September 16, 2013

Sitting Quietly and Waiting

I found this great image online, and I am reposting it here because it really sums up what I have been thinking about lately.

I have always had struggles with patience. I can remember when I first became a Christian, and a good friend of mine said "Don't ask for patience because the Lord will bring circumstances into your life that will teach you how to be patient." Those words stuck to me like glue. I thought, "Oh my! So I should never ask for patience, grace, strength, love, etc. because God will test me." I realize now that this was backwards theology, the kind of theology that presumes that God is a God who tests his children so that they will learn. A God who teaches by the "learn by trial" method.

Now this theology is not unbiblical, per se, because there are many examples in the Bible of times when God does discipline disobedient children by testing them (think Job and Jonah, for example). However, God is ALWAYS the Loving Father, and he doesn't ALWAYS test us so that we learn. Often, He guides us, and if we are attentive to His Voice, and we listen and obey, we can avoid those trials.

Job 5:17-18 (NIV) "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal."

1 Cor 11:32 (Phi) But when God does judge us, he disciplines us as his own sons, that we may not be involved in the general condemnation of the world.

Rev 3:19 (NIV) [Jesus] "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent."

Gal 6:7 (Jer) Don't delude yourself into thinking God can be cheated: where a man sows, there he reaps.

The pattern in these verses above, except for Job, is that God does discipline (or test) those children who are behaving waywardly (think active SIN). If we have come to Christ, and are walking in the Way, we should not be actively engaging in sinful behaviors. Yes, we still commit sin, but it is sin of ignorance (meaning sins I commit without thinking about them - the harsh word, the judgmental heart, failure to help the poor, etc.) We are not purposely being harsh or judgmental or overlooking the poor. We may have done this because of neglect or habit. There is a big difference between actively engaging in sin and passively engaging in sin.

Sin is sin, right? Yes and no. I know that I sin -- I do it every day. I am flawed human flesh, and I do things I know I shouldn't do. Yet, I do not seek a sinful life. I am not living in sin, thinking about committing sin. Christ died for all my sins -- the sins of commission and the sins of omission. I confess and I repent when the Holy Spirit brings to my remembrance something that I have done that is displeasing to Him. I am forgiven (past, present and future), yet I still confess to make sure that I understand what I have done and to make a mental note not to do it again (and with God's help and grace, I will not repeat it).

I was raised in such a way though to see God has this imposing task master who disciplined us for "our good." Spare the rod and spoil the child, as Proverbs teaches. Yes, that was my view of God. He was Loving, but He was a harsh disciplinarian. I never understood about Grace and about His Love -- I just remembered that if I messed up, I would get swatted (just like my own parents disciplined me as a child).

When it came to testing and trials, I took the same approach. If I didn't want hardship, then I better not ask God for any good thing (like patience).

My attitude changed the day I experienced His Grace. Yes, I received that Grace the moment I repented and claimed Jesus as my Savior. However, many years later, I received a fresh new filling of Grace that said, "You are set free. You are now free to live my Way."

Learning to walk in His Way has been difficult. It has been difficult for me to let go of the old way of thinking, the old legalistic and harsh view of God; and to embrace the new way that says "Jesus paid it all. You are free because I have set you free."

I have stumbled many times, yet God is there -- ALWAYS there -- to pick me up. He holds my hand, and He tells me that He will never leave me. He will never let go of me.

As I sit here thinking about being patient, I consider what it really means "to be patient."

Patient (ADJ): able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

If you study this word in Hebrew, you will find that it has a different meaning. Erekh apayim, according to Talmud, means that "God distances His fury (or anger)". The idea being that God's wrath has been "distanced" from His Justice or Righteousness until such a time as He has claimed all that is His. For the Christian, this means that God's anger towards sin has been pushed out -- reserved for a time in the future when He will serve judgment on the wicked. Jesus Christ, our intermediary, stands in the middle of that "distance" and for Christians who call upon His Name, this means we are able to permanently be set free from the judgment that is to come. For the wicked, however, they too have a temporary "distance" set, but unfortunately when the time comes, and after God has collected all that belong to Him, the will receive the judgment for their sin.

Interestingly, this aligns perfectly with Scripture, where we are told of the end of time when God will execute His judgment on the wicked and the righteous.

So what does it mean for Christians to be patient?

I believe that it means that we are to have the same attitude and mindset that God has toward us. We are to be "long suffering" (KJV), and distance our anger from those that hurt us or cause us harm. We are to push out retribution, vengeance, and to not "collect" our debts (not as in monetary, but as in personal relationship debts) until the Lord has finished His work.

Could this mean that we are to wait and not pass judgment on anyone because the Lord God will take care of that in His TIME?

I think this is exactly what it means. Whether we are patiently waiting for a person to turn and repent or we are waiting for a situation or circumstance to change -- we are to withhold our anger, to not act upon our emotions, and to wait for the Lord to provide resolution to us.

Oh my! If I think about my situation today, there are many things I am waiting on God to clean up. I have been "enduring," you know, gritting my teeth and hunkering down until the "thing" passed away. Now I see that this is the wrong attitude. I should push those feelings out, trusting them to God, and continue on in my work, believing that He will resolve whatever needs to be resolved.

I like it. It is a good thing.

Dear Lord,

I am waiting on you to perform in many ways. I know you will provide, and I know that your timing is perfect. I have not been patient in the way you prefer. I have chosen to hold within me anger and injustice and allow those emotions to control me. Instead, I need to push those feelings outside of me, and to let them go so I can wait WHILE you work to resolve the tension, the need, the provision. I am sorry for not understanding your WORDS, and for allowing my flesh to act this way. I ask now that I learn your WAY completely, so that I can live a less stressed life, and I can do your Work as you desire me to do it. I ask this in Jesus' Name - Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah (pause and calmly think about it).

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