We are not a very patient people. And more often than not, rather than allowing God to conform us into His image, we want the Lord to adjust His will to our “always in a hurry” American cultural ways. Our prayers sound like orders when we demand God to give us what we want exactly when we want it. And if He doesn’t perform for us in “fast food fashion,” then we want a full refund.
What we truly need to do is to turn it down a notch and practice a slower pace while we run our race with Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible does it challenge us to compete with other Christians in order to come in first. What it does express is for us to work together as a team so that we eventually all finish together! But to practice the “one anothers” in the Scripture, we are going to have to learn to wait for and wait on our Brothers and Sisters in the Family of God.
Isn’t it funny that there are only two positives when it comes to how Paul defines God’s Love for us in 1 Corinthians 13? Most of the Chapter tells us what Love is not. The first two aspects clearly map out what Love really is. Love is Patient. Love is Kind. The fruit of patience received within us is that kindness becomes revealed through us.
If you carefully observe Jesus in the Gospels, you come to the conclusion that our Lord was not in a hurry to do what the Father called Him to accomplish. Jesus walked everywhere He went rather than rent a chariot for faster travel. In His daily journey, He always made sure to notice the lives that seemed to be strategically planted on His path. Jesus invested His valuable time and attention to the kinds of people that most would have cheerfully ignored. Jesus loved on the little children. He made eye contact with the broken men and women who would have been eternally lost unless He intervened.
When did the need for speed become a spiritual sacrament? The church loves to share its content but unless it does so with the goal of championing personal contact, there will be no lasting connection of the heart. Jesus was the Messiah who didn’t mind napping in the midst of storms that He knew His Father had undeniable control over. Jesus was able to do in three years what most of us will never do in a lifetime, mostly because we think the secret is being driven, when what we actually need to do is become utterly dependent upon God’s daily direction.
Our Lord may be demanding at times, but He was never demeaning. He worked with that ragtag group of Disciples and His patience and kindness invested in them would change the course of history forever.
How patient are you? How kind are you? The old Bible word for kindness was “longsuffering” and what it literally meant was that if you were a bomb, you were equipped with a very long fuse before you would ever go boom! We give up way too easily and much too quickly!
Impatience is a bigger enemy than we realize. Impatience will rob you of any real relationship with God. Impatience will keep you from loving your spouse and properly listening to your children. Impatience will stunt your growth as an individual. It will produce in you a shallow and short-circuited soul.
Here are some words we hear almost all the time as we caffeinate our Christianity with artificial stimulants. “I don't want to finish this assignment. I don't want to stick with this diet. I don't want to stay in this marriage. I don't want to honor my commitment. I don't want to stay on this budget. I don’t want to go to this church. I don't want to obey God in my sexual behavior because it takes too long and it takes much too much discipline to wait.”
Now, if God wants to grow patience in you, how quickly do you think He will do it? It will probably take a little while. If God wants to grow patience in you, how will He do it? Chances are very good that He will probably give you something specific to be patient about.
There is a mollusk called the silver-lipped pearl oyster. One produced a single pearl that sold for $1.5 million. To make a pearl, an oyster needs two things and only two things: an irritant and time.
The oyster has to find a way to cope with the irritant and yet remain flourishing, so it's like a little parable. The oyster gives a tiny, little bit of itself to the irritant. It secretes a substance called nacre (what it makes its shell with). It makes one layer and then another and then scores and then hundreds and, eventually, thousands of incredibly thin layers of nacre that are lustrous and iridescent. To produce a great pearl can take 20 years. An oyster might live as long as 40 years and might produce two in its whole life.
When God wants to produce patience in us, He knows that we need two things, an irritant and time, and God will provide both. God will give you time, and God will give you an irritant. Your irritant may be in the same room as you are reading this paper. If you don't have an irritant, give me a call and I will let you borrow a few of mine!
This much is true and that is that our pearls of great price don’t come cheap. They are not manufactured on a streamlined conveyer belt. They are hammered out in our hearts. We invest our blood, sweat and tears. Still, God assures us that "Love is patient, Love is kind." If we want the real deal, we must go to the authentic Source. God makes beautiful what we have busted. God makes royalty out of what we have rusted. God transforms our trash into treasure. But if we want to experience the joy of this process, we must trust the timing of the One who holds our every minute and second in His Hands.
What if we Believers stop trying to make Jesus like us? What if we Disciples actually allowed Jesus to make us more like Him? What if we got His Word on what the definitive definition of Love was all about? What if I slowed down? What if I walked with Jesus and gave up the temptation to jog? And they’ll know we are Christians by the trail we blaze? Nope! They will know we have been with Jesus by the traits of patience and kindness exuding through us! Love is Patient. Love is Kind. What am I?
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.