Sun. a.m. AGCC 6/25/2000
"PATIENCE IS LOVE'S STABILITY"
TEXT: Gal. 5:22; II Pet. 3:4,9,15; I Cor. 13:4; James 5:7-11
INTRO:The one quality sorely lacking in our culture and society today is "patience!" Just look at our lifestyle:
a. instant cereals, instant soup, instant coffee, instant milk, etc.
b. instant credit, instant delivery, instant success books
c. instant drying glues
d. instant winners
e. instant pain relief, instant acid indigestion relief, instant relief from hemorrhoid pain, instant whitening teeth, instant eyeglasses (less than an hour!)
f. instant on TV sets, instant hot burners on stoves,
Is it any wonder that our Christianity often reflects a similar ring:
a. we want instant relief from pain & problems - "name it and claim" theology
b. we want instant spiritual maturity - to teach before adequate learning!
c. we want instant spiritual authority - those who "bind and loose" and "command & confess" in the name of the Lord without even knowing what that really means.
d. we want instant results from ministry - those who keep starting and stopping ministries or moving from place to place if things don't happen fast enough like they want - can be true of pastors & laypeople
The truth is that a lack of patience rarely gets us ahead like we think!
ILLUS:Annual cost of running red lights (in medical bills, car repairs, etc.): $7 billion --- Average amount of time saved by running a red light: 50 seconds -- U.S. Department of Transportation, cited in Hope Health Letter (2/96). "To Verify," Leadership.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that patience as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives helps to develop stability in our walk with God.
I. GOD'S PATIENCE II Pet. 3:4,9,15 I Cor. 13:4
A. Enduring With Sinners II Pet. 3:4,9,15
1. The world essentially mocks spiritual realities.
a. They scoff at Christians and the Bible for saying that Christ is coming again … something that we have been saying now for thousands of years!
b. The sinner doesn't see evidence of anything big coming … everything to them has pretty much stayed the same since the days of creation.
c. This smug attitude is sometimes hard to deal with … even for Christians!
2. Yet, God is not slow concerning His promises … at least from His vantage point He is not slow … but it sure seems that way to us humans!
a. God's "slowness" is merely His patience at work with sinners … yes He has not yet acted, but this doesn't mean it won't happen, just that it hasn't happened YET!
b. God's patience means salvation for the lost! God is being patient so that many more can have an eternal relationship with God.
3. God is enduring with patience sin and sinners so that some may be saved.
a. God NEVER waits too long on anything (remember that next time you think He messed up or forgot you).
b. God IS ALWAYS working out some purpose when there are delays … even if those delays are caused by our own mistakes. (This is the meaning of Rom. 8:28 "And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.")
4. Sooner or later the truth of God's reality and the presence of heaven will strike everyone … so much better to be ready now!
ILLUS:Thomas Edison had been in a coma. Coming out of it he said, "It is very beautiful over there," and then he died. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
5. Our world judges everything by what it sees NOW, but God's purposes are at work during this time of His patience with sinful man.
a. sinful man underestimates God and His love … and His plans! (Unfortunately, so do some Christians!)
b. this is not wasted time during His patience, He is creating His people for eternity and His patience now is good news for sinners!
c. some may not come right away, but perhaps later … God knows what He is doing!
ILLUS:I learned a remarkable fact about the cocklebur: its sticky seed pod contains several seeds, not just one. And these seeds germinate in different years. Thus, if seed A fails to sprout next year because of a drought, seed B will be there waiting for year after next, and seed C the year after that, waiting until the right conditions for germination arrive. -- Graham R. Hodges in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 4.
B. Ending With Saints! I Cor. 13:4
1. Once understood, God's patience results in sinners becoming saints!
a. The opportunity to turn to God is NOW … and the change is profound in our lives not only for the present but also for the future!
b. God's patience now becomes our patience!
2. Like God, we are called to have love that shows patience with others … if God lovingly endures us while we were sinners we too can learn to be patient with others who are still sinners … and even those who are saints!
a. Patience is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
b. It's presence in our lives allow us to minister gracefully to others even when they don't appear to deserve it.
c. God's patience with others can also be our patience with others.
3. Patience by it's very nature exists only in circumstances where there IS NO answer NOW.
a. Therefore, to love others with patience probably means that they don't presently deserve it!
b. Yet, we love patiently in hopes of what will be, even before there is evidence that it will be!
ILLUS:I remember a time when I was waiting for soon to become now. I went down in Oconomowoc to a little lake where we live, and I sat there very early in the morning praying, pleading with God that my soon would become now. "God, I cannot see you working. What about all these prayers that people are praying? This is a terrible situation. What are you doing about it?" God said to me, "Any fish in that lake?" I looked at the lake, which was like glass, and I said, "Sure. Of course there are fish there." "How do you know? Do you have to see fish jump to believe they're there, Jill?" I remember sitting there for a long time until I could say to God, "If I never see a fish jump, I will believe they're there and active. If I never see you answer a prayer, I will believe." -- Jill Briscoe, "In the Father's Arms," Preaching Today, Tape No. 141.
4. Why does God put up with all the sin and sinners in this world? Why does it seem that the wicked get away with murder while the righteous suffer?
a. Because God is PATIENT -- allowing for salvation to occur!
b. Why should we be patient? -- for the same reasons!
II. MAN'S PATIENCE James 5:7-11
A. Extremely Selective! 5:7-8
1. James calls on all believers here to reflect God's attitude of patience, "until the Lord's coming!"
a. We can't choose to be patient for some things and not others … patience itself is a virtue God's calls us to.
b. We usually have no problem being patient with our own spiritual development, but have a hard time with others around us that seem to be growing slower than we think they should!
2. Spiritual fruit is like natural fruit, it takes time to develop! No farmer plants potatoes today and expects to harvest them that same night!!!
3. If PATIENCE IS LOVE'S STABILITY, the lack of patience will be instability!
a. This is what happens in relationships … someone loses patience, and all stability is gone!
b. This is what happens in groups, even Churches when they lose patience with one another!
4. The Christian call is to be patient with ALL … it not only stabilizes others, it stabilizes us!
ILLUS:I know two law partners who used to hate each other.
When one became a Christian, he asked me, "Now that I'm a Christian, what should I do?" I said, "Why not ask him to forgive you and tell him you love him?" "I could never do that!" he said, "because I don't love him." That lawyer had put his finger squarely on one of the great challenges of the Christian life: On the one hand, everybody wants to be loved, but on the other hand, many people never experience it. That's why we need to learn to love as Christ loves--unconditionally. We can't manufacture that kind of love. It only comes from God; and it's a love that draws people to Christ. I prayed with that attorney. The next morning, he told his partner, "I've become a Christian, and I want to ask you to forgive me for all I've done to hurt you, and to tell you that I love you." The partner was so surprised and convicted that he, too, asked for forgiveness and said, "I would like to become a Christian. Would you tell me how?" See what love can do? -- Bill Bright, founder and president, Campus Crusade for Christ. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
5. It is not easy to be patient … and some have prayed, "Lord give me patience, and give it to me NOW!" -- sounds like a typical American Christian prayer!
a. God's fruit in our lives demonstrates patience toward ALL, not certain ones.
b. Our lives would be much more stable if we would learn to have patience in what God is doing in us, through us, and in others as well.
B. Encourages Stability 5:9-11
1. When James says not to grumble against one another he is saying that they had lost their patience with one another -- hence the grumbling, "I can't take so and so anymore!"
a. James says on the other hand, "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered." (9:11a)
b. He is recognizing the stability & happiness ("blessed") of those who have learned perseverance or patience.
2. Tragically we often jump the gun on discontent … and fail to understand how good we may actually have had it -- all because our patience ran out too soon.
ILLUS:The Hope Health Letter (10/95) included this story:
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down. In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. "Do you have a rooster?" asked the wise man. "Yes," he replied. "Keep the rooster in the hut with your family, and come see me again next week." The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess of the hut. "Do you have a cow?" asked the wise elder. The man nodded fearfully. "Take your cow into the hut as well, and come see me in a week." Over the next several weeks, the man--on the advice of the wise elder--made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother's children. Finally, he could take no more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all the animals and guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents. The home suddenly became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.
3. We must remember, we are backwards people:
a. Sinners always have their past catching up with them ---
b. Saints always have their future catching up with them!
c. Since we look forward and not backward we can be patient because we know what is coming! This gives us stability in the NOW, something people don't have who have to worry about their past catching up with them.
4. Granted that things don't always move fast enough for our likes and tastes, but if we are patient God may surprise us yet!
a. So many Christians have properly missed out on blessings before because they acted too soon.
b. What we need is the wisdom to know when to wait, and when not to!
5. Many of the best things that come in our life will not come quickly!
a. success is rarely instant!
b. healthy finances do not come from instant lottery wins (in fact it ruins a large percentage of people's lives who do win large sums of money instantly!)
c. character needs time and challenges to develop.
6. Most of what is good in life comes slowly and through boring repetition! (boredom is under rated!)
ILLUS:It was Bishop Hugh Latimer who said that a drop of rain made a hole in a stone, not by violence but by continually falling. So we need patience and perseverance. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
7. God is patient - He is very stable, patience would encourage our own stability! DO WE HAVE PATIENCE LIKE GOD? Instead of always reacting impatiently to others we could act redemptively toward them with patience!
a. How about that spouse?
b. How about those kids?
c. How about that boss?
d. How about those co-workers?
e. How about those sinners?
f. How about those saints?
g. How about that preacher!?
h. How about that Church?
CONCLUSION: In an age when society demands everything to be "faster" and "now" the attribute of patience can be quite a challenge. While the age of instant coffee and instant credit can meet a quick need they do not satisfy long term. Patience gives stability to our lives, and it is a wonderful part of being Spirit filled!