Patience


And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.”

Psalm 55: 6

 

David’s wishful desire to escape, to fly far away, is a common one. When life is piling on and the situation at hand is sucking all of the energy out of body and soul, almost everyone wants to get away from it all. Unfortunately, reality is relentless and achieving escape would seem to require something like a pair of supernatural wings to accomplish. So, David is a great source for advice on what it means to continue on with productive life in the grim hostility of this world, for he was faced with it on many occasions and he understood the futility of doing so from within his own skill, strength, and intellect.

 

He also knew that escape was not the answer. Certainly a few minutes of quiet and calm are helpful, and rest is restorative for body and mind, but leaving the issues unresolved is seldom more than a brief vacation from those issues that face us. Instead of spinning his wheels in efforts to devise a plan for that escape, David turns to the Lord and pours out his fears, concerns, and desire for God’s response to it all. Then he calms his own voice and listens to what God says to his heart. The Lord does the same things for us that he did for David. God wants to hear the words that we have to say about our condition and regarding our worries and fears. Although He knows all of this before we speak, it is valuable for our hearts and minds to express it all to Him.

 

What follows is the hard part, for as we wait on God for His response, we need to be quiet and still even as the issues of life are swirling and raging around us. At that moment we are entering into deep trust that God will answer, and we are walking in faith that His response is the best one for us. This is the point in it all when it is natural to take back control and attempt to respond to life on our own. Yet, God says that we should wait on Him and trust in His response. The Lord will bring us through each and every situation and circumstance that we encounter. He does speak and take action for the sake His purposes and to accomplish His plans, and we can find true rest as we settle into the center of God’s will.

 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 12: 12

 

This is not our culture. This is not a description of our world today. We don’t want to find our joy in things and in situations that are still hopefully distant. We desire to have it all now. For many of us joy has become something that is an ingredient in a drink that is called pleasure, and this is a cocktail whose primary content is self-determined gratification. As hard as it is for us to follow Paul’s instruction regarding rejoicing, it is even more challenging to have patience when things are going badly in our lives. Yet, the Apostle dares to direct followers of Christ to wait on the Lord and to see beyond the hardship of the moment to the glory beyond.

 

These two short phrases include ideas that are never easy to embrace, and Paul knew that. Yet, these same concepts, when taken into our hearts and minds through the transformative work of Christ’s Spirit, will work to set us onto a path of being true followers of Christ. The characteristics of hope and patient endurance establish the essential platform for doing what Christ calls us to do, and they also form a critical aspect of what it means to identify as Christian in our world. Hope requires faith, and faith leads us ever more deeply into the nature and the will of God. Patience in the face of tribulations requires a form of internal strength that is granted to us by Christ as we live in faithful obedience to Him.

 

Finally, all of this is made real to us in and through prayer. I think that Paul’s idea of being engaged in constant prayer means that for followers of Christ all of life is an unceasing act of worship. When we commit ourselves to Christ we are relocating our place of dwelling from the secular to the holy and the eternal. So, as we dwell inside of the palace of the King of the Universe, all of the ground that we step upon is truly holy ground, and all that we do in this place is directly connected to worship of our Lord. Thus all of life becomes prayer, and this reality in which Christ is ever-present produces the joyful hope and the patience in the face of hard times that are foundational for being living witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day of our lives.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62: 1, 2

 

I fear that I am guilty of polluting my environment, but this is not the customary sort of crime against nature and my fellow humans. My misdemeanor is directed at myself and involves an insult to my Lord as well. You see, I have engaged in a substantial and an on-going barrage of words that my mind directs at my heart. These words tend to take over my understanding and serve as the revealed wisdom that I attempt to use to guide my days. Unfortunately they are too often negative or contra productive in their nature and content. They are generally formed out of the poor soil of my fears, doubts, and the desires of my flesh.

 

Thus, God asks me for my silence. He directs me to His Word of truth and desires for me to meditate on that revelation of His wisdom and guidance. This is not always as easy to do as it sounds, for my mind is active and I want to hear my own words above all others. However, the Lord is remarkably patient with me in this matter. He allows the opportunity for me to exhaust my own supply of thought while He waits for me to relent from my process and settle in at His feet in an attitude of submission that is often driven by the exhaustion that comes from my own striving after answers and direction.

 

When I am finally still, silent in God’s Word and before His presence, the Lord’s words of counsel, guidance, and comfort are poured into my thirsty heart and mind by His loving and gracious Spirit. As I am truly present before the Lord so that my words are turned off and His truth feeds my understanding with eternal wisdom, my situation is not always easy or comfortable. God speaks truth, and that rare commodity can be troubling and challenging; however, it is always what I need and it directs me onto Christ’s path of righteousness and into the fullness of His life. In these quiet times of listening to the Lord, David’s images of rock, fortress, and salvation are made tangible to me as Christ directs my heart into the truth of His calling for my life.

 

But for you, O LORD, do I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,

who boast against me when my foot slips!”

Psalm 38: 15, 16

 

There are a couple of the really big aspects of David’s life on display in these few words. Firstly, he knew God, and also, he had some big experience in the area of foot slipping. David was well aware of the harm to his relationship with God that his disobedience and sinful passions had caused. He was also far too aware of the damage to his ability to lead as a Godly ruler and as a servant of the Lord that these sins had caused. His failures gave ammunition to his enemies and to those people who opposed the Lord. There is one simple answer to this problem for all of us, don’t sin. However, that answer doesn’t work so well for most of us.

 

Personally, I would like to blame God for any and all of my sinful departures from His will and way, for God is the designer and the maker of the drive, passions, and independence that leads to most of my wandering days. However, I know that the sinfulness of my heart is not the part of me that God designed. So, in response to the rebellion of the soul that my human ancestors grafted into the make up of all people, God provided His son, Jesus Christ, to me and to all of humanity as our answer to and our salvation from the death that sin assures. We need only to accept that answer in order to enter into a relationship with Christ that brings about transformation of the heart and the mind and the peace of security for our souls.

 

As each of us enters into the unfortunate inevitability of sin in our lives, we need to turn to Christ in repentance and confession of our sin. Then we can wait and listen to the voice of truth and righteousness as our Lord speaks to our hearts and guides our minds into His path of restoration and holiness. Sometimes that voice is loud and persistent and clearly direct, and at other times it seems to be silent as it forces us to wait and to listen so that our faith is stretched and our ability to hear is made deeper and strengthened within us. It is my faith in God that assures me of his answers even before they have become audible to my ears. It is my trust in God’s purpose and plans that leads me to rest in Him so that I allow my Lord to be my defender and my protector in this journey through the hostile land where I dwell.

 

Before they call I will answer;

while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65: 24

 

God is speaking of redemption here. This passage is descriptive of the way things will be as a result of His restorative work. I think that as we look at these ideas we can take great personal comfort in them. Although much of what is being discussed in this part of Isaiah is about a world that is yet to come on a global scale, Christ’s redemptive and therefore restorative work in the lives of people is accomplished. In Christ we know the new life that is God’s promise. Through Christ we are known fully by the Father and are recognized as beloved children of the Most High Lord.

 

In this relationship with God we are granted the blessing of the presence of the Spirit who speaks to our minds and our hearts and who provides us with a form of knowledge and wisdom that exceeds all other. This is why we can take confidence in silence; that is, in our own silence. We are in a relationship with God in which He listens to the words of our hearts and hears them before we have begun to form their sounds and sentences. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak out to God, for this expression is a part of the way in which our trust in Him is formed and developed. However, we can also sit in the silence of our wordlessness and have faith that we are still being heard.

 

It is this manner of connected communication that sets God apart from other gods that people follow. These other gods demand the attention of people and speak out in utterances of edict and command. The God that I know listens to my heart and hears the expressions of my soul. He enters into the issues and the concerns that I hold and responds out of His deep love for me. He still commands and pronounces truth and righteousness as His absolute way of living. However, the Lord does these things from the perspective of a loving father who is growing me up into the grace and the peace of maturity and the functionality of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.

 

Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2: 4

 

Repentance is a word that most people would prefer to leave out of our functional vocabulary. We can readily embrace the idea of God’s kindness and of His loving grace. We rely upon the fact that God is patient with us as we test the waters of sinful thought and behavior, but it is harder to connect His call to repentance to it all. Yet it is exactly what God does call upon people to do. Repentance was the cry that John the Baptist uttered as he announced the coming of the Christ, and God continues to call to all people to turn away from the sin that entraps and destroys and to embrace the purification and restoration that Christ grants to us.

 

Repentance requires for us to accept the fact that we are sinful beings. It is based upon the realization that there is a dramatic and total divide between the ways of this world and those of God’s kingdom. Thus repentance demands that we change direction, turn around, and surrender ourselves totally to God’s way of being. Until we accept the necessity of such radical submission to Christ, we will continue to struggle through a life in which we seem to gain ground for a while and then give it all back in times of weakness, discouragement, or doubt. These periods of return to old ways of functioning are discouraging, and they are not the way that God wants to see His people living. He gets no pleasure from our suffering and our struggles.

 

It is a simple fact that God is very slow to judge. Without question He holds all of the evidence that He would need to convict every one of us of our capital crimes. Still God is the kindly and loving Father who waits with great patience for His children to embrace His truth. He withholds the judgment that we all deserve in anticipation of our turning to Him. God wants for each of us to make the decision to seek Him out. He grants us that ability, and He allows us opportunities to continually seek Him and His righteous way. God’s grace and His kindness are offered to us in order to call to us out of a life of self-determined worldly truth and into an unending, moment by moment state of yielded submission and total surrender to Christ and to His transformative truth. True repentance is not always easy to engage, but it is more than worth the pain that is involved for it leads us into the will of God

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29: 11

 

God has plans for me. That can be a very troubling thought, or it can be a truly comforting one. My response to this idea is primarily based upon my view of God and upon how well developed my own plans are at this time. If I know with absolute certainty where my life is headed and I am working hard to assure that future, it can be very difficult to set all of that effort and my thoroughly designed game plan aside for a time in order to do what is necessary for me to truly hear the will of God expressed. It is hard for me to enter into this period of prayer and meditation, this cessation of my own efforts toward my goals, in order for my voice to recede into the background.

 

In order to do this I need to trust God more than I trust myself. This depth of trust comes from knowing God well. As I look upon Him in His Word and in the world, the nature and the character of the Lord are fully on display. Often it is God’s people who present the most telling demonstration of His unceasing trustworthiness as they tell the stories of their lives and the ways that God has been with them and taken them through all that they have encountered during the journey. This undeniable and continual presence of God is a very clear indicator of His faithfulness to myself and to all of His people.

 

So, when God tells me that He has plans for me, I can trust that, in fact, those plans are the ones that I should seek out and follow. However, seeking and following doesn’t necessarily mean that I stop all that I am doing and wait until the message from God is clear to me. The Lord often works through our efforts as we yield them to His will. He illuminates certain paths and darkens others. His will is frequently expressed through the prayerful advice of Godly people. Some of His ways are hard and the environment there can be harsh and unfriendly, but He goes with us to those places and shows us His strength when ours fails. The one thing that I can count on is that God knows where He wants me to go, and He is the sovereign Lord of that place.

Next Page »