For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice – no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.
The story is told of a young Christian who went to an older Christian for help. “Will you please pray for me that I may be more patient?” he asked. So they knelt together & the old man began to pray. “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man…”
At that point the young Christian blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise old Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”
I. WHAT IS PATIENCE?
Well, if that is so, maybe we ought to begin by asking the question, “What is patience?” Let me give you some definitions.
1. “Patience is self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate against a wrong.” That’s pretty good. When someone does you a wrong, how do you respond – with patience or anger?
2. Here’s another: “Patience is the ability to accept delay or disappointment graciously.” How do you deal with delay or disappointment? For some that’s really tough. Yet, patience is the ability to accept it without becoming upset.
3. Here’s another: “Patience is the powerful attribute that enables a man or woman to remain steadfast under strain – & continue pressing on.”
Maybe that is where some of you are. You’re dealing with difficult circumstances. You’re a raising a child, or you’re caring for aging parents, or maybe you have a loved one who is ill & you’ve spent long hours at the hospital or nursing home. You’re weary, but patience is the quality that says, “This too, will pass. It’s almost over. I can keep on keeping on.”
4. But here is my favorite definition: “Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control.”
The story is told of an artist who went to visit an old friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a beautiful handkerchief that had great sentimental value, but which had been ruined by a spot of indelible ink.
The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail a few days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty. Now it was more beautiful & more valuable than ever.
Sometimes the tragedies that break our hearts can become the basis for a more beautiful design in our lives. Be patient with the hurts over which you have no control. In God’s hands they may even become a source of healing, help, & beauty.
II. IT IS DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP PATIENCE
Well, as desirable as patience may be, as the young Christian found out, it is not easy to develop patience.
A. For instance, I think developing patience is difficult because it goes against human nature. We aren’t born patient, are we?
When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night & is hungry, or its diaper is wet, it doesn’t lie there & think, “I know Mom & Dad are tired. So I’ll just wait until a more convenient time to let them know that I need something to eat or my diaper changed.”
No! That baby cries impatiently & continues to cry until it receives the attention it demands. Children aren’t very patient. Have you ever traveled with a child? That can be quite an experience.
How about the little 4-year-old boy who was traveling with his mother & constantly asking the same question over & over again? “When are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?” Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.” Well, the boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”
B. Now here’s a second reason why developing patience is difficult. It’s because there are weeds of pride, selfishness & anger that can choke out the fruit of patience.
A couple of years ago a survey revealed that we have become an impatient & oftentimes angry nation. You see it at work. You see it in school. You see it on the highways.
A man’s car stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. All his frantic efforts to get the car started failed, & a chorus of honking horns behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car & walked back to the first driver behind him & said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there & give it a try, I’ll stay here & honk your horn for you.”
C. Thirdly, patience is difficult to develop because it’s contrary to our culture. We don’t live in a relaxed culture. Go to most third world countries today & you’ll find a much different lifestyle. They’re more laid back. They think, “Whatever happens, happens. It’ll be all right.” And they wonder why we’re so uptight.
It’s because we’re on a fast track, & in a rat race. We’re in a world of fast food & quick print & expressways & 10-minute oil changes & instant cameras & microwaves.
There is even a church in Florida that advertises 22-minute services. Go there & they promise that in 22 minutes it will all be over, & you’ll be out of there. The sermons are only 8 minutes long. Now don’t get your hopes up. It’s not going to happen here in this message or at any church God uses me to deliver a word too.
One Calvin & Hobbes comic strip pictured his father sitting at a computer saying, “It used to be that if a client wanted something done in a week it was considered a rush job, & he would be lucky to get it. Now, with modems, faxes, & car phones everybody wants everything instantly.” About that time Calvin walks by holding a microwave dinner, reading the instructions. “It takes 6 minutes to microwave this,” he says. Who’s got that kind of time?”
D. I think another reason that patience is difficult to develop is because we have convinced ourselves that impatience is a virtue. So you hear people say, “Well, I may be impatient, but I get things done.”
We like “type A” personalities, hard-charging people who get things done, & somehow impatience is seen as a virtue.
But listen to the Bible. Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”
Patience is a virtue. And again & again the Bible teaches us that we need to develop this virtue in our lives.
A young man was very upset with his mother. They had argued, & at work that day he wrote her an angry letter giving all the things that he felt were wrong with her. It was a very nasty letter. After sealing the envelope, he handed it to a co-worker to mail it for him. Well, the co-worker knew what was in the letter, so he put it in his pocket. “Maybe he’ll have second thoughts about it. I can always mail it tomorrow,” he thought.
The next day, when he went to work, his friend was sitting there all forlorn, saying, “Oh, I wish I had never written that letter. I’d give $100 to have it back.” Well, you know what happened, don’t you? His friend pulled it out of his pocket & said, “Here it is.”
APPL. But in real life we don’t get them back, do we? In real life the words fly out there, & they continue to wound & hurt again & again.
III. HOW DO WE DEVELOP PATIENCE?
Well, are you convinced that we need to develop the virtue of patience? But how do we do it? Let me give you 4 suggestions.
A. The first suggestion is the same with every one of these virtues. “How do we develop love? How do we develop joy? How do we develop peace? How do we develop patience?” The answer is always the same, “Abide in Christ.”
Jesus, in John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me & I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
So it is important to receive the nourishment that only Jesus Christ can give. We cannot produce patience unless we’re abiding in Christ, unless we’re walking in His steps, unless we’re reading His Word, unless we’re growing in our prayer life, unless we’re spending quality time worshiping & fellowshippng with brothers & sisters in Christ.
B. There are other things that we can do. For example, we can slow down.
Has it struck you strange that the company that advertises, “You deserve a break today” is a fast food restaurant? “Come on in! Let’s see how fast you can take a break today, & then get out on the road again.”
The Lord came up with the idea of a sabbath day – a day to worship & rest. Our bodies need it, our minds need it, our spirits need it. We need time just to sit & reflect on God & what He’s doing, & absorb His teaching. So take a walk. Spend some time in the park. Watch children play, & listen to birds sing. Read a book. Plant a flower & watch it grow.
C. Thirdly, we need to overlook the little frustrations of life.
Warren Wiersbie tells about the time he picked up a hitchhiker who was kind of a hippie. As they were riding along they came to a detour that took them off the main road onto a twisting, hilly farm-to-market road.
Wiersbie said, “I was soon fretting aloud, anxious because we were wasting so much time, & complaining about the chuck holes in the road that we were being forced to use. Finally, the hitchhiker leaned over & said, `Hey, man. Don’t sweat the small stuff.’” That’s a good lesson for all of us to learn.
D. But what about the big things that we’re just not capable of dealing with? What do you do when the big stuff comes along? What do you do when you go to the doctor & he tells you that you have a serious illness? What do you do when you lose your job? What do you do when your children disappoint you? Or your spouse leaves, & life is empty? What do you do?
The Bible says that there are some things that we just can’t handle on our own, & that we’ll never be able to handle them without the Lord’s help.
There is a beautiful illustration of this in the 14th chapter of the Book of Exodus. Moses has led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage & they are standing on the bank of the Red Sea. Before them is this great body of water. Behind them they hear the hoofbeats & the chariot wheels of Pharaoh’s army. They are caught between a sea & an army. What do you do in a situation like that?
They turned & cried out to Moses, “Moses, weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? You led us all the way out here to die in this God-forsaken place.” Then Moses speaks in vs. 13, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm & you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”
Now listen to vs. 14, it’s such an important verse. Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
SUM. So it’s critical that we be still & wait on the Lord when it comes to the big stuff because our God can handle it.
IV. JESUS IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE
A. Once again, let’s turn to Jesus for the perfect example of patience. In the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus coming to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Leaving the rest of the disciples by the gate, He takes Peter, James, & John with Him into the inner recesses of the garden, & says to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here & keep watch with me” [Matthew 26:38].
Then Jesus went on a little farther by Himself & prayed. Luke 22:44 says, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly; & His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Then when Jesus came back, He found Peter & James & John sound asleep. Now how would you react to that? Here Jesus was experiencing the most terrible night of His life upon this earth, & they fall asleep, not once, but 3 times. And yet Jesus treats them with love & patience & kindness.
Evelyn Christenson wrote, “I wept as a cardiologist described Jesus’ drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was betrayed & arrested. Medical science reports that only when humans are under rare & extremely grave stress do their blood vessels break & mix with the sweat in their sweat glands…
“I grieved at how Jesus’ disciples could sleep when He kept appearing to them with His forehead bloodied. And, since the skin becomes so sensitive when it sweats blood that touching it is almost intolerable, I cringed at how my Jesus could stand to have the crown of thorns thrust into His tender brow. Wearing it for us! And the scourging, & the mocking, & the spitting! For us!”
B. Now there is just one more verse of scripture that I want you to see. It is 2 Peter 3:9, & it says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Have you ever stopped & wondered why God hasn’t intervened? Why doesn’t God send a lightning bolt? Why doesn’t God knock Saddam Hussein off the face of the earth? Why doesn’t He intervene when injustice seems to run rampant?
For one reason, God is patient & He wants everybody to be saved. Every day that He waits is just one more day for people to repent & come to Him.
If you have not come to Jesus, one of the reasons He may be holding back His judgment is because you haven’t come, & you’re His child. And more than anything, He wants you to come to Him, too.
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