Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting Builds Patience

TITLE: Waiting Builds Patience (Part 1 of 3)
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 9 March 2011

This is the first part of a 3-part Lenten series on cultivating a spirituality of waiting, and learning to wait well in a culture of rush. Part One touches on cultivating patience in waiting through four benefits of patience.
“But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, "First seek the counsel of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 18:4)
MAIN POINT: Prayer is Waiting. Waiting to glimpse at the glory of God. Waiting to see a hint of God’s movement in our world, and in our hearts. Waiting as prayer. Prayerful waiting cultivates patience.

Waiting is now a lost art. Our dislike for waiting is evident all around us. Drivers hate traffic congestion. I am one of them. If I see the main freeway packed with cars, I will tend to want to take the nearest exit, to drive the smaller secluded roads. Roadworks or accidents tend to be one of the biggest causes of traffic jams. It is common to see drivers making illegal U-turns to take alternative routes. People despise waiting. Friends sometimes tell me in jest, how a modern micro-second is defined as:
“It is the time between the switching of lights from red to green, to the first sound of the honk from the driver behind you.”
Our disdain for waiting goes far beyond the roads. Coffee barristers who take a little longer with the latte will be quick to apologize with “Sorry for the wait.” Automated voice messages apologize for not being available to take the phone call. If the website takes a few second longer to load, users will either keep clicking refresh, or to go to another page.

A) Why Waiting Is Disliked
One reason why waiting is disliked is because there seems to be a lack of ‘activity’ when waiting. When waiting for my food, I like to be doing something, like reading a book or listening to my MP3 player. Sometimes, I fiddle with my cell-phone or scan for a free Internet connection. Without these supplementary activities, waiting will be an arduous chore. We dislike waiting because nothing seems to be happening.

Nobody likes waiting. Yet, the Bible frequently teaches us to learn to wait. Wait upon the Lord. Inquire of the Lord. Keep in step with the Spirit. During the Old Testament period, one of the chief means of waiting on the Lord is to seek out prophets of prayer. Waiting is disliked because one thinks he knows what's best, like Ahab.

In 2 Chronicles, we see a brief interaction between the king of Judah (Jehoshaphat) and the king of Israel (Ahab). Jehoshaphat is a good God-fearing king. Ahab is an impatient, God-belittling ruler. Both became allies through a marriage arrangement (2 Chron 18:1). In fact, Jehoshaphat had been foolish to ally himself with an evil king who had no fear of God (1 Kings 16:29-33). Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram married Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. As the story goes, his son turned bad. The story in 2 Chronicles teaches us that unholy alliances can be deadly. It led to the tragic death of Jehoshaphat. It led to the downfall of his son, Jehoram’s rule. It led to a tarnishing of an otherwise excellent leadership in Judah. For all the sad turn of events, there is still something to learn from Jehoshaphat. He manages to persuade a stubborn Ahab to seek the LORD's counsel.

Benefit #1: Patience reminds us that we are NOT masters of our own destiny.

B) Waiting Arrests Impatience
With all the power of the alliances, and the formidable riches, Jehoshaphat could have rushed in to other lands to divide and conquer. Yet, he called upon Ahab to seek first the counsel of the LORD. Such a move reins in the dragons of impatience.

In an impatient society, one tends to rush into something, only to regret it later. This is what happens in marriages that lead to divorce. The lyrics of a 1977 popular song, “Sad to Belong to Someone Else” by American pop duo, England Dan and John Ford Coley musically expresses this predicament.

“That it's sad to belong to someone else, When the right one comes along,
Yes, it's sad to belong to someone else, When the right one comes along”
While I like the melody of the song, I am annoyed at the lyrics. This song has also been called the ‘universal divorce anthem’ by some parts of the media. Divorce does not begin with the D-word. It begins a B-word: Boredom. Boredom and frustration are like accumulating snowflakes that snowballed into an avalanche of divorce. Close to the B-word is the I-word: Impatience.

When we are impatient, we can easily run after other idols. When we are impatient, we are most prone to committing adultery in our hearts. There is a triple danger in impatience. It tempts us to do things on our own strength; Rush things according to our own schedule; Sees things only from our standpoint.

Benefit #2: Waiting halts this bad-to-worse metamorphosis. Waiting resets us to begin cultivating patience. Patience to do things in God's strength. Patience to pace ourselves according to God's schedule. Patience to see things from God's standpoint.

C) Waiting: From Patience to Trust
A spirituality of waiting urges us to ‘first seek the counsel of the LORD.’ For a combined military prowess of Israel and Judah, Ramoth-Gilead is easy meat. The decision whether to attack Ramoth-Gilead reveals how different the two kings are.

The righteous king Jehoshaphat needs a word from the LORD before proceeding. The evil king Ahab disregards any warnings from any prophets, except those who are willing to utter what he wants to hear. In waiting, we put ourselves on the peripheral, and to let God occupy the center. We move from a position of patience to a posture of trust. Rather than to let our inner selves loose to run after all kinds of worldly things that do not last, patient waiting helps to cultivate in us the value of something more permanent. We surrender impatient wandering, in exchange for patient waiting. We put aside impatient demands. We obey God’s command. It replaces a Me-first mentality with a God-first spirituality. When we learn to wait well, we find that we can practice Paul's exhortation below well.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”(Ephesians 4:2)
Benefit #3: Patience prepares us for trusting God.

D) Developing a Patient Heart
Spirituality cannot be rushed. It can take years. Forget about those books that teaches all the quick steps to growing in Christ. Why depend on man-made books, when one can depend on the Holy God our Creator? Cultivating a patient heart requires the skillful work of the Holy Spirit. When we are impatient, we easily make mistakes. We fail to keep in step with the heartbeat of God. We enter into premature heart-bypass operations by doing things according to our own strength and wisdom. When we rush into making major decisions by being worldly wise, we stumble. We fall. We regret when things turn out the wrong way.

A patient heart waits upon the LORD. This song is especially meaningful.
I will wait, wait wait on the Lord
I will wait, wait wait on the Lord
For I've learned my lesson well
In His timing He will tell me
What to do, where to go and what to say.
Like the prophet Isaiah who urges us to learn to wait.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa 40:31, KJV)
Is there something else that we can benefit from cultivating patience in waiting? Indeed there is. Patience is not simply an attribute to equip ourselves with. In fact, more often than not, when we patiently wait, we discover something more important.

There is a hasidic story told about a Rabbi called Zusya who died and was waiting at the judgment seat of God. He was nervous. Scanning his archives of past deeds done and not done, he began to worry that he had failed his duties as a rabbi. He started thinking:
  • Why am I not Moses?
  • Why am I not David?
  • Why am I not like Job?
Then God appeared. Knowing full well what Zusya was saying, God questioned him: “Why are you not Zusya?

Benefit #4: Patience reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Bummer! Impatience tempts us to look at what others have achieved instead of the potential that we have been given in the LORD. Impatience lead us to envy. Patience teaches us gratitude. Perhaps the greatest benefit of cultivating patience is in letting God show us our true selves, and the real person that we are called to be, and to become.

Thought: "If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow." (Chinese proverb)


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