Marcelo is the pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and the author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life.
How Long Will It Take?
In the Bible, patience is a desirable virtue
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Ecclesiastes 7:8, KJV).
…and a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22)
The Seed of Knowledge
I remember that as a child I used to become angry when playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on my Nintendo Entertainment System. At the beginning of the game, the contenders were easy to defeat. They became stunned by almost any punch, their attacks were weak, and their weaknesses were easy to figure out. But as the game progressed, the contenders blocked almost every punch, their attacks were so powerful that they became impossible to block (Mike Tyson could actually knock you out with one punch), and their weaknesses were ore concealed.
Eventually, after trying to defeat the same character over and over again, I would become angry and frustrated, and my whole evening would be ruined. Nothing could make me happy after losing to the same character over, and over, and over again (except, of course, playing The Legend of Zelda!). The reality is that I never got to face Mike Tyson by defeating all the previous contenders; and I never got to defeat Mike Tyson even when using a code.
I wasn’t very patient as a child, but what child is? It would have been easier to endure the game if I had knowledge, knowledge about every character’s weakness, and about every character’s attack pattern. I think the game would still have been challenging, but a lot more fun, had I known how every contender was supposed to be defeated.
Now, take a look at your Bible. Read Genesis 31:1-16. Laban had truly tested Jacob’s patience by changing Jacob’s wages several times in an attempt to keep the family close to him. Even Rachel and Leah were upset with Laban (their father). Nevertheless, Jacob had an important piece of information that was helping him endure: God had told him the result of the sheep’s breeding.
So even though Jacob would have surely preferred to have left working for Laban sooner than he did, knowing how the sheep would breed and putting that to his advantage surely helped him endure.
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out
The Seed of Experience
I recently had to take a boy to the hospital for my job. As I was waiting, a lady called to enquire about the waiting time. She had called previously, and she was calling again. She suspected her husband had meningitis: she had diagnosed it by making reference to a medical website. Nevertheless, she did not want to bring her husband to the hospital at the time because she was concerned it would take too long to see a physician. Needless to say, the receptionist told her that if the situation was that serious, she needed to come anyway.
Waiting at hospitals is never easy, but when you or a loved one frequent the hospital, you learn to anticipate the wait, and to take a book to read, and a notebook to write or draw. One time, my wife and I had to wait four hours to see the surgeon, and then we were told he couldn’t see us because he had to take care of an emergency. Of course we were furious! But I think by now we have gotten used to it.
A few months ago, I went to a clinic because I wasn’t feeling well and took off from work. As soon as they gave me a room, I fell asleep on the bed. I was tired, I knew I would have to wait because the place was full, so I didn’t see any point in allowing myself to be bothered about something that just had to run its course. When I woke up, I still had to wait for the doctor to see me. At least I had rested.
You see, experience teaches us to be patient. Things don’t happen from one moment to the next, but over time. The more we experience waiting, and the more we wait for a process to be completed, the more we develop the virtue of patience. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ used this fact of life to teach us that we should wait for a processes to be completed not only on Earth, but also in the spiritual realm.
“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; / And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. / For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. / But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mark 4:26-29, KJV).
Time Lapse Video of Growing Maize Plants
The Seed of Faith
I found myself without a job some time ago, but I was not worried (even though I had many bills to pay). God graciously granted me the faith I needed to be at peace, resting in the assurance that He would provide for my needs and my wife’s needs.
I began to apply for jobs, but I kept feeling they were not the right fit for me. Then I had a dream one night: my friend and his wife were with my wife and me, and they were inviting us to come along with them. I saw in the sky, and the stars were arranged in a W pattern, when I thought they should be arranged in an M pattern. Eventually, my wife and I followed my friends.
I do not rely on dreams to derive my theology: I rely on the Bible. But I felt as if that dream meant something special for me.
A month later, God provided a job for me in a way I was not expecting. My friend (the one that had been in my dream) was offered a job, and she declined it because she did not feel that she had the necessary computer skills to handle it. But when she declined it, she told that school about me. They eventually hired me.
I know I mentioned about the W and the M in my dream… I’ll leave that detail for another time. For now, I want to focus on the fact that God provided, and that the period that followed in my wife’s life and mine was a period of joy, rest, and hope. It was a period through which God continued to build my vision and passion for the ministry of his word, and it was a period in which my wife was able to rest and receive physical and emotional care that she needed in her life.
The Bible makes a very powerful statement in regards to the events we face in life: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, KJV). This is a promise from God, we can trust it, we can place our faith on it. The promise of God feeds our faith, and faith feeds our patience, and patience keeps us going until we receive a blessing from God. This is the way in which faith works.
For this reason, the Bible instructs us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). First we must trust God’s promises, then that faith keeps us going, and finally we receive the inheritance that God had promised to us in the first place.
Moreover, the Bible tells us that all throughout our lives we need to be patient in doing what pleases God. There will be times when obeying the Lord will not seem immediately rewarding. Maybe obeying the Lord will seem unimportant to the rest of society. It may even be that obeying the Lord will require sacrifice. But the Bible tells us that we should persevere because God will reward us when we finally stand before Him in Heaven. (Galatians 6:9)
What is Faith?
The Consequences of Not Waiting
Impatience can have detrimental consequences in our lives. An outburst of anger can quickly put us in conflict with other people and in situations that can even be dangerous to ourselves and others. A colleague of mine once told me that his dad yelled in anger at the motorist of another car. When his dad parked his car at home, the other motorist pulled over behind him. The motorist got off the car, and pointed a gun at my colleague’s father. “Would you like to repeat what you said?” the motorist asked. Happily, my colleague’s dad had enough sense to apologize! The reality is that impatience can lead people to make foolish and unsafe decisions.
Impatience can even lead us to disobey God. Remember King Saul? He got tired of waiting for Samuel to come and offer the sacrifice, so he offered the sacrifice himself, in disobedience to God’s order (1 Samuel 13:7-14). Saul did not realize that even though Samuel was late, God was still in control; and that the testing of his patience was also a test of his faithfulness to God!
There are also Christians who give up following the Lord because they become impatient with Him when life deals them an adverse hand. They give in to greed, lust, and addictions because they get tired of waiting for God to answer their prayers and rescue them from the adversity they face.
Ultimately impatience is the result of lacking faith in the goodness and sovereignty of God.
The Bible teaches us to patiently wait for God to answer our prayers and work in our lives.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1, KJV).
“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11, KJV).
Ecclesiastes 7:8 tells us that the end of a matter is better than the beginning. Why? Why is the end better than the beginning? When something begins, the battle is still to be fought; but when it ends, God gives his blessing to those that love Him, and those that have been patient receive a reward from Him.
I find that there are three seeds for patience: knowledge, experience, and faith. Knowledge is useful because it teaches us how the world around us works; experience is useful because it teaches us how life unfolds; but the greatest of these is faith, because faith rests on the love and the promises of God. The world may fail, life may end, but God's love and promises are secure for ever and ever.
May the Lord use this devotional to help you have patience in the small matters of life, and in the big matters of life also.