Using Patience Wisely

By a show of hands, how many of you here this morning have a problem with a lack of patience? Well, I see I'm in good company.

Now I am not saying all impatience is a problem or a bad thing. As a matter of fact impatience does fulfill an important role in our lives, in our jobs and within the church. Impatience is what moves us to action when it seems we're spinning our wheels and going nowhere. And impatience is sometimes required to move us beyond where we are to where we ought to be.

But today I want to focus the message on the importance of patience, and how we can use patience wisely from God's perspective.

When Jesus left this world, He promised his disciples that he would soon return. Yet what the disciples failed to understand was that "soon" didn't mean the same thing to Jesus as it meant to them. To the people of Jesus' day, "soon" meant within the next few days. So some of them quit their jobs, sold all their goods, and gathered on a hillside waiting for what they believed was the immediate return of Jesus. But as we know Jesus hasn't returned yet, so we are called to continue to wait, and wait patiently.

Now as many of us know first hand being patient can be hard. So what are we to do while we wait? Well James, in our scripture reading, reminds us that while we patiently wait, we are to use our time wisely, we're to use our time working for the Lord.

James also helps us understand patience when he speaks of the farmer and how a farmer must patiently "wait for the land to yield its valuable crops." A farmer has to be patient and wait for his crops to grow; he can't hurry the process.

But even as the farmer waits during the summer months for his crops to grow he doesn't take the summer off, there is still much work to be done. In the same way we must wait patiently for Christ's return, and while we wait there is much work that we can do.

As we wait for Christ's return we are to spend time growing in our faith and sharing our faith with others so that God's kingdom continues to grow and flourish. You see both the farmer and the Christian have something in common, they must live by faith, looking to the future for the rewards of their labors.

Now while we patiently wait, we also know that we'll hit some rough spots along the way, and we'll experience some ups and downs in our lives.

And we all know that when things go wrong, which they will from time to time, we can have a tendency to grumble, complain, and blame others for our misfortune. I mean lets face it; often times blaming others is a whole lot easier than taking responsibility for our own actions. But again James offers us some advice and cautions us that this is not a wise use of our time, nor is it fruitful.

Therefore before we judge others for their shortcomings, remember that Christ the judge will come and evaluate each of us. And he will not let us get away with shifting the blame of our own shortcomings to others.

So as we wait for the Lord's return, we can't allow our frustration to turn us against God's people, and we can't allow ourselves to judge. This is not a wise use of our time. We need to stay focused on growing God's kingdom, not tearing it down. In reality we probably all should have a big sign hanging around our neck that reads, "I'm sorry, be patient with me; God's not finished with me yet."

Now patience, like most Christian characteristics, is one of those character traits that grows over time rather than being given to us in fullness overnight. Patience is not automatic, although it does seem some folks have a knack or gift for patience, but in general patience must be learned and learning takes time and effort.

In my own efforts to learn patience I've discovered some interesting things. First I've discovered that to receive the gift of patience we need help, so going to God in prayer and asking for help is a good place to start.

Unfortunately some of us when we recognize the need for patience, and we go to pray, we say a prayer that goes something like this: "Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!" Amen

Now I tend to be a goal oriented person, so I establish goals for myself personally and professionally, and then set out to achieve them. And perhaps some of you do the same.

But what I've found in my own life is that sometimes achieving the goal isn't as satisfying as I thought it would be, or achieving the goal was somewhat anticlimactic. What I've discovered is that real growth and real satisfaction come from working towards the goal, not in simply achieving it. Has anyone else ever felt this way?

The process of working towards the goal is where the challenge is, not just in achieving the goal itself. And as I've come to know myself better, I realize that what really gets me "juiced up" is the challenge. Now this doesn't mean I don't like to reach or achieve a goal. Rather, what I mean, is ultimate satisfaction also includes the process that leads to achieving the goal.

I sometimes wonder if this is why God in Christ hasn't returned yet. Perhaps God also gets satisfaction from seeing people work through the faith process, working through challenges and seeking him for help.

Sure it would be easy for God to snap his fingers (metaphorically speaking) and save the world, but will that bring true wholeness if we haven't struggled through the process of coming and growing in faith.

I've also realized that exhibiting patience does not have to be time wasted or dead time, if one is pursuing growth. Often those periods where patience is required is a time of faithful preparation so that after the goal is achieved we're better prepared for the outcome, or we better understand the achievement from an eternal or divine perspective.

All of us here at one time or another have attended school, or will. Well we attend school to prepare us to get along in this world. School offers us the education required to get a job, and so on. Without this time of preparation we would struggle greatly to live and function in this world.

Yet for most of us there was a time when we couldn't wait to be done with school, so we could get on with life. We couldn't wait to get our drivers license so we could let our hair down and hit the open road. But without patience and using this time for preparation, getting a job and driving would be more difficult.

If Jesus returns and we aren't prepared the results could be deadly! If we don't understand our faith, if we haven't received Christ as our Lord and Savior, if we don't understand what's going on, eternity becomes nothing more than a word. So we do need to be patient for the return of Christ, but we also need to use this time of patience wisely.

Over the past two months several of us have experienced this same kind of feeling as we've started our Saturday evening Contemporary Worship Service. We feel strongly that God has led us to offer an alternative style of worship here in this community, so we stepped out in faith and as you know we've started this worship service.

When we kicked off this ministry 8 weeks ago we were hoping that over time we would fill the sanctuary, and I still believe this to be a valid goal and where God is leading us. But being the impatient person I tend to be, I wanted the sanctuary filled by week 2.

In reality what we've experienced over the past 8 weeks is anywhere from 10 to 25 people attending our Saturday evening service so far, and we are seeing God at work, as more and more new people are coming to worship, and are beginning to inquire about creating a praise team and praise choir.

What we've learned throughout this process is that God is telling us to be patient, don't focus on numbers and use this time of patience wisely. So even though people aren't yet lined up outside to get into the sanctuary on Saturday evenings, every worship service, without exception, has been spirit-filled, full of energy and very much a service of worshiping God. We walk away blessed every Saturday evening (as I pray you do tonight).

In other words, while the community is becoming aware of the new worship service we are engaging in a time of intentional preparation as we work out the kinks of our new worship service, and as we better determine the worship needs of the community.

So that's what we're doing, and every time we run into a challenge whether it be an impatient attitude (usually mine), a logistical or technical issue, God has been there to provide what we needed when we needed it: encouragement, a solution we hadn't considered, and an attitude of faithful patience.

Also, we must realize taht even when our impatience is for what we think are good and godly reasons, Like our contemporary worship service, God still may say wait, I need to prepare you and I need to prepare others. Just as a farmer needs to prepare the fields so a fruitful crop is produced, so too does God need to prepare the soil of our hearts so that we might be fruitful in our endeavors.

As our children wait for Christmas Day with anticipation and expectation, we ought to be using the time between now and then not to just decorate, shop and wrap gifts, but we ought to use this time to also tell our children about the birth of Jesus and what Jesus' birth means to them and the world.

As we know all too well, eventually the gifts that are given on Christmas Day will be tossed aside as they become worn, broken or boring, sometimes faster then we as parents and grandparents would like to see. But the gift of Jesus Christ and all that his birth means is a gift that our children will retain for a lifetime. It's the one gift, the only gift, that keeps on giving.

As we patiently wait for the coming of Christ, as we wait the next 2 weeks to celebrate Jesus' birth again, we ought to use these weeks as a time of intentional faith preparation, teaching our children the truth of the Christian faith and why the birth of Jesus is to be celebrated and lifted up! Therefore, I encourage all of us to work faithfully to grow God's kingdom, knowing that Jesus will come again when God determines the time is right. Be patient in your waiting and use this time to grow in the grace and love of our savior Jesus Christ.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade