Can I be completely honest with you for a second? I’ve really been dreading this post. It’s been good to have a break from writing during the holidays, but I think that became a convenient excuse for not doing this particular one.
As far as topics go, patience is a tough one for me. I don’t feel qualified to write about it. In some ways I’m a patient person. But that’s about as comforting as saying, In some ways I’m…
an honest card player.
a good friend.
a model employee.
But the fact that I qualify it means that there are ways I’m a dishonest card player, a bad friend, and a poor employee. Patience is a virtue, and it’s one I’m still working on.
Work in progress
Every morning I roll out of bed, put on my mesh shorts, and I go to the closet to get my tennis shoes. Then I place them on the floor in the closet when I’m done. However, most mornings my shoes are covered with coats. I grumble as I extricate them from the closet.
Why are coats on the floor?
Why can’t people hang their stuff up?
Do I pile my stuff on top of theirs?
Of course pulling my shoes from under a coat takes about 2 seconds, literally. Why does it bother me so much that I have to pull a coat off them?
Or when I’m in traffic—I get behind a school bus or a slowpoke driver. It might delay me getting to work by 2 minutes. Am I really booked so tight that the minor delay ruins my mood by the time I get to work? Why is that?
I have an issue
The issue at hand is patience. Interruptions are such a bother because they get in the way of my progress. They delay me in reaching my destination. But if patience is such an issue for me, how can I expect to teach it to my kid or to blog about it in hopes of instructing my readers?
Welcome to my dilemma.
If John Crist is to be believed, Christian bloggers are way more spiritual that most people and should be held in only slightly less spiritual esteem than pastors. See his hysterical bit on praying before meals here.
Who has it figured out?
All joking aside, it’s difficult to pretend like I have some of these subjects figured out. I know I come across as confident (especially if you meet me in person), but I’m actually pretty insecure. So for this topic I only ask that you take what research I’ve done and think through the topic of patience for yourself.
While we’re at it, the application of any of the lessons from the Bible should be tempered with our own personal experiences. I hope when you read this or any blog or when you listen to any sermon you don’t just accept what’s said as fact. The process of learning about spiritual matters requires that we allow Truth to till the soil of our hearts.
That reminds me
There’s a story Jesus told like this. He was teaching his followers about the Kingdom. To get them to grasp what he was saying, he drew an analogy to farming. He said the Kingdom of God is like a wildly excited farmer throwing seeds everywhere. Seeds land in the ditch, in the forest, in the rocks, in the road, and in the tilled soil of the field.
Of course we’ve never seen farmers scatter seed this haphazardly, so the disciples naturally had questions about what it meant. So Jesus explained it to them in Luke 8:
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
I did you a favor and bolded that last word, which is ὑπομονή (hypomoné) in Greek. It rounds out the whole passage by saying that for the seed scattered on good soil, we still need the patience of the farmer to reap the harvest.
So how do we get patience?
Which brings us back to patience. Where does it come from? How do we get some or get more? If you’re new to the Christian faith, I’ll let you in on one of the jokes we tell one another. We Christians aren’t typically a funny bunch, choosing to excel instead in sobriety and seriousness. But one of the knee-slappers we tell, which relies on the audience’s grasp of irony, is this: never pray for patience.
I’m sure you see the irony of praying for patience. What if God delays in answering your prayer? I told you it was a side-splitter.
Since praying for patience feels like a losing proposition, I thought there has to be something I’m missing. How does God give it to his people? How do God’s people get it? Surely there’s a proverb that says something like
He who plants a seed of hope reaps a harvest of patience.
Patience is a dish best served late.
But alas, there’s nothing quite so clear. But I did find some interesting things. Here’s what the Bible does say about where patience comes from.
Lesson 1—Patience requires good soil
Notice in the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told, that the only seed the farmer had to wait on was the seed in good soil. The others didn’t require patience at all.
When the seed of God’s Kingdom is sown into places where it won’t grow—a path, the rocks, or the ditch—there isn’t any expectancy. There’s nothing worth waiting for. The seed is dead on arrival, choked out or killed by its surroundings.
The only seed with any hope of growing is that which lands in good soil. And guess what? Good soil doesn’t happen by accident. Good soil needs tilled. It has to be fertile and weeded. In order to get any fruit in your life, the soil of your heart has to be tilled and ready for God to plant something. Good soil is a prerequisite for patience.
Lesson 2—Patience grows from suffering
If there is any evidence that the Gospel is true, the suffering of the Jesus followers throughout the ages makes a strong case. From the beginning, Jesus’s people have suffered at the hands of world authorities and public opinion. And Paul is among the greatest of those having suffered.
In Romans 5 Paul writes
I did you another favor and bolded that last word, ὑπομονὴν (hypomonén). Does it look familiar? It’s the same word used by Jesus to describe how the farmer waits for his crop. Apparently, Paul thinks that suffering is fertile soil for patience to grow in.Suffering is fertile soil for patience to grow in. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet
Before you pray for patience
So, think about that before you pray for patience. What you’re asking is for the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to endure and wait. You’re asking God for the chance to prove your mettle. But it feel backwards, doesn’t it? We ask God for patience. He responds by allowing us to suffer. We exert patience by waiting for God to deliver us.
To get it, we have to have it to begin with.To get patience we have to have it to begin with. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet
Thanks, Chip. Supremely helpful advice.
Stick with me here.
I want muscles
When I was growing up I wanted muscles. My dad was country strong. My favorite picture of him is when I was about a year old, and he’s holding me in his arms in the bathroom. He had just finished shaving, and he put a little shaving cream on my face too. He had his shirt off, and he was totally jacked, like swoll. And he was 40. I’m 36 and aspiring to that level of buffness.
As I grew I would tell him that I wanted muscles. But saying that I wanted muscles is ridiculous. I had muscles already. Who’s ever seen a skeleton with skin on it? What I meant was, I wanted my muscles to be big like my dad’s.
Work those muscles
So it is with patience. We all have patience, but it’s a muscle we need to exercise. As a dad I’m acutely aware of this in my kids. They want what they want now. The waiting is torture. But it’s my responsibility to teach them how to wait: waiting for that good thing to happen in its own time, waiting to feel better when we hurt, and waiting for God to answer our prayers.
Patience isn’t a gift God gives us. It’s a muscle God strengthens that’s already in us. In fact, we shouldn’t even bother asking God for patience, because it’s God who is already asking it of us.
Lesson 3—God asks us for patience
Three times in Revelation, God makes it clear that patience is something he asks of us, not the other way around.
And finally in 14:12
I took the liberty of bolding the words here ὑπομονῆς (hypomoné) just to make sure it’s clear. Enduring anything in this life is what God asks of us.
Don’t get me wrong. Asking for God’s help isn’t wrong at all. In fact I wrote a few months ago about how the best prayers are prayers of desperation. You can check it out here. The difference between asking God for patience and asking God for help is that you already have patience. It just needs the exercise required for building any muscle.
God’s promises worth waiting for
The good news is that there’s a lot to gain from having patience. Here are ten promises that God makes to us when we are patient. You will:
- Preserve your soul—Luke 21:19
- Bear fruit—Luke 8:15
- Inherit eternal life—Romans 2:7
- Find hope—Romans 15:4
- Receive consolation in suffering—2 Corinthians 1:6
- Gain what was promised—Hebrews 10:36
- Become mature, complete, and lacking in nothing—James 1:4
- Be called blessed—James 5:11
- Become godly—2 Peter 1:6
- Be kept from the hour of trial—Revelation 3:10
I will also add that patience is the first requirement of love as Paul lists it in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience is clearly a virtue.
As a father, a husband, an employee, a brother, an uncle, etc. I am called to greater likeness of Jesus. How do I get there, and how do I take those I love along with me? How do I grow more patient? How do I exercise that muscle? How do I till the soil of my heart? How do I…
Here’s the answer.
Wait for it…