Growing in Patience

 

patience

 

Patience.  I chose this picture because the cup in the cold window reminds me so much of me and my own need for more patience.  I love a big cup of herbal tea, but I leave some good head space when I pour my cup so that when it has brewed I can add some cold water to cool it down and get to enjoying it.

I’ve been asking God what He wants to teach me, and here it is: Four. Little. Words.

“It’s not about you.”  

When I was young my mom used to do this thing when I wanted something and she was stressed.  She would say, “Linda, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”  I hated that.  So much so that it was on my list of “Things I will never say to my children.” (And I haven’t.) It made me feel selfish and despicable inside, even when there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was asking.

When I sensed the Lord whispering this to me, “It’s not about you,” in response to my searching, it really brought up that dreadful feeling I used to get as a child.

“Lord, I know that.”  I responded.  “I know it’s not about me.”

Right?  I waited.

I felt as though I was being held under a microscope, and the discomfort of being wrung out so that my mess was on display.

And then a new understanding overtook me while my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts of the times I tend to be impatient. (Psalm 139:23,24) I know it’s not all about me, but my reaction to my circumstances prove that my heart and my head are not always in sync.

Beloved, you and I are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We were made by God, not for ourselves, but for Him.

Luke 1:74-75that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

We are here for His Purpose.

Put another way, 2 Corinthians 5:15  “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We are His agents, on His Mission, with His Perspective.

The gospel is meant for you and for me, but it does not stop with us.  We are to be about His business of reconciliation.  Our mission is to serve people by loving them and leading them to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

This reconciliation is possible because of the cross.

Jesus loved us, served us, reconciled us, indwells us, and works through us!

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The King James version, when listing the Fruit of the Spirit, does not say “patience.”  It says “longsuffering.”  That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?  The Greek word means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs . . . .

I am reminded that I, like Paul, am running a race that I want to finish well,  (2 Timothy 4:7). God is so gracious to give us gifts to help us in this race.  The fruit of the Spirit go hand in hand.  They are dependent upon one another and work together.

Love helps me extend patience toward other people who I find challenging along the way. Seeing people the way Jesus does, and remembering that “it’s not about me” lets me love them the way He loves me.  This is forbearance.  This is steadfastness.  Sometimes, as Elizabeth George put it, it is “waiting for the judge.”

I feel the need to point out that sometimes the one we need to love and forgive is ourselves.  When we get stuck, we surely are making “it” about us and we aren’t able to move on to the good works God has planned for us to do.  Also,

“To the extent that we resist reconciliation and forgiveness, we (the church) lessen the visibility of God’s grace to the community.” ~Jake Anderson

We need to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us if we want others to be able to embrace God’s grace for them.  If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, repent.  Forgive yourself because God does, and move on.  Go forth!

Joy helps me have patience to keep running when I am experiencing less than ideal circumstances.  On days when it feels like I’m being rained out of the race, it’s not about me.  Giving thanks brings me back to God’s perspective.  This is endurance.  This is also forbearance.  This is longsuffering.

Peace helps me experience patience during seasons when I wonder, “How can what’s happening to me right now really be part of God’s plan for me to carry out His purpose?” When life doesn’t make sense. When my heart breaks. It’s not about me.  I can trust God.  I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle:

“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

This is constancy; This is steadfastness!  This is abiding.

Patience isn’t always what you feel.  Sometimes it’s what you do.  It can be obedience. Obedience is not always what you want to do. It’s just that–obedience . . . you choose it, and God changes your heart along the way.

So, when you take time to consider, when is it that you are not patient?

  • When I am under physical stress: hungry (low blood sugar), sick, tired, or in pain.
  • When I am in emotional distress: some kind of emotional pain, when I am offended (can you say PRIDE?) or when someone/something has pushed my buttons.
  • When I am experiencing spiritual or mental stress.  I feel that these two are closely intertwined: experiencing a need for spiritual renewal (not spending enough time with God), experiencing worry (a sin), and when I am caught off guard (sidelined by something difficult without having time to prepare myself).

I realize that these are situations which tend to initiate a turning inward to focus on myself.  What are some practical ways I can help myself to walk in patience?

  • Prayer.  This is the most important place to start.   Daily, I need to ask God to change my heart, give me a “longer fuse,” and give me the attitudes He wants me to have.  And then I need to ask him to give me wisdom and open my eyes to the practical ways I can be more patient.
  •  Taking care of myself!  Intentionally getting enough sleep, planning ahead for meals, eating right, and drinking water through the day will help me avoid the physical stress that can make patience more challenging for me, and help me be more present for my family.
  •  On the emotional front, spending time with God every day keeps me healthier. Giving Him my hurts instead of dwelling on them, obeying scripture that tells me to pray for my enemies, and remembering to dwell on all things lovely (Phil. 4:8) are all part of my heart care.
  • Removing opportunities to sin.  Ah.  This is challenging!  I need to constantly evaluate myself. One example is that if I notice that I suffer with impatience when the whole family is going out, people are running late, gloves are missing, etc… I can help myself avoid this scenario by having everyone pack “to-go bags” the evening before.  I can lay out gloves in pairs and put the “little people’s” shoes in order.  I need to develop more systems to help myself avoid stress and chaos.  It will be better for the whole family.  I sometimes get sidetracked by the urgent, feeling discouraged when it feels like my children are slow to learn the practical skills I am responsible to teach them (like cleaning up after themselves!)  When I stop to remember that the greater responsibility is for my attitudes and actions to point them to Jesus, the every day messes fall into their proper places.
  • Following  Jesus’ example.  Jesus kept the main thing the main thing.  He came to do the will of His Father.  He was God, yet he had a flourishing prayer life.  He said he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19).  He didn’t veer from the plan.  He wasn’t side tracked by his enemies who abused him or by his disciples who sometimes loved ignorantly.  For the joy set before him, he was steadfast.  Our joy is in Him.  If we remember this we can keep the main thing the main thing.  We can remember that our purpose is to bring Him glory by carrying the gospel beyond ourselves “because of the tender mercy of our God . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke 1:78, 79),  and we can do it with patience.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

 

Loving and Leading, Part 3, What’s in Your Hand?

hands-and-leaf-image

“What’s in your Hand?”

It’s the question God asked of Moses in Exodus chapter 4. Moses wanted to know what he should do if he followed God’s directions to take Israel’s deliverance to them, and they didn’t believe that the Lord had sent him?

The Lord asked him, “What is that in your Hand?”

“A staff.” Moses answered.  Then he (God) said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.  But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”–so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand–“that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” (verses 2-5)

Moses had every excuse in the book.  God listened to them, growing impatient when Moses finally admitted the reason for all his “beating around the bush”.  He just wanted God to send someone else.

Stephen gives us insight into Moses’s response in the book of Acts when he states that,

“when he (Moses) was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.  And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.  And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.”  Acts 7:23-25

His Israelite brothers certainly didn’t see him as their redeemer at that time, and he had run for his life, living as a shepherd among the people of Midian for some 40 years.

Now God wanted to send Moses back to Egypt and to his people, but his pride had been wounded, he had a family in Midian, and he was content with his life. He hadn’t been able to lead the Israelites to their salvation 40 years earlier, so why would they listen to him now?  Send someone else!

Have you ever felt that God has given you a passion for something, but you doubted you could really do the thing your heart dreamt?  Perhaps it made no sense to you. Perhaps the timing was all wrong, and falling on your face, you were afraid to try again?  I think that is what happened to Moses.  He knew his calling, but he didn’t wait for God. He needed some humility.  This was God’s show, and God was going to get the credit for what happened next.

God had a plan, and made sure Moses was prepared.  Growing up in the home of the Pharaoh, he knew what the royal family was about, was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and Stephen goes on to tell us in the book of Acts that he was a man of power in words and deeds. (Verse 22)  Extrabiblical records tell that he was a brilliant strategist, leading the Egyptian army to victory against the Ethiopians army before the age of 30.   And Moses said he couldn’t speak very well!  😀

In addition to all of that, he was born a Hebrew and had a brother willing to be his helper, he was a shepherd who was used to leading a flock, and while I’m sure he had many other attributes we know nothing about, he had learned his lesson about humility.  Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was a humble man, “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  How would you like to put that on your resume`?  This is likely why God was willing to speak through Moses.

God didn’t need Moses, but He chose to allow him to participate in the grand plan, an honor you and I also have today.  Jesus commanded us to take the gospel into all the world.  It starts right here in our homes, our neighborhoods, the workplace–everywhere you step the light of God goes with you.

God told Moses that He would go with him (Exodus 4:12), and you and I have an even better arrangement.  If you are a redeemed child of God, you have His Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and he has promised to teach  you the words that you should speak! (Luke 12:12)

God has provided you with the Fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23).  He has given you spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit gives as He wills (1 Cor. 12).  He knows the plans He has for you, and even if you are unaware of what your gifts are, they will be available for you just when you need each one. He has allowed you to have experiences that have prepared you for the next step, and will have other people in place to partner with you as you have need.  He has given you preferences and talents that will come in handy along the way, resources and tools which you will appreciate when they are needed.  He hasn’t left out a single detail.  All that is left is your willing spirit.  God will lead you to the right place at the right time, and you can watch Him work.

Is God calling you to teach release time at a school near you?  Or teach piano lessons to children who He will one day use to touch the hearts of audiences far and wide?

Is He calling you to volunteer at a Christian camp?  Or spend time with a child who is growing up in a single parent home?

Is He calling you into a relationship where you can mentor someone younger than you?  Or tugging on your heart to give extra to missions?

To teach a ladies Bible class?  Or give your car away?

Are you, like Katie Davis, being drawn to care for a people far away?

We won’t all have to travel far, and most of us will not have to wander the desert with the ones we touch, but there is a whole wide world of captives who need to be brought out.

SO, what’s in your hand?

 

 

 

Loving and Leading, Part 1

Loving and Leading, Part 2, What’s Your Story?

Suggested Resources:

Explore your spiritual gifts @ www.spiritualgiftstest.com

A Man of Selfless Dedication, Moses by Charles R. Swindoll

Just Do Something, A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung and Joshua Harris