Sunday, November 13, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Impatience

This is a repost of #2 in a series

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea,to go around
the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.
The people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up
 out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water,
and we loathe this miserable food."
Numbers 21:4-5

Have you ever noticed that in almost every situation that the Lord allows or brings about patience is required?  Somehow God never seems to work on our timetable, and His timetable always seems much longer than we think is necessary.  But, you know, He knows ultimately and eternally what is necessary.  So if patience...much patience... is required, then for some reason, usually unknown to us at the time, patience is necessary.  Personally, I think patience is required so often because it may be the hardest virtue to develop; and out of patience and through patience many other virtues are developed. 

Patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and we receive the fruit of the Spirit the minute we are born again and the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in our heart (Romans 8:9).  But although the fruit is given, it must be developed and cultivated, which is part of our working out our salvation (Philippians 2:13).  So, in His divine providence, situations arise that require patience, sometimes mega patience. 

In the example of the Israelites in Numbers 21 they became impatient, not with the journey, but because of the journey.  It was hard and long.  They were meeting with opposition, they were subsisting only on manna, and every day was the same thing with no end, no relief, and no promised land in sight.  So they lost it and became impatient, not with the journey, but with the Lord because of the journey.  The word impatient in Numbers 21:4 literally means short.  They were short with the Lord.  Have you ever been short with someone?  Did you act in an unbecoming way toward them?  Were your words, harsh, mean, or demeaning?  Did you lose your temper with them?  Were you exasperated with them?  Get the picture?  The Israelites were stomping their collective feet and telling the Lord, in no uncertain terms, that they had had enough.

How often we are tempted to do be short with the Lord because of our journey, especially if it is hard and long with no end in our sight.  Many times there are trials to be endured and seen through to their completed end, or sometimes the main trial is being patient.  When we become impatient because of the journey it severs and ends the lesson(s) we were learning, and the qualities of Christ that the Lord was building in us are left incomplete.  In other words, our growth was cut short or stunted.  What will the Lord, as the wise master builder, do?  He will begin all over again, usually using the consequences of our impatience to not only discipline us for our impatience, but also to train us anew.   

What are some keys for us to not become impatient with the Lord and short-circuit our growth?

  1. Understand I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape so that you will be able to endure it. (Italics mine)  In the Greek, the word for temptation and trial are the same and are translated according to the context.  It does present us with a great play on words, because in every trial there is an accompanying temptation, and in each temptation a trial is involved.  What is this verse saying to us?  It is telling us that in our trial and its accompanying temptation that we should not seek our way of escape, but be patient and seek the way of escape the Lord provides.  But unless we are patient we won't see the Lord's way of escape, and those early exits stop what God was accomplishing in us through the trial.

  2. Trust Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 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 get weary.  What a great picture of the grace of God; its strength for us and its sustaining power.  What is the key to obtaining this grace, this power that carries us on eagles wings?  It is a patient trust...waiting for the Lord...not being impatient because of the journey, but trusting the Lord in the journey.  This is the power that undergirds us so that we may endure the trial and temptation.  Our patient trusting in Him which leads us to our humbling ourselves before God, is the key to appropriating His grace and all that it brings.

  3. Realize I Kings 19:11-13 So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord."  And behold, the Lord was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here Elijah?"  God works through ordinary means.  We all want that great miracle where the sea parts, and the sun stops in its steps; but most usually the Lord works through the order He has already established.  In other words, God works at the speed of life and at the pace of people.  God is patiently working, invisibly working, and we must be patient with His work.  After all, it is for our eternal good and His eternal glory.
Finally, I know a man who went through a ten year trial.  He will tell you that he was tempted to become impatient because of the journey, but that he trusted the Lord and the Lord was true to His word and was true to him.  There were times during this trial that the grace of God was so real and so present he could almost cut it with a knife, and God used this trial to grow him spiritually and bring him to where he is now.  Where would he be now if he had become impatient because of the journey, stopped trusting in the Lord, and had taken an early exit of his own making? 

How about you, my friends?  Are you being tempted to become impatient because of the journey?  Don't be!  Call out to the Lord for His strength, the strength necessary to wait for Him and His way of escape.  Trust Him to provide all that you need to wait for Him.  For in doing so your growth will not be impaired, but enhanced; and Christ will shine more brightly in you.

Living God, consuming fire,
burn the sin from my life.
Make Your will my desire.
Take my life in Your hands.
Purify me with Your love, 
  till I shine far brighter than purest gold
 in Your light.
Amen and Amen!

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