How to Be Patient

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance,” wrote Samuel Johnson.

There’s a reason for the fact that great works are performed by perseverance. It’s because truly great works are performed by God. Sometimes we go through troubled times because God needs to teach us to know this. He wants us to rely on him rather than our own wisdom, ability or strength.

Wise farmers  get this. And they are also smart enough to know that you can’t rush the harvest. The finish line is the finish line. Crops cannot be rushed. There are no shortcuts. You do what you can do, and you trust God, and you keep your eye on the day when the harvest will be brought in.

The Old Testament prophets also got it. There were times when life was pretty unbearable for them. Think of Elijah under the constant threat of Ahab and Jezebel. Or consider Hosea being asked to marry — and then redeem and remarry — his unfaithful wife. Or recall Jeremiah who was thrown into a muddy, mucky cistern for a prison cell and left to barely survive.

Job understood too. Job’s patience in all his troubles is legendary. After all Job went through — including losing his property, his possessions, his friends and most of his family — he was hurting and he struggled, but he persevered in his faith in God.

You get the picture. Life was often extremely difficult for an Old Testament man or woman of God. The only thing that kept them going was their Lord, and their faith that God would make good on his promises. Patience and perseverance was the result of having an eternal perspective. They knew there would be a finish line. They knew a harvest day was coming.

And so, in the midst of all their difficulties, they kept their eye on the end goal, not knowing exactly when it would arrive, and they waited for God to perform a great work in their lives. Whatever events were telling them, they clung to their faith that God’s plan for them was full of compassion and mercy.

The truth is, when our trials and troubles seem to provide proof that God has disappeared from the scene, God’s promises assure us that his plans never fail. There is an end in sight, because the Lord is coming.

So in the meantime, we can recall that great works are performed not by our strength, but by God’s strength. Knowing that, we can be patient and persevere.

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near… Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5: 7-8, 10-11, NIV).

Lord, I know your plans and promises for me are great. It is hard for me to be patient and to wait for your plans to come to fruition. I fail many times at being patient. Please forgive me and help me to always keep the finish line in mind as I wait for you to do great things in my life.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, November 21, is Ezekiel 40:1-49, James 5:1-20 and Psalm 130:1-8.

Header image based on "Henri J. M. Nouwen Let's be patient and trust..." by BK, CC By-SA 2.0

All For The Gospel’s Sake

There are certain things that are worth making adjustments for. Most of us will make adjustments and accommodations for someone we love. Relationships with our boyfriend or girlfriend, our spouse, our children, our parents, even our friends, usually involve constant trade-offs and negotiation.

We do the same when a lucrative job offer comes along. We might even move to a whole different area of the country (or even the world!) for the right work at the right price. And at the very least, most of us regularly adjust our weekly schedule to accommodate the demands of our workweek.

Our health is another of those things we make accommodations for too. If we discover that we have a disease that requires a dietary change, or a schedule change to work with a treatment plan, well, of course we do that! Our health is on the line!

Paul, the apostle, mentions something else — something very important — that he was willing to make accommodations for. And that’s the gospel. Because it was so important to him that as many people as possible hear and know the gospel, Paul was always willing to make adjustments so that he could put himself in a position to teach the gospel and win as many as possible to faith in Jesus Christ.

How about us? Are we willing to make the same adjustments Paul was so that the gospel can be taught? Are we prepared to consider accommodations in our own lives so that more people can be won for Christ and saved for eternity?

Are we willing to adjust our budget so that we can give more to the Lord and his kingdom work?

Are we willing to adjust our schedule to accommodate a growth group or Bible study?

Are we willing to adjust our hearts and make ourselves available to serve in our church so that God’s vision for our church can be fulfilled?

And most of all, as Paul says to the Corinthians, are we willing to adjust our attitudes toward people so that we fit ourselves to them and meet them where they’re at? Are we willing to put ourselves in their shoes, and accommodate to their “style”, so that we can be in a position to share Christ with them?

Why would we want to make all those adjustments and accommodations? The answer, Paul says, is simple.

It’s all for the sake of winning people to faith. It’s all for the sake of the gospel.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV).

Lord, give me the same willingness Paul had to make adjustments and accommodate people for the sake of the gospel. I want more and more people to know you, Jesus, as their Lord and Savior. Use me, as you used Paul, to be an evangelist to lead people to Jesus.

Our Bible reading for August 15, is 2 Chronicles 2:1 – 5:1, 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 10:13 and Psalm 97:1-12.

Header image based on "Gospel Graffiti II" by Peat Bakke, CC By 2.0

Abundantly Loved!

God is gracious and forgiving. That is his very nature. It’s literally the meaning behind his name: the LORD (the Hebrew name Yahweh).

That means we can ask him to restore our sin-broken relationship and no longer be angry with us. And we can keep on asking for this again and again.

“You, LORD, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger. Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us” (Psalm 85:1-4, NIV).

God is gracious and forgiving. That means that God has Amazon warehouses of limitless kindness, tolerance and patience that we can draw on daily. Such abundant love can lead us to step back from sin and see it for what it really is — selfishness.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV).

God is gracious and forgiving. That means that he loves to bring compassion instead of calamity. He thrills in delivering healing in place of demanding punishment.

“He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2, NIV).

Sinful humans do not have it in their nature to be gracious and forgiving toward each other. As sinners, we don’t even have it in our nature to be kind, patient or tolerant with ourselves. We need this solid foundation of love badly, and there’s nowhere else to get it but from the LORD.

It’s also not in our nature to believe we can find it from God, even though we always can. Which is why the Bible emphasizes again and again and again how gracious and forgiving God is.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, July 14, is Jonah 1:1 – 4:11, Romans 2:1-16 and Psalm 85:1-7.

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me abundantly. Your love for me shows itself in a myriad of ways. But the most important is that you gave up your one and only Son to show me grace and win forgiveness for me. Truly, your patience and passion for restoring broken sinners like me is astounding! By your Spirit’s power, help me to find peace and rest in your abundant love every day.

Header image based on "Grunge Road Sign - Infinite Love Limit" by Nicolas Raymond, CC By 2.0

A Glimpse of Power

Have you ever noticed that sometimes Jesus shows only little glimpses of his power?

We may wish for full-blown obliteration of all the problems and obstacles in our life. But Jesus leaves little roadblocks for us to struggle with in this life. He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

We may hope for financial security and wealth that will carry us through the rest of our lives at a comfortable level. Jesus gives us this day our daily bread.

We may desire peace and contentment each day. We may want love that lasts forever. We may covet courage that will give us a backbone to face any opponent.

God may grant us a measure of peace and contentment some days. He may give us love that lasts for a good long while — or just a short while. He may stiffen our backbone for some opponents, while allowing some fear to keep us humble and reliant on him for victory.

We see this in today’s Old Testament reading about David. David, a man after God’s own heart, was nevertheless still a sinful human being who needed God’s help. God did not immediately give him everything he had promised him. He allowed David to struggle with his fears and selfish desires on the way to finding fulfillment.

We see it with Jesus. He could have — with a word — completely wiped out his betrayer Judas, and all the soldiers sent to arrest him. But instead of giving them a full blast of his divine power and justice, he dialed it back and gave them just a glimpse of who he is and the power he possesses.

So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’

‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.

‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:3-6, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, May 28, is 1 Samuel 21:1 – 23:29, John 18:1-24 and Proverbs 13:10-19.

Lord, allow me to see glimpses of your power. Show me that you are real and that you love me. Help me to be content with what you provide, and to see the benefit in waiting to see your full glory. As I journey toward heaven, be with me every day.

Header image based on "Power Lines" by Emmanuel Huybrechts, CC By 2.0

Impulsively React or Thoughtfully Respond?

I’m a person who has always struggled mightily with my mouth. I tended to impulsively react to events and say things before really taking the time to think them through. One reason I reacted this way was that I arrogantly believed that I was almost always on target with my words.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Then I began to learn. I heard from my wife, my children, my good friends, and even from some who were not always so friendly. I learned from the Bible, and there heard from God.

Once I was schooled in this, here’s what I found out: Impulsive reactions are most frequently not a good thing. They are not a sign of great native intelligence. In fact, the Bible would call them unwise (or just plain dumb!), and more than once labels them sin.

Some seem to know this more “naturally.” It’s like it’s built into their personalities to respond more carefully. But others, like me, spend a lifetime learning the importance of responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting impulsively.

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of inner peace, a calm-heartedness, and an ability to just slow down a bit in one’s thought-processes. Some decisions are best reached quickly. But many decisions are wisely arrived at after a few moments (or hours, or days, or even weeks) of thought.

One of the best places I learned this was in the book of Proverbs — the book of God’s wisdom. And here are a few things one can learn about the blessings (or, alternatively, the curses) of our choice to react or to respond:

  • When I talk with an evil intent toward someone (or behind their back), that’s going to end up being a harmful trap for me!
  • When I speak with an innocent heart, I don’t have to worry so much about traps.
  • Words that are thoughtful and well-crafted can really benefit me and those I speak about too.
  • Fools react in a headstrong fashion, impulsively thinking they are always right.
  • Wise people take some time to listen to others for advice before they announce a decision.
  • Fools have a short fuse and get annoyed quickly.
  • Wise people know how to overlook insults and let them run like water off a duck’s back.

“Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:13-16, NIV).

Lord, help me by your Spirit’s power to control my mouth and respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. By your Son Jesus’ blood, wash me clean and forgive me for all the sins that I have committed with my words. Thank you that you have spoken to me with thoughtful, loving words and promises. Help me to hold those in my heart at all times.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, May 16, is Ruth 1:1 – 2:23, John 9:1-34 and Proverbs 12:8-17.

Header image based on "Mouthing off" by Demi-Brooke, CC By 2.0

Three Things God Will Not Do

God warned his people about allowing their hearts to wander away from him. He foretold that they would become lackadaisical in their faith. They would begin to allow idols to occupy their hearts. The true God, who had led them from Egypt to the Promised Land would be squeezed out as the people became more comfortable in their new home.

But God also promised them that even if they were scattered to other lands as a discipline for their unbelief and sin, all they would ever have to do is turn around and come back to him. They would need only to leave behind their idols and return God to his rightful place in their hearts.

How could they know that God would be there waiting? Moses said these words long before Jesus taught the famous story of the Prodigal Son. But the lesson is the same.

There would be three things that God would never do, no matter how rebellious, idolatrous and unbelieving the children of Israel became. They could always know that a loving, gracious and merciful Heavenly Father would be waiting for their return.

He would not abandon them. He would not destroy them. And he would not forget the loving promises he had made to their forefathers.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deuteronomy 4:29-31, NIV).

What beautiful words for us to hear too! In our comfortable 21st century circumstances, we may easily find ourselves wandering away from God and finding “shiny things” that we make more important than God. We need to know that these promises are still true for those of us who are the “Prodigal Sons” of today.

This life is your time of grace. So in this life, God will never abandon you. God will not destroy you. God will not forget the promises he made to your faith-filled ancestors. He is patient with you, not wanting you to perish. God simply wants you back in the family.

So, what are you waiting for? Come on back home to Jesus!

Our Bible reading for Monday, April 6, is Deuteronomy 4:15 – 5:33, Luke 11:5-32 and Proverbs 8:32-36.

Lord, thank you for your assurance that you are merciful and forgiving. I am so grateful to know that despite my sins, my idolatry and my rebellious nature, you will always take me back. This life is my time of grace. Even if my heart wanders, you will never abandon me, destroy me or forget your promises to me. By your Holy Spirit, turn my heart back to you, Lord.

Header image based on "Three" by Hubert Figuiere, CC By-SA 2.0

Wait.

David had learned the value of inaction.

Inaction?! I know. It sounds counter to everything we believe in, doesn’t it? Almost un-American.

But for David, it was creating space for God to work. And he knew that this is often the right thing to do.

Perhaps he had learned it as a young shepherd boy. Then again, he may have discovered this truth as a man pursued by the King of Israel, Saul. David had actually already been anointed as Israel’s next king. But the problem was that Saul hadn’t vacated the throne yet. He was still very much alive. And very much the king.

So David refused to try and usurp Saul’s throne. Instead, he waited. Even when it meant that Saul would try to hunt him down and put him to death, he waited for God to act. There were several occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul and rid himself of the threat to his own life.

But he didn’t take action on those clear opportunities. Instead, he patiently yielded to God, confident he would act in his own way and in his own time.

How difficult that can be! But David’s faith told him that God would show his goodness in due time.

And you? Or me? We can be confident of the same thing. God is good. All the time. And he loves to show his goodness.

So… wait for it. Wait for it.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14, NIV).

Lord help me to be patient, and wait for you to act. You are a powerful and loving God. Sometimes I need to not act. I just need to pause and yield to you. I desire to be strong, take heart and just wait. Fill me with your Spirit so that I can know when to do nothing and simply see with the eyes of faith that your goodness is coming.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, February 28, is Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13, Mark 10:13-31 and Psalm 27:7-14.

Header image based on "stop sign" by Autrey, CC By 2.0