Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Patience or cowardice?

Sometimes I’m patient with people, but I’ll mistake that for cowardice.  This is something of a dilemma for me.

See, I know something bad about nearly everyone I know.  I’ve witnessed their public sin.  I’ve heard their struggles with private sin.  And I desperately want for them to come to repentance, to leave that besetting sin behind them and live a more holy life.  A life that doesn’t threaten to tear them apart.

And I freely confess: I want to happen NOW.  There is nothing more agonizing than seeing a person struggle when you know they can be freed.  And I have this sneaking suspicion that if I were to just get into their faces for a moment and confront them with the reality of their sin, I could manipulate them enough to leave it behind.  At least on the surface.  In front of me.  As we gather in church.

If I was just bold enough, I really do believe that I could force a situation where they would at least learn to mask their sin in public, but that’s not really what I want, is it?  I don’t want to train people to hide sin’s decaying rot under a shiny veneer of righteousness.  I want them to bring sin into the light and let it be killed off.  For that to happen God has to work; for Him to work I must be patient.

So fully knowing people’s sin, I continue to minister to them.  Patiently preaching the full counsel of God’s Word.  Praying that they will be delivered from their struggles.  Waiting for the day when the Holy Spirit has prepared them for repentance, waiting for the season where the Lord has brought His fruit to full ripeness and He commands, “Now you, worker, go and harvest what I have prepared.”  I am patient for that day.

But sometimes I’ll mistake my own patience for cowardice.  I’ll convince myself that I’m not truly waiting on God but that in reality I’m just hiding from confrontation.  That somehow, if I’m not in full confrontational prophet mode all hours of the day I’m not living up to my calling.

That’s a lie.  It’s a lie that I’ve told myself.  It’s a lie others have told about me.  It’s a lie that’s been told about God.  Perhaps the most impatient man in the Bible—the Apostle Peter—says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Sometimes God’s patience is mistaken for weakness.  Sometimes I mistake my own patience for cowardice.  But in truth we both have the same ultimate goal: that souls be saved.  That lives be redeemed.  That persistent sinners be delivered from the shackles that so cruelly bind them and they walk upon the earth as precious saints. 

That’s not something that occurs in a day, and it’s not something that I can force to happen.  It is a goal that often takes a literal lifetime to achieve.  And it is a day for which God is willing to be patient.

And if He is willing to be patient . . . then I am willing also.  

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