We’ve all heard the amusing and ironic saying, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me now!” And yet, no one really believes it works that way since patience has never been instant. Instead, it apparently takes a lifetime to develop, and I wonder if some of us ever master the art of waiting.
Less than twenty years ago, as a late comer to the high tech revolution, I had my first experience with the Internet. In those days, it required the old “dial up” access. Today, however, the speed of Internet access makes that old dial up system seem intolerably slow and I cannot imagine waiting that long to access a web site now. The speed of getting what I want in the 21st century is doing nothing to assist me in becoming more patient. It’s the opposite. I’m being trained everyday by my surroundings to demand almost instant access to everything I need.
The Christian life, however, demands that I develop patience. One reason for that is I am growing in Christ and, as Paul observed, I have not yet arrived (Philippians 3:12-14). Therefore, in order to be like Christ, I should expect the process of growth to include struggles,temptations, set backs, repentance, and disappointments. For these reasons I will need patience.
Not only that, but I live in a family and in a community. The people around me should not be forced to endure the attitude and selfish behavior of a Christian adult, impatiently demanding his own way and insisting on his own agenda. If I appreciate patience in others, I should insist on it in myself.
The walk that is worthy of Christians must include patience (Ephesians 4:1-2). The word Paul uses indicates that patience is much more than a casual toleration of everything that happens, and it’s more than a fatalistic acceptance of the status quo. The word translated “patience” in Ephesians 4:2 (NIV, ESV) is the greek word “makrothymia” which comes from two words-“makros” meaning long or distant, and “thymia” which means zeal or boiling hot passion. The old King James translation of that word is nearly literal- “long suffering.” Think of it this way, patience is not a cold dispassionate acceptance of things you can’t stand. Patience is a controlled burn ready to flame up into action at any moment! Patience trusts God to know what is best right now but it is not a resigned passivity that thinks circumstance won’t ever change. Patience in the Christian life is readiness on alert.
Babies and small children are impatient, but maturing Christians must demonstrate patience as a way of trusting God’s timing and as a way of demonstrating our faith in an impatient culture. God’s timing is always right on time. Wait for it!
In dealing with the contrary principles of letting the Lord “direct your steps/path” while remaining faithful once we’ve made a commitment, I’ve come to an understanding with the Lord that my role is to “be ready.” He is with me now, and he will be with me then.