Summary: Patience is not a grim, gritting your teeth kind of forbearance, it's a joyful mercy.
Can anyone identify this plant? (Show picture on screen.) How about now? (Show another picture.) It’s wasabi. You sushi lovers are familiar with wasabi, but you’ve probably never tasted the real thing. Even in Japan it’s estimated that only 5% of the restaurants there serve real wasabi. What you get instead is a combination of mustard, European horseradish, and food coloring. Why? Because a kilogram of raw wasabi goes for $425. In comparison, a kilogram of Spartan apples at Superstore costs $1.88!
Why is wasabi so expensive? It grows naturally in Japan but in rocky riverbeds—an environment that’s hard to duplicate in a greenhouse or a farmer’s field. One Canadian has been trying to do just that for nearly 30 years! And he thinks he’s finally figured out the secret, which he will share with you for $70,000. But it’s going to cost much more than that to grow wasabi commercially. Plan on spending $700,000 an acre to get your wasabi plantation up and running. And then you’ll have to wait over a year for the wasabi to mature, so you’ll need patience if you want to see profits. (bbc.com/news/business-29082091)
Ah patience. Now that’s a fruit of the Spirit that seems to be as rare and as valuable as real wasabi! And yet the Apostle Paul says that patience is something we Christians possess because the Holy Spirit is active in our lives producing it. You and I have patience, we just don’t use it very often (like that trombone I have hidden away in a closet). Those who practice patience are a joy to be around. They’re also less stressed so wouldn’t you like to become more patient? Let’s find out how this is not only possible, but is also God’s will for us. Listen to our text from 1 Timothy 1:15-16. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, makrothumia is the word translated as “patience.” Makro means “long.” Thumos means “anger.” So makrothumia literally means “long to get angry.” Someone who is patient has a long fuse. It takes a lot for them to get upset. Unfortunately I think most of us struggle with a short fuse. If I have to wait more than 30 seconds at a stoplight, I’ll impatiently tap the steering wheel, as if this will make the light turn more quickly. When I am asked to repeat my email address over the phone to the customer service agent, I sigh as if I have just been asked to wash a week’s load of laundry by hand. But that’s just the way we are. Poor drivers make us nuts, and we get mad when the kids leave their craft material scattered across the floor.
Oh, but we can help this impatience. Have you ever been yelling at the kids when the phone rings and you answer it as nice as can be? That proves that you can control your anger. You can be patient. We just usually choose not to. “But Pastor, you don’t know what I have to put up with!” I’m sure I don’t, but does it compare to what God puts up with? Isn’t that the point of our sermon text? The Apostle Paul confessed that he was the worst of sinners. He was thinking about how he had once persecuted Christians—travelling far and wide to track them down and haul them off to prison. But God was patient with him, and God is patient with us. I mean would there be anyone in heaven if God didn’t give second, third, fourth and many more chances? Although Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, didn’t make it to heaven, think of how Jesus was patient with him even though he knew that Judas was stealing from the disciples’ treasury all along. Right up to the very end Jesus did his best to win that disciple over to him.
Jesus’ example teaches us something important about patience. Patience is not a grim, gritting your teeth kind of forbearance—like what you do when you’re stuck in the back of a school bus squeezed into a seat with three others. You put up with it, even though you’re not enjoying yourself. That kind of patience won’t last, and when it snaps, look out! No, patience, as God lives it, is a joyful mercy. Patience sees the other side of things. Patience at the grocery store sees the clerk as she is, a mother who is trying to fit in a few hours of work in between caring for her children and aging parents. Patience will cut her slack then when she has to call the manager because she doesn’t know the correct code for that exotic fruit you’re buying. Patience sees that sassy kid at school as someone who is probably dealing with stress at home. And so what he needs is kindness, not dirty looks and people talking about him behind his back. Patience looks at the bigger picture so that when you’re delayed on the highway you realize that at most, you’re going to get home 10 minutes later than planned. Why not use that time to look around and pray for the people in the vehicles behind and in front of you? We can afford to be patient like this because we are not the masters of our lives, God is. So if it’s important that we zip through the checkout line, or never suffer a flight delay, then he will be sure to make that happen.