Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Magic Patience Pill

Patience is hard. It usually involves postponing or denying some kind of gratification and I really don’t like that. There is no waiting room at my house. I don’t like to wait. I get annoyed if my prepackaged, ready-to-eat snack is in a package that is difficult to open. And don’t get me started about traffic. During the winter tourist season in Florida it is actually possible to be awarded sainthood just from driving to the store.

Impatience comes to me a lot more naturally than patience but I don’t like what it produces. Impatience and the resulting frustration can keep me from all sorts of good things. Impatience can keep me from learning to play a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, catching fish, or getting in shape physically. At it’s worst impatience makes me extremely unhealthy, unhappy, and unsuccessful. It causes divorce, vehicle crashes, and Christmas presents to be opened on the 22nd of December. It’s that bad.

There are all sorts of products and services that take advantage of our inherent impatience. Look over all of the ridiculous weight loss gimmicks on the market and impatience is the one ingredient they have in common. But we buy them by the billions because a permanent lifestyle of proper diet and sensible exercise routines requires the discipline of patience. If we had that we probably wouldn’t need to make life changes.

Religion is certainly not immune to the impatience disease. Before you get your guard up that I am about to get critical of churches let me first state that all churches are perfect. But then somebody unlocks the doors and lets people come in. That’s where the trouble starts. All people by birth have this self-serving impatient sinful nature. We are all a mess and lack any resource within ourselves to overcome our own selfishness.

The problem of impatience pervades every part of who we are. It limits us in body, soul, and spirit. The source of the problem is within us and that’s why any solution that doesn’t address the whole problem is, at best, incomplete. We can’t be truly healthy until we are disease-free.

Turning to the manual we find this whole issue described very well in the bible in chapter 5 of the book of Galatians, verses 16 through 26: 

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

In this passage we see the results of living according to “the flesh” contrasted with living according to “the Spirit”. On our own we are prone to all sorts of bad behaviors and we lack any real health. It is when we are joined together with the Spirit of God that He is capable of producing in us what we lack. This is by design. As people we were never intended to live apart from God.

Sin separated us from God and keeps us separated from Him. That is not only an issue in this life but it has devastating consequences in the afterlife. Fortunately God offers a solution. He offers Himself. Jesus became one of us and one with us. He demonstrated what the kingdom of God is truly all about so that we could make a rational, informed decision. This culminated in Him going to the grave for us to pay the price for our sin. Jesus leaves an open door for us to be restored in relationship to God. We can become complete.

The difficulty in Christianity that sets it apart from every other religion is that it requires a yielding of our precious pride. We have to acknowledge our fault, our need of salvation, and our helpless state. Through Jesus God doesn’t offer us a program or set of rules to follow with ourselves firmly planted in the driver’s seat. He offers a completed work that He initiated and finished. The good news is that He offers us Himself. Once we accept His salvation and begin to walk in fellowship with Him the goodness in that good news gets better every day.

In this life we don’t get a magic patience pill or an escape from the harsh realities of a world that turned it’s back on God. What is available to us is the very source of all the good we lack and the person of Jesus who walked in our sandals and knows what it’s like to be human. We can try to succeed without Him, just like we can try to be patient without Him. We can also take three of the tires off of our car and try to drive it. I don’t recommend either one or assume any liability.

If you want to be complete and attain ultimate health there is only one solution. It requires a complete change of life and a daily discipline of yielding to God. In return you get to hang out with the Creator of the universe and He guarantees that He will never leave you or forsake you. That’s because He is very patient and He loves you. 

May God Bless You!

Pastor Tim

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