Have a Little Patience
by Beth Harrell
“Bless me with patience… not the opportunity to be patient!”
I heard this little gem and thought, “That’s exactly right!” I don’t want the opportunity to display patience, I just immediately want it.
No-one anywhere likes to wait for things. There is almost nothing in our material world that we can’t get immediately. I can have something as insignificant as a pack of toothpicks delivered to my door in two hours. So naturally, we begin to expect similar immediate results in other areas—even ministry and discipleship. It’s not intentional, and we know that ministry doesnt work that way, but the slow and erratic nature of spiritual growth is in complete contrast to the rest of our lives.
If you have been following Matthias Media for a while, you likely know what I mean when I talk about the 4 Ps of ministry: people, proclamation, prayer and patience. In honest moments, I will admit that I tend to ignore that last one. I don’t really factor patience into my grand plans for ministry. Which is, of course, a problem. And this problem has been magnified as I’ve felt myself growing frustrated and restless with the forced slow pace of our current situation.
As we are now gradually starting back at church, teaching Bible studies and gathering in small groups, I’m praying that this forced slowdown will help me to remember that I am not privy to God’s timetable. I need to remember how important it is to allow patience to saturate my discipleship.
There have been many times in my life when a dear friend or teacher allowed me the space to grow in my Bible knowledge. They presented new thoughts or challenges and then helped me to gain confidence in my knowledge of God. During their patient persistence over years of conversation and relationship, the Holy Spirit was at work. They continued to pour truth into my life and gradually the truths of Scripture became clearer. But for them, I’m sure, it was a frustratingly slow process.
It’s good to remember my own growth as I prepare to go back to ‘in-person’ people work. You can likely relate to the experience of hearing a kind, well-intentioned church member, who has been sitting in classes and under solid preaching for five years or more, enthusiastically quote a prosperity author that makes your skin crawl. How is that possible? Why is he or she still struggling with elementary understanding? Why do they get lost in the weeds of good marketing? I don’t know… and I may never. But it doesn’t change our mission—to patiently, prayerfully proclaim the gospel.
The patience that friends and mentors have afforded me has produced results for which I am eternally thankful. And now I have the opportunity to pay that patience forward to those I encounter. That all-important fourth P is a requirement as we continue to proclaim God’s truth to his people. In the midst of that patience, while we face slow results or seemingly zero change, it’s helpful to remember what God has to say about patience:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25)
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7)
“... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love...” (Ephesians 4:2)
I love that these verses call for both remembering God’s patience in how he deals with us and commanding patience as we deal with others. We need to be thankful for both the giving and the receiving of patience. I thank a good God for people in my life that have patiently walked alongside me as I grew in my understanding of certain biblical themes. And I thank a good God for the opportunity to watch brothers and sisters grow, even if the change is hard to see.
Discipleship is almost never instantaneous. Human relationships simply don’t work that way. So make sure to properly set your expectations before you begin. There is someone somewhere that is being patient with you and there is someone somewhere in need of your patience. It won’t come as fast as your toothpicks, but the slower results produce longer lasting joy.