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Patience




Patience

Psalm 103:1-12

Colossians 3:1-4;12-14


Patience. We’ve been told all our lives, that patience is a virtue! It’s a sought after attribute, that we all seem to run short of, at times... myself included.


We don’t always appreciate patience, do we? I mean, if you stop and think about it... we only need patience, or we only need to rely on patience, when things are “out-of-sorts” - right? When we’re late for work and every “slow-poke” in the world seems to be ahead of us. Or when we’re in the check-out line at Walmart and there’s only one register open, and the cashier is most definitely getting paid by the hour!


But when it comes to faith... and being a follower of Christ... patience implies more than the fortitude to wait in line at the grocery store, or the presence of mind to not “fly-off-the-handle” when we’re cut-off in traffic.


The patience we’re called to experience and express is much deeper, and more profound than such acts of civil virtue. Biblical, godly patience; implies enduring: holding up under provocation... refraining from revenge... godly patience is an intentional willingness to endure wrongs... and to withhold anger, or wrath.


It’s the very patience that God shows towards us!


Of course - that’s all well and good! We’re grateful for the patience of God. Good think we’re not God, right?


BUT, as followers of Christ - we’re called to be “imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loves us.” (Ephesians 5:1). We’re called to imitate God! To learn from, and express, the very attributes that God himself has expressed towards us.


And one of the preeminent attributes of God - that we’re called to imitate: is that He’s “slow to anger and abounding in love.” Being slow to anger implies patience, right?


Patience, love, mercy - are at the very heart of who God is! Being slow to anger is a foundational attribute of our Creator... and it’s central to the message of Christ... and a theme that’s repeated time and again throughout God’s Word.


In fact, there are at least eight references in Scripture that describe God as being, “slow to anger and abounding in love.”


We hear these words in Psalm 86 (from our Call to Worship today), and from Psalm 103, or Second Scripture Lesson. But also in...


Exodus 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”


Number 14:18: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion…”


In Nehemiah 9:17 we’re told, “{the people} refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles [God] performed among them. They became stiff-necked, and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…”


Psalm 145:8, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”


Joel 2:13 (speaking of repentance, offers words that are among the most recognizable in the OT), “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”


And from the story of Jonah and the Whale, Jonah 4:2 - Jonah was upset with God, because God did what he promised to do! We’re told, Jonah, “prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.’”


Being slow to anger and abounding in love is an essential characteristic of God. Multiple prophets and Old Testament heroes penned those exact words. Even in the New Testament, Peter says the same thing in 2 Peter 3:9...


“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”


Leviticus 20:26 tells us that we are set apart to be holy as the Lord is holy. If He is slow to anger and abounding in love, shouldn’t we as followers of Christ strive to be the same?


I am not always slow to anger, abounding in love. I’m not always patient.


We who are followers of Christ know that being on the receiving end of this kind of love is overwhelmingly beautiful - it’s what puts the “amazing” in Amazing Grace! We certainly WANT to be on the receiving end of God’s patience.


Of course, receiving is one thing. Offering is another.


Offering that kind of love is incredibly difficult... especially when it’s not returned. One of the most difficult callings in this life, is to “turn the other cheek” - or “to do unto others, as we would have done unto us.”


Following the ways of Christ may not be easy... We must be humble, self-controlled, patient, and not self-seeking if we are going to be slow to anger. But we never walk that path alone. Christ is always with us. Empowering us to do more, to be more, to experience more than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own.


Patience... being “slow to anger & abounding in love,” means that we always put the other person’s needs above our own… going out of our way to express our love in extravagant ways that are meaningful to others... and bring glory and honor to Christ.

Amen.

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