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6. Patience: What Does it mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - 2 Peter 3:5-18

What Does it mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple?
6. PATIENCE 2 Peter 3:5-18

By Ted Schroder
www.tedschroder.com
July 30, 2017

Dallas Willard, when asked, "What is the key to happiness?" replied, "Eliminate hurry from your life." The mark of a mature Christian disciple is patience, someone who is not in a hurry, who has time for you. Was Jesus ever in a hurry? Being patient is the character of God.

In 2 Peter 3:5-9 we read that the patience of God is to be seen in creation: "long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water." The more we know about the universe the older it appears to be. "Long ago" literally means billions of years ago. God is taking his time to create the world and to carry out his purposes of creation and salvation. Just as God is taking his time, and waiting for life to develop, we must also.

In the meantime we must recognize the relativity of time with eternity. "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." Our lifetime can be seen to be but a day in the Lord's economy: "You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning -- though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered" (Ps.90:5). What seems an eternity to us -- days and years of waiting impatiently -- is but a moment in God's time.

That is why impatience is a mark of immaturity. Children do not like to wait. Impatience is life seen from the human rather than the divine perspective. Impatience is wanting to speed things up, to our human timetable. But if we got our way, in our impatience, we would precipitate the destruction of the world. God is patient because he has a plan to fulfill that includes the salvation of his creation. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God is moving slowly to give everyone the opportunity to turn to him and change their lives. He doesn't want to lose anyone. He doesn't want anyone to be destroyed -- to perish -- so he is patient with each person, giving us enough time to come to him.

St. Peter counsels us to "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation." (2 Peter 3:15). By waiting for us, by not being impatient, God gives us an opportunity to change and be saved. Helmut Thielicke entitled his book on the parables of Jesus, The Waiting Father. It is his interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son. He sees the father waiting patiently for the return of his rebellious son. This is what God is doing: "our Lord's patience means salvation."

If God is like this for our sake, then this is how we will be for others. His love enables us to be patient, for the sake of others. His love enables us to be patient with ourselves, for our own salvation (God has not finished with us yet), and for the salvation of others.

God has given us enough time to complete his purpose before he comes for us. Our mortal life is all that we need in order to do what he wants us to do. James 5:7-11 instructs us to "Be patient.... until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."

Our life is like the seed sown. We need to be patient like the farmer, who cannot hasten the growth of his crops. He is totally dependent on the natural moisture, and the earth's richness to bring forth his crop. In our lives we must wait on what the Lord is doing in and around us. We cannot speed up what the Lord has planned. We must learn to live at the rhythm of God's seasons for our lives. We must be willing to do the work of preparing the soil, sowing the seed, weeding the field of our lives, and watering the plants of our souls. All this takes time in us and in the lives of others. Just as we cannot birth a baby and speed up its growth before its time, we cannot move ahead of ourselves or God's plans for us. We cannot force others to grow at the rate we prefer. We must wait on the Lord.

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like: "A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain -- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest is come." (Mark 4:26-29) God is producing his crop. We cannot speed it up. We must surrender our need to be in control, and recognize that God knows what he is doing, and what his timetable is for it. We are not responsible for all the conditions that are necessary for the growth. Our part in the process is minor. Recognizing this enables us to relax and wait, to be patient.

So much impatience is the result of dissatisfaction with the timetable. We think we know better, how and when a thing should happen. We believe that, if we were in control, all things would be more efficient. We think we are more important than anyone else, and that we should have priority with others. So we criticize family and friends whom we feel are dragging their feet, and are not pulling their weight. We get irritated at service people who take too long to do their jobs. We complain about workers who do not turn up when they say they will. We don't understand when people don't return our calls when we think they should. We hate waiting in line. We are used to microwave efficiency, instant internet access, fast cars, news alerts, and text messaging. We hate to wait for documents and software updates to download.

Patience is also translated 'longsuffering.' It is the willingness to suffer long when we are tempted to cut and run. It is to take the long view. It is the willingness to wait and not have to have it all right now.

When we have the patience to accept ourselves, to accept our future in life, in the face of deep loss or persistent frustration, we are living in love's power. When we have learned to believe that our lives have meaning, when we have opened our hearts to some feelings of joy, when we have seen some rays of light that make us glad, we are longsuffering. (Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits, 8)

We are to note the example of patience in the face of suffering -- take the prophets. They persevered in the face of opposition and calamity. Job persevered despite his troubles. He had to patiently endure much suffering, the loss of all things, temptation to despair, and the betrayal of friends. He could not short-circuit what he had to endure. He could not avoid what was part of his salvation. We cannot pick and choose what part of life we can skip. It is all part of our curriculum. All of life is required and not optional. We cannot dismiss what seems to hinder us, slow us down, or interrupt our plans.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

Patience is not indifference; patience conveys the idea of an immensely strong rock withstanding all onslaughts....Patience is more than endurance. A saint's life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says -- 'I cannot stand any more.' God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God's hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith.

God, You keep us waiting.

You, the God of all time, want us to wait for the right time in which to discover who we are, where we must go, who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.

You, the God of all space, want us to look in all the right and wrong places for signs of hope, for people who are hopeless, for visions of a better world which will appear among the disappointments of the world we know. So thank you for the looking time.

You keep us loving.

You, the God whose name is love, want us to be like you -- to love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable; to love without jealousy or design or threat; and, most difficult of all, to love ourselves. So thank you for the loving time.

And in all this, you keep us.

Through hard questions with no easy answers; through failing where we hoped to succeed and making an impact when we felt we were useless; through the patience and the dreams and the love of others; and through Jesus Christ and his Spirit, you keep us. So thank you for the keeping time, and for now, and for ever, Amen.

(Iona Community Worship Book)

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