When the Sovereign Lord planned each of your days, even before you were born, his plan permitted unpleasant people and undesirable circumstances to be included in some of those days. Why? To develop in you something very special to him: the fruit of patience. Learn to embrace the things that try your patience, because there will be no opportunity in heaven to learn it.
The Journey// Focus: Genesis 41:1,14-15
Another two full years passed while Joseph languished in prison, then Pharaoh has a dream. … Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.”
Another two years passed. Joseph had already been in prison for years—due to no fault of his own. Now there had come a glimmer of hope in Genesis 39 when he had accurately interpreted the dreams of two fellow prisoners—officials of Pharaoh—that they would be released. His only request was that they would remember him when there were out, and speak kindly of him so that he too, could be released. They didn’t. They promptly forgot.
And it would seem, behind their forgetfulness was the forgetfulness of God. Why would God allow this righteous man to languish for another two years in a fetid Egyptian prison. Why?
Why—that is the question we all have at some point in our walk of faith. And since an adequate answer to that question is likely to escape our finite understanding, it is important that we grow in patience, trust and expectancy as we await the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives. We know that, of course, but it is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, let me remind us again today of why you and I must develop these virtues in our faith journey.
James, the first leader of the church, wrote, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Whatever is lacking in your life right now, patience, along with trust and expectancy, is what will bring it to you!
The nineteenth century preacher A. B. Simpson said it this way: “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience…If you are to practice these things, it must be now.”
M. H. Lount wrote, “best gifts come slowly…growth and strength in waiting are results often greater than the end so impatiently longed for.”
God’s first concern for our lives is our growth, not our gratification. That’s why he often withholds what we would prefer and allows us to experience a long-term difficulty until we have learned to fully trust him. Again, that requires an industrial strength patience.
It is said that Joseph Hayden wrote a musical piece in which the flute player did not play a note until the 75th measure. And then, that flute player had only one note to play. On that 75th measure, on the up-beat, the flute player was to play that one and only note. And that was it. One of the flute players in the Boston Symphony said , “When Hayden wrote that musical piece, he had a very special, patient person in mind.”
When the Sovereign Lord, whom the Bible says has ordered everyone of your days, even before one of them came into existence, saw fit to allow unpleasant people or undesirable circumstances to be a part of your life, he had you, a very special and potentially patient, trusting, expectant person in mind.
That is the process by which God shapes your life. So how can you learn to work with God in a way that allows him to transform you into an instrument of usefulness? Let me suggest three things:
Pray: Begin the process of growing in patience by simply asking God for it. God, the core of whose very character is patience, is the source of it. In James 1:2-3 we’re taught that the end result of the patience process is wisdom. And what does James say about wisdom? That if any of us lacks it we should ask God for it because he will give it generously.
So if he will supply the wisdom generously, we can back up in the process to ask for the patience as well, and expect to receive it. We simply and boldly need to ask for patience.
Evaluate: What are the areas where you tend to be most impatient. Perhaps it happens to be with how you respond to your family or maybe the people you work with would say you’re a short-tempered person. Maybe you are not considering the trials in your life with pure joy; you are not giving perseverance a chance to develop character; you are not appreciating that character tempered by patience is what produces Biblical hope in you. Or maybe you are impatient with God’s timing in your life.
Identify your top two or three areas of impatience, and then get some help with them. Enter into accountability with someone who will hold your feet to the fire in terms of your behavior, who will give you the words of encouragement needed to stay patient, and will faithfully pray for you as you go through the process.
Reflect: Practice the discipline of remembering and reflecting when you are tempted to be impatient. When you are about to fly off the handle remember how patient and long-suffering God has been with you. Make a study of and memorize as many of the verses on impatience and anger as you can, like Proverbs 29:11, “A stupid man gives free reign to his anger, but a wise man waits and lets it grow cool.” Soak in God’s truth until it gets into the very fabric of your being.
When you are getting weary of waiting, reflect on the purpose of God in your circumstance: that he is bringing you to maturity, and the vehicle that will get you there is patience. Reflect on Romans 5:3-5 which says, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”
Give intentional effort to the practice of patience. If you will, you will grow in trust of God. And when you have developed trust, you will ultimately experience the redeemed realization of all that you expect.