With patience to work

408 with patienceWe all know the saying "patience is a virtue". Although it is not in the Bible, the Bible does have a lot of patience to tell. Paul calls it a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5,22). He also encourages us to be patient in the tribulation (Rom 12,12), to wait patiently for what we do not yet have (Rom 8,25), to endure each other patiently in love (Eph 4,2) and not to get tired, good because we - if we are patient - will also reap (Gal 6,9). The Bible also admonishes us to "wait for the Lord" (Ps 27,14), but unfortunately, this patient urge is misunderstood by some as passive waiting.

One of our regional pastors participated in a conference in which each discussion contribution in relation to a renewal or mission was answered by the church leaders as follows: "We know we have to do this in the future, but now we are waiting for the Lord." I am sure that these leaders believed that they were patient by waiting for God to show them how to approach the church strangers. There are other churches that are waiting for a sign from the Lord, whether they should change the days or times of worship, to make it more comfortable for new believers. The Regional Pastor told me that the last thing he asked the leaders was, "What are you waiting for the Lord to do?" Then he told them that God was probably waiting for them to join his already active work. When he was finished, an "Amen" had been heard from different sides.

If we have to make difficult decisions, we would all like to receive a sign from God that we could show others - one that tells us where to go, how and when to start. However, God does not usually work with us like that. Instead, he just says "follow me" and reminds us to take a step forward without understanding the details. We should remember that Jesus' apostles sometimes had trouble understanding where the Messiah was going, both before and after Pentecost. Although Jesus is a perfect teacher and guide, however, they were not perfect disciples and disciples. We too often struggle to understand what Jesus says and where he leads us - sometimes we are afraid to go on, fearing that we will fail. This fear often drives us into inactivity, which we then falsely equate with patience - with "waiting for the Lord".

We need not fear our mistakes or lack of clarity about the way ahead. Although the first disciples of Jesus made many mistakes, the Lord gave them new opportunities to join his work - to follow him wherever he led them, even if that meant making corrections on the way. Jesus continues to work in the same way today, reminding us that every "success" we experience will be a result of His work, not ours.

We should not be troubled if we can not fully understand the purposes of God. In times of uncertainty, we are challenged to be patient, and in some cases that means waiting for God's intervention before we can take the next step. Whatever the situation may be, we are always Jesus' disciples who are called to hear and follow Him. On this journey, we should remember that our education is not just prayer and reading the Bible. A great deal of practical application - we progress in hope and faith (accompanied by prayer and the word), even if it is not clear where the Lord is going.

God wants his church to be healthy and thus bring about growth. He wants us to join his mission for the world, to take the gospel-based steps to serve in our homes. If we do that we will make mistakes. In some cases, our efforts to bring the gospel to church strangers will not be as successful. But we will learn from the mistakes. As in the early Church of the New Testament, our Lord will graciously use our mistakes if we entrust them to Him and repent, if necessary. He will strengthen and develop us and shape us to resemble the image of Christ. Thanks to this understanding we will not consider the lack of immediate results as a failure. God can and will bring our efforts to fruition in his time and in his own way, especially when those efforts are directed to leading people to Jesus by living and sharing the good news. It may be that the first fruits that we see will affect our own lives.

Real "success" in mission and ministry arises only through one way: through fidelity to Jesus, accompanied by prayer and the biblical Word, through which the Holy Spirit guides us to the truth. Remember, we will not learn this truth immediately, and our inaction can stop our progress. I wonder if inaction may be due to fear of the truth. Jesus repeatedly announced his death and resurrection to his disciples, and in fear of this truth they were temporarily paralyzed in their ability to act. This is often the case nowadays.

When we come to speak of our involvement in Jesus' approach to non-Churches, we are quickly dealing with reactions of fear. However, we do not need to be afraid because "he who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1, Joh 4,4). Our faith in Jesus and His Word diminish our fears. Faith is truly the enemy of fear. That's why Jesus said, "Do not be afraid, just believe!" (Mk 5,36).

When we actively engage in Jesus' mission and ministry through faith, we are not alone. The Lord of all creation joins us as Jesus long ago promised His disciples on the mountain in Galilee (Mt 28,16). Just before he ascended to heaven, he gave them an instruction commonly referred to as a mission command: "And Jesus came and said unto them, To me is given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world "(Mt 28,18-20).

Notice the closing verses here. Jesus begins by saying that he is in possession of "all authority in heaven and on earth", then concludes with the following words of assurance: "I am with you every day". These statements should be a source of strong consolation, great trust, and great freedom in what Jesus told us to do: make disciples of all nations. We do this with sincerity, knowing that we share in the work of the One who has all the power and authority. And we do it with confidence because we know that he is always with us. With these thoughts in mind - rather than those who understand patience as idle waiting - we patiently wait for the Lord as we actively participate in His work, which is to make people Jesus disciples in our homes. In this way, we will share in what we patience can call to work. Jesus commands us to do this, for this is His way - the way of faithfulness bearing the fruit of His omnipresent kingdom. So let's go to work together with patience.

by Joseph Tkach

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