We’re working our way through a series called The Faithful Christian. This is the fifth presentation in that series. We’re hoping for two more, for a total of seven presentations about faith. We think that these basic topics, divided into specific presentations serve as reminders –food for thought – sort of a checklist for spiritual necessities. I read somewhere that a minister said that sermons are like food – not all are memorable, but all are nourishing. This series doesn’t have to be earth-shaking new truth, or interestingly controversial – just spiritually nourishing – keep our minds on the right things. So enough of that.
Today we are going to examine the sister of faith – patience. The two go together like fraternal twins – completely different, but when found in each other’s company, they explain a lot about the other.
I started my research on this topic by reading all the passages in the Bible that contain the words patience or patient. One set of these words – found mostly in the Wisdom Literature and some in the New Testament – was about being patient with others – enduring with the faults of other people, being kind and humble, instead of angry and forceful, especially necessary for children with parents, and vice versa. Another set of them had to do with the necessity of God being patient with us. David prayed about this a lot – and for good reason – the same reason we all have – extreme weakness, foolishness, ignorance, etcetera. And the rest of the uses of the word had to do with being patient with God. And this is the one we’re going to focus on today, mostly – being patient with God.
I had somewhat of a hard time naming the various types of scriptures about patience. I’m going to call this one hoping patiently. And it has to do with hoping patiently for the greater promises God has made to us – hopes that we all have in common, like eternal life, and salvation, perfection, forgiveness and grace – those sorts of things.
One of the most demonstrative examples in the Bible – to me, at least – is that of the children of Israel at the Red Sea. In Exodus 15, we can start reading – verse 1:
Exodus 15:1-5 – Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD – this after they had been saved – saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.
V-8-12 – At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.”
It was a spirited celebration, to be sure! They thought they were all goners and then, an amazing miracle. Let’s go back and notice what happened here – beginning in Exodus 14:5:
Exodus 14:5-7 – When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” What got into us? So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.
V-9-14 – So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army. And they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon. And Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel lifted up their eyes. And, behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid. And the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. And they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Eygpt, you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Sarcastic lot, weren’t they? “Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone, so that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
V-21-28 – And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. Did you know, by the way, that there is a monument that’s still there today where that event took place? I saw a really excellent video about it a while back. I wish I could remember the name of it. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and when the morning appeared, the sea turned to its full depth while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained.
V-30 – So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
You know, sometimes, after we have done all we can and all we have been told to do – you know, pray and obey – then it’s time to shut up and stand still. And that takes what? Patience, right? And faith. After we’ve done our pitiful part, then we just hide and watch – to see what God will do. And while we’re waiting, we have to do that patiently, because we know that He acts in His own time and in His own way – not on our schedule. And He is not conventional in the way He does things – the way we think of conventionality. So, while we’re hiding and waiting, more often than not, that takes faith and patience in good measure.
Another one that I think about all the time – we read it a few weeks ago in Hebrews 11:39 in our series – Paul talked about all these people who – you know, all the patriots and all the prophets and all the people of God down through the ages, who were persecuted and lived in caves and were not well-fed or well-dressed – he said, in Hebrews 11:39:
Hebrews 11:39 – And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. And he said that was because they were waiting for us, so that we would all receive it at the same time in the resurrection at the seventh trumpet.
We all have to wait in faith for the promises to be fulfilled. And that’s hard. But it’s easier if we can stand steadfast and patient. You know, while you’re being patient, you are steadfast. You’re hanging in there. So that’s good.
Let’s look at another one. I think this is probably the most meaningful of all to me – Revelation 22:18. This is at the end of the book of Revelation, where John says:
Revelation 22:18-20 – I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. And then John adds: Come, Lord Jesus!
You know, we all want the terrible suffering in the world to end. We all want Jesus Christ to return. And He says, by His timeline, He is coming soon, but we still have to wait. We still have to get up every morning and do what we have to do. We have to wait patiently.
Let’s look at another kind of patience now – that needs to go with our faith. I told you I had trouble naming these. I’m just talking about here what I’ve called praying and patience. It’s not really a good name for it. The point I want to make is that all the things we pray for that are smaller in scope than the great promises of God – things like a watch in a red box, or being healed of cancer, or the mentor in our masters’ program will get back to us with needed feedback on our papers so we can get a good grade on it. Another example of this can be found in 2 Corinthians 12:2, where Paul was writing here, and he said:
2 Corinthians 12:2-3 – I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – that’s where God resides – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. He, of course, is talking about himself in some vision that God gave him.
V-7-10 – So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Over the years, there have been all kinds of theories about what that was. Paul says things that make us think that he had trouble with his eyes. We know that he wasn’t very good looking toward the end, because he had been stoned and had many deformities. But whatever it was, it something that bothered him a lot. And he said, in verse 8: Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “Therefore I will boast” – Paul says – “all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. And he certainly did experience those in his service. And then he says: For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So this was one of those requests that received the “No!” – a flat no. Now God did explain why He said, “No,” and it wasn’t because He was mean or angry with Paul, but because it would help Paul become perfect. It would help him become a better servant actually. In weakness, he is made strong.
Now, I have never had God tell me face to face, or even a voice or a thought in my head, “Stop asking.” But I have been told either, “No,” or “Not yet” many times. I didn’t hear a voice saying that. I just learned from what happened that God wasn’t going to answer that prayer, or maybe He wasn’t going to answer it yet. Generally, there’s a scripture about all the other smaller stuff in Philippians 4:6.
Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So this is where we turn it over to God, and then go our way and do our jobs. This is about the stuff that we need and the things that we want. It can be about any of the things of life.
I was listening to Jimmy Garoppolo, who is the 49ers quarterback this year, in an interview. He was traded to the 49ers several years ago from the New England Patriots, which was one of the best coached football teams in history. And he said that he learned, in New England, that what he needed to do was to focus on doing his job. That was sort of the motto that the coaches preached to all the players: “Do your job!” – not complaining about unfairness, or others who are not doing their jobs, or what he didn’t get, or what he didn’t have, but on doing his job. And when playing a game, not to worry about everybody else, but just focus on doing your job. Well, that’s what helps us be patient. We have a job to do, and we do that while we’re waiting for God to give us the answers to our prayers. We just go about our business and do our job. While we’re doing that, that is an exercise of faith – just continuing on. The Bible talks about patient continuance. That’s it – doing our jobs.
Since Elaine and I became independent Christians, we’ve had two big projects we have worked on – our counseling practice and our ministry. They’re intertwined, really. I learn from the ministry about helping clients. And I gain from clients examples to illustrate various aspects for our video ministry – audio ministry. Sorry. So both these efforts have gone forward by prayer. Both of them have taken way longer to develop than we expected and that we wanted. But we didn’t really have a choice. We could only go as fast as we could go and as fast as God would let us. It all went forward at God’s pace, not ours. For years I wanted to reach people outside of our own little church circle. It wasn’t until late in the game – 2017 – that we started putting our materials out as podcasts. And once we started doing that, our mailing list has seen many new people, that we don’t know, signing up for our mailing list. I mean, who knew? I should have known, I suppose – podcasting is for the public – but I didn’t. Now I do.
One more area of focus. This one fits on every object of patience – big, small, important, unimportant. Let’s look at a rhetorical question: How long? How long, O Lord? How long before you return? How long before You heal me? How long before You save me from this trial? How long before You come back?
I looked this phrase up – like I did faith – and guess what? We’re not the only ones asking this question. God’s asks it too of us. How long are you going to be rebellious, deaf to My commands, spiritually lazy? How long will it take for you to get the point? How long will you play church before you actually get serious and start doing it?
Now, you know, this is a really important point. When we ask the “How long?” question, it’s a good thing if we stop and think about what God might be asking about us at that very moment. Maybe we’re preventing Him from answering our own prayers, like Paul was. Just a thought. That thought is an expression of poverty of spirit – the first and foundational training point for all disciples.
Now we know it’s impossible to please God without faith. That’s what Paul told us, and we’ve covered that already in this series. Faith is made easier if we’re patient while we’re waiting for Him to answer our requests. So, thinking about all of this today, let’s look at a statement that Jesus made to us that kind of drills down to the true importance of it all. Jesus was answering the “How long?” question , asked by the disciples regarding His return. And He said, “It’s going to get bad before it get’s better, but remember this: by your patience, possess you your souls.” So it’s a life and death thing – a matter of eternal life – that we have patience, so that we can wait in faith for the things that God offers.
Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families, and the Church of God.