Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Long Road of Learning Patience

Today I am going to write about something that I know very little about.  Well, I know about it, I just do not like it.  I do not like it because I am terrible about it.  I am terrible about it because I do not like to wait.  I do not like to wait because this self thing deep down inside me refuses to recognize its own death.  If you are getting antsy waiting for me to make it to my subject for today, then you struggle just as I do in this one area.  The thing I am talking about today is patience. 
 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret--[it] only [causes] harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.  Psalm 37:7-9 NKJV
I look at a passage like that and realize that there just about zero part of it that I get right.  It is so hard for me to rest in the Lord.  I always feel the need to be doing, working, achieving the goal that I am seeking after.  As for waiting, I can't stand it when there is a slow-up in the EZ-Pass lane on the Parkway.  I hate any kind of line really.  Waiting to me is an absolute waste of time.  As for fretting when things are not moving fast enough for me, I could probably win a gold medal if it were an Olympic event.  Just ask my wife, she knows.  As for fretting because others (especially unbelievers or worldly believers) are leapfrogging over myself on their way to the same goal, I will admit that I even struggle with that.  It is not so much a matter of envy.  I do not want what they have, I want what I always wanted but have not gotten yet.  Of course fretting leads to anger.  I will not say I am downright angry shaking my fists mad, but I do feel some anger well up inside me from time to time.  And that is who I am, an unrepentant impatient man.  I will be the first to admit that I am scared to pray for patience because I do not know how well I will take to the training. 

The Lord, however, has other plans.  While I may not want to learn patience, the Lord sure does seem to like to teach me about it.  There are so many things in life that I felt so sure of that I just seem to be waiting for.  There is my move north, with the weather getting colder and Winter just around the corner, I am cringing the reality of repeating last year's nightmarish winter commute. I say that as we wait for the home the Lord has for us and the buyer the Lord has for us in the home we are in.  There is my desire for children, but that work is going on a year with nothing.  There is a job needed for my wife when we do move north, but so far only an inadequate job and a "position filled" notice have been the fruits of that endeavor.  Then there is the long days at my job, a job I no longer find any joy in.  I am thankful that God is providing for my family through my job, but to be completely honest, it has become a real struggle.  At one time I had so much excitement and enthusiasm for all of these things, now I am about ready to just give up.  I have been in a long period of waiting and we all know how poorly I deal with waiting.

What I have done was to make myself an illustration for the church, and not in a good way.  We read the Bible and the excitement that the church had for the Lord's return.  They truly lived like the Lord could return at any moment.  They lived in constant anticipation and excitement for the Lord's return.  This is just like me when my wife and I first prayed about having children and moving.  There was so much excitement and anticipation and it seemed like any day now things could happen.  For me, it was a few months.  For the church it was about two thousand years.  But what happens when you start out with all that excitement and nothing happens, discouragement begins to set in.  You begin to wonder if this thing you once looked forward to will ever happen or if the Lord has changed His mind.  You also begin to question whether or not you had it right to begin with.  You see, the message of the Lord's return is a message of patience.  We are told not grow weary in waiting, we are told to keep oil for our lamps, we are told to overcome until His return, and we are warned that many will challenge whether the Lord will return or not.  We are told that for the Lord a thousand years is as a day and a day is as a thousand years meaning that what we consider to be a long time, is really not even relevant to God.  God acts in His time not our own.  And despite all that, we are told to eagerly await His return.  The Father knew that the Lord's return will be a long time coming from our perspective.  If so, there would not have been all the admonitions to be also be at the ready and eager, but also to wait patiently for the Lord's return.  He said all of that to keep us from getting discouraged, should we take the time to listen and understand. 

And so the same thing that God warned the church about on a large scale is exactly what I am struggling with on a small scale.  And just like the church, God is doing a work in me.  You see, my impatience is not something to brag about.  I write this today in all humility as impatience show that my self is refusing to recognize its own death and I am complicit in that crime.  The problem is that while my self may never believe itself to be dead, it must be dead to the new man that I am in Christ.  I entertain my old self every time I act out in impatience.  Impatience is all about getting what I want when I want it, which is usually right away.  What it is not is a surrendering of myself to God to accept and rejoice in what He wants for me.  More than that it is accepting what He wants for me when He decides I should have it.  My position can not be for God to give me what I want when I want it, but for me to be in submission and surrender to God accepting His plan for my life.  I have to remember that God knows best no matter how much I think that I do.  I do not know the end from the beginning, but God does.  I have to constantly remind myself of it.  I have to constantly remind myself that God knows best.  Finally, I have to remember that the Lord will always fulfill His promises and I also have to remember that fulfillment comes in His time. 

Patience is a hard thing to learn and anyone else who struggles in that area knows exactly what I mean.  The first thing we need to do is realize that it is a problem.  We should be waiting on the Lord and recognize that the Lord does not wait on us.  He may serve us our needs but He is not our servant.  We are His servants and must submit ourselves to His will for our lives.  Jesus said it best when He said it to Paul "It [is] hard for you to kick against the goads."  We serve nothing but our own frustration when we fight against the Lord.  His yoke may be easy, but it is still upon our necks.  We need to stay at the Lord's pace.  When we look ahead in frustration, what we need to do is to look back to see how far we have come and how many times the Lord has come though for us in the past.  Then we need to look at where we are now because we might be missing much of what the Lord is doing now.  For me, I look in the past to that time when I thought I would never meet a wife, but now I have the best wife.  I look at now and even though we do not have a home, a buyer, or a child, my wife and I have been blessed tremendously and I have paid down a great amount of debt.  I see what the Lord has done and I see what the Lord has doing and slowly but surely I am learning to trust in what He will do. 

Does this mean that I or anyone else who struggles with patience can take these methods and suddenly live in perfect patience?  Unfortunately, patience is a process.  It is something we learn over time and not something we can just switch on.  Just like most other things in life, it takes diligent practice.  I can learn the notes of a piano and how to read music in a couple of hours, but that does not make me a virtuoso.  Knowing how to play the piano is easy, learning to actually do it is a lifelong process involving practice and dedication.  Patience is the same way.  What makes patience even more difficult to master is that it takes patience to learn patience.  But as we learn to be patient, learning to be more patient will become easier and easier.  First we must recognize the problem and ask God to begin that long process. 

We can take this lesson on patience on a small scale and apply it to the larger scale of the church itself.  The church is growing weary in waiting and more and more fall away from the truth.  Many still in the church are living each day like it is the last, but not in a good way.  I fear that so many will be left wanting for oil when the Lord returns.  We see a world getting worse and worse and it becoming harder and harder to live as a Christian.  We must look to the past to see how every prophesy that was ever supposed to come to be has come to be.  We need to look at the here and now to see all the work God is doing in the world today.  If we can see that the Lord always has come through in the past, we can rest in the faith that He will continue to come through in the future.  We can have faith that He will return and we must live as though that day can be today.  From our perspective, He may not have come quickly, but I can assure you that He will come suddenly, as a thief in the night.  When He returns, will you be ready?  Will your lamps be trimmed and full of oil?  Will you be glad to see the Lord or will you be ashamed?  Most importantly, if Jesus came today, will He come as your savior or as your judge?  Will you be taken with Him or will you be left here to feel the wrath of God in the Great Tribulation?  Take heart, the Lord will always fulfill His promises. 
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, [And] established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth--Praise to our God; Many will see [it] and fear, And will trust in the LORD.
Blessed [is] that man who makes the LORD his trust, And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, [are] Your wonderful works [Which] You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; [If] I would declare and speak [of them], They are more than can be numbered.  Psalm 40:1-5 NKJV

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