Matt. 18:26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
Rom. 2:4 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
1Tim. 1:16 but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
2Cor. 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
Rom. 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
Luke 8:15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
We need patience. We were all reminded of that this week, as we waited for the elections’ results to trickle in. My mother used to say, “A watched pot never boils.” To avoid “watching the pot” I always plan other activities. In the case of the elections, I also tried to avoid tuning in to the news stream too often.
We all need patience, and most of us want the people around us to have patience. Jesus told the story of the servant who begged his Master for more time to pay off a debt of 10,000 talents. (Today a single talent of Gold is worth about $1,400,116.57.) His Master forgave him the whole debt. The same servant turned right around and tossed a fellow servant into jail because he owed him a pittance, 100 pence. (Today 100 pence is worth about $15.00.) When the Master heard, he “was wroth (intensely, insanely angry), and he delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Jesus concluded, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you don’t forgive your brothers and sisters their debts from your heart.”
Who do you know that has forgiven a great debt? Who do you know that seems incapable of forgiveness? Where do you stand?
More than anything, we want God to have patience with us. In Romans 2:4, Paul says that “…we ought not to presume upon the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience, as God’s kindness (he also implies God’s forbearance and patience) are meant to lead us to repentance.” We certainly don’t want to miss our window of opportunity!
In 1 Timothy 1, we read about an example of God’s patience. The apostle calls himself “the chief of sinners,” and says that it was because he was the “foremost (of sinners)” that Jesus Christ used him as an example in which to display his “perfect patience.” No doubt 1 Timothy 1 refers to the fact that before St. Paul became a witness to the risen Christ and an apostle to the gentiles, he “persecuted the church of God.” It is, as Jesus said, “those who are forgiven much that love much.” (Luke 7:47)
In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul boasts of his own patience with the church at Corinth. He implies that his patience was as essential to his witness and his pastorate as “the signs, wonders and might works” he performed among them. I have some serious limitations as a pastor. I have been told that I am not judgemental enough. So, too, I am not naturally a patient person. My wife could tell you that. Nevertheless, if I have any good qualities as a pastor, patience is at the top of the list. I never ask for more details than people want to give me (that takes patience); and, when the honeymoon is over, I continue to think well of people who no longer think well of me (that takes patience and pastors have to have it). Of course, patience is more than waiting, it is active waiting. The late Tom Pleasants one advised me, saying, “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” And the late Mrs. Sally Reed sent me a card with a cat hanging from the end of a rope. The card read, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” Back in 1980, I visited St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Nassau, the Bahamas. They had a favorite hymn, “Hold the fort for God is coming!” And Dr. Bob Pierce used to talk about “God-room, the place where only God could work.” Dr. Bob said we do not enter “God-room” until we reach the end of our own resources.
In Romans 8, St. Paul talks about the Christian hope, which includes not just the resurrection of the body, but eternal life in a world that has been transformed just as our bodies have been. Then he wrote, “Who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” The Christian life requires two major ingredients: faith and patience. “We wait for what we do not see.” The early Church waited on the return of Jesus. Today, twenty centuries later, we are more likely to wait for our own death and the life that we hope will follow. Emil Brunner said, “Christ coming back for his church on earth, and our being called home to him in death are but two sides of the same coin.” Either way, no one waits more than a lifetime for the realization of the Christian hope. However, we should note that the wait is longer for some than for others, not because of the length of days, but because of the reduced quality of those days. Have you ever notice how quickly time flies when “Life is good!,” and how time drags when you are in pain or dealing with disappointment?
As I said, I am not naturally a patient person. Thankfully, in Galatians 5:22, St. Paul includes patience along with the other fruits of the Spirit that should be a part of every Christian’s character, saying, “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” We don’t always have patience. When we lack it, we must be mindful of something that Paul said in Romans 5:3. He said “…tribulation worketh patience.” (KJV) That verse has always made me reluctant to pray for patience. What about you?
Finally, I would point out that in the parable of the Sower Jesus said that the good soil is made up of those who, “…hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Rome was not built in a day. It is one of life’s maxims that almost everything we set out to do takes more time, effort, and money than we at first suppose. Why should we presume that reaching people with the good news about Jesus be any different? We should be mindful of those around us who lack the confidence of Christ, and we should be prepared to share with them the confidence that we ourselves have, “with patience.”