How long would you patiently wait for your morning coffee? Five minutes? Would you even last that long? What if you first had to manually grind the beans, boil the water over a fire, and, if you wanted cream with it, milk the cow? It wasn’t so many years ago that these time-consuming tasks had to be performed prior to enjoying a morning coffee. And back then, when they had to put work into it, do you think people were as particular about the taste and quality of their coffee? Not so much. However, today, with our near-instant coffee gratification, it seems the more we get, the more we expect, and even demand.
Impatience with God?
Of course, a little impatience when it comes to coffee isn’t too concerning. But do we have this same impatience with God also? Daily, when we receive a multitude of mercies from God, isn’t it our nature to turn around and demand more, better, and faster? We wouldn’t use those words in our prayers, but in our hearts we do want God to use His power to give us what we think is best… and give it right away.
Are we patient and persistent when praying and working for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom? Or are we often in a great rush in our witnessing to the lost? If we don’t see a response of faith in the first few weeks, or months, or years, we become impatient, we despair, and we wonder if it is all a waste of time. If it isn’t working, just move on, right?
Wrong. We don’t know – and don’t get to set – the speed at which God ought to work in the lives of people who are lost. God’s speed often appears to us to be a strangely slow speed, but that is His business, not ours. Our job is to be faithful to the task He has given us. And our patience with people is proof of our love for them – and proof of our faith in God’s power to change them.
Patience is so important that J.I. Packer dared to write:
“If you are not willing thus to be patient, you need not expect that God will favor you by enabling you to win souls.”
When we look to the Bible, we see the apostles repeatedly preaching the gospel even when there was opposition. And they continued to do so after repeatedly being arrested, imprisoned, and told to cease (Acts 4-5). It was persevering during hardship. That is a concept that many Christians in the West have little experience of. Why do we experience setbacks while we are working in obedience to God’s commands? It seems like an unnecessary trial. In our weaker moments we could be tempted to think that if God wants us to build His church, He should (at least) remove the obstacles so it wouldn’t take so long.
The apostles stop when – and only when – they are forcefully driven out (Acts 13:50-51) or opposed, verbally berated, and mocked (Acts 18:6). In so doing, they followed Jesus’ command: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matt.7:6) and: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matt.10:14).
God isn’t “looking for results” the same way that we often do. Rather, God is the one who brings results about, and He decides how and when those results will come about. We are merely tools in God’s hand, used by Him to bring about His purposes in His timing. And God often uses processes that try our patience, test our perseverance, and cause us to trust His power, purposes and timing.
Once again, J.I. Packer’s words come to mind:
“God saves in His own time, and we ought not to suppose that He is in such a hurry as we are… the work of evangelizing demands more patience and sheer ‘stickability’, more reserves of persevering love and care, than most of us twenty-first century Christians have at (our) command.”
So let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season – according to God’s timetable and not our own – we will reap, if we do not lose heart.
Pastor Brian Zegers has been called to minister the Gospel to Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area, and Peter Vogel serves full-time as Ministry Assistant at Word of Life Ministry. Find them at WordOfLifeMinistry.ca and their YouTube channel “True Salaam” where they seek to explain the Gospel to Muslim viewers.