Is Patience Always a Virtue?

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
‭‭James‬ ‭5:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has been a challenging week for me. I have found myself waiting longer than I wanted on several occasions. Do you ever feel like every thing and every one around you is moving in slow motion?

For example, why do most drivers ahead of me in North Minneapolis fail to move forward when the light turns green? Are they taking one last glance at a recently sent text message? Why is it so hard for them to focus on the task at hand, drive their car, and put their phone down?

And why did I need to spend 25-30 minutes at two different times this week waiting in a long line at the local Walgreens while the clerk ignored everyone of us in the line? We were 10 people deep standing right in front of him with no indication that he saw us or cared that we were there. Whatever happened to the motto: “customers first” or “the customer is always right”?

And why did I find myself waiting for 30 minutes in a drive thru line at a “fast food” restaurant while attempting to grab a quick bite to eat for my son before I took him to basketball practice? And who came up with the drive thru design that barricades your car in the lane without providing an exiting option should you experience a delay?

While I am on the subject of restaurants and convenience stores, why do we keep seeing signs on the doors informing us of our need to be patient with current employees due to staffing shortages? When are things going to return to normal? Or is the call for empathy and patience the new normal?

My son’s conclusion was that I needed to work on being more patient. He is probably right. I know I can grow in this area! But still, it makes me wonder if there may be something bigger going on all around us.

As a follower of Jesus, I realize my responsibility to respond with grace when confronted with challenging circumstances. As citizens of the United States, we have the privilege of living in a land of abundance and plenty! Truth be told, the list of challenges above pales in comparison to those faced by our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia or Afghanistan. At least we have access to working vehicles, paved roadways, fully (or even partially) stocked convenience stores, drive thru restaurants, and employment options.

My concern is that we are allowing this cultural shift toward delay and empathy seep into the church. I believe churches stop growing when her members start allowing the culture to set the agenda. We have been conditioned to embrace occasional church attendance, reduced monthly giving, infrequent involvement in disciple-making, and limited (if any) involvement in evangelism. The pastors are screaming for “all hands on deck” while the members are asking for greater patience and empathy.

When will we realize that Jesus Christ is not going to accept our excuses of being understaffed or overwhelmed when we give account to Him at the Day of Judgment (Romans 14:12)? We have been commissioned by the King of Kings to make disciples of the nations and promised the guarantee of His presence (Matthew 28:19-20).

Of course, the reality of seeing Jesus on the final day does not remove our responsibility to walk in the Spirit and exercise patience. He did design trees to bear fruit in their season (Psalm 1:3). All pastors will give an account for their lack of patience toward new converts, stubborn members, and sincere skeptics (Hebrews 13:17).

Seeing Jesus on that final day should, however, motivate all of us to start asking whether we have become too comfortable making excuses for our ministry inactivity and too casual in our dedication to local church ministry. We need to embrace a fresh set of ideas for how to reach our world. These ideas will require elements of wisdom, risk, and sacrifice. They will also require the blessing of God as seen in the early and late rains (James 5:7-8).

Let me encourage you to reflect on your responsibility to confess Jesus to those around you, love God and your neighbors, and engage in at least one discipleship relationship in the upcoming year. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Stop blaming the pandemic for your lack of connection to your church. Stop hinting to your pastors and church leaders that you need more time and empathy. Now is the time to recommit to praying for your church leaders and ask God to provide the grace needed for you to recommit to the covenant you made with the members at your local church.

Yes. We all need to walk in the Spirit and practice patience with those around us (Gal. 5:22). But, we also need to continue pursuing a God-sized view of what He wants to accomplish in and through each of us, pandemic or not!

1 Comment

Eric Amundson - January 2nd, 2024 at 4:51pm

Your twice as patient as me, good thing too, God knows you need it. I thought your son's response was hilarious, " I needed to work on being more patient"