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Weekly Devotionals

Weekly Devotion: The Necessity of Patience

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 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.

(1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV)

I am a slow person. I talk slowly, I don’t walk terribly fast, and above all, it takes a great deal of time for me to adapt to change. I like routines and can be quite set in my ways. Despite “slow and steady wins the race!” wisdom from sources like Aesop’s fables (The Tortoise and the Hare), as you can imagine I often feel apologetic for my lack of speed and adaptability, especially in Korea’s fast-paced “bballi bballi” culture.

A few years ago I made the big change of returning to the workplace after a long time as a stay-at-home mom. Our children had grown, and God miraculously opened difficult doors for me to get a job in my field. The timing was right and I was ready. So it surprised me that although I knew God had made a way for a challenge I was pleased to take on, I confronted in myself great negativity, resentment, and obstinacy to the work and new responsibilities. My spirit had been willing, but my flesh was utterly weak. I struggled and prayed and struggled, under a cloud of anger about working, and great disappointment in myself that I could not move beyond such feelings. I persevered, but without any sense of satisfaction.

This went on for years, sometimes better and sometimes worse. I was trapped in my negative attitude; something in me refused to adapt to this change in my life that I had welcomed. I felt the frustration Paul talked about in Romans. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? ” (Romans 7:21-24, NIV)

I suspect that a good indicator of spiritual maturity is the wisdom to see, like Paul does in 1 Timothy, that I, too, am “the worst” of sinners.” Especially since with that comes the recognition that by that same admission I can see myself as perfectly fitted for Christ’s saving grace. Nonetheless, my repentant heart still did not rescue me from the law of sin and its pain. My flesh followed me like a shadow, with the weight of a stone, pulling me down with it. Even though my heart longed to belong to God fully, my fleshly body kept its death-grip on me so it was a struggle and fight to do what I knew was pleasing to God. Even knowing this, never before had following God’s will been so grueling, draining, and discouraging a fight. My continuing struggle made me question my fitness for salvation.

Then one day I was freed in the most unexpected way. A passage from the devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers instructed, “Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction. Do not ask God what the transaction is to be, but make the determination to surrender your will regarding whatever you see, whether it is in the shallow or the deep, profound places internally.”

It was like a breath of air when I’d been trapped under water. My negative feelings were neither something to repent nor to focus on too much, but to leave to God. In fact, they might be evidence of an underlying obedient commitment I have made. Expecting obedience to feel good and my flesh to just jump on board when I’m following God is what was unrealistic (and probably immature). This put my struggle in a new light that released me from pressure to feel like a good Christian as I obeyed God. I was encouraged by the hope that such pain means I am loving Him. The idea that feeling good is a necessary accompaniment to Christlike living is the worldly deception, and a discouragement and temptation.

Rather than despair over my “un-Christlike” feelings, I needed to trust in God’s mercy and understanding for my human flaws and let Him take care of them in His time. I had focused on hurrying trying to fix myself so I wouldn’t fail Him, forgetting that God so loved us humans even when we were His enemies, bent on continuing in sin, that He sent His only Son Jesus to do the fixing and restoration only He could do. Rather than condemnation, instead we know that God is love, and that “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4a, NIV)

Love takes the time with us that God knows we need. He can carry out our amazing and miraculous transformations given time and just our willing hearts. Since I can’t make myself like Christ, I must have patience for Christ to do it – patience with myself, in my circumstances, and for the Lord. It turns out that patience isn’t an accommodation we must repent for, rather it is central to God’s character and an essential discipline for believers; a key component of our faith as we wait for our Savior to fulfill all His promises and finish the race with us, slow and steady, to welcome us home with Him.