Patience is enduring discomfort without complaint. God is a God of patience, and He has called His people to manifest patience. In this message, Pastor Brian shows how we can put impatience to death through faith in God’s attributes of sovereignty and goodness.
Putting Impatience To Death
I want to show you a brief youtube clip called The Marshmallow Test. In this test, a marshmallow is put on the table in front of a small child. Then the child is told that if he waits until the teacher comes back, he can have two marshmallows, but if he eats the single marshmallow, that is all he will get.
So, what do you think? Would you be the little boy or girl that ate the marshmallow or waited until the teacher got back? I think that all of us have a problem with patience! I know I do. “I don’t know why you say I’m impatient. All I want is to have what I want and to have it now!”
Of all the sins that I need to put to death, impatience is high on my list.
A wonderful example of Christian patience comes to us in the person of Charles Simeon. In April of 1831, Charles Simeon had been the pastor of Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years. His friend, Joseph Gurney, asked him how he had been able to endure the persecution and suffering leveled against him in the last 49 years. Here is Simeon’s reply:
My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.”
Simeon was appointed as pastor of this church in 1782, but the people did not want him to be their pastor. They wanted the assistant curate, Mr. Hammond. Simeon was willing to resign, but the bishop told him that even if he resigned, he would not appoint Mr. Hammond as pastor. So Simeon continued on amidst great opposition. The first thing they did was to refuse to allow Simeon to be the Sunday afternoon lecturer. They gave that privilege to Mr. Hammond who lectured for five years. Then, when he left after five years, they gave the lectureship to another independent man for seven more years! Finally, after twelve years, Simeon was chosen to be the lecturer. Can you imagine having the congregation so oppose their pastor that he was not allowed to preach Sunday evenings for twelve years?!
The next thing the congregation did, was to lock their pew doors on Sunday mornings. They refused to come and listen to Simeon, and refused to allow anyone else to sit in their personal pews. Simeon set up chairs in the aisles and corners at his own expense, but the churchwardens threw them out into the churchyard. He was slandered all over town with all kinds of rumors.
Students in Cambridge held Simeon in derision, insulted him, and disrupted his services. He was ostracized by the other professors at the university where he lived. He wrote of those years, “I remember the time that I was quite surprised that a Fellow of my own College ventured to walk with me for a quarter of an hour on the grass-plot before Clare Hall.”
In 1807, after 25 years of ministry, his health broke. His voice failed so that preaching became very difficult and often he could only speak in a whisper. This broken health condition lasted for 13 years, until he was 60 years old! He said that after a sermon he felt more dead than alive. But, in all this adversity, Simeon pressed on in his work, and refused to quit.
What a wonderful example of patience.
1. The Meaning Of Patience
Let’s start off this morning by defining patience. I’m going to define patience as “enduring discomfort without complaint.”
A longer definition from Dictionary.com is “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.”
So, if patience is enduring discomfort without complaint, it becomes readily apparent that patience comes in many varieties, because we have many different levels of discomfort. It can be a low-level of discomfort, like having to wait in a long line, or having to wait in traffic. Or, it could be a very high-level of discomfort, like the suffering of Job, or those who have had to endure many years in prison for their faith in Christ.
The King James Version usually translates this word as “longsuffering”, which really gets to the heart of the matter. Patience is really about suffering long without murmuring or complaining.
Now, most of the time our complaining is verbal. We speak directly about the situation that is bothering us. However, we have all become experts at complaining in nonverbal ways as well – a sigh, a huff, a shake of the head, or a roll of the eyes. So, patience is the deepening virtue of enduring discomfort without complaint, either verbal or nonverbal.
2. The God Of Patience
The first thing we need to understand about patience is that it is one of God’s attributes. God is patient. He is long suffering. We provoke Him and offend Him constantly, but He endures these provocations without complaint or retaliation. Therefore, if we are to become godly people, we must become patient people.
Let me show you that God is patient with several passages of Scripture.
Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
Romans 9:22, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
1 Timothy 1:16, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
1 Peter 3:20, “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Thus, it is very evident that God is a patient God, and if we desire to be like Him, must become patient as well.
3. The Call To Patience
Not only is God patient toward us, but He has called us to be patient ourselves. Let’s take a look very quickly at many different passages of Scripture to get a min-theology about patience.
Psalms 37:7, “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.”
Lamentations 3:25, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.”
1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant”
Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”
Ephesians 4:1-2, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love”
Colossians 3:12, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”
1 Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Hebrews 6:12, “so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
1 Peter 2:20, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
So, I think you can readily see that God calls every believer to patience. That is, He calls every Christian to endure discomfort without complaint. And as we do this, we reflect to others the true character of our God!
4. The Key To Patience
So, what is the key to patience? How do we get patience? Where does it come from? Remember that we have defined unbelief as “turning away from God to find satisfaction in something else.” Well impatience then is turning away from God to find satisfaction in our own uninterrupted plans. Impatience is a form of unbelief. It is what we feel when we begin to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of God’s providence. Therefore, the key to developing patience is faith. Faith in what God promises to be for us.
We have seen in this series of studies that faith is key to the Christian life. We are saved through faith. We also grow in our walk with God through faith, and are sanctified by faith. But faith must always be in something objectively true – a word from God. Thus, our offensive weapon to fight the enemy, our sword, is the word of God.
Paul prays in Colossians 1:11, “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” We need the power of God in order to have the virtue of patience. So, how do we receive this power of God. Galatians 3:5 says it is by hearing with faith.
So, exactly what truth of God’s Word are we to have faith in? I believe there are two great truths, that if we truly believe them, will give us power to exercise patience in this life. Those truths are the sovereignty of God, and the goodness of God.
The Sovereignty of God. This truth declares that God is in control. He rules over all. He governs the universe, and every detail in it. Ephesians 1:11 says that God works all things after the counsel of His will. Psalm 103:19 says that God’s sovereignty rules over all. Daniel 4:35 teaches us, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” And not only is God in control of what happens in His universe, but when those things happen. According to Psalm 139, He is in control of the very moment we are conceived, and the very day we will die. Since God has a sovereign plan, then we must learn to trust in the wisdom of His plan and the timing of that plan.
The Goodness of God. Not only does the Bible teach that God is sovereign, but that He is good, and exercises goodness toward His people. That’s why Paul could say, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” That’s why Lamentations 3:25 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” Or Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
So, all of these texts, taken together, tell us that God is in control of all that happens, and when it happens, that He is good and is working all of those things together for our good. Even, waiting in traffic, or having to put up with an irritating co-worker, or enduring years of pain in your body, or enduring slander and ridicule and opposition from enemies of the gospel, or enduring a torturous death for Christ.
For example, last week I was waiting in a turn lane, when all the cars at the front began to make their left turns, but the guy right in front of me, just sat there (probably looking at his phone), until the light turned yellow, then red. So, I had to wait until a green light came up again in order to make the turn. But, if I knew that by waiting those extra 2 or 3 minutes would save me from a fatal accident, I could wait patiently and happy. I could endure the discomfort of having my plans interrupted quite well, if I knew there was going to be a good outcome.
A few years ago I had to have a colonoscopy. Now for those of you who have had a colonoscopy, you know that it’s a miserable experience. I’m not talking about the actual procedure; that’s a piece of cake! I’m talking about preparing for the colonoscopy the day before. You have to drink what seems like gallons of this really nasty stuff, and then sit on the toilet and eliminate all waste from your body. And I remember going through this a few years ago, and complaining about it all. However, it just so happened that the colonoscopy revealed that I had a very large pre-cancerous polyp that had to be removed. My doctor told me that if I hadn’t have discovered that polyp and had it removed, I would almost certainly have gotten cancer. So, if I had the foresight of God, and could have known the blessing that the colonoscopy would have been to me, I wouldn’t have complained at all. In fact, I would have been quite happy to drink that awful stuff. Because I would have known that God was using it to bring good into my life.
This is the truth that Joseph learned through much suffering. Joseph experienced much discomfort and pain. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. Later he was falsely accused of rape and cast into prison for 12 years. But many years later he could look his brothers in the eyes and say to them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Now, what if Joseph knew all this in advance? Do you think that would have made it a lot easier to endure his sufferings? You bet it would! Well, what if we know in advance that all our sufferings will work together for good, because God is sovereign and wise and good? If we truly believed that, I know that it would help us tremendously to be patient in our discomfort.
George Mueller, the man who established many orphanages and supported hundreds of orphans through prayer and faith alone, lost his beloved wife, Mary, after 39 years of marriage. He preached her funeral sermon from Psalm 119:68, “Thou art good and doest good.” He opened it like this: “The Lord is good, and doeth good, all will be according to His own blessed character. Nothing but that, which is good, like Himself, can proceed from Him. If he pleases to take my dearest wife, it will be good, like Himself. What I have to do, as His child, is to be satisfied with what my Father does, that I may glorify Him. After this my soul not only aimed, but this, my soul, by God’s grace, attained to. I was satisfied with God.”
It was his faith in God’s Word that enabled B.B. Warfield to endure his own suffering. Warfield was a world-renowned theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary, until his death in 1921. Many people have heard of B.B. Warfield, but many don’t know his story. In 1876, when he was 25 years old, he married Annie Pierce Kinkead. The newlyweds went on a honeymoon to Germany. During a violent thunderstorm, Annie was struck by lightning, and was permanently paralyzed. Warfield cared for her daily around the clock for 39 years before she died in 1915. Because of her great needs, Warfield seldom left her side for more than two hours at a time for 39 years! How did he do it? How could he be so patient in his tribulations? We get a hint from his comments on Romans 8:28. Let me read it to you. “The fundamental thought is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favour of God to those that love Him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good… though we are too weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for what we need, and can only groan in unformed longings, He is the author in us of these very longings… and He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.”
Last week I told you a little about William Cowper who struggled with massive despondency his entire life. It was William Cowper who wrote these lines: “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense – but trust Him for His grace – Behind a frowning providence – He hides a smiling face.”
As John Piper writes in his book, Future Grace, “The key to patience is faith in the grace of God’s glorious might to transform all our interruptions into rewards. The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.” Amen! We must believe in God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness. If we do, we have the strength to hold on and endure without murmuring or complaining.
Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured For Christ, tells this tale that helps us understand the importance of believing God is up to something good in all the evil situations we must endure.
“A legend says that Moses once sat near a well in meditation. A wayfarer stopped to drink from the well and when he did so his purse fell from his girdle into the sand. The man departed. Shortly afterwards another man passed near the well, saw the purse and picked it up. Later a third man stopped to assuage his thirst and went to sleep in the shadow of the well. Meanwhile, the first man had discovered that his purse was missing and assuming that he must have lost it at the well, returned, awoke the sleeper (who of course knew nothing) and demanded his money back. An argument followed, and irate, the first man slew the latter. Where upon Moses said to God, “You see, therefore men do not believe you. There is too much evil and injustice in the world. Why should the first man have lost his purse and then become a murderer? Why should the second have gotten a purse full of gold without having worked for it? The third was completely innocent. Why was he slain?
God answered, “For once and only once, I will give you an explanation. I cannot do it at every step. The first man was a thief’s son. The purse contained money stolen by his father from the father of the second man, who finding the purse only found what was due him. The third was a murderer whose crime had never been revealed and who received from the first the punishment he deserved. In the future believe that there is sense and righteousness in what transpires even when you do not understand.”
My friends, we need to trust God when we can’t make sense out of the evil and chaotic situations in life. Our lives are like a tapestry. On the back side of the tapestry it just looks like nothing more than a jumble of thread – tangled thread, frayed, sometimes knotted, and apparently random. When you look at it, nothing really makes sense. But things are not always what they seem! When you turn it over, you see the colors, textures and patterns that make it an image of astonishing beauty. Nothing in our lives happens by chance. No thread of experience, good or bad, is wasted. When it looks that way, we need to remind ourselves that we are looking at the back side of the tapestry. Only in heaven will we be able to look on the opposite side and see the beautiful thing God has made out of the sin and pain and suffering in our lives. The One weaving the tapestry of our lives knows exactly what He is doing! We can trust Him!
So, what are some promises of God that we can use to fight impatience? How can we endure discomfort without complaining? Here are a few.
Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Psalm 119:68, “You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes.”
Psalm 147:11, “The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness.”
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
Romans 5:3-5, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
2 Cor. 4:16-18, “We do not lose heart [that is, we don’t succumb to murmuring and impatience], but, though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
James 1:12, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
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