Patience Under Pressure
May 10, 2020 – Pastor Marissa Jadrich Ortiz
1. Introduction: Why Patience?
Church, I have a problem with the fruit of the spirit. See, when I think about Heaven, when we’re all living fully saved and delivered in the glorious presence of God, I think there’s going to be so much love. Love for God, love for people. The whole place just radiates love. And Joy. It’s going to be like one big party up there! So much to celebrate! And peace! Man, we’ve never felt as secure and provided for as we’ll feel in God’s house with many rooms. And Patience…patience? Really?
Honestly, I have no interest in being patient in heaven. I don’t want to have to wait for anything! I don’t want my family members driving me crazy! I definitely don’t want to be stuck in traffic. When sin is destroyed and death defeated and God wipes away every tear, I really don’t see a reason why patience is necessary anymore.
Why can’t we just let patience go? Well the problem is, God is patient. God waits.
Why would God wait? If I were God, I wouldn’t wait for anything. I could do anything I wanted right? So if even God waits, there must be something actually good about it. Right?
Then one day I was reading about some early church leaders who lived in North Africa the first few centuries after Jesus. They believed, they really believed this, that Patience was the #1 virtue for the church and the heart of God’s character.
Some of these guys, they had it pretty bad. My man Cyprian, he was trying to keep the peace between the African church and the European church—and between Christians who had really suffered under persecution from the government and those who had kind of given in but stayed Christian just in secret—AND then a plague did a number on his city, which as you know affected them all alike: suffering Christians, secret Christians, pagans, soldiers. Now you might think this would be Cyprian’s time to say “now more than ever the church needs to shine God’s love in our world” or “the church needs to live up to God’s righteousness” or “the church needs to be a beacon of peace and reconciliation.” But no, Cyprian sat down with his scroll and wrote “our commitment to PATIENCE is under attack! It’s up to us to make PATIENCE look so good that others will see God in us.”
They were so intense about this that I kept coming back to Patience and trying to figure it out.
2. So I started a quest for A Good Version of Patience.
When is patience is doing something actually good, not just a reaction to a bad thing that happens? That’s one of our big problems with patience, we start off thinking about it as something to “not do.” Patience means not hitting your brother after he hit you. Patience means not breaking your computer after it chooses your most urgent file to load most slowly. I made a list.
Hang on I’m not just going to tell you what they are! Your turn first. How many things can you think of that are actually better with patience? For example, here’s a hint from James 5:
See how the farmer waits for the land to produce its rich crop. See how patient the farmer is for the fall and spring rains. You too must be patient.
Okay that was your only hint! Take 30 seconds and see how many things you can think of that get better with patience.
Here’s a few things on my list:
- gardens growing
- bread rising
- cheese aging
- Rapunzel growing out her hair long enough to get out of a tower
- lining up dominoes for a domino chain
Okay that was just our warm up to get patience out of the negative into the positive.
3. There’s another reason patience seems miserable to us.
I think when we picture a patient person, we picture somebody doing something we hate. Like “I would never have the patience for Black Friday Shopping” or “I would never have the patience for alphabetizing my bookshelf”
The secret is, you already have that patience for the things you love. And I don’t mean like if you love someone you’ll be patient with them, we’ve all tried that one. Think about it like this:
I do not have the patience for watching golf on TV. I do not have the patience for household pets. But the people who watch golf, the people who take care of cats and dogs, they wouldn’t tell me that they do it because they’re saints. They wouldn’t put those activities in the same category as getting cut off in traffic or getting snitched on by your sibling. It’s something they enjoy. In fact, they don’t just like what they get out of it—they’re in for the whole process. They love the possibilities, they see it for everything it can be before it even starts. That’s what makes it great for them. That’s where that “patience” I don’t have comes from.
Now some deeply personal facts about me.
I do have the patience for editing resumes. I’m serious. I also have the patience for learning new languages even if no one has spoken them for hundreds of years. Why would I ever put myself through that? It’s not because I’m a saint. The thing is, God made me this way. I love it. When I look at your resume, I’m inspired by the potential in this one piece of paper to glow with all the best things about you so that someone could look at it and in five seconds be interested in an interview. When I’m learning a new language, it isn’t just about being my own Google Translate—I love how the sound of the syllables or the patterns in the grammar actually shape the meaning of the sentences I’m hearing. I love how knowing a different word for the same thing actually makes me see that thing differently.
See, that’s where my so-called patience comes from. I see in them, from the beginning, everything they have the possibility of being. And I love it every step of the way. Someone else feels that way about jigsaw puzzles. Someone feels that way about fishing. Someone feels that way about building a tower of blocks and knocking it down again over and over. Someone feels that way about smoking ribs. And God feels that way about us.
4. God feels that way about us.
All the messes God has gotten into as a result of being in relationship with humans—That’s the kind of thing God loves to do and has the patience for. Like in the story of the prodigal son. No matter what the son is out there doing, the Father is already watching for him to come home, already ready to receive him, and always seeing him as his own beloved son because that is what he has always been and always will be.
Dear friends, here is one thing you must not forget. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years. And a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow to keep his promise. He is not slow in the way some people understand it. Instead, he is patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3
See, God’s got all the time in the world. That means God never needs to hurry. God is taking God’s time, and all the while, God sees all of us as sons and daughters on their way home. God sees us bearing God’s image, the gifts God has given us (whether or not they’ve come to fruition yet), the plans God has for us. That’s what God sees when God looks at us, no matter what we happen to be doing at the time.
So here’s my working definition of patience. Patience is the ability to see the image and handiwork of God in another person no matter what’s going on. And that puts patience at the heart of all the other virtues we appreciate. Love, Peace, Justice. See listen to how Jesus explains why we should love our enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor. Hate your enemy.’ But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. Then you will be children of your Father who is in heaven.
He causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Because God, in God’s patience, is already treating every person with bottomless generosity, like they already belong in God’s family. And God’s children do the same.
It’s okay that we have different natural bents for our patience. Somebody has the patience for lego sculptures, somebody else has the patience for long division, someone else has the patience to train for a marathon. That’s great, God made us that way. Our calling and our spiritual discipline as Christians is to develop patience in the things God loves. That’s what Jesus keeps encouraging us to do when he talks about love, and joy, and peace.
Jesus says, “Do not fight against an evil person. Suppose someone slaps you on your right cheek. Turn your other cheek to them also. Suppose someone takes you to court to get your shirt. Let them have your coat also. Suppose someone forces you to go one mile. Go two miles with them. Give to the one who asks you for something. Don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow something from you.”
You see this isn’t the picture of someone who’s biting their tongue. This is someone who is genuinely patient. Who sees those other people in the image of God, already welcomed home like the prodigal son when he was still far off, this is someone who has all the time in the world to show them the kind of love God has for them.
5. Let’s take another look at what a patient person looks like.
When we’re forming our mental picture of someone patient, let’s let go of that image of someone getting cut off in traffic without swearing. We can imagine someone
- free from hurry
- free from anger, difficult to offend
- quick to forgive others or admit wrong
- hopeful without being out of touch
- sees others the way God sees them
- as one of these early church fathers put it so well, the patient person “refuses to create an enemy”
That’s what patience under pressure looks like.
I really believe that now is the time for patience to make its comeback. See many of us have committed ourselves to character that we believe will honor God and change the world. Maybe we’re committed to love others no matter what, or committed to peacemaking and nonviolence, or committed to justice for everyone God has made. And a lot of us are experiencing a consistent gap between those commitments and the lives we’re actually living. I believe that patience is a big part of the way our other character ambitions fall short. Love without patience is only going to get you so far. Peace without patience is basically impossible. Justice without patience isn’t going to look a lot like God. So I just want to put that word out there, if you are someone who seeks to live out a commitment to love or peace or joy or mercy, consider what it looks like to do those things patiently and there could be a real breakthrough for you there.
6. How Do We Get Patient?
So how do we become patient people? What’s just one thing we can do to move in the direction of patience from wherever we are now? Just like Pastor Donnell told us about Generosity, the way we move toward this kind of character is by practicing it. We set up a small experiment. Then we discover what happens when we say, “Yes.” So today we’re going to plan ahead for an opportunity to try it out. Don’t wait til you’re surprised by someone cutting you off in traffic. Think about something you already know is coming, so you’re ready to do it patiently.
Then ask yourself a few questions afterwards.
What did I discover?
How did I feel?
Where did I experience God?
There’s a couple ways you can go about this:
Your patience experiment might involve another person. That’s brave. In that case I suggest being very concrete about your situation so you’re ready for it. Not just “I want to be patient with my brother,” but “AFTER dinner, when mom says TV time is over and my brother gets GROUCHY and he starts looking for ways to push my buttons” See, that specific. So you decide, my experiment is just with that person at that time, you’re going to try to see all the special things Jesus loves about your brother. Remember it’s not just about biting your tongue, it’s an active effort to see a child of God in someone no matter what is going on. Try that out. And then reflect afterwards, what did you learn, how did you feel, where did you experience God?
A different thing you could try is to do a task or chore with patience. That means doing something with absolutely no hurry. Not like a sloth, just staying present. You’re doing it the way you would do one of the things you already do patiently, things you like to do. Challenge yourself to do this one thing that you don’t already love, in a patient and unhurried way…not just to torture yourself, but on purpose to see if you can catch a whiff of the God kind of patience.
I talked to a real person in our congregation who completed this patience challenge in the past. What she chose to do is CLEAN OUT THE REFRIGERATOR. There was an audible gasp in the room…really the refrigerator? The whole thing? All the shelves and the weird sticky parts you don’t want to think about? And doesn’t that take like a year? But she did it and she said it was amazing how not-miserable it was just to be doing it without hurry. Present to herself and the work. Patiently.
So you could try that too if you want. Be your own inspiration.
My last tip for this Patience Challenge is that it’s going to work best if you have a partner. It will be more fun and you’re much more likely to actually do it. So today, tell your partner what your experiment is. Then later this week your partner will ask you how it went, and you can debrief these questions with them. You’re also welcome to email me your plan and I’ll check in on you later.
I’m really excited about what our church could look like if we take on the challenge of living patiently. Patience is a piece of God that our family members, our roommates, our neighbors, and our world are so so hungry for and they don’t even know it. It’s our time to make patience look good.