Brothers and Sisters,
I think if someone asked my wife Pam what Jeff needs to change most about himself, I bet she would say he needs to be more patient (among other things). I must admit that I am not a very a patient person. I dare say I am not the only man reading this that will admit to this character flaw, but that doesn’t relieve me of the need for improvement in this area. I am sure there are many root causes to my lack of patience, but as I was praying recently, 1 Corinthians 13 came to mind, particularly verse 4:
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;" (1 Corinthians 13:4, RSV-CE)
Ouch. I am not patient because I don’t love. If I loved more, I would be more patient, because Love is patient. When I am in a long line of traffic, love of the other drivers is the last thing on my mind, and you can guess what that does to my patience. As I thought more about this, I realized God is patient because He is Love. I am grateful for His patience with me as I learn!
I have to confess though, I have not had much patience with the Lord amid the disappointing news that seems to be never ending about the state of affairs in the world, the government and even the church these days. When will you bring about your victory over evil and error, Lord? I have written about this before, but I can relate to the two on the road to Emmaus being sad as they walked away from Jerusalem (ironically on the day of the resurrection!), disappointed that Jesus was apparently defeated; He was supposed to bring victory to Israel over the Romans! (Or so they had hoped) Jesus appeared to them and had to remind them of His true mission and when they “knew” the truth it indeed set them free (John 8:32). As Jesus broke the bread in their midst, their eyes were opened, and the world was different. No more sadness, but excitement for the future. Nothing in the world around them had changed in that moment other, than Jesus’ presence in the breaking of the bread. There might be a clue for us there, brothers and sisters about how our hearts can grow in love and consequently, patience!
If we are honest, I think we too are hoping for a temporal victory by the Lord, over the darkness in the world. We pray, we fast, we act in the public arena, but darkness appears to advance anyway. What are you waiting for, Lord? My patience is running out!
I had a particularly vigorous workout recently which left my muscles very sore for a few days afterward. When I woke up the next morning after the workout in pain, my first thought, was not; “Something is wrong with me, I need to go to the emergency room for the pain!” I knew that pain was part of the process toward improvement and took it in stride. No pain, no gain, right? In hope and in faith, I know the Lord is doing something new in the world right now, but it is painful to be patient as he accomplishes His work of salvation. He is using all things to the good for those that love him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). Now, Idon’t know what that new thing is that the Lord is doing. But I do know He is faithful, and he said:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut 31:6)
If we are in pain, it is to keep us pressing into Him, which increases our faith, hope and love. Patience is a virtue that all of us can improve in, primarily because it produces the fruit of hope, which is in short supply these days. The scripture that came to me that explains this so well is in 1 Thessalonians:
“We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, RSV-CE)
The word “steadfastness” is translated as patient endurance. It takes work and labor as the scripture above states to produce faith and love. If we are patient in that “work of faith” and “labor of love” that the Lord calls us to, hope will be our reward.
Do you Star Trek fans remember the opening of the old TV series: “To Boldly go where no one has gone before!”
Brothers and sisters. No one has gone where we are going. The future is not written. We can fear the future and live life defensively, or boldly go forward, enduring the pain in order to bring light to the world. Jesus is the only hope. Revealing Him will transform hearts and minds. As Paul said in Philippians:
My friends, I don't feel I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. (Phil 3:13)
The Lord is ahead. We can’t keep looking back, checking our maps, or keep looking for familiar signs, but keep our eyes on Him and press into Him together. He will “lead us in the way of all truth” through His Holy Spirit (John 16:3).
On a final note, Our COTL Men’s retreat is in two weeks (!!!!). Don’t forget to register this weekend, men! This year’s retreat will be one where we focus on deepening our relationships and friendships with not only each other, but especially the Lord. My prayer is that this will be a time of deep transformation and a renewal of faith, hope and love for the men attending. We will press into the Lord together so that he can give us the grace to” boldly go where no man has gone before!”