Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Fruit of Patience

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Patience is not something at which we as humans particularly excel. No doubt like me you recall your parents reiterating to you time and again, “Patience is a virtue.” And indeed, patience is a virtue – just not one that we practice well.

The reason for our failure originates with our first parents. Rather than entrust themselves to their Creator, knowing that in time He would give them all they could ever need or desire, our first parents impatiently grabbed at joy and blessing. Believing that they knew best, they ate the fruit that God had restricted and brought upon themselves and all their posterity toil, hardship, misery – challenges that would demand even more of the virtue of patience.

Unfortunately, we have followed in their steps ever since. Like them we grab for things before their time; repeatedly pluck the fruit before it is ripe. As children, we are impatient: we scream and cry when things don’t go our way, we pout and fuss and whine. As youth, we are impatient: we grab for the privileges of adulthood while shunning its responsibilities. As singles, we are impatient: we lust for the intimacy of the marriage bed and fail to wait for God to provide us with a spouse. As parents, we are impatient: we expect our children to be perfect when we ourselves are far from the same. As churches, we are impatient: we endeavor to increase our attendance while failing to disciple our congregations. As a nation, we are impatient: we want economic prosperity by government decree rather than through dint of hard work, steady plodding, and genuine productivity.

The root cause of all this impatience – ours and our first parents’ – is idolatry - we do not trust God and so we grasp for what He has not yet given in fear that He won’t give it. And our impatience brings upon ourselves and our children toil, hardship, misery – challenges that God puts in our way to teach us even more to be patient.

Contrast our impatience with the character of our Creator: He has shown Himself longsuffering and patient again and again and again. When our first parents transgressed against Him, He covered them in clothing and promised to provide a Redeemer. When our fathers sold their brother Joseph into prison, God used Joseph to rescue them from destruction. When our fathers were enslaved in Egypt, God raised up Moses and delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh. When our fathers rebelled against God in the wilderness and tempted Him at the waters of Meribah, God forgave the guilt of their sin and continued to lead them. When our fathers constructed a golden calf and bowed down to worship it, God forgave them, gave them His law, and led them to the Promised Land. And though all of us have sinned repeatedly against our Creator, shunning His law, despising His image in our fellow man, He sent His Son Jesus to die for us and cover our sin. God is patient. And it is His patience that enables Him not only to rescue us from our sinful impatience but to teach us, by the power of the Spirit, to grow in the virtue of patience.

And so reminded of our impatience and the way in which it contrasts so forcibly with the patience of our Creator and Redeemer, let us kneel and confess our sin to Him.

Our God and Father,

You have been and continue to be patient with us. Your patience is shown most in the Person of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus, who gave Himself for us – sinful, impatient sinners – in order that He might make us into a new people by the power of the Spirit. Forgive us our impatience and renew us by Your Spirit.