December 12, 2010
A young Christian man went to an older believer to ask for prayer. He asked the older friend, “Will you please pray that I may be more patient?” The older Christian agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon, send this young man tribulation…” At that point the young man blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”
Patience is something we all want. The farmer puts the seed in the ground. Then he is patient for his harvest time to come. But he stays busy working his crop and watching it for bugs and disease.
Some strawberry customers would wonder what I do all year. I watered and weeded the berries all summer and fall. Actually, I fought weeds all year long. I would put straw on them in the winter. I would protect from freeze in the spring when they were blooming. Hopefully, the customers would see lots of fruit. They did not see all the work.
Read verse 8
Here is a secret of endurance when the going is tough: God is producing a harvest in our lives. He want the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow. Gal 5:22-23, and the only way he can do it are through trails and troubles. Instead of growing impatient with God and with ourselves, we must yield to the Lord and permit the fruit to grow. We are “spiritual farmers” looking for a harvest.
Read verse 9
A farmer doesn’t get into fights with his neighbors. One of the usual marks of farmers is their willingness to help one another.
When it comes to harvest time, my brothers can pull together in ways that they don’t during the year. My brothers were telling me about a friend that got sick, and the neighbors all helped the harvest get done.
My last airplane trip from Michigan was that for me. My flight was delayed about an hour. So that meant that I was going to miss my next fight. Well, when we finally boarded and started down the runway with the engines roaring, all of a sudden the plane put its brake on, and we went back to the terminal because the generator system on the plane had quit. That meant that I had to spend the night. Those times my patience runs out.
When I look at the big picture, what is the big problem of having another day on my vacation? I am safe. God gets to see how I respond to those situations. “Sorry, God.”
Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”
What flips your switch? That long line at Wal-Mart, that computer that died, that person on that cell phone that isn’t really driving right?
Ps. 37: 7-8: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”
Do you remember what Job went through?
Read verse 10 and 11
Here is Job’s example of patience: Lost his possessions, lost his children, lost his health, harassed by his wife, taunted by his friends.
Yet he never cursed God. He questioned, struggled, wished he had died. Job hung in there. God does hang in with us through those hard times.
When do we see God’s blessing? In the midst of trails we may experience God’s blessing.
I was in a meeting this past week with several pastors in New Orleans that are seeing the blessings after Katrina. They are seeing God helping them in many ways. They may be blessed with a new house. Their church members are scattered, but they are still having church in meaningful ways.
These pastors are righteous and have suffered. Job was righteous and suffered. God found not evil in Job. Job teaches us that God has higher purposes in suffering.
God permits Satan to try his children, but he always limits the extent of the enemy’s power. When you find yourself in the fire, remember that God keeps his caring hand on the thermostat!
I remind you of the plaque that my dad gave me when I moved to Mississippi. “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you.”
We must be patient as God works in ourselves. God will lead us in safe places. They may not always be comfortable.
We pause on this third Sunday in Advent. We pause to give God time. We accept suffering with patience, wait for God’s healing action in our lives and in the world.