(Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia)
In our fast-paced world, patience can be hard to come by. Can we learn to wait; to wait on God, wait for one another, wait for a promise to be fulfilled? I want to learn patience that does not sit in unproductivity, but actively waits and demonstrates self-control.
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“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter chapter 3, verse 9)
I once mentioned to a friend how I desired Jesus to return quickly and restore all things; to see the promise of the new heaven and new earth fulfilled. My friend agreed, but also made this comment:
“Should we actually be asking God for more time so that more people can come to know Him?”
This challenged me because there are indeed many people who still do not know Jesus and His eternal life. I am so glad God is patient with us! It is incredible that the perfect, holy God would bear with us in the ugliness of sin. Patiently, He made the way for salvation, walking among us, dying on the cross for our sins, and rising up from the grave to extend His mercy to people of all nations! He graciously and mercifully gives time for each one of us to search Him out and know Him.
God is also patient in helping us grow in character. The testimonies and seasons He brings us through enable us to understand more of His heart, and to trust Him more. True to His gift of free will, God does not force us to acknowledge Him, but gives opportunity after opportunity for us to accept His offer of grace. He wants relationship with us, but patiently waits for us to choose Him.
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Patience to love one another
God is patient with us despite our immature faith, our backsliding and our turning away from Him. Yet, how patient are we with one another?
There are many reasons why we might become impatient with each other – a sense of superiority, people being in different stages or seasons of their journeys with God, different perceptions about something. Our impatience can lead to anger, to abandonment, and to causing harm instead of building someone up in Christ. Ephesians gives a call for children of God to be at peace with one another.
“… with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…” (Ephesians chapter 4, verse 2)
How do we cultivate patience with one another? It is not by completely eliminating conflict, for conflict is inevitable. Rather, we cultivate patience by laying ourselves down and learning to love people regardless of how similar or different they are to us.
This means setting aside time to mentor and encourage younger believers, allowing ourselves to be sharpened in faith by others, standing with others who are going through a different season in their walk with God, and helping them celebrate and persevere through their testimony story. We learn to hold our tongue, to speak with words of grace instead of gossip, to listen more, and to allow people to discover God for themselves instead of presuming we have all the answers. Patience in this is a product of wisdom and self-control.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter chapter 1, verses 5-7)
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Patience to wait on God
2 Samuel chapter 5 recounts David’s anointing as king over Israel. He was thirty years old when he began to reign in Israel, though the prophet Samuel had spoken that anointing over him when he was a little shepherd boy. In the years between that promise and when he actually became king, David faced many challenges. During this time, God refined David’s character so that when the time came for God to install him as king over Israel, David was ready with a heart after God’s own heart.
We don’t always know what will happen in life, but God does. God knew when David would be king and in the years of waiting, David did not take the kingship by his own power, but chose to wait on God. Just as David served faithfully in various roles and places as he waited, so we can serve faithfully wherever we are. What God has spoken, He will fulfill. In the meantime, perhaps He is building our character to better enjoy and steward the promises He has for us.
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I am still on the journey of learning patience. It is so easy to do what seems most obvious, quickest, or most convenient. Yet, as we see so many times in the Bible, the easy or obvious route is not always the one God chooses. Perhaps, as we wait on Him and trust His timing, we will see miracles: the building of our character, a battle won not on our strength but on God’s, a life transformed by knowing Him. Let us wait on the Lord, for He is good!
“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
(Psalm chapter 27, verse 14)