sermon: Our Part in the Sanctification Process (Part Five): Cultivating Patience
David F. Maas
Given 16-Nov-19; Sermon #1516; 67 minutes
Numerous scriptures prove the deleterious effects of impatience committed by our ancient forbears. These examples are contrasted with the patience of the patriarchs, our Jesus Christ, and His Father. Some strategies for better discharging our responsibilities in the sanctification process include 1.) learning to despise and eschew the "victim mentality" currently cultivated and encouraged by the elite media, 2.) self-reflexively responding instead of automatically reacting, 3.) replacing pride with humility, 4.) welcoming trials and tests as opportunities for physical and spiritual growth, and 5.) committing the future to God Almighty. We realize that, while we may meticulously make plans, God will ultimately direct and establish our steps (Proverbs 16:9). When we commit our ways to and delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).
We will turn to several related scriptures upon which I intend to weave a theme for this message. Most scriptural references will be taken either from the Lockman Foundation’s Amplified Bible, the Lockman Foundation’s New American Standard Bible, or the New American Standard Bible E-Prime. (All three of these versions are available in electronic format on the Church of the Great God website.)
James 1:2-4 Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.
We are at this point in the series of “Cultivating the Fruits of the Spirit” at the fulcrum, nearly halfway through Galatians 5:22. To me, the relationship between patience and self-control is similar to the relationship between Passover and the Day of Atonement, completing the cycle between the micro and macro, the individual and the nation, or repentance and total purging of the memory of sin.
James 1:19-20 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].
James 5:7-8 So be patient, brethren, [as you wait] till the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits expectantly for the precious harvest from the land. [See how] he keeps up his patient [vigil] over it until it receives the early and late rains. So you also must be patient. Establish your hearts [strengthen and confirm them in the final certainty], for the coming of the Lord is very near.
Tom Shepard, in his article on “Developing Patience” warns us: “Don’t become a farmer unless you have a lot of patience. Much of a farmer’s job is waiting. They wait to till the soil—they wait to plant the seed—they wait to cultivate—they wait to harvest. There are many factors that are out of the farmer’s control—the economy, the price of fuel, and the greatest factor of them all is the weather—rain, heat, drought, flood, frost. One must have a lot of faith to be a farmer. The farmer deals with a lot of uncontrollable factors in life.”
James 5:10-11 [As] an example of suffering and ill-treatment together with patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord [as His messengers]. You know how we call those blessed (happy) who were steadfast [who endured]. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the Lord’s [purpose and how He richly blessed him in the] end, inasmuch as the Lord is full of pity and compassion and tenderness and mercy.
Sadly, back in 1966, our previous fellowship adopted and often strained at a position that Job was afflicted with—a bad case of self-righteousness, leading one of our Plain Truth writers to coin the term “Job-itis” as a synonym for pernicious self-righteousness. One minister I recall cited Job 13:15 which reads, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” as tantamount to blasphemy, implying Job thought he was more noble than God for being more longsuffering.
Clyde Finklea, in his message on August 8, 2015, “Was Job Really Self-Righteous?”, after recounting the harsh appraisal of Job in too many commentaries calling him "a classic example of self-righteousness," and "horribly self-righteous," asserts that the Scriptures clearly vindicate Job from that charge. Clyde further added that goes against the appraisal of Almighty God in Job 1:8, “The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
If we accuse Job of self-righteousness, we are no better than Job’s so-called friends, who angered God with their pompous accusations against one whom God Himself had proclaimed as righteous. As Clyde pointed out, “What Job repented of in dust and ashes, symbolic of our lowly mortal state, was his total misunderstanding of the magnitude and greatness of God’s power—something that all of us fail to comprehend as well.”
Jesus’ half-brother James sets the record straight by praising Job as well as the prophets of old as an example of suffering and ill-treatment together with patience. The patience of Job has become legendary in both religious and secular parlance in our culture.
Remember James has instructed us to let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that we may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.
Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered.
One of the synonyms for patience is longsuffering, something the pre-incarnate Christ, or Yahweh, had in abundance. As fully God and fully man, serving as our Trailblazer, Forerunner, First of the First Fruits, Advocate, High Priest, and Elder Brother, He subjected Himself to the same temptations, trials, and tests as we suffer, but giving us an example how to endure these things without sinning. Through yielding to the grueling sanctification process, are also learning to be obedient, reflecting the very character of Almighty God and are sharing with our Elder Brother the privilege to glorify our heavenly Father.
I Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory [full of radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [exultantly]. If you are censured and suffer abuse [because you bear] the name of Christ, blessed [are you—happy, fortunate, [h]to be envied, with life-joy, and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward condition], because the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God, is resting upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
As Jesus, while a human, was purified through suffering, our sanctifying process does the same thing to us as we patiently weather the trials of our spiritual pilgrimage. We must refrain from resisting or running away from the tests that God is putting us through but must paradoxically welcome, even embrace these character-building trials as part of the magnificent workmanship God is shaping in us.
In II Peter 1, the apostle Peter gives us some incremental steps to grow in grace and knowledge, attaining the mirror image of Jesus Christ.
II Peter 1:6 And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety).
Notice again how patience and self-control (the fourth and ninth of the spiritual fruits listed in Galatians 5:22) are inextricably intertwined. James 1:4 teaches us that if we allow God to test us, letting endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, we would be perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing. Likewise, Paul placed self-control at the very end of the list of spiritual fruits, indicating that the perfect character of Christ cannot be developed in us unless we cooperate with our Creator, exercising maximum effort, tending to our part in the sanctification process.
I Corinthians 10:9-13 We should not tempt the Lord [try His patience, become a trial to Him, critically appraise Him, and exploit His goodness] as some of them did—and were killed by poisonous serpents; nor discontentedly complain as some of them did—and were put out of the way entirely by the destroyer (death). Now these things befell them by way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period). Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
We see that God Almighty always gives us a life raft to take hold of amidst a trial, but He expects us to exercise effort to take hold of this assistance trusting His unfailing providence.
Colossians 3:12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].
My dear mentor, the late Bob Hoops used to say, “Humility is a garment that feels like grubby rags to the one wearing it, but a finely tailored suit to one looking on.”
Colossians 3:13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].
Notice that humility connects to patience as pride connects to impatience. One cannot expect to carry out Christ’s mandate to forgive others as our heavenly Father has forgiven us unless we reciprocate this love by forgiving others.
My specific purpose of this message, (after reviewing some of the deleterious effects of lack of patience committed by our ancient forbears in Scripture, and then contrasting it with some notable scriptural examples of patience demonstrated by the patriarchs, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and God the Father), I would like to provide some practical strategies as to how we may hold up our part of the sanctification process. Some of these strategies include:
• learning to despise the “victim mentality” (encouraged by the liberal media-industrial complex),
• self-reflexively responding instead of automatically reacting,
• replacing pride with humility,
• welcoming trials and tests as opportunities for physical and spiritual growth, and
• committing the future to God Almighty.
We, of course, realize that while we may meticulously and diligently make plans, God will ultimately direct and establish our steps (Proverbs 16:9), and when we do commit our ways and delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).
In his January 15, 2005 sermon “How Can We Develop True Patience?”, Martin Collins cites a Chinese Proverb which reads: “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” This profound aphorism has taken on much significance for me as I reflect on some of the incredibly foolish rash decisions which I have made over the past 75 years, many of them made following my calling, as well as decidedly calmer, wiser decisions that, in retrospect, preserved a sorely needed sense of equilibrium.
The Scriptures contain many examples of exemplary patience and rash, ill thought-out decisions or behaviors which forever changed the course of world history. Consider the example of Abraham, who is called the “father of the faithful” and “the friend of God.” Abraham, however, several times in his spiritual journey, failed the test of patience, and one rash decision has left the offspring of Jacob with the Islamo-fascist terror groups known as Isis, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hezbollah, and Arab Spring, to name a few.
We trace the beginning of that horrendous can of worms back to the account in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:9-10. God had promised Abraham a son (Genesis 13:16), promising that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth, so that if a man could count the dust of the earth, Abraham’s descendants could likewise be counted.
He and Sarah waited very patiently for approximately 10 whole years, but they had no son. At this point Sarah became very impatient and suggested to Abraham that he have sexual intercourse with her maid Hagar. He agreed—and the results were disastrous, right up to this very day. We learn in Genesis 16:12 “And he [Ishmael] will be as a wild ass among men; his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he will live to the east and on the borders of all his kinsmen, a perpetual enemy of Isaac’s and Jacob’s offspring.” Historically, both Ishmael’s and Esau’s progeny have had a barbaric fetish of decapitating their rivals—just as Al Qaeda and ISIS proudly do to this day.
Charles Seet, in his article on “Spiritual Growth: Patience” writes,
Another example of the awful price of impatience is seen in the nation of Israel during their journey to the Promised Land (Numbers 21:4-6). They began their journey well, experiencing God’s miraculous deliverance at The Red Sea, and God’s wonderful provision of manna and of water from the rock, and receiving God’s law at Mount Sinai through Moses. But, according to the book of Numbers, after they left Mount Sinai, and had to keep up the process of travelling in the wilderness, marching, and setting up camp from place to place, week after week and month after month, they became weary and discouraged. As a result of this, many of them lost their patience and rebelled against God.
By doing so they left a testimony not to follow their tragic example. I Corinthians 10:11 reads, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Perhaps one of the saddest examples of the sin of impatience (underscoring the aforementioned ancient Chinese maxim, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin an entire life”), is demonstrated by King Saul when he hastily and presumptuously offered a sacrifice, countermanding Samuel’s specific orders not to even think about it. Let us turn to I Samuel 13 for the essential narrative:
I Samuel 13:7-13 Some Hebrews had gone over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Saul waited seven days, according to the set time Samuel had appointed. But Samuel had not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from Saul. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering [which he was forbidden to do]. And just as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came! Saul went out to meet and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were assembled at Michmash, I thought, the Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. So I forced myself to offer a burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly! You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God which He commanded you; for the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever; but now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
If Saul would have been able to wait just another hour, or perhaps just 15 more minutes, the course of history would probably have been changed and Saul’s legacy may have continued in perpetuity.
These horrible examples of the consequences of impatience thankfully are abundantly counterbalanced with laudable, praiseworthy examples of patience. Consider this self-appraisal of our Lord and Creator as He revealed Himself to Moses:
Exodus 34:5-7 And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, keeping mercy and loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
The reluctant prophet Jonah complained that patience was a trait that God seemed to overdo, declaring:
Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “I pray You, O Lord, is not this just what I said when I was still in my country? That is why I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and [when sinners turn to You and meet Your conditions] You revoke the [sentence of] evil against them.”
Let us turn to Psalm 103 to consider this appraisal of Our Lord and Creator by the psalmist David, a self-confessed adulterer, murderer, and for the most part, a colossal failure at childrearing, but nevertheless a man after God’s own heart, as he proclaims:
Psalm 103:8-14 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness. He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge. He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.”
Martin Collins, in his sermon “How Can We Develop True Patience?” singled out our patriarch Jacob as an example of someone who endured adverse conditions without complaining. He was a man who had great patience. His patience required that he serve fourteen years for his marriage to Rachel. Afterwards, he continued to serve Laban another six years to earn flocks for himself. During this time he endured fatiguing heat and painful cold. He suffered from lack of sleep. His wages were changed ten times, and he had to tolerate loss from his own flocks to pay for stolen animals. Yet, through all of this, his lack of complaining is extraordinary. Our forefather Jacob was to be sure a man of great patient endurance.
Isaiah prophesied this character trait of our Lord and Savior in Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, [yet when] He was afflicted, He was submissive and opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”
The apostle Peter alludes to this amazing hard to master trait.
I Peter 2:20-23 [After all] what kind of glory [is there in it] if, when you do wrong and are punished for it, you take it patiently? But if you bear patiently with suffering [which results] when you do right and that is undeserved, it is acceptable and pleasing to God. For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example, so that you should follow in His footsteps. He was guilty of no sin, neither was deceit (guile) ever found on His lips. When He was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; [when] He was abused and suffered, He made no threats [of vengeance but he trusted [Himself and everything] to Him Who judges fairly.
One would think that Our Lord and Savior would be entitled to the victim mentality currently espoused by society—but He did not. John 10:18 proves that Jesus maintained control of the horrible events that were about to happen, claiming not victimhood, but victory by trusting in the will of our heavenly Father.
John 10:18 “No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily. [I put it from Myself.] I am authorized and have power to lay it down (to resign it) and I am authorized and have power to take it back again. These are the instructions (orders) which I have received [as My charge] from My Father.”
We need to imitate our Trailblazer and Elder Brother, refusing to ever wear the filthy, polluted rags of victimhood, exchanging them for a faithful acceptance of certain victory as we proactively yield to God’s creative workmanship and purpose for our lives. Like the paragon of patience, we know as Job, we often are not in control of our experiences, but we not only have the capability of controlling our evaluations, but are commanded to do so, learning to mindfully respond to all our circumstances instead of fearfully and automatically reacting to them.
In my last sermon in Myrtle Beach, I referenced Dr. Herbert Benson’s 1975 best-selling self-help book, The Relaxation Response, which took issue with the long-held notion that we are perpetual captives to the so-called fight or flight response as was hypothesized by physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon in 1915. Dr Benson was able to prove through systematic meticulous research that the body has also been endued with what he termed a relaxation response, a learned, inducible physiologic state of quietude-a survival mechanism to combat stress—the ability to heal and rejuvenate our bodies, reversing the neural damage inflicted by inappropriately triggered fight or flight responses we have previously learned and practiced.
With the continued learned practice of regular systematic meditation, we learn to turn stressful situations into quietude and oases of tranquility.
Some of us may think we have been shortchanged on the traits of patience and common sense. I remember overhearing my Dad once complain to my mother when I was 6 years old, “There’s not much we can do about David’s high-strung nature; he was obviously born with a mercurial artist’s temperament.” Personally, I have my doubts that an artist’s temperament gene can be found in a DNA sample. The Scriptures reveal that emotional control is something that people learn from modeling behavior from other people.
Proverbs 22:24-25 Make no friendships with a man given to anger, and with a wrathful man do not associate, lest you learn his ways and get yourself into a snare.
Our family, our friends, the media we watch all mold our emotional repertoire. Anger and impatience are learned emotions—just as contentment and patience are also learned emotions reinforced by diligent practice.
All of us, having garden variety human nature, would like to run away from stressful or unpleasant situations, resisting any event which threatens to destroy our sense of equilibrium. Even Our Lord and Savior asked our heavenly Father in Luke 22:42, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done.”
Melissa Eisler, in her July 2013 article “Respond vs React: How to Keep Cool in Times of Stress,” asserts that while the words “respond” and “react” may seem semantically similar, there is a profound difference when confronting stressful situations. The difference between the two, she claims, lies in, “a deep breath, a pause, or a brief moment of mindful presence.” That moment can mean the difference between sending the entire situation or relationship soaring to greater heights or falling down a precipitous slippery slope.
“Reactions,” she states, “are purely instinctual and stem from the subconscious mind. There’s no filtering process when you react in a situation—you’re running on autopilot. When you react, you do and say things without thinking first and don’t consider the implications of what you do or say—you just act. Reactions are like a puppy who hasn’t been trained. That untrained puppy is going to bark at every dog it sees, jump at every passing neighbor, and then he’ll eat your dinner as soon as he sees it.”
Responses, on the other hand, are more thoughtful. When your respond, you first explore in your mind the possible outcomes of your reply before saying a word. You may weigh the pros and cons and consider what would be best for yourself and others in the situation. Responses are more like the well-trained and well-behaved dog who comes when you call him, barks only when there is a reason to bark, and waits patiently for his treat.
In a later article, “Seven Strategies to Building Your Patience Muscles,” published exactly one month ago, Melissa Eisler counsels her readers that automatically resisting stressful situations may be highly counterproductive. She asks, “Have you ever noticed that when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with resistance, you are really thrown off—and your mood can turn sour and heavy? Everything becomes about overcoming and removing the challenge when you resist it. On the other hand, when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with calmness, your mood remains steady and patient. This is the power in responding, rather than reacting to unwelcome circumstances.”
John Ritenbaugh, in the same vein, urges that we cultivate the habit of accepting trials, responding to them with a James 1:2-3 acceptance rather than a Jonah 1:2-3 reluctance. In his June 1998 Personal in the Forerunner, titled “The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience,” John Ritenbaugh writes, “We must begin to cultivate the habit of thinking of life, including all of its trials, as being God's way to shape godly character in us.”
James makes what seems to be a paradoxical statement in James 1:2: We should count our various trials as joy. Why? Because verse 3 says that doing so produces patience! We need patience so God can mold us into His likeness. Even God cannot produce godly character by fiat. James is teaching us that we should not measure the experiences of life by their ability to please our ambition or tastes, but by their capacity to make us into God's image.
If we have any vision—and a zealous desire to live as God does—we can welcome our trials as steps in God's creative process and meet them with patience and hope. Perfection in this life is to become what God wants us to become. What could be better than that? If we understand that our lives are in God's hands as He molds and shapes us, then the meanings—the eventual outcome—of joy and sorrow are the same. God intends the same result whether He gives or takes.
Rejecting the mainstream Protestant doctrine of eternal security or once-saved, always saved, encouraging a no-works, lazy, spiritual passivity, I would like to use an athletic analogy to demonstrate our responsive, reciprocal acceptance to the challenges and tests God pitches to us in the World Series of life. I cannot think of any member on a baseball team who does more in terms of anticipatory proactive response, reciprocity, and responsibility than the catcher. The catcher must learn to read the styles and quirks of a whole host of pitchers, almost assuming the status of alter-ego of the pitcher on the mound, keeping his eye on potential base-stealers, and assiduously guarding home plate more vigorously and tenaciously than any hockey goal tender.
My favorite baseball player of all time is Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez who joined the Texas Rangers back in 1991, when he was only 19, the youngest player to catch in a major league team. Having studied the methods of multiple, diverse pitchers, Pudge immediately established himself as an excellent hitter, the youngest player in the history of the Texas Rangers to hit a home run, as well as scoring the most runs batted in. He was also proficient in throwing out would-be base-stealers. The Texas Rangers boasted that no other catcher in the past 35 years had ever been as successful at that aspect of the game, with Rodriguez throwing out 48.6% of the base-stealers through May 2006.
Julie, Aaron, and I had the pleasure of watching Pudge Rodriguez many times in Arlington Stadium, most notably in one of the World Series Playoff games in which he played a major role in liquidating the untouchable New York Yankees. His multi-faceted desire to serve the team permanently endeared him to me as a role model. Brothers and sisters, all of us need to emulate the high degree of alertness, proactive responsiveness, and above all the calm self-control of Rodriguez.
Often, as I prepare the CGG abstracts, I fantasize myself as Pudge Rodriquez, anticipating how the sermon giver is going to pitch the ball, anticipating how the theme is developing, with the umpire, my faithful copy-editor, Charles Whitaker, standing in back of me, yelling, “outside,” “ball two,” “strike three,” “ground ball,” “runner safe at second base,” “He’s out!”
Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Between the beginning and the end of the sanctification process is a lengthy journey, filled with a combination of exhilarating, horrendous, mundane, and sometimes potentially boring experiences. Like our forefather Abraham, who once he was summoned out of Haran, never ceased to live in a tent, a temporary dwelling, keeping him aware of his temporary pilgrim status, proclaiming in Hebrews 13:14, “For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come.”
Always on the move, always calculating the consequences of his life’s experiences, mindful of God’s faithfulness, Abraham taught us to enjoy the journey as much as the anticipated destination. Too many of us impatiently implore our heavenly Father, “Are we there yet?” when we should be patiently evaluating the incremental steps in the sanctification process.
We have, through a glass darkly, apprehended our heavenly Father as a Potter and ourselves as the clay. We have, through a glass darkly, envisioned God as the sculptor and ourselves as the sculpted. In Gary Petty’s sermon/article “The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience” he metaphorically described God as a blacksmith, firing up the iron implement until it is glowing red and transparent, after which He dips it in cold water (symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit), and then proceeds to pound it again, removing the imperfections.
If we would patiently trust our Creator for the mutually desired outcome—an offspring in the image of our Savior and our heavenly Father—the journey would perhaps seem a little less arduous. Chris Benjamin, in his book, Life on the Vine, in the chapter on “Cultivating Patience,” encourages us to appreciate the journey as much as the destination.
In 1983, I took my older sons Mike and Eric on a trip from our home in La Crescenta, CA through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and arrived at our destination in Augusta, Maine for my cousin’s wedding. It took over a month to accomplish this trek, as we stayed with friends, relatives, state parks, and national parks along the way. This slow-paced, leisurely trip gave me an insight as to how much God must have loved Abraham, blessing him for his faithfulness and giving Jacob’s offspring (the majority of which have turned into spoiled ungrateful brats) this massive bountiful heritage. As we now frenetically fly from coast to coast, we miss out on the extraordinary beauty of the inheritance of Jacob’s progeny. Likewise, we need to value the process of sanctification as much as the end-product of sanctification.
Back in 1958, my eighth grade Algebra teacher, Mr. Noack called me up to his desk. “David,” he said, “How many of these equations did you actually do yourself?” In my heart I knew that I had enlisted the help of my father, who among other things was a skillful mathematician. I sheepishly asked, “Are the answers right?” at which he responded sharply, “You don’t know algebra unless you can systematically work these equations by yourself.” Our heavenly Father has likewise mandated that we be able to systematically incorporate the steps to enable us to live as God lives while we are on the journey; not at the very end.
In his June 1998 Forerunner Personal, “The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience,” John Ritenbaugh uses a construction metaphor to describe the transitory, incremental life experiences as a process toward a greater spiritual end. John writes, “The events of life are merely the scaffolding for shaping us into His image, and we should meet them with patience as He continues His work. This will work to flatten out the emotional extremes we tend to experience.”
The spiritual fruit of patience is a learned response. Patience in the early stages of our conversion is not what we are but what we do in response to God’s tests. We cultivate this fruit by practicing it and practicing it and practicing it until it becomes a reflex. God will allow us to bear spiritual fruit, but He wants to be sure that we want it. In order to determine whether we want it, He will allow situations that will test and refine that quality.
I personally have a difficult time acquiring patience. Back in Hawkins, Texas (a community of about 1300 people), I used to continuously complain about the traffic snarls accessing Highway 80 from Beulah Street. In hindsight, it seemed to be a signal to God that Dave Maas needed to see what real traffic all is about. Having now lived in Southern California since 2013, I now realize that I had forgotten what a real traffic snarl was.
Every day, from 4:00 to 5:00 PM, our classical music station KUSC plays anti-road rage music, which they dub car-tunes. If the commute is unpleasant, at least the soothing music will restore a feeling of calm and patience.
Several weeks ago, I read an insightful article by Jack Nolan, titled “How To be Patient in an Increasingly Impatient World.” He recommended that people who are high-strung and impatient dedicate a regular day every week to practicing patience. The idea behind dedicating a regular day to practicing patience is to develop the habit. As this habit begins to strengthen, we can add more days and make patience a core part of our personality.
Does that sound simple? It might, but it is not so easy when we are trying to stick to a consistent schedule and make it a part of us. It is a simple habit but it is not easy. A day of patience entails forcing ourselves to not make snap decisions, not respond to messages or comments without thinking, and not doing anything in the course of our day without deliberation—a practice which general semanticists refer to as “self-reflexiveness”— thinking about our thinking, or as pop psychology refers to as “mindfulness.”
Nolan cautions us that as we undertake the activities of our day, we strive to not multitask. We instead focus on the task at hand, right in front of us, and we finish it to the best of our ability. Nolan suggests that if a whole day is too taxing on our nervous system, that an hour each week would at least allow us to get some preliminary practice at developing patience. We might want to consider the preparation day for the Sabbath, dubbed by some as Freaky Friday, as the ideal practice time for patience-perhaps devoting an hour to this activity to get into the routine.
The first thing we need to internalize is that God may be allowing certain situations that freak us out to test whether we are responding to His shaping. The other day I started having numerous computer problems for which I instinctively blame the progressive engineers in Silicon Valley. As Aaron and I commenced hiking in the Corriganville Movie Ranch, I got the message on my cellphone that CGG.org has refused to connect with me. After blaming the Silicon Valley engineers, I yielded to the distinct possibility that Almighty God may be allowing these annoyances for a reason and plodded along several minutes in silence. Presently, my son Aaron then slowly replied, “You know that probably half of computer connectivity problems could be solved by rebooting.” I tried it and the pesky, annoying message had disappeared.”
I habitually overreact. I do not want to be impatient, but I am. Or should I say I have practiced the bad habit until it became a reflex. When the curser on the computer runs in a perpetual circle and the popup “Not Responding” appears on the screen, Dave Maas has learned to react to this annoyance like a bull before a waving red flag, as much as if a passing motorist would see me changing a tire and then ask, “Did you have a flat tire?”
This past week, while finishing this sermon I had to quarantine myself from the satanically inspired kangaroo court in the US House of Representatives to keep from blowing some emotional circuits. With these temptations to lose emotional control, I find it necessary to get out of the way of my mercurial temperament and seek our Lord’s counsel.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil.
Proverbs 14:17 He who foams up quickly and flies into a passion deals foolishly, and a man of wicked plots and plans is hated.
Proverbs 14:29-30 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty of spirit exposes and exalts his folly. A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.
To wrap this message up, please turn over to one of Herbert W. Armstrong’s favorite scriptures, especially as he came to grips with his frailty near the close of his life:
Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint or grow weary; there is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound]. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.