The Old Saying Goes . . .
If you have been in a church very long at all, I imagine you have heard plenty of talk about the character quality of patience. Some believer starts talking about their desire to grow in this area, then along comes some elderly saint with a joke claiming you shouldn’t ask God to help you grow in patience cause you might get your request! The point being, growing in patience is a strenuously difficult task. While I definitely think we should ask God to help us grow in this area, and every other, it certainly is not always easy. Colossians 3:2 includes patience in a list of qualities we are called to exhibit:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” -Colossians 3:2
Even if we must fight to grow in this area, there is no doubt exhibiting patience is a command from Scripture. How many times do we find ourselves in a situation where it is difficult to maintain patience? Perhaps when you are in a doctor’s office a little longer than you would have liked, or maybe the restaurant is a few minutes slow in bringing the meal to the table. Then again, maybe it is a more serious life situation, such as when you are wondering if a loved one who has a serious disease is going to live or die and all you can do is patiently care for them, but that waiting period can be difficult. The question for us as believers is to seek to understand how we cultivate this attitude of patience in the first place. Actually though, that is not the starting point for learning to live patiently. Our foundation is realizing we are called to glorify God in every moment of life, whether that be in the waiting period or not.
The Time of Patient Waiting is Not Waisted
In a social media society, it can be easy to elevate the photos of the championship, but not admire the work of a champion. Everyone applauds when you win the trophy, few are there when you are putting in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to lift it up. Similarly, we can fall prone to highlight the “championship” moments of life. We can fall prey to the temptation of believing that we only glorify God when we obtain the goal, hit the mark, or reach that long-awaited objective. An individual in the workforce might think they only honor God when they hit the big goal, not when they are in the process of working to get there. Students might believe the highlight of their time obtaining an education in the eyes of God is finals week whenever you hit “submit” on the final after grueling work. A pregnant mother might believe she glorifies God when the baby is born, but not during the entire time she is carrying the little one. However, we see quite a different story presented in Scripture. Friends, the truth is that we are called to glorify God not only at the end of the journey, but throughout the entire process.
A short passage from the prophet Habakkuk perfectly illustrates the point on this matter. Habakkuk brings questions to God about the sins of His people, to which God replies He will bring judgment by the hands of the Chaldeans. Then, Habakkuk asks God seeking to understand how He can use a more evil nation to judge one that is still wicked, but not as evil. We come to an important section in Habakkuk 2:1:
“I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” -Habakkuk 2:1
Habakkuk does not sit around anxiously waiting on God nervously tapping his fingernails on the stone beside him. No, he intentionally waits on the Lord to see what the answer will be. Here’s the point, Habakkuk did not just glorify God when he asked questions, nor only when he received answers, but also when he demonstrated faithful trust in God by patiently waiting on Him. So also, when we go through situations in life where we might be tempted to brashly rush along believing we have to get to the destination our mind has set in order to glorify God, then we miss honoring Him in this moment and living with joy in where He has providentially placed us.
Faithful, Joyful, Patient Obedience
After looking at the example of Habakkuk, we see the reality that we must glorify God not only in the moments of life where we reach the end goal, but also in each step along the way. That reality drives us to exercise patience which also propels us to labor hard at what God has placed before us and trust in His providence for the future. If you are searching for a job, glorify God in how you use this time of your life, not just when you find the employment role that is a good fit. That reality does not mean that you do not look earnestly and eagerly, but that you do so while living with contentment and joy in the moment. We become impatient when God’s plan does not work as quickly as our own. Discontentment wells within our hearts whenever we covet something we do not have, impatiently want to always be somewhere faster, or achieve a goal quicker than what God has ordained. Yet, patience is demonstrated when we, like Habakkuk, live with complete trust and dependence upon God.
Think about the patience of Christ in knowing what was before Him during His incarnation. He did not just glorify the Father on the cross or at the resurrection, but also during every single moment of His life. He could have recoiled at the fact death did not come quicker on the cross, He could have discontentedly rebelled when there were multiple strikes upon Him by the soldiers. However, he willingly submitted to the plan of the Father, glorifying Him every minute, demonstrating perfect patience in fulfilling the mission He undertook. Every single second on the cross was ordained by God in His perfect plan (Acts 2:23, 4:28). If our Lord demonstrated such complete patience and submission, shouldn’t we also seek to do the same as His followers? Patience comes from a heart fueled by God’s glory willing to lay aside self and live obediently according to the Scripture while trusting in the plan of God. Christ was active and labored hard during His earthly ministry, yet He was completely patient. That perfect example of our Lord is what we must each seek to imitate in our lives!