Posts Tagged ‘patience’
My preaching assignment this past week was to share teaching on the text from Galatians 5:22-25, famously known as the Fruit of the Spirit. My particular focus was on the “Fruit” of patience. Let me say again: I. LOVE. TO. PREACH & TEACH. LOve It…absolutely LOVE IT!
So this weekend I shared my heart and God’s Word with my church family. I have included the audio of that sermon and teaching below. As always, I’d love to interact with your thoughts in the comments section or email me direct. God Bless!
After Many Days… [17SEPT2013]
Readings: Philippians 1:6 ◊ Ephesians 6:13 ◊ 1 Kings 18:1; 19:11-13 ◊ Hebrews 12: 1-3
I am thankful for the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before me. It is often the counsel of their testimonies that encourages and inspires me to press on in my journey of faith. In my most recent days, I am encouraged and comforted by the testimony of Elijah the Tishbite (Elijah means “my God is Yahweh”).
Elijah first shows up in the Book of First Kings (chapter 17). There isn’t much information about his past or his beginnings and nothing much about his relationship with God prior to his giving a word from the LORD to King Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). An interesting chain of events follows Elijah after he delivers a prophetic message to Ahab. The LORD sends Elijah off into the wilderness…it is unknown if this is for protection or hiding, but God provides for him with food brought to him by ravens and then later from the provisions of a widow woman. There is no way for us to know what happened during this time Elijah was in the wilderness, the story does not provide details. What we do know is that Elijah was in the wilderness and with the widow at least three years or more.
As I mentioned, best I can tell, Elijah didn’t have detailed instructions on what to do with himself during these three plus years. All we know is that the LORD told him to “go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook and drink from it while ravens feed you” (1 Kings 17:2-6). Elijah did this until the brook dried up from the drought, then the LORD gave him new instructions to “go live in the village of Zarephath,” where he would be cared for by a widow woman (1 Kings 17:8-16).
It seems there was a lot of waiting going on. There are no significant reports in the narrative that describe anything else that was happening in Elijah’s life other than being faithful to the last word the LORD had given him. It seems, for the most part, Elijah waited. It is also difficult to tell what inspired him during these days of waiting. It makes sense to me that it may have been a very simple and slow routine. It was, after all, ancient Palestine sometime during the 9th Century B.C. I remember too, Elijah’s first residence was a camp beside the Kerith Brook…one might assume he was living alone for however long it took for the drought to dry the brook. Later, he moves to Zarephath and lives with the widow and her son for however long, but it doesn’t appear that Elijah’s habit changes much… he continues to wait… in obscurity and in relative quiet.
Chapter eighteen of First Kings provides us with some more insight; “After many days, the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year” (1 Kings 18:1). Here is what caught my attention: After many days… and In the third year…
After many days, the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year…
By my standards, that’s a long time to wait. In relative obscurity. In relative silence, regarding God’s speaking to him. As I go back and read the account of Elijah again, God didn’t give Elijah details regarding the instructions. God said to Elijah “go” and “I will provide for you.” He didn’t tell Elijah how long it would be that he would be gone for. Also, it doesn’t seem that there was constant chatter between Elijah and God during this time he was set aside. It does seem as though Elijah was faithful to God… first, he was obedient to God’s instructions and second, he lived believing faithfully in the provision and power of God. I don’t think Elijah knew what was going to happen. I think he believed and trusted God. Period.
After Elijah receives a new word of instruction from the LORD, he once again acts obediently. This word and Elijah’s obedience to it, leads to a rather dramatic chain of events (1 Kings 18:1-19:18).
“After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year… “
”Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.
…the LORD was not in the wind
…the LORD was not in the earthquake
…the LORD was not in the fire
And after the fires a sound of
Then there came a voice to him…”
There is more I could say about the narrative itself, but I started to consider the parallels in my own life. A few words from my journal follow:
“After many days…” we get scared or at least I do. I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Waiting. Sitting idle in the wilderness and I begin to wonder. I wonder where I’ve failed and I wonder what “I need to do” in order for God to conform again to my expectations. Sometimes I go “many days” where I do not hear from God according to my preferred way to hear Him speak—and I doubt. I doubt me and I doubt God. I doubt the systems and I doubt the religious exercises. I doubt my direction. I doubt my instructions. I doubt my location and I doubt the state of my provisions.
I remind myself when I am left in a kind of dark unknowing…feeling helpless and shrouded in my doubts—there is still within me a desire to know that which is totally beyond me! It is here that I recognize God’s deep and abiding love for me. Here, in the face of this great Mystery, is the Bridge that joins the great chasm between me and the invisible God. Here, in this Cloud of Unknowing, Jesus rushes in, reaches out, and extends to me a lifeline, saying; “I am with you always!”
- God, who began the good work within me, will continue his work until is complete and perfect. He is faithful to do this.
- When I have done all that I can do and done all that I know to do—then I stand and wait upon the LORD, faithfully trusting His timing and His provision.
- God will always find me in my solitude…there is no where I can hide from Him—He is everywhere.
- God wills me to Himself. I respond to His call with faith.
” A heart that has no other wish but to possess God must attract him to itself, and this secret of love is a very great one, since by this way alone sure faith and firm hope are established in the soul. Then it is that we believe what we cannot see, and expect to possess what we cannot feel.” -Jean-Pierre de Caussade
“God is nearer to me than I am to myself, more intimate to me than my inmost being.” -Augustine
Lord, Open my lips—And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
I will worship my mighty King and Lord. Revive me now, God, my Helper. Blessed be the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. For these Three are One.
O, Breath of God, Heal me in my mind, my body, and my soul. Because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule my heart, through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever.
Lord, hear my prayer—and let my cry come unto you.
There are many words I am exploring in these days and patience is one of the more prominent explorations. Other word explorations that seem closely aligned with patience are waiting, trusting, and being. One of the things I am coming to realize about patience is how much contemporary culture is its enemy. It seems that everything about our society is urgent and “now” driven, so patience is often the outcast.
As I explore patience, I do so from a Christian perspective. It seems patience is one of the more prominent characteristics of God once we move past the biggies (omnipresent, omniscient, immutable, and well…you get the picture). The Bible tells us that God is patient (Psalm 86:15, 2 Peter 3:9), and that makes sense to me understanding that God is eternal, but God also entered into time and became flesh like we are, in the person of Jesus. This is important to my exploration because, I am created in His image and the life and person of Jesus is my model.
How do we, as mere humans, measure patience? I think part of the measurement is judged by how we wait. Waiting requires patience or it is not really waiting at all. Waiting implies (to me) something that is done voluntarily or with some measures of humility and surrender. Often, what we call waiting, is forced upon us and we “wait” involuntarily. I don’t know what word I would use for an involuntary wait…maybe internment or detention or determent, but not waiting.
I think this line of thinking is relevant; as Christians, we find ourselves on the path of transformation—becoming reimaged and re-formed into the likeness of Christ. This transformation is not instant, nor is it easy…as much as we might like it to be. Spiritual formation can often seem glacially slow in its progress in its worst light and like watching hair grow in its best light. This is why patience is important; it is ultimately the reflection of our heart’s attitude revealed in how we wait…revealing in whom or in what we trust.
Considering the prominence of patience in the development and character of the Christian, it seems odd to me that so many Christians flee from it. I don’t think I have ever been with a group of Christians when the word “patience” was mentioned and someone did not say, “Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience…” It is as if patience is the anathema of Christian virtue. Why is this? I think; because the testing of our patience will inconvenience us, the testing of our patience will reveal our weakness of character, and the testing of our patience will put to test our trust in God. We do not want to be found out… not by others and not by ourselves. We like to believe we are “good with God.” When we wait, the trial of our patience reveals how selfish we are as well as the depth of our brokenness. This is why we flee from patience and warn one another not to pray for it.
Regardless of whether we pray for patience or not, the Bible teaches us that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We are also taught that patience is part of the ladder of Christian virtue as we ascribe to grow in the likeness of Christ (2 Peter 1:5-7). Patience is also part of the embodiment of Christian love (agape), without which, we are nothing less than clanging gongs and empty-handed (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). Yet we tell one another to run from patience… seems like ridiculous advice, but this is the world in which we live today and this is terrifying to me for my Christian brothers and sisters. Think about the words of warning that come from James and John (see James 4:4 and 1 John 2:5-16).
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God… Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. (James 4:4-10)
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (1 John 2:15-16)
If we get caught up in the systems of the world, we make ourselves enemies of God…and impatience is the system of the world.
I think, with regard to our individual spiritual journeys, most of us want instant landscaping. Instead of prepping the grounds of our lives for planting, we want to hire someone to come in with all kinds of heavy equipment to clear cut and wipe out all the unsightly stuff in our life. We want this to happen without much personal involvement… almost something like the TV show Extreme Makeover where the hosts send the family away on a vacation. While the family is away, the makeover team demolishes the house and yard completely rebuilding and landscaping something entirely new in the span of a week. This is the world system…completely at odds with the God system. Consider the acorn and the oak; from a tiny acorn a huge and mighty oak will develop, but it takes dozens and dozens of years—and patience. The acorn weathers seasons, pressure, pestilence, and more on its way to maturity. When it reaches maturity it resembles nothing of its former self, but it is capable and useful for many, many good works—not the least of which is reproducing hundreds, even thousands more of itself. Patience.
Patience teaches us to trust God. Patience teaches us how to wait on God and how to wait with God. Patience teaches us how to “be” with God. Patience teaches us about eternity. Patience teaches us about infinity. Patience teaches us about satisfaction and fulfillment. God is patience. We need patience—and we need God. Pray for patience.