“Be Patient and Rejoice”
1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10
When I was a high school student, I gave myself a nickname. I was a king of patience. There are many things to share with you to prove that I was very patient and I will share one with you.
One day, my friends and I wondered who could stay longer under water without breathing. I was very confident that I could stay longer than the others because I was very patient. So we decided to have a competition to see who was best at holding our breath. I was the first to jump in the water. I dove under the water and stayed there, thinking that I would beat all of them in this competition. I stayed under the water as much as I could. Then, I came out of the water and checked the time. I stayed under the water exactly 2 and 53 seconds. Almost three minutes. Can you believe it? All of the friends who were waiting for their turn were shocked not only by my record, but also by my face. My face was pale. My lips were totally blue. And I had dark circles under my eyes. Literally, I looked like a person who was about to die. All of my friends thought that they couldn’t beat me and gave up the competition. I was the only one who dove into the water. Now I am thinking that I was not only patient but also stupid. I alone tortured myself.
God gave us many spiritual gifts so that we can share them with others. Among them, patience is very important in taking care of ourselves in the course of our faith journey. This gift dramatically helps us build a graceful relationship with God and others.
When we think of patience in the Bible, Job may come to mind. The life of Job is the best known story of patience. He was extremely patient. According to the Bible, Job was an exceptionally righteous man. He carefully avoided acts of transgression against God’s laws. He behaved blamelessly. To prove Job’s faithfulness to the Lord, God allowed the devil power to destroy everything Job owned. He lost all of his possessions and his family which was most devastating. However, he did not blame God. He accepted his plight, saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In the end God restored to Job twice as much as he had in the beginning (Job 42:10). Of course, I have various questions about this story but let us focus only on the patience of Job. This is enough for today’s sermon.
The second biblical lesson is from Solomon. In Ecclesiastes 7:8, he says, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” It is interesting that Solomon connects impatience to pride. He observes that the impatient seize on something before its conclusion is worked out, while the patient see a thing to its end and are rewarded. This is a great message for us today.
Another biblical example of patience for today’s sermon might be the “utmost patience” of Jesus Christ cited by Paul in the passage from 1 Timothy. Unlike Job who was righteous before God, Paul acknowledges that he was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence, obsessively hunting down followers of Jesus in order to cleanse his religion in which he had been a zealous advocate. However, no matter what his life was, Jesus judged him faithful and appointed him to his service. Paul couldn’t grasp the breadth and depth of God’s patience as revealed in Jesus Christ. The grace of the Lord was overflowed for him. And the patience of Christ had totally changed Paul’s life. The patience of Christ is God’s grace given to us.
Look at the parable of Jesus in Luke 15 we read this morning. If a shepherd has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, the shepherd goes after the one until he finds it. Also, if a woman, who has ten silver coins, loses one of them, then she will light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it.
I understand that Jesus wants to tell us about the patience of the shepherd who tries to find a sheep and the woman who looks continually to find her coin. In this story, the sheep and coin that were lost mean something like the prodigal son which is a story followed by this story. After the prodigal son left his family, the father waited for the son with patience and love. He waits and waits for his son to come back. What is the result of his patience? Finally, the prodigal son came back home and they rejoice together.
The shepherd and the woman say, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me, for I have found my coin that was lost.” And then, more importantly, Jesus says, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sheep and one coin. This is the message from the Bible lesson this morning. “Be patient and rejoice.”
However, we well know how hard it is to be patient. The moment to rejoice seems too far away. Think of my situation waiting for a working visa for almost 9 months. Even though I was a king of patience, I couldn’t be patient with this. It was supposed to take about three months to get the visa but I still didn’t get it yet. Every day and night, I pray to God for the visa and I lament why I hasn’t my visa yet. It has been very hard to be patient.
I am sure that all of you have had a lot of tough moments when you couldn’t be patient. It is true. Right? When you face those moments, how do you deal with them? Do you blame God or the people who caused the delays? Or do you pray to for help God? Or do you do both? Even though it is hard, I hope all of you would take care of the difficult moments with patience given from the Holy Spirit.
Patience is a vital gift that enables God to work over a long journey of our faith. In order to be patient, we need to pray to God for it. That is, as the Bible lists patience with the fruit of the Spirit, it is less a virtue achieved than a gift received. It first comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then we faithfully reproduce it.
Paul uses himself to exemplify the great magnitude of Christ’s patience toward us. His aim is to magnify Christ’s patience toward himself and his audience. Considering his own circumstance, he undoubtedly felt that Christ’s patience made salvation possible for him who, as he thought, was not deserving of God’s grace. In response, he passed it on to Timothy and so to us. Paul experienced God’s patience toward him and then he reproduced it by sharing the gift with others. Patience matters in the course of our Christian life.
Let me share with you a story about patience.
An 80 year old man was sitting on a chair with his 45 year old son who had a higher education. All of a sudden, a crow came to the window and sat on the sill. The old man asked, “What is that?” “It is a crow.” His son answered. A few minutes later, the old man asked again, looking at the crow, “What is that?” “It is a crow. I told you just before. Dad.” The son responded.
A little later, the old man asked the same question again. “My son, what is that?” The son got cranky and roughly said, “I told you it is a crow, a crow.”
A little later, the old man asked the same question again, “What is that?” This time, the son couldn’t stand anymore. He yelled to his old father, “Why do you ask me the same question again and again? It is a crow. Don’t you even know that? I am now sick and tired of this question.”
Then, this old man went in his room and brought a note with him out of the room. It was a dairy which the father has written since his son was born. The old man gave it to his son and asked to read some part of it. It says, “Today, I was sitting on a sofa with my 3 year-old-son when a crow sat on a window sill.” My son asked me this question “What is that?” for twenty three times. I responded to all of the questions. “It is a crow.” And whenever he asked me that question, I gave a hug with my love to the fullness. So, it was total 23 times of a hug. I really loved that moment and I felt a deep love toward my son.”
This story reminds us of the importance of the relationship with each family member and God as well. Sometimes, we forget how patient our parents or family members were. They have been patient to us but we responded to them by being impatient. Moreover, very often we forget how patient our God has been toward us. God has always been patient to us but we respond to God by being impatient.
Patience is a vital gift to restore and keep our relationship with God and our family. Practicing patience is a process that enables God to work within ourselves and to produce in us other important aspects of God’s image such as love and peace so that we may be perfect and complete. I pray that we all bear this fruit as you practice patience with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray. Patient God, thank you for your message this morning. As you are patient toward us, help us be patient to others. Patience being the sign that we are your disciples. In your name we pray. Amen.