, “Billy, settle down. We are almost out of here.” The Dad and his son reached the checkout counter just ahead of our observer. He still gave no evidence of losing control. The boy was yelling and kicking. Dad was very calmly saying over and over, “Billy, we will be in the car in just a minute and then everything will be OK.”
The bystander was impressed beyond words. After paying for his groceries, he hurried to catch up with this amazing example of patience and self-control just in time to hear him say again, “Billy, we’re done. It’s going to be OK.” He tapped the patient father on the shoulder and said, “Sir, I couldn’t help but watch how you handled little Billy. You were amazing.”
Dad replied, “You don’t get it, do you? I’M BILLY !!”
Today’s verse is about another Dad – Our Heavenly Father; it tells us HE IS PATIENT WITH YOU.
I don’t know about you, but as I look back at my life there are far too many times I feel like I played the role of the three year old in the story.
I’ve been the one whining about not getting my way, or being stuck in situations I didn’t like. I’ve had my temper tantrums and been so angry with God that He and I weren’t on speaking terms. I’ve been walking with God long enough to know that you’d admit to all those things too; because we’ve all been there.
I remember a time when I became aware that my employer was engaging in money laundering to evade taxes. The company was transitioning to a new accounting software, and I had been enlisted to assist in the transition. As I worked the project I had to oversee the data entry, the evidence before me was unmistakable. Multiple $50,000 “donations” to my employer’s non-profit from his mother, for which tax-deductible receipts were issued. Payments from the non-profit to a brother’s bank account, which my employer coincidentally happened to control, for “consulting services” I knew were non-existent, since I was the President of the company to which they were supposedly rendered. And then, finally, multiple checks that somehow always ended up totalling $50,000 back to the mother from the brother’s bank account.
When my employer learned that I had connected the dots, he accused ME of being a thief and I was fired. A long and expensive civil lawsuit ensued. Being exonerated took all of our savings, and then some. We became bankrupt and homeless. I was angry, bitter and felt abandoned by God. I told God that if this was the best He could do to protect His servants, I was through.
But God was patient with me. He was “big enough” to deal with my angry outbursts and doubts. He brought people into our lives who demonstrated His grace, delivered His wise counsel, and provided for our needs miraculously. Elijah was provided bread and meat by ravens as he sat next to a brook during months of famine. My family had a free campsite next to a pond while God met our needs. And all the while He was working on my character; softening sharp edges, deepening foundations. Years later I learned that our children never knew we were homeless; they thought we were on a camping vacation! Just another one’s of God’s miracles.
During this time of darkness, one of the wisest words of counsel came from a seminary professor whom my wife and I had met from her time at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He said, “I cannot tell you how it will happen or when. But I know from personal experience that you will come out of this stronger. He will not abandon you, and He will carry you through. And when it is over, you will look back and see that He was totally faithful. Your trust will be deeper; your capacity for ministry greater.”
He was right. I look back at this time in my life much as I do my cancer surgery. Painful and debilitating; but unquestionably life saving.
And through it all – God was patient with me.
HE IS PATIENT WITH YOU
Yes, He is. I cannot know what pain you are facing today. I don’t know if your relationship with God is close, distant, or non-existent. But let me tell you something I do know for a certainty.
God loves you. And the very first characteristic He uses to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13 (what many call “the love chapter” in the bible) is that “Love is patient.” God is patient because God is love. God is merciful and gracious, which are two aspects of how His patient love is revealed to us. He is slow to anger. The word used for patience actually has the sense of extending time a long way. It’s like a pot that takes a long time to boil. He is patient with you because He is abounding in steadfast love.
The second characteristic He uses to describe His love is kindness. Love is not only patient, it is kind. His kindness caused Him to send His Son . His patience waits for us to come to the place of repentance. He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. So count the patience of our Lord as salvation.
God loves us enough to prepare us. He loves us enough to build into us all that we need. For Joseph, his preparation for ruling Pharaoh’s nation required a time of testing in Pharaoh’s prison; facing false accusations while refusing to let go of the dreams God had given him. For the three young men in Babylon, they needed to literally enter the furnace. Daniel needed the den of lions and King David the caves of En Gedi. All of these situations look quite different AFTER we see what God does; but they require trust and courage BEFORE He moves.
Through it all – HE IS PATIENT WITH YOU.
You can trust Him in the darkness. You can trust him in the dungeon. He IS loving and kind, though you may wonder if that is true. But even as you wonder, question and doubt, He is patient with you.
“I cannot tell you how it will happen or when. But I know from personal experience that you will come out of this stronger. He will not abandon you, and He will carry you through. And when it is over, you will look back and see that He was totally faithful. Your trust will be deeper; your capacity for ministry greater.”
And you will love Him more then than you do now.
HE IS PATIENT WITH YOU