Summary: It might just be that the most important fruit you give or receive this year will be the fruit of patience.
“The Difference Christmas Makes: The Fruit of Christmas”
Exodus 34:1-10; 2 Pt. 3:8-18
“I can’t wait!” “I want it now!” “Why does it take so long?” “Hurry up!” Sound familiar? What makes you impatient? The wait in line at the store because you have only 2 items while the person ahead of you decides they don’t want some of what they picked up and is sorting through everything? Sitting at a red light, and then through the green because someone ahead of you is busy testing/talking and doesn’t move? Following a slow person through town? Something in your spouse or children that you want to see change, but it doesn’t? More than likely there are many scenarios which prompt your impatience. Yet patience is included as a fruit of the Spirit; so it’s important we seek to cultivate it.
To get a better handle on the importance and nature of patience, we look, first, at THE CHARACTER OF GOD. If you were asked to describe God in two words, what words would you choose? There are many to select from – holy, righteous, just, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, forgiving, loving – to mention a few. But notice how God describes Himself in our Exodus passage. After Moses had received the 10 commandments he came down the mountain only to find the Israelites dancing before their newly crafted golden calf. In his anger he smashed the commandment tablets. God invited him back up the mountain. What a moment! What would God say? How would God express His anger? (34:6): “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” God’s two-word SELF-DESCRIPTION IS PATIENT AND LOVING. “…slow to anger, abounding in love…”
And that’s the consistent character of God throughout history. There were 2000 years form Abraham to John the Baptist; 400 years from the time of Malachi at the end of the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus in the New Testament. During all those years, time and again Gods people rebelled and turned against Him. But God never gave up on them – he was faithfully, lovingly patient. The apostle Paul, in fact, wrote (Rom. 9:22 NLT) “In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.”
But why is God so patient? Wouldn’t it have been better to choose another nation, another group of people, who could have been better and less rebellious? No – because God is faithfully, lovingly patient. GOD IS NOT IN A HURRY. God can afford to take His time. Time for God is very different than it is for us. (2 Pt. 3:8-9) “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 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.” God’s purposes are grander than ours and therefore His timing is different than ours. And He is not in a hurry.
In fact, there are TWO DIFFERENT GREEK WORDS FOR TIME. One stands for SECONDS, MINUTES, AND HOURS that are associated with our clocks and watches. The other is a word that has the SENSE OF MEANING, such as Dickens used when he wrote “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” The Bible teaches that God operates in the realm of time as meaning – He looks from the eternal perspective. So when we think God is slow, or not answering our prayers or acting on our behalf, it’s not that God is slow or disinterested; it’s that He’s on a different time; He’s dealing with eternity. As Leonard Sweet put it, “Our 24-7 days, no matter how much we try to pack into them, do not coincide with God’s timekeeping. Divine Time does not keep in step with Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time.” (i)
God is not in a hurry because He operates on a different time table and has a greater purpose: He wants to allow enough time on our earthly time clocks for PEOPLE TO RETURN TO HIM. “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.”
Isn’t it great that God is patient with people – with you and me? Isn’t it wonderful that when we come to the end of the day, God is not impatient with us because of our sins and shortcomings of that day but instead reaches out to us with forgiveness and grace, because He is “…slow to anger, abounding in love…”