Fruit of the Spirit: “Patience”

Fruit of the Spirit: “Patience”
A Message on Psalm 37:7-11

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
June 17, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

Psalm 37:7-11 (NRSV)

 

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
   and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

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How many of you are anxious for this service to be over so you can get out of here and go eat lunch?

 

Well there’s a saying about today’s topic that I think will apply to you. It goes something like this:

“When we pray to God for patience, God doesn’t give us patience, he gives us opportunities to practice it.”

 

So, for those anxious souls out there this is an opportunity to practice your patience.

 

Today we are continuing our sermon series on fruit of the Spirit. We have talked about love, joy, and peace, and today we will explore the subject of patience.

 

Patience is the ability to wait for something, but it is also more than that.

 

I found this photo on the Internet. It says,

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait. It’s how we behave while we are waiting.”

 

I think there’s some good theology in that.

 

Last week Pam and I met most of my siblings up at Beavers Bend in Oklahoma for an extended weekend get-together. My nephew’s son (does that make him my great nephew?) Mason, who is in fourth grade, loves to kayak and loves to fish, so one morning he and I loaded up our kayaks and went to the lake to fish. We didn’t catch anything but we had fun.

 

On the way back to the cabin at lunchtime I had to make a left-hand turn onto the main highway. There was a car in front of us that was doing the same thing. Traffic was pretty heavy but there were times where the driver of the car in front of me, a woman, had time to make the turn. But she didn’t. Finally, in anxiousness, I said out loud something like, “Come on, lady! You could have made that. Get it in gear!”

 

As soon as I had said it I heard Mason say in the same tone I did, “Yeah, lady! Get it in gear!”

 

Oops.

 

I had lost my patience and my great nephew not only picked up on it, he started mimicking it.

 

Ouch.

 

We live in an instant gratification society. And yet the Bible tells us that we should have patience. Paul goes so far as to list it as a fruit of the Spirit, number four to be exact.

 

Patience.

 

In 1 Corinthians 13 we read that it is at the list of what love is: “Love is patient…”

 

Ephesians 4:2 says, “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”

 

Colossians 3:12 says, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

 

I really like what it says in James 5:7, “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”

 

Farmers know about patience. The thing I like most about this time of year is the fresh produce. I’m growing some tomatoes and peppers in containers this year and it shows me just how much I have missed having a garden.

 

To me there are few things in this world that taste better than a fresh-picked, red-ripe, home-grown tomato. It’s something you just don’t get with store-bought tomatoes. But it takes a while to grow tomatoes. One variety I planted takes about 50 days from seed to harvest. Another variety takes from 80 to 100 days from seed to harvest. That’s about three months. And during that time the plants need watering, feeding with fertilizer, weeding, etc.

 

Three months. But the you get red-ripe, delicious tomatoes.

 

Patience is a virtue for a reason. And patience is a fruit of the Spirit for a reason.

 

Listen to how much importance patience is give in the section of Psalm 37 that we read today:

 

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
   and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (Psalm 37:7-11)

 

Wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

 

Now waiting for the Lord had special meaning for the Old Testament Hebrew people. Prophets had come and gone and had written and talked about a messiah that was coming, someone who would make all things right and good for the Jewish people. So who would this Messiah be? When would the Messiah come?

 

For thousands of years they waited. They had to have patience. They had to practice patience.

 

And then Jesus arrives on earth. The Messiah comes. The thousands of years of waiting were over. God comes to earth and dwells among humans. But some people, the religious people, ironically, don’t believe it so they have him killed. But he doesn’t stay dead, he rises from the dead. And he promises that he will return one day. In the meantime we are to work for the Lord and be patient.

 

It’s not easy to be patient, is it?

 

Let’s do a little experiment. I’m going to be quiet and just let time pass. Let’s be quiet and see what happens. (Time the silence.)

 

Kinda awkward, wasn’t it? How long do you think it was? I timed it. It was 30 seconds. Half a minute. But it sure felt longer, didn’t it.

 

Back in my previous career as a journalist I was taught a technique that takes advantage of humans’ awkwardness with silence. It’s called the “pregnant pause.” If I was interviewing someone and asked them a question and they answered, but I didn’t respond but just kept looking at them, 9-out-of-10 times they would start talking again just to fill the void of silence.

 

It’s difficult to wait, to be patient. And yet it is not only a virtue, but it is a fruit of the Spirit.

 

So my challenge for you this week is to be patient. Be patient with our fellow brothers and sisters who get all over our nerves. Be patient with the person in front of you who is going to slow or who takes too long to turn left. Be patient with those who aren’t as far along in their faith journey as you are. Be patient with those who are way ahead of you as well. Be patient with yourself.

 

Practice patience. Practice patience. Practice patience.

 

In the name of the Father (pause), and the Son (pause), and the Holy Spirit (pause), Amen.

 

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