Quite often I have heard people say, "I need to pray for patience to get through this situation."
My usual answer is, "Perhaps this situation has befallen you as a means of teaching you patience; perhaps even as an answer to a previous prayer for patience.
When we come to truly believe, the Holy Spirit brings us a gift, a kind of fruit basket, just as we are told in Galatians 5:22-23.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)
If we truly believe, then, as we are told here, we have already been given the gift of patience.
I believe that one of the biggest problems of believing Christians is that we often pick and choose from the gifts of God rather than accepting all that He gives us.
Think about "patience" in light of these verses.
If we fail to accept God's gift of patience, then, when a troublesome situation arises, we find ourselves quickly losing our joy and peace, which is followed quite often by our loss of gentleness and self-control.
And when we do this, we also don't seem to be expressing our love or kindness or gentleness either.
Do you agree?
So, when others look at us, they begin to wonder where our faith has gone.
Thus, because we have failed to accept and utilize this one gift, this gift of patience, we find ourselves loosing all the other gifts, too.
Let's keep these thoughts in mind as we move on to the main subject of today's message, from John 16:16-33, for it's a message of learning about our patience, hope, and joy.
In this passage, Jesus is trying to explain to His disciples about His departure from this earth, about His resurrection to come, and even more.
16 "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."
Isn't the expression "in a little while" a way of telling us to have patience?
Think about what we talked about in church just two weeks ago when it was so warm, and we had noticed that many of the bulbs were beginning to sprout.
Didn't we think, "In a little while, it will be spring"?
But then, we had that very unseasonable cold snap.
Did we find the return of winter to be somewhat discouraging?
Or, did we still retain our hope and joy that in a little while it would indeed be spring.
This is the same kind of message that Jesus was trying to convey to His disciples about His departure.
But not everyone wanted to accept what Jesus was saying on face value; their impatience led them to discuss among themselves what Jesus really meant.
They didn't simply ask Jesus to explain His message in more detail.
17 Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" 18 They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying."
Do you note the impatience in their question, "What does He mean by 'a little while'?"
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'?
20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
The worldly systems of that time were being challenged by Jesus, and the people who profited from what was going on wanted to get rid of Jesus; they wanted to kill Him; thus, they would rejoice at His death.
But the disciples would weep and mourn, because they would see their hope and joy in their Messiah coming to an end, which it really wasn't.
By saying, "in a little while", Jesus was trying to get the disciples, and even us today, to look beyond the existing and upcoming events in the world, to see the hope and joy to come.
Even though Jesus was going to die, He would live again, and even come to earth again, "in a little while", a time we are to patiently wait for.
An example of having to see beyond the present situation was presented to me on Monday in an E-mail of a news clipping from Nairobi, Kenya, Africa, concerning a situation in Tanzania.
March 3, 1998: Nairobi - Tanzania's justice department has made legal history after a Primary Court magistrate in Rukwa, Tanzania, sentenced a dog to death by hanging, the regional weekly newspaper "The East African" reported in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday. The dog's owner, John Kachela (25) was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail sentence and his dog, [named] "Immigration", sent to the gallows "to hang until it dies", after the court ruled that Kachela was guilty of scandalizing the department of immigration. Stanley Anyitike, the prosecuting immigration officer, told the court that Kachela mischievously gave the name of this "highly respected and law-abiding" government department to his dog and almost every other day went to the immigration department and other public places proudly calling the animal by name. The mongrel is on death row, with no appeal against conviction or sentence, application for stay of execution or petition to the High Court. The Tanzania Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has appealed to advocates of the court to take up the matter in the name of "kindness to God's creatures".
This dog, "Immigration" is obviously an innocent participant in this act of free speech.
But in a senseless act of cruelty by the magistrate, he orders this innocent animal to die for the guilty party, who got a suspended sentence.
This kind of hardness of heart is enough to make you sick.
This nothing by scapgoating an innocent animal for the sins of humans.
And even though this case is not appealable in Tanzania, it is most definitely appealable to the Highest Court, and the highest Judge, the Lord God, who will judge the thoughts and intent of everyone's heart.
This appeal will take place "in a little while".
I'm not sure how long.
In the meantime, we need to do what we can to stop such senseless and cruel acts, but at the same time never lose sight of the end time promise of God to make everything right again.
Because this story involves a dog, a human companion, it attracts more attention; however, what is happening to this dog is no different than what is happening to millions of other animals every day, who are condemned to suffer and die, without a trial, to satisfy the human appetite.
We're just suffering the pains that come before our joy, just as the example that Jesus gives us.
21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
As Christians, will we have the patience to get beyond these present situations, that others will come to see the hope and peace and joy that comes through our faith in Jesus Christ?
Can we hold fast a little while longer until the Lord returns?
23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
25 "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.
26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.
27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
Do we ask God as though we believe?
Do we seek our help and answers from God with a heart filled with hope and joy of the promise to come "in a little while"?
Or, do we lose our patience, and get angry with God for allowing such senseless cruel things to happen?
Experience has taught me that we accomplish far more with love and peace in our hearts than we do when we are filled with anger and hatred.
We need to keep ourselves focused upon the Lord's words, and those He inspired in others.
28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."
29 Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.
30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."
31 "You believe at last!" Jesus answered.
32 "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)
Do we believe this?
Will we have the patience to overcome this world as Jesus did?
Will we be so filled with the fruit of the Spirit that we can make a difference in this world, "in the little while", until the Lord returns?
I pray so!
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