Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that the will of Almighty God was not dictated by my timeline. Yes, it was a shocking revelation, as my ideas are phenomenal and should be carried out with much haste. Nevertheless, His will is not swayed by the grand nature of my plans, nor is it swayed by my impatience. Consequently, it is also not altered by my complaining when things don't develop in the haste that is preferential to my whims. God loves me, but He simply will not relinquish His sovereign authority to my whiny, juvenile impatience.
But, here's what He has done...
God Almighty, the Creator, the Sustainer, the King of all kings has been patient with me. How about that? I'm impatient, demanding, and very often my side of the conversation is filled with complaining towards Him, but He is gracefully and mercifully patient with me. He's much more patient with me than I am with myself, and He is patient with me because He loves me.
Patience is an integral part of love, and this is based off of His very own definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4 (Love is patient and kind...). In this example alone, I should strive to humbly withdraw my complaining nature and develop more patience while waiting for the development of the will of God in my life. If I'm not patiently waiting on His will, there could be evidence brought forth that I don't love Him like I need to love Him...could there not?
God has always accomplished everything on His timeline. He's never once been early. He's never once been late, and He's never once been wrong. Never. Ever. I, however, have often prematurely taken action too early, I've certainly been late in taking action, and as far as being wrong goes...well, let's just set that conversation aside for the moment. It's painful. In retrospect, I can look back and clearly see why the compassionate, knowledgeable, and loving hand of God, on many occasions, either delayed my own will, or revoked it entirely, from being the integral part of my life that I envisioned. The squashing of my own imperfect plans for the sovereign perfection of His...it shouldn't be so painful. My impatience makes it so. It's often much harder to be attentive to God at the point of juvenile impatience. But, we must still wait on the Lord...
Woven throughout Scripture are examples that tell us we must wait on Him...
"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." —Psalm 37:7-9 (ESV)
"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains."
—James 5:7 (ESV)
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." —Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
"Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you."
—Psalm 33:20-22 (ESV)
I could go on...there are many examples, but it is obviously God's will that we need to develop some patience and wait on Him. There are Godly promises attached to patience and patient endurance. Good things...God things...happen when we develop patience.
Those who struggle with patience often struggle with the defining of their faith. Is our faith solidly based on the truths of Scripture, defined by the sovereignty and perfect will of Almighty God, or is our faith based on our perception of the perceived sluggishness in how quickly God acts when we call? If God doesn't give us what we want, when we want it, how we want it...is God still faithful? Does He still love us as we demand? Where is the button to push for quick service?
Here's something to think about for those of us who have little patience...and, be warned, you may not like it. Our impatience is a manifestation and proof that we are not allowing God, and the Holy Spirit, to work in us and transform our life. Does this mean that impatient people are not 'saved?' The answer to that is 'no,' but it does mean that impatient people are not walking as closely with God as He would desire. We're not close enough to God to realize all of the gifts that the Spirit of God seeks to incorporate into us...
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness..."
—Galatians 5:22 (ESV)
So, for those among us who feel that "we're just impatient" and "that's the way God made us"...know this, it's not the way God made you. You couldn't be more wrong. God is seeking to transform the old and make it new...
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." —2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
Faith is either built or destroyed by how we grow in Christ, and a larger part of that growth process than I'm often personally uncomfortable with is the development of patience. God's will is worth the wait. He's doing something new...something spectacular. Be patient.
A few weeks ago, I burned my arm with an iron while preparing some clothes. I shouldn't be participating in such dangerous activities, but I'm all about living my life on the edge...
Anyway, it hurt, I survived, and the burn left a mark. The iron left a mark on my arm because it was doing what it was made to do...get hot and transfer that heat into something else to effect a change. It did.
What about our lives? Do we live a life that leaves a mark, and if so, what kind of marks are we leaving on the world around us?
We were created out of the love and the goodness of a God who desires our attention, our service, and our devotion. God desires that we live a life that reflects His love outwardly to those around us. He desires that our service and devotion to Him would be great enough to leave a defining mark on our world. Does it?
We're leaving a mark, alright...and it's ugly. Our country seems to be in a divisive mood of late, and it's getting the best of us. We've become completely overwhelmed by politics, which is, at best, a game for fools. It's completely overtaken us, and we're headed in a bad direction.
Trump's ego leads him into foolish debates over crowd sizes. Of all the pressing issues that plague our country, the first line item to be discussed at the opening press briefing was a erroneous debate on the size of the inaugural crowd. I'm confused. Obama's crowd was much larger...get over it, Mr. President, and...who even cares? Stop arguing, and do something of worth. Madonna wants to blow up the White House, Ashley Judd is now a "nasty woman," and women protestors dress up as...well, you get the point. As a nation, as a people, we seem to be losing our collective minds. Actually, we've lost our collective minds. That's one of the problems...the "collective mind." We should again default to the practice of actually thinking for ourselves. Possibly, it would be good to have a firm understand of the following...
"Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep Your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees!" – Psalm 199:1-5 (NLT)
Let's put that little nugget of truth on a banner and march on Washington. Whose with me?
Is the mark that you're leaving on the world defined by your political affiliation? Do people know you because of your fame as a Republican or a Democrat? If you're a child of God, but you're political views are more prominent to others that your passion for Christ...then grow up immature Christian. The dilution of our national character has largely been accomplished through the political process...so be warned. Regardless of who is currently breathing the air inside of the Oval Office, we must understand that they are not solution, nor are they the only problem.
Possibly, the defining mark that you're leaving on the world is your church attendance, or the fact that you teach Sunday School? What if you're a deacon, play an instrument at your church or keep the nursery? For that matter, what if you're a pastor or staff member? Do these things leave a mark for Christ on others around you? I would say, to some degree, yes...but, to the dismay of many that revel in their service to the church, I would offer that God's idea of service is much greater than these things...much greater, indeed.
We are challenged to go "into" the world and disciple them with the Gospel of Christ...through God's Word, our words, and our actions. That's not wholly accomplished during a church service or a Sunday School class. For the most part, that's a place full of people who should already be leaving a mark on their world for Christ. Sadly, it's often just a place of simply ignoring the call that God has placed upon our lives. We need to live out our faith...far beyond the walls of the church...loving those who dare us to hate them, having compassion on those who hurt us, and speaking the truth of Christ, in love, to a world that seems intent on the cold embrace of hatred.
Matthew 7:16 says, "You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" As news to some who may assume out of context, this verse isn't talking about the identification of a Christian; instead, it's talking about false prophets. Look around at those you allow influence into your life. Are they full of hatred? Do they stand for values that subvert God's will? Does their message hold forth real hope...hope in God and God alone? Those you allow influence into your life are leaving a mark on your life...a mark that you will most certainly pass a long to others. What mark will you be known for?
We are called to be Jesus to the world, inside and outside of the church...and inside and outside of the walls of our comfort zone...at the stadium, at the political rally, on the street, on social media, etc... To leave a mark, we have to have a walk with our Savior that is intimate, growing and alive. It cannot be a walk hidden behind the facade of "church;" it must be one that is authentic, relevant, out in the street, and intent on showing the same love and compassion that Christ Himself demonstrated for us on the cross. An authentic relationship with Christ will always leave a mark for God on the world around us.
A lukewarm iron won't leave a mark...neither will a Christian with a lukewarm passion for Christ. And so, in the middle of a world currently drowning in the hatred of politics and needing the love of Jesus...what mark will you leave?
Life itself is the great equalizer of man. Regardless of the station in which we find ourselves, we all have problems. The rich man and the poor man will both experience suffering and loss. We will all have times of frustration and difficulty brought about by the passing of time, foolishness of choice, and the uncontrollable actions of those who surround us in our journey. No one is without flaw, and no one can escape the troubles that life will readily deliver to our doorstep.
I've found throughout my life that, regardless of my most thoughtful plans, trouble will inevitably come. In spite of my best efforts, there will always be those whom my efforts fail to satisfy. And, despite my prayers for those I love, there will always be sickness, there will always be death, and life will, at some point, continue to bring us all to the same level playing field. The equalization of all men through the living of life is inevitable.
For those who know the Lord, there is another great inevitability...God's grace. Ever-present, it calls to us from across the ages of God's great provision for those who have honored Him, and it continues that call today. The grace of God rings out in the beauty of a sunrise, in the cry of a newborn baby, and in the simple touch of someone who really cares. God's grace is evident in the beauty of a single moment, as we remember those we love who have passed on, and it's evident in the passing of decades as we grow old with those we love. It's God's grace.
It's the same for every man, woman, and child. It cannot be bought with wealth, and it cannot be diluted by poverty. It is constant, and it is palpable for those who are paying attention. It is undeserved, yet it is freely given. The grace of Almighty God is sufficient for the whole of this earth and all who dwell here. We are, without a doubt, covered by, and living under, the compassion of such an amazing grace.
A great God...an unfathomable grace...
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!