Lord Give Me Patience — Now!
August 2, 2009
Part 5 of summer 2009 series: You’ve Got Questions – God Has Answers
Life is filled with things that bother us and that are problems for us – questions we might wish we had answers for. These things can range from how to deal with the economy and the way if affects our daily living to how to be a Christian parent to how to deal with “difficult people” to how to deal with emotions such as anger to how to keep from saying things that we know are not things God would have us be saying to how to respond when things are moving a lot slower that we would like for them to.
The Bible is our guide to living life in God’s ways – and contains God’s answers to our questions in life. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that:
“16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
This summer we’re looking at some of the issues and questions we may face in our lives – and how God would have us deal with them. Today we are looking at an issue that – like controlling our anger and taming our tongues – most of us face –a battle that most of us have to fight – and most of us need help with – the issue of how to have patience.
Patience is indeed a virtue –but one that many folks do not have! I know that there are many times in my life that I become impatient with someone or some situation – and I want to shout out:
“Lord – give me patience – and give it to me now!”
Any of you ever felt like that – like you desperately needed patience – and you desperately needed it – right then?
Lord – give me patience – Now!
What do we do?
How can we build patience – and be more patient?
Good question – especially in today’s instant society where we are used to getting fast food – can instant message folks on the computer – can send a text message on our cell phones and expect an immediate response – get impatient if someone does not respond to our e-mail in 5 minutes – and expect folks to be waiting for us to call them and return our call in short order if they don’t answer it immediately.
How can we be more patient – and build patience?
Listen to what James writes in James 5:7-12.
A young Dad pushed his son’s stroller down the street as the youngster howled in rage and displeasure. Folks could hear the father telling himself:
“Please, Bernard, control yourself… Easy there, Bernard, Keep calm! Everything will be alright. “
“Congratulations Sir,” said a woman who had been watching. “You know just how to speak to a child… calmly, gently, and with great patience.”
Then she added, “Did you name little Bernard after a family member? I really like that name.”
“Ma’am, you don’t understand,” the father said, “My son’s name is Jeffery, I’m Bernard.”
All of us — at one time or another — have had to talk to ourselves – trying to convince ourselves to be patient.
The Bible has a lot to say about patience.
There are many references that talk about waiting — and there are over 30 verses that speak specifically about being patient. We know that “Patience is a Virtue.” Yet, because of our hurried up society, many of us seem to pray to God:
“Lord — I need more patience — and I need it now.”
In the passage we just read James emphasizes the virtue of patience. We certainly understand that patience is needed in our daily tasks and our relationships with others — but here in this passage James zero’s in on an area that applies to us all.
James writes that we must develop patience so we can get through hard and trying times.
One of the most challenging times to exercise patience is when life hands out what we feel is unjust, unfair or undeserved treatment – and I’m sure some here today feel life has treat them unfairly. Maybe you’ve lost your jobs – or recently ended a relationship – or are suffering physically — or who are living under great financial stress. Well, God wants to help you by teaching you how to react to suffering – with patience. So, let’s – patently — study what James has to say because even if you are not going through suffering right now, you will at some point — and we all can use Godly advice on how to be more patient.
First, James explains patience by telling us to do a very difficult thing, in the face of trying times. In the face of trying times, James says to wait.
Yes – James says in verse 7 —
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming..”
Patience — in this context — is simply the ability to stay steadfast under trial.
OK – let’s admit it –we have a difficult time being patient under ordinary circumstances – don’t we? Waiting has probably always been a difficult virtue for people to master — but it is particularly hard in today’s society. We live in a rapid pace culture. We have fax machines, microwaves, the internet, and hands free cell phones. I saw a sign the other day that read: “Ears pierced, while you wait” – as if you could drop your ear off – they’d pierce for you – and you could come back for it! Indeed, we are a society of fidgety, impatient people – and it is very difficult for us to be patient.
It is no wonder we think that James’ admonition to be patient while suffering is close to impossible for us. Even our pain medicines promise us “Fast – fast – fast” relief and the various products vie for who can relieve you the fastest. Whether it’s Richard Petty advertising Goody’s headache powder or someone else advertising Tylenol – Advil – Motren – or whatever the product is – they all advertise fast relief from pain. And if we are seriously ill — emotionally distressed — or under financial pressure — we want a remedy in a hurry.
But James says, “Be patient, endure, persevere.”
There are times in when there is little we can do except wait – and practice patience.
We all know that.
So – we all might want to cry out to God:
Lord – give me patience – Now!
Of course, it might be a little thing to have to wait for a meal when you’re hungry– but it’s a whole different matter when James tells us to exercise patience even in times of severe stress and affliction. But — James adds some encouragement at in vs.7:
“Be patient” – he writes –
To which we might want to ask “Why”
Because the Lord is coming – he replies!
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming:”
Sometimes you have to wait – but what you’re waiting for is worth it!
Let’s say you’re baking a chocolate cake and your 4 year old child is watching for the first time.
You might begin by sifting some flour.
“Uuoo,” they say, “that’s dry and looks yucky.”
You say, “Just wait.”
Then you put in some baking soda and sour milk.
The batter really looks uninviting now.
“I’m not going to eat that!” your child says.
“Be patient,” you tell them.
Then you put in a raw egg.
“That’s gross,” they yell.
You smile and say once again, “Just you wait, you’ll see.”
You know how surprised they’re going to be when later, after all the ingredients are in and the mix is baked in the oven, they’ll taste a delicious chocolate cake.
The spiritual lesson is obvious isn’t it?
Often in life we encounter “dry stretches” which are tasteless as flour. We also meet with “sour” experiences like the milk and even some “raw dealings” like the egg; but after we have gone through the oven of affliction, many times something beautiful in our character, in our inner soul is the result.
We still might want to cry to God:
Lord – give me patience – Now!
James gives a couple of clues to help us tell when we are not practicing patience. He gives us two evidences of impatience.
The first is – grumbling
James writes in verse 9:
“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged”
Ever noticed that – when you get impatient – you start grumbling?
It’s natural to grumble when you get impatient!
“Why won’t the Dr. call me with my lab results?”
“Why did God allow this?”
“I can’t believe the Coach picked him to start as QB!”
James says grumbling is a tell-tale sign that we are not practicing patience. In fact, it tells us just the opposite – it tells that we’re on edge — we’re mad. You can even hear it in the word.. “Grrrr-umbling.”
And God considers grumbling or complaining a very serious matte because it is an indication that you really don’t trust Him. Our impatience is an indication that we really don’t believe that He is going to care for us — that He’s going to provide what is ultimately the best for us. That’s why Paul writes in Philippians 2:14:
“Do everything without complaining or grumbling.”
The second indication of impatience is swearing.
Look at vs:12:
“Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”
As we saw last week, James admonishes us a couple of times to control our tongues. But James is not stressing the absence of profanity here. He is cautioning about oath taking. He is saying that our impatience sometimes we can use something sacred for the purpose of supporting what we’re saying.
“I swear to God, I’ll never do it again.”
“I swear on a stack of Bibles that I won’t do that again.”
James reminds us that we are to simply say,
“I’ll never do it again. “
“I’ll try to not do that again.”
Simply put – James is saying — Mean what you say.
In other words just be so credible in your speech — even when you’re under stress — that you don’t grumble, swear or lash out — or blame God for your plight.
So – instead of saying
God – give me patience – now!
How can we truly acquire patience?
James gives us some help here.
James cites 3 positive examples of patience in this passage — and there are three lessons from these examples that we can learn from.
The first is the faithful farmer.
Look at vs.7:
“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains”
When Sally and I moved from Seminary I Decatur, GA to rural NC I decided I would plant a garden. The following year I had a nice garden filled with corn – corn that grew tall. When our nephews and nieces came to visit that summer, they could not believe that Uncle Bill and Aunt Sally had corn that was 5 feet tall! As we were looking at the corn we noticed some early sprouting ears and I explained that they were not ready to eat yet. Well, they wanted to know why they couldn’t just take them off the stalk and find out if they were ready or not. I explained that to do that would kill the ears because they were not ready to be picked.
You know — if you’re going to be a farmer you can’t be impatient. The farmer has to be patient. He plants the seed but depends on the rains to mature the crop that he has planted. And the point here is that the farmer has no control over the rain.
You know – there are a whole lot of circumstances in life that are beyond your control — and there is nothing that we can do about them. The farmer can’t count on the rain, he can only hope for it. It’s the same way with us sometimes. There are times when things happen in our lives that we can’t control. It’s no one’s fault – they just happen. There is no use worrying — there’s no use grumbling — there’s no use swearing — there’s no use making life miserable for all those around you. All you can do is wait, but you can also place your trust in God to take care of it.
So here’s the first lesson: Some suffering is beyond your control.
So, trust God and do what you can.
Don’t just sit and do nothing, that increases your anxiety.
You do what you can.
You go to the Doctor if it’s a physical ailment you’re impatient about – or you take your medicine – if it’s a job you’re impatient about you send out resumes – in almost any case you can read the Bible and pray.
In other words, you do your part.
But if there are circumstances beyond your control — then turn the matter over to God and trust Him to take care of it.
Psalm 27:14 reads:
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”
Sometimes life deals you blows where you have to be brave and courageous.
But in those times who are you going to trust?
When the Doctor says, “There’s nothing else we can do.”
Or the boss says, “I’m sorry we have to lay you off.”
Or you learn of a loved one’s death –
who you going to depend on then?
This world’s solutions?
James says about farmers:
“they wait for the land to yield its valuable crop or the precious harvest to ripen.”
The farmer knows there are circumstances beyond his control, so he’s patient and trusts the Lord.
So must we.
Instead of saying to God:
Give me patience – now!
We need to learn to be patient – do our part – but also wait for the Lord.
There’s another example Janes gives:
The second example that James gives is the OT prophets
In vs:10 James writes:
“as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
The prophets were God’s spokesman — the preachers of that day — but they were not exempt from hurting. In fact, the Bible tells us they were right in the middle of it.
The prophet Hosea, had a wife who was unfaithful.
Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet” because his people were so mad at his message to turn from their sin that they beat him up.
So many times when things go wrong we want to cry out-
“Oh, God, why is this happening to me? What have I done wrong? Why are you punishing me like this?”
But these prophets were walking in the will of God — and yet they suffered.
So, here’s the second lesson we can learn:
We can learn from the things that we get the most upset about – the most impatient about – and learn to not give up on God.
Listen to what Jeremiah said to the people after they were taken by enemies and made slaves in Babylon. Jer.29:5-
“Build houses, and live in them. Plant gardens, and eat what they produce. Get married, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters get married so that they can have sons and daughters. Grow in number there; don’t decrease. Work for the good of the city where I’ve taken you as captives, and pray to the Lord for that city. When it prospers, you will also prosper.”
God was saying to them: “I know this is not where you want to be, I know that you would rather be in Jerusalem, I know you want to be free. But you’re going to stay there for awhile so make the best of it.”
Now, maybe you’re not living where you want to live, maybe you don’t have the job you’d like, maybe your situation isn’t ideal. But, more than likely it’s not punishment, it’s just circumstances – so don’t be impatient – make the best of it – and serve God in it.
The important question is — what are you doing until things get better?
What are you doing between the time you’re sick and the time you’re well?
What do you do in the meantime.. between the time you lose your job and the time you get the next one?
What do you do in the meantime.. between the time your daughter announces she’s getting married to the guy you don’t like and the time when she has that grandchild whose the prettiest and smartest child ever born?
The Old Testament prophets remained faithful — even though they were persecuted. James encourages us to do the same.
One other example of patience that James gives is of Job.
In vs. 11James writes:
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.
Job is an example of a man who endured patiently. From his experience we see how the Lord’s plan finally ended in good. I don’t care how much you’re hurting today, none of you hurt as much as Job did. I don’t care how much you have to be impatient about, none of us have as much as Job did. Job’s cattle alone were estimated to be worth $6 million and in one day he lost, not only his cattle but all of his possessions. And then a worse blow came. Job had 10 children and one day they were feasting in the oldest son’s home and a wind storm came and killed them all! And then his health broke to the point where he would try to scrape boils off his skin. Anything to get rid of them. But Job stayed faithful. He asked a lot of questions – he was not exactly sure what God was doing — but he didn’t lose his trust. In the end God blessed Job.
So, here’s the final lesson about patience. All suffering – everything we can get impatient about — is temporary — the best is yet to come. God has promised that no matter how bad it gets God has the ultimate reward.
James says you are blessed if you persevere.
You’ve seen what the Lord did for Job and He is full of compassion and mercy.
You may have heard the story about the woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She was getting her things “in order” – and contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her funeral. After discussing what she wanted for her service she then said:
“There’s one more thing, this is very important. I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The pastor looked at the woman — not knowing quite what to say.
“Does my request surprise you?” the woman asked. “
“yeah,” said the Pastor, “I’m very puzzled.”
The woman explained:
“In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the main course dishes were being cleared, someone would often say, ’Folks, keep your fork.’
It was my favorite part because I knew something better was coming… like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ’What’s with the fork?’
Then I want you to tell them: ’Keep your fork…the best is yet to come.’ ”
God promises that he will reward those who persevere through pain – through problems – through the things we many times become impatient about. That’s not my promise — that’s His — and you can trust it.
So – when you feel like screaming:
“God give me patience – and give it now!”
Remember these three lessons:
Some things are beyond your control, so trust God and do what you can about it.
Most things we become impatient about are just the way life is sometimes – and in the midst of them we can still be faithful to God.
And – all things we become impatient about are temporary — the best is yet to come.
When Napoleon fought Wellington of England, all England waited patiently for word of the decisive battle at Waterloo. When the message came to London it was relayed by the flags on top of the Winchester cathedral. The flags on the cathedral began to spell it out: “Wellington defeated…” But before the message could be completed, a heavy fog moved in. Gloom filled the hearts of the people as the fragmentary news spread throughout the surrounding countryside. But when the mists began to lift, it became evident that the signals of Winchester Cathedral had really spelled out the triumphant message: “Wellington defeated the enemy!”
When you feel defeated and find yourself a fog of growing impatience– I urge you to look to the clear promises God gives us and see “how the Lord’s plan finally ends in good, for he is full of tenderness and mercy.” Amen.