01 May, 2009

In Praise of Patience

My problem, or at least one of my many, is a distinct lack of patience when it comes to God. I think we've all been there; praying for healing and then being disappointed that the person we are praying for didn't jump up out of their bed completely healed. Even if they do get better miraculously quickly that's not quite good enough for us, we want instant gratification; God on tap.

But actually my problem isn't so much impatience when it comes to seeing answers to prayer but when it comes to personal development and calling. I want a signed letter from God telling me what my calling is and what I need to do about it. I want to have all the gifts of the Spirit, to understand the bible perfectly, to worship more deeply, to live more prayerfully. And I want all of this now. Passion, drive and the desire to be better is a good thing, but God never promised us that it was going to be easy or that all the tools of being a "good Christian" were guaranteed by 1pm the day after conversion.

I think a lot of my impatience comes from reading the gospels and the acts of the apostles as if they were written in real time. I'm currently reading Acts again and, although I'm only half way through, Saul has approved of the murder of many Christians, been blinded and then converted and then given his sight back, preached in several cities, had his name changed to Paul, been nearly killed a few times and is now heading out on the first of his many missionary journeys. How can I compete with that?! However, I have had, via the wisdom of William Barclay, a revelation. I have discovered that when a newly-converted Paul preached in Damascus it wasn't for the length of a few bible verses but for three years, and when he travelled to Tarsus after fleeing Jerusalem he was there for nine years before God sent Barnabus (who is incidentally my absolute favourite non-divine biblical character)to call Paul onwards. So Paul was a Christian for at least twelve years before he set off on his missionary journey. I find that encouraging.

I think the principle of "telling tomorrow what you heard today" is a great way to go at evangelism and I am sure that is exactly what Paul did during that time. He doesn't disappear into the background of the church for a dozen years or so, sitting quietly in the back row of the meeting on the Sabbath, perhaps popping his name down on the refreshment rota once a month, but neither does he recieve his grand commission. It has been a valuable lesson for me, a Christian of not quite three years, to know that is IS possible to be serving God, learning and growing without knowing what your life's work will be. All that is needed is a little trust, a smidge of obedience and a good healthy dollop of pateince. I'm working on it anyway...

"Patience is better than strength..." -Proverbs 16:32(a)-