As we’ve seen, the Bible is clear that “the wealth of the sinner is laid up (stored) for the just (righteous)” (Proverbs 13:22). We’ve written much that this may not happen “overnight,” that it is so important how we act-and react-along the way … while we are waiting …
One of the greatest, and most important lessons which God wants to teach us along the way is patience. Keep in mind that when the New Testament writers were alive, they all thought that the return of Jesus was imminent … was going to happen very soon, and certainly in their lifetimes. The church was also under heavy persecution. Think about it: Both of these statements are so true today. As we look around, seeing what’s happening in the world-yes, even in “our world,” can the return of Jesus be too far away? And, let’s face the truth: The church, worldwide, is under more persecution and attack than ever in history. Ever.
So, it stands to reason that the words of the New Testament writers are just as pertinent today. I know that is an “of course” statement, but must be said. That’s why so much was written about having patience … that “it’s not over yet” … that so much was written about how to act-and react while we are “waiting” for our reward. James put it this way:
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:7-8). Think about this: So much of what is written in the New Testament, after the Gospels and book of Acts, is about how we should act … while we are waiting … just like the farmer which James mentions here … How important are the actions of this farmer, how he acts-and reacts between the “early” rain and the “latter” rain? Wouldn’t his “harvest” depend upon what he does “in-between?”
I am reminded, as I think about the farmer, about our last chapter. About how important “what we already have” is. So often, God asks first about what we already have. Don’t worry, just as with Jesus and the loaves, God already knows what we have. He just wants to make sure we know what we already have! This farmer had already received (he already had) the first, early rain. It is now what he does while the time elapses before the latter rain which will determine how much he benefits from this latter rain. Wow! Just like us. Today! Our rain is coming, our harvest is coming … but, the size of that harvest will determine upon what we do while we are “waiting.”
Please don’t misunderstand the intent of this writing: Let’s not forget where our blessings come from. Yes, we must work, but our reward comes directly from God, as Paul would write:
“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Our actions are important to this harvest. God wants to provide for us now, but He is most of all interested in our eternal destination, our souls, and, while we “waiting,” of our being conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus, in whose Righteousness we now stand. Paul put it this way, in continuing to use a farmer as an example: “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10). That’s the harvest God is interested in! He wants to take care of you now, and for all of eternity! That’s a harvest! And, one worth “waiting” for!
But, how do we gain “patience?” Don’t worry, as a child of God, this is one attribute of the Christian life which I can assure you that God will help you with. If there is one area of faith I think we all have the most difficulty with, it is this act of faith known as “patience.” I don’t think I’ve ever met a Pastor who has not had one of these two character traits before God saved them, and changed them: Having a bad, quick temper, and being impatient. The fact that when you think of your Pastor, and words like “kind” and “patient” are among the first two words you think of, just proves how important these traits are, and how “patient, kind, and forgiving” God is with us, as He continues to bring us into circumstances which will build our patience, and by so doing, increase and build our faith. So much of this “waiting time” is put there-on purpose-in order to build our faith by building-first-our patience.
So, how do we gain patience? Jesus said it best (that’s another one of those “of course” statements), and most simply, in Mark 11:22: “Have faith in God.”
The hard part is that it is not one of those “just snap your fingers” and it happens things. Yes, God can act that quickly, and often does. We’ve all seen God make something happen immediately when called upon in faith. Yet, there’s that word “faith” again. How can we have faith without patience? I think it’s a fair statement to say that the more patience we have … the more faith we have … and, we can turn that around. The more faith we have … the more patience we have. And, will have. That’s the whole idea, mostly, behind this “waiting.” If we could just snap our fingers and make something happen … how would that build our faith? It wouldn’t … because that wouldn’t build our patience.
I’d like to close by sharing with you what immediately follows Jesus’ words of “Have faith in God” in the 11th chapter of Mark. I just happen to have these words printed on papers all over the house, where I can see them, and, in fact, I am looking at these words now, taped on my desk shelf here in the office. And, yes, I also have a copy of these words on my visor out in the truck:
“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”