“Are we there yet?”
If you’re a parent, you know the question. It’s the same one that’s been asked from the back seat of the family truckster since time began. Over and over again. And by now, our family has taken enough road trips where we have instituted the practice that we don’t answer that question. As a parent, it’s a no win kind of question because no matter how close you are to the destination, you’re never close enough.
Ironic, though, that I as a parent so despise the very question that I constantly plague God with.
Leadership, as you know, is a long game. It’s the arduous task of not only getting things done, but developing people. Whenever people are involved, the issue at hand always becomes more complicated. And inevitably, slower.
As a leader, then, patience is one of the qualities of our character that is most often tried. What makes matters worse is that we live in a Twitter world. Instantaneous information. Quick gratification. Faster food. Microwave relationships. Multi-tasking tasking. We have been conditioned to believe that everything must happen now.
That means that patience is bucking the entire culture around us. And yet patience is one of the fruits the Holy Spirit produces in our lives – one of the qualities of Christ-likeness that God is building in us day after day as we walk in obedience and intimacy with Him, and one of the qualities most essential for longevity in leadership.
It was God’s Son, Jesus, that modeled this kind of patience for us. As you read through the gospels, you find Jesus over and over again telling the crowds of people clamoring for HIs coronation that His time was not yet come. You hear Him telling people to keep His identity and miracles to themselves, and you see Him dispersing those same crowds who sought to make Him king. Jesus was patient, and it is God’s will that we also become patient.
But embracing the patience-building work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is more than act of will – it’s an act of faith. That is to say we must believe certain things to be true about the nature and character of God in order to embrace the patient character God is seeking to build in us. It is these qualities of God which we are so convinced that serve as the fuel for Christian patience.
1. God is wise
Sometimes we can pray for something to change in our lives and it seems like God is either not listening, or He is dragging His feet. But this is not so. God is many things, but haphazard is not one of them. There is divine intentionality behind every move of the Lord, and the same divine intentionality behind every delay.
Christian patience is fueled, then, by a firm belief in the wisdom of God. When we believe that God is wise, we believe that He is not negligent when it comes to the timing of circumstances in our lives. Instead, we trust that God is operating on His own time table which, contrary to what we might feel, is actually the best time table. It might be that despite what we might think, we are not ready for circumstances to change in our lives. Or it might be that we are so short-sighted that we cannot conceive of the totality of what God wants to do in a given situation. Whatever the reason, our patience is fueled when we remind ourselves that God is more wise than we know and He is intentionally and wisely working, though His work might not yet be apparent.
2. God is loving
When we are made to wait, and sometimes wait for a long time, the natural tendency is for us to think critically of the one who we perceive is making us wait. If we, for example, find ourselves at the back of the DMV line, it’s just a matter of time until we start to think about government inefficiencies. Or when we are waiting in traffic, we will eventually start to wonder about who the idiot is that is rubber necking at the accident on the other side of the highway. In either case, we look for someone to blame, and that blame only fuels our anger and bitterness at being made to wait.
That’s why Christian patience is also fueled by confidence in the love of God. When we are convinced because of the cross of Christ that God absolutely, completely, and immeasurably loves us, then our patience is bolstered. Though we might not understand why we must wait, we must filter our experience of waiting through God’s love. In doing that, we can only conclude that it is not only a good thing, but the best thing, for us to wait. Even if it is at the DMV.
3. God is generous
One of the great lies that we believe over and over again is that God is holding out on us. It is, in fact, the same lie that the serpent fed to Eve on the day of the fall – that there is another tree that has the best fruit, and this best fruit is what God is actually keeping from you.
In order to be patient, we must actively fight that lie with the truth of God’s generosity. We must remind ourselves that God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavens, already, and that He who gave His own Son for us will also give us all things along with Him. When we know that God is generous with His children, we can tell our souls that even it looks like He’s giving us a stone, that it’s actually bread; even if it looks like a snake, it’s actually a fish.
Friends, today you will wait for something. Or someone. For some reason. And how will you and I handle that waiting? May it be that we calmly embrace the patient character the Holy Spirit is working in us, and may it be fueled by our confidence in the wise, loving, and generous God.
Michael Kelley is the Director of Discipleship at Lifeway, and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life