Growing… Patiently

This week I want to talk about a struggle in life that I think is common to many. We struggle with impatience. When my children were younger, I always wanted them to learn things or do things faster. I had to fight the urge to just do it for them! I learned that being impatient didn’t help them grow up any faster. I needed patience. We need to apply patience to our walk with Jesus as well. What do I mean? I mean that when we think about the great men and women of faith, we long to have their faith, but rarely do we notice the time it took for their faith to grow into the maturity that we so long for. 

Let’s think about one of those great people of faith. Let’s think about Paul. In our minds I think that we think about Paul getting saved on the road to Damascus. Then, after an appropriate period (we think months) we again think of him now with Barnabas starting his first missionary journey. With a time-line like that, he looks really impressive. However, Paul’s written testimony gives us a different picture. He says:

Galatians 1:18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.

Galatians 2:1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.

Now, we aren’t sure of the exact years, but from Paul’s own testimony he did not start the missionary journeys that he is famous for well over a decade! A decade and a half! We think of Paul as this unstoppable force for Christ. However, he grew just like we all do – over time. He did not come out of his conversion fully formed. He matured. He grew closer to God. He took the time to do so.

Do you and I give God time to work in us? Or are we impatient? Impatience shows itself in two ways: 1) We spend a great deal of energy punishing ourselves for not being as good as others. and 2) We feel a persistent temptation to give up and throw in the towel. Maybe it is time for us to embrace a little patience. Is it time for you to be patient with yourself? Is it time for you to just focus on walking with Jesus and not persistently (and maybe just a little obsessively) measuring your progress against other Christians?

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One final thought… You and I might think that our slow growth is unnoticeable by others. We may not believe it, but others notice what God is doing in us. Paul noticed that. In his early days he noticed that believers wouldn’t trust him, but they did rejoice that the one who used to persecute the church was now sharing the gospel with others. (Galatians 1:23) So for us others may not outwardly applaud or let us know that they are watching, but they are! They are observing our changes. Those who love us and Jesus are aware of our growth. They may be cautious, but they do notice.

What should we do with these truths? Be patient. Focus on Jesus instead of progress. You and I are our own worst critics. Let’s stop that. Instead, let’s walk with the Lord. Let’s chase after Jesus. Who knows, over time we might be surprised at the joy-filled life we are living.

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Something to think about,

Pastor John

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