I can’t be patient in love, if I’m not patient in general. And I can’t be patient, if I don’t have opportunities to die to myself in order to practice patience.
But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. –James 1:4
Does it bother you when you have to wait a few minutes or even a few seconds longer than expected for something to take place?
The loading of a webpage. The credit card machine processing your charge. A reply to what you’ve said in a conversation.
Do you get easily annoyed with people who don’t do what you expect or with people who are “extra grace required?”
Like me, do you often pray, “When, God, when?” or “How long, Lord?”
Let’s face it, most of us wrangle for positions on the fast track these days and the slow or delayed get pushed off to the side of the road. When we speak of impatience, car analogies fit nicely here.
I know from firsthand experience, since I’ve been known to drive at or below the speed limit. Who knows, you may have honked at me or sped past me at “ramming speed”* without even realizing it. If you look in the rear view mirror and see a person waving goodbye to you, that would be me. The other day I finally witnessed a speeder get pulled over by a cop. Instead of rejoicing with glee, I kind of felt bad for that person. I’ve made progress. Since I’ve had to exercise patience in this area, I no longer have problems with impatient drivers.
*A reference from Ben-Hur (1959), as the galley captain urged the slaves to row their fastest. When he did, the galley drummer increased tempo, and the soundtrack intensified. (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Ramming speed)
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Did the world seem to move more slowly when Paul wrote his letter to the Church in Corinth? How about one hundred years ago? Fifty years ago? Twenty years ago? Modern technology has made the world go at breakneck speeds and, frankly, the people of today have less time to be patient. Some may even feel they have no time to be patient. No wonder there’s a discernible lack of love in today’s world.
The New King James Version translates 1 Corinthians 13:4: Love suffers long.
Okay, in our modern mind, it already takes time to be patient. But, how much time does it take to suffer long? I’m thinking it takes much, much longer.
Our world of fast food, microwaves, easy credit, online shopping and the “New York minute” doesn’t lend itself easily to suffering long. And, since we live in this world, our concept of time just might not line up with God’s concept of time. Even worse, our concept of time and waiting may be really messed up.
In the past, people respected the time it took to do things, while giving grace to themselves and others if things took longer than expected. A slower pace of life actually conditioned people to have to wait.
No matter how fast our modern society becomes, it still takes time to grow a plant, heal a broken bone, come to an understanding and be ready to forgive a person who’s deeply hurt us.
MODERN CONVENIENCES MAKE IT HARD TO BEAR INCONVENIENCE
Let’s face it, loving people and being patient with them can be inconvenient. I have to go out of my way to love a stubborn person, to wait for someone to get “their act together,” to walk with someone through a hard time and to bear another person’s weaknesses and character flaws.
Living in a world that prizes “quick and convenient” makes going out of my way that much harder.
In contrast, long ago God originally wove opportunities to develop patience in the fabric of normal, everyday life as people tilled the land, prepared food, washed laundry by hand, wove their clothes and blankets, saved money to buy the things they needed, etc.
Modern technology, however, seeks to decrease or eliminate many of the human processes that once involved labor and time. As a result, modernity cultivates within us an expectation that we don’t have to wait or even the idea that it’s not good to wait.
Things move as fast as we can make them move. Having to wait for something, therefore, strikes us as foreign and outdated. For example, in “the olden days” [back in the 1980s] they used dial-up to access the internet, which, sometimes, would take a few minutes. We’d call that process antiquated today. The world perceives “faster and modern” as always better than having to wait for anything.
If a machine, process, or service takes too much time (our perception), then something is wrong.
CREATION AND TIME TEACH US LESSONS ABOUT GOD
God created time to operate in a certain way to teach us things about Himself. God even goes so far as to call the markers of time signs that point to God and His ways.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years… –Genesis 1:14 (Bold mine)
Unfortunately, God can no longer teach us many of these lessons, since we no longer live in the context for which He illustrated these truths.
Satan, the prince of the power of the air, has tried to mess up time: speed it up, change dates, change the Sabbath, etc. The devil has forced us from the land through which Adam originally had a living symbiotic relationship. Adam meaning “ground or earth” came from the land. God also gave Adam the job of cultivating and keeping the land. (Genesis 2:15)
Likewise, most people lived throughout history in agricultural societies. They followed the rhythms of day and night, the waxing and waning of the moon, and springtime and harvest. They had to till the ground, plant their crops and wait for them to grow.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. –James 5:7
In this context, it’s interesting to note how many of Jesus’ parables used nature and farming principles to illustrate timeless truths.
In the last century, mass numbers of people have moved away from the land to congregate in cities. Moreover, globalization aims to put most of the world’s population into cities, where people can be monitored and “supervised” more easily. Green spaces within glass and concrete jungles poorly substitute for a living, vibrant connection to the land and in a larger sense, creation. To put things in perspective, consider the fact that Cain built the first city in Genesis 4:17.
In an earlier blog post, we talked about the Biblical principle of “first mention.” When the Bible “first mentions” any word or subject, that first occurrence needs to be studied carefully. Whatever we see in that first passage will set a precedent for understanding later occurrences of that topic.
Plucked from the land and disconnected from process, “All Natural” has now simply become a marketing strategy to entice you to buy questionable food. Truth be told, many of us have disconnected from nature. Yet, nature reveals aspects of God, including the time it takes to wait for things, people and God’s intervention.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. –Romans 1:20
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… He has made everything beautiful in its time. –Ecclesiastes 3:1,11
OUR CULTURE WARS AGAINST PATIENT LOVE
Since we live in a culture that doesn’t cultivate patience, we actually live in a culture that wars against love!
The first characteristic of love is patience; therefore, it is the doorway we must enter to love others. For fallen human beings to love and build relationships with each another, we must suffer long with one another. Ever since Adam and Eve fell, our ancestors’ tainted blood has flowed through us. As a result, our human relationships have been characterized by frailty, wrong motives and fleshly patterns.
We must have patience with one another. Otherwise, we’ll abandon our relationships when inconvenience, conflict, personality differences, weaknesses and problems prove to be too much.
Likewise, Hollywood and our society perpetuate the lie that if a relationship takes work, time and, God forbid, painful struggle, then it can’t be love. Hollywood’s “happily ever after” has done much to damage what it takes for real love and real relationships to grow and become stronger.
Breaking under the weight of unrealistic expectations, people forsake actual relationships in search of illusions. God never meant for us to go from relationship to relationship, church to church, marriage to marriage, etc. to find “true love.” He put us in community with fallible people who’ll rub us the wrong way and try our patience, so that we could learn to patiently love one another.
We don’t find love as much as we practice love by dying to our impatience toward other fallen creatures.
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins. –1 Peter 4:8
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. –Ephesians 4:2
A BROKEN WIFI CONNECTION PUT A MIRROR TO MY FACE
God confronted an unknown part of me at the start of a fourteen-hour bus ride through Europe. Equipped with wifi, I thought this bus ride will be easy. I’ll be online for part of the time and the rest of the time I’ll sleep. Others began to watch their movies or listen to music. I readied myself to do the same thing, but, my phone wouldn’t get connected. As I tried everything, I grew increasingly frustrated when nothing worked. Banging on the phone also probably didn’t help.
I silently screamed and told God why it would be so unfair to test me right now.
Really, God, at the start of a fourteen-hour bus ride… in the dark? I sat fuming in my seat!
I surprised myself by being so impatient and FLESHLY!
“Oh, God, help me! I’m so sorry! I’m addicted to the internet! I can’t seem to go without it.”
My check engine light flashed on the dashboard of my heart and I had to get off the superhighway as soon as possible.
I calmed down and repented to God for my internet addiction. Some may be wondering: Addiction, Joyce, come on! You may be overstating things. To whatever level it gripped my life, the internet obviously affected me in its absence.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. –1 Corinthians 6:12
GOD, HELP ME TO BE LONG IN SPIRIT
The Greek word for patient has various meanings: being long in spirit, suffering long, persevering through hardship and trouble and bearing the offenses and injuries of others.
Without patience, we wouldn’t even be able to exercise the other aspects of love. Being impatient pretty much guarantees I won’t try to make room for the other person or be willing to work on the relationship, whereas patience waits and makes room to listen, understand and resolve the issues between two people or within a group. It takes patience to work through conflict. Abandoning people and relationships as a default mode signals impatience.
Interesting how the recent phenomenon of “ghosting”* has become more prevalent in an impatient and divisive world.
Ghosting definition: the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. (https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=ghosting+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8)
Being patient, or long in spirit, can help us to be faithful to our relationships for the long haul. What does it mean to be long in spirit?
I picture “long in spirit” as having a deep reservoir of the oil of the Spirit. In our modern English, when someone has a short temper, we say that person has “a short fuse,” which is a similar concept. If I’m “long in spirit,” then I’ll have “a long fuse.” I’ll have plenty of grace and patience to deal with everything, ranging from minor irritations to unexpected delays to people who seem to press every one of my buttons.
The extent to which I have patience will be shown in what sets off the explosions in my life. Apparently, at the beginning of that fourteen-hour bus ride, God had to show me I was low on oil and that I needed to spend more time with him. I ended up doing just that, seeing as how I couldn’t do anything else and was trapped on a bus for fourteen hours.
Well played, God!
HERE WE GO THROUGH THE OLIVE PRESS… AGAIN
In a previous post, we discussed how the crushing of olives through an oil press makes oil. No matter how we try, we can’t escape this spiritual principle: I need to die to my flesh to be made more alive in the Spirit and to produce oil. So, what would it look like for me to produce more oil in my life for the sake of patience?
In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus shares a story about how we need to produce and steward the oil in our lives. (Matthew 25:1-13). While waiting for the Bridegroom, the wise virgins not only had oil in their lamps, but they carried extra oil with them. The foolish virgins, on the other hand, only had oil in their lamps. None of them knew how long it would take for the Bridegroom to come.
Moreover, since they had already waited so long, one by one, they began falling asleep. When the virgins heard shouts that the Bridegroom had arrived, they got up quickly to follow the procession. The wise virgins, who had enough oil with them, followed in after the others. The foolish virgins, however, carried lamps that flickered and sputtered down, with no extra oil on hand. During the time it took to buy extra oil, everyone else went into the wedding feast and the doors shut behind them.
We produce extra oil for the patience to be prepared and to wait expectantly for His return.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith… –Galatians 5:22
RELATIONSHIPS RUN MORE SMOOTHLY WITH OIL
Additionally, oil lessens friction between people. The Bible tells us in the End Times many people will be offended and the love of many will grow cold. Offense and impatience go hand in hand.
For example, machines need oil to operate smoothly like the relationships in our lives. When people interact together without oil, they can rub each other the wrong way, leading to irritation and even a breakdown in relationship.
Lack of love and impatience also go hand in hand.
And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. –Matthew 24:10-12
This extra oil seems to be very important for both the day-to-day irritations and waiting things out for the long haul.
Additionally, the wise virgins in Matthew 25 carried extra oil with them, so that their love for God wouldn’t grow cold and be extinguished. As virgins, they made sure to keep their lamps and hearts burning for the Bridegroom!
As with the wise virgins, oil can represent our history and intimacy with God. I can’t give you the fruit of my relationship with God and you can’t give me yours. My time in prayer and the Word of God can’t automatically be transferred into your spiritual bank account. Nor can your worship and time in God’s presence be transferred over to mine. Each individual has to take the time and effort to produce oil in his or her own relationship with God.
GO THE EXTRA MILE TO GET EXTRA OIL
Low on oil? Just enough oil? Or do you spend the time necessary with God to produce extra oil? It’ll make a difference in all of your relationships, including your faith walk with God.
In conclusion, as the time draws near, more patience will be needed than what’s required for us today. Our rapidly spinning world will test our oil reservoirs to the limit. The tyranny of the urgent, the rapid growth of technology, and our modern mindsets will push us to go faster. But, in the midst of the fury of our modern times, God will call us to slow down, come away with Him and spend time with Him. Not less time, but more time. Not only “quality time,”but quantity time as well.
Since God has spread out a banquet for us, He wants us to take the time to enjoy every meal with Him. Yes, it’s a sacrifice of time and effort. For sure, taking that time and effort will be counter-cultural, impractical and even unrealistic. Ultimately, we have a choice between the devil’s modern ways and God’s “ancient paths” that bring restoration and peace to our souls.
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. –Jeremiah 6:16
What will you choose? What will I choose?
In the end, may Jesus find you a wise virgin, with burning love for both God and others. Extra oil reserves can’t be produced on the fly; they need to be produced starting today and far into the future as we patiently await His return.
As the days grow old, don’t let my love grow cold. As the days go by, don’t let my fire day.
Oh, Lord, keep me burning! Oh, Lord, keep me burning! Oh, Lord, keep me burning!
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
- To be patient in love, it’s first important to be patient in general. Do you agree our modern world has set us up to be impatient with people and things? Why or why not? How did you do with the “Patience Checkup?” What are some things that often cause you to be impatient?
- Take your findings from question 1 and work out a plan to become more patient with the things that try your patience the most. How can you die to your impatience and expectations?
- Have you believed the lie that it’s not good to have to wait for things? What verses and passages can you meditate on to renew your mind regarding God’s view of time and the importance of waiting? If we find it difficult to wait on the small things, it’ll be that much harder to wait on the bigger things.
- Since our modern world wars against patient love, what things can you do to be counter-cultural and slow things down in your life? Suggestions: Technology fast? Media fast? Read a book? Honor the Sabbath as a day of rest?
- Findings indicate technology usage can shorten our attention spans and, therefore, cause us to be less patient. What will you do to lessen your dependency on technology, especially cell phones? How can you further unplug as a lifestyle change?
- There’s a difference between people of earlier generations and the “digital natives” of today. Studies show older people have longer attention spans and a greater ability to persevere through boredom and trials. For further information, read the article in the link: https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2017/mental-focus-smartphone-use.html. The link also provides six ways to regain your focus. When it suggests meditation, let’s replace it with meditation on the Word of God.
- We talked about how creation and time teach us lessons about God. How can you connect more with “the land” and how things take time to grow and develop? In what ways will you interact more with nature to get a reprieve from our modern, fast-paced world? Suggestions: Go camping? Visit nature? Grow a vegetable garden? Take a walk in the park?
- Have you noticed any areas where you’ve become “longer in spirit” in your life? Take some time to rejoice and thank God for the work of the Spirit in your life.
- Do you have any relationships in your life that need extra oil? In other words, are there signs of friction and rubbing each other the wrong way? How will you bring more oil into those relationships to have them run more smoothly?
- Which virgins do you identify with most, the wise or the foolish? You can’t produce oil on the fly. Wherever you’re at on this spectrum, what will you do to produce more and even extra oil in your life? How will incorporate more time with God into your days in order to build a history of intimacy with Him?
- Do you see how “extra oil” can be helpful in things, ranging from both day-to-day irritations as well as waiting for the return of the Lord? How does having extra oil keep us from offense and letting our love grow cold?
- Were there any verses or points that God highlighted to you as you read the blog post? What is God communicating to you? How will you interact more deeply with what God has shown you?