There's An App For That - Week Four "Patience"

For the past several weeks I have been preaching a sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit

When I planned this sermon series I didn't really think about the fact that there are NINE aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit, which translates into a NINE week sermon series.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't attempt such a feat, but honestly the material here is too good to breeze through.  And besides, sometimes it's better to just slowly marinate with Biblical texts to get the full flavor. (dig that metaphor, don't you?)

So this week we are learning about Patience---the fourth aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit.  For those that have been following along, you'll recall that the Fruit of the Spirit is singular.  All of the aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit come together as a perfectly formed Christian life. 

And the only way to have a perfectly formed Christian life is to be as close to Jesus as you possibly can.  I am not talking about being a better "Christian" here.  In fact, that's the farthest thing from my mind.  There are plenty of people who call themselves "Christian" who absolutely don't know the first thing about what it means to follow Jesus. 

We've used the analogy of "apps" as a way to understand this concept a bit better.  An "app" or application for my smart phone or iPad is something that makes my life easier, better and more awesome--at least that's what it's supposed to do.  Our culture created these little extensions of ourselves in order to feed our need for immediacy.  Christian culture is no different.  Christians want to become "better" as quickly and easily as possible.  The reality is that following Jesus is simple, but it's difficult.  Following Jesus is uncomplicated, but extremely challenging.  But when we do, we see the evidence, or fruit, of following him exhibited in our lives.

I belive that those of us who call ourselves Christians often think that because we give a little money to the church, go to worship on a semi-regular basis, and generally do things "for" God that we get a free pass when act like idiots.  That's the only way to explain why we make excuses for our lack of love, joy, peace and yes... patience. 

If I am being honest, I have to admit that the reason why I might struggle with these things is that the evidence of them isn't in my life.  And the reason why the evidence isn't in my life is because I am not walking with Jesus as I should.  This hits me right in the gut, because patience is something that I lack.

I love how us Christians just seem to demand patience.  "God, I want you to give me patience.  Now."  We're not even patient about receiving patience. 

I did some research into some of the physical implications of being impatient.  It's a product of what is known as TAB (Type A Behavior), which is often exhibited by "Type A" personalities.  The funny thing is that TAB's can also be exhibited by introverts.  So, all you mellow people need to be on notice:  you get impatient, too.  Though maybe not as often as some of us Type A'rs. 

Chronic impatience can result in hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, chronic job stress and social isolation.  Excellent.  Now I feel so much better.  All of these things can kill you. 

I read somewhere that Impatience is the "the fear of the present moment."  I love that analogy, actually.  When you're afraid of the present moment, you freeze up inside, your inner resources go untapped, and your inner monologue ceases to function.  We all know people who have no inner monologue---that one person committee meeting that takes place in our head before we speak.  Folks who have no inner monologue just say whatever comes to mind without a thought to the consequence.  When we are impatient, we find ourselves saying things that we can't quite believe that we are saying.  As the words are leaving our lips, we are desperately hoping that it's all a dream, and that we'll wake up in a world where everyone around us doesn't think we suck.

So Impatience not only can kill your body, it can kill your spirit... and maybe even the spirits of the people affected by your lack of it. 

The New Testament book of James sums up the essence of what it means to be patient:  "...quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry..." James 1:19. 

Patience can be developed and strengthened---especially when you train yourself to ignore all the things--and the people---that annoy you. 

There are two verses I am focusing on this week from the Old Testament book of Proverbs:
  "Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget." Proverbs 19:11; "Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses."  Proverbs 25:15
The original translation of the second verse ends like this: "a soft tongue will break a bone."  I love that.  The wisdom of that phrase is so deep.  The softest organ can break the hardest organ.  That doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface until you read the translation above.  The author was saying essentially that the victory of patience astounds those who do not understand the true nature of power.

Guess who doesn't really understand the true nature of power?  Most of us, that's who. 

I bet you didn't know that the Hebrew word for patience erek appayim is actually translated "long of nose," or "long of breath."  It's an ancient idiom that helps explain what it means to truly be patient.  If you lived in ancient Mesopotamia, and you wanted to tell someone that they needed to be more patient, you would tell them, "You need to have a longer nose." 

In the ancient world, people believed that anger burned in the nostrils.  So to have a long nose meant that you had a "short fuse."  You see, it takes longer to breathe through a long nose.  If you think this seems odd, we have a similar saying, "Take a deep breath and count to ten." 

Most of our impatience is focused on others.  The Proverbs that we read, along with the James passage back this up.  The reason why you need to breathe deeply before you speak when you are feeling impatience is because our words and our actions have the potential to do serious harm to those around us... and ourselves. 

Think about it, when someone offends you, you have a choice:  confront them or ignore it.  But you say, "What if someone cuts you off on the highway?  Or treats you poorly in a store? Or is rude to you at a movie theater?  Or says something personal about you to others?"  Still a choice.  You can either be "short of nose" and not breathe before you speak, or you can be "long of nose" and just breathe long and slow before moving on. 

The Apostle Paul offers a way to speak if you need to speak in those moments.  He began his letters with the words, "Grace & Peace."  When we speak "grace and peace" to one another it's like saying, "whatever happened, whatever you did, whatever you said... it ends here."  The passage in Proverbs urges us to abar or pass over it, to overlook these offenses.  When we do, we cover them in love.

The ancients often talked about the very long nose of God.  God, my friends, has to have a Jimmy Durante sized schnozz to put up with our mess.  I think that the patience of God is so incredibly exhibited by Jesus. 

Jesus covered some offenses with love, didn't he?  In dramatic fashion, I might add.  When he hung on the cross with the crowds mocking him, he looked to the heavens and prayed, "Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing." 

Grace and Peace. 

So what do we do?  How do we draw closer to Christ and begin to show evidence of patience?  First, we have to learn to breathe deeply before we speak.  My massage therapist often reminds me to take the time to breathe during the week.  I know.  "Remember to breathe."  She tells me if I do this on a daily basis--take long slow breaths---that I will do wonders for my physical and mental well-being. 

Second, we need to speak grace and peace if we must speak at all. 

Third, we need to learn how to pass over the offenses that are leveled at us.  Take the second of our choices and ignore when people wound us with their words or their deeds. 

And finally, we need to cover it all with love.  If we are walking with Jesus then we have the ability to forgive as Jesus forgave.  Even as he was being crucified, mocked, spit upon and completely rejected in every way, Jesus prayed for those who did it. 

I know.  It's simple... but difficult.  Uncomplicated, but incredibly challenging. 

And it just might save your life.

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