Don’t Pray for Patience!

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience. – Galatians 5:22 NIV

I was never known for my patience. Waiting time meant fidgeting time, and I wasn’t one to fidget long before looking for a way to decrease the wait time (translate: run ahead of God).

When the man of my dreams came along—THE one—I didn’t even wait for him to propose. I planned the wedding then told him about it. Good thing he was on the same page as I was.

My late mther-in-law once gave me a refrigerator magnet that read, “God, grant me patience, and I want it NOW!”

Sometime after our first child was born, I realized my impatience (and other not-so-nice traits) was making me—and everyone around me—miserable. So in desperation, I asked God to help me.

While I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a believer—when I didn’t sense the presence of God in my life—this was a turning point—of me turning my life over to God, of me relinquishing control.

Actually, it was an exchange—my miserable life for His glorious one. A.W. Tozer called this “the implantation of the Divine.” I like that term. God implanted His life in me—new life, a better life, abundant life, eternal life (see John 3:1–21). The moment I received the gift of this life, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in me (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Bear with me here. I don’t mean to preach. But after all these years, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around what all this means.

When I said “yes” to God, He began a work in me (see Philippians 1:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:17), developing the fruit of the Spirit. Of course, I wanted to be a mature Christian right away—remember the refrigerator magnet?

But fruit isn’t fully mature, ready to harvest, immediately. It first appears as a tiny bud that grows into a fruit that ripens over time. It withstands all kinds of weather conditions, which make it stronger, better.

OrangeBloss_wb

So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. “Fruit,” remember, is singular, not plural. Think of an orange: one fruit, many segments.

And one of those segments is patience.

As a young Christian, I was told, “Don’t pray for patience.” Why? Because when you pray for patience, you get plenty of opportunities to practice it.

Patience, as with all the other fruit of the Spirit, takes a lifetime to develop fully. Who wants a lifetime of hard times, difficult situations, impossible circumstances? Yet those times will come, whether we ask for them or not. God will not leave us baby Christians.

James writes, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2–4 TLB).

These days, I’m much better at waiting—although I still won’t pray for patience. If God wants to send me something that will strengthen it, I know He’ll give me the grace to endure it.

Now if God can change a squirming, fidgeting, impatient person like me, imagine what miracles He can work in your life!

Thank you, Lord, for Your life in me. Thank you for taking the ugly parts of me and making them beautiful. Amen.

 Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:2–4

NOTE: Concerning salvation and new life in Christ, I like Dr. Steve McVey’s perspective:

In his book, 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday, Dr. Steve McVey writes, “Salvation is not a matter of you giving your life to Christ. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with what you have given God. Grace revolves around what He has given us, not what we give to Him! You receive eternal life not because you gave Christ your life. You receive eternal life because He gave you His Life!”

Do I hear “Amen!”?

*****

I’ll be releasing my FALL NEWSLETTER soon. If you haven’t yet subscribed and want to keep up to date with upcoming book releases, what I’m working on, where and when I’ll be speaking, and other goings on in my professional (and personal) life, you can subscribe to Memo from Michele, my e-newsletter, by clicking HERE. Once you subscribe, you’ll receive the newsletter in your email. I won’t flood your inbox, I promise. You can unsubscribe at any time. If you’d like to read the latest newsletter, click HERE.

Keeping the (Inner) Peace

Me and Pete, January, 2015
Me and my big brother, Pete, January, 2015

 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

The phone rang Sunday morning as I was putting the finishing touches on my sermon.

The caller was my brother, Pete, who was experiencing serious health issues and requested prayer.

“Get yourself to an emergency room as soon as possible,” I told him. Then I prayed with him over the phone.

“What’s going on?” my husband asked as I hung up.

I related Pete’s symptoms. “From the sound of it, he needs immediate surgery. And he can’t have surgery until he’s been off his blood thinning medication for several days. He’s between a rock and a hard place.”

Then I remembered. I nodded to my open laptop on the dining room table. “And my sermon’s on peace as the fruit of the Spirit. How can I have peace, let alone preach on it, when my only brother is experiencing a life-threatening situation?”

I stepped into Dean’s arms for a hug.

“And guess what verse I was working on when the phone rang? Philippians 4:6 and 7—Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

God sure has an uncanny sense of timing. Talk about having to practice what I preached!

But that’s what I had to do—pray about it, put it in God’s hands (where it was anyway), and not allow myself to worry about it.

Worry and anxiety are part of the human condition. But they do not have to be in me—worry and anxiety can exist outside of my mind and heart and spirit. They come knocking at the door when we least expect it, but we choose whether or not to let them in.

Not that I have no concerns. I do. I love; therefore, I have concerns. But notice I use the word “concern,” not “worry” or “anxiety.”

But it’s a war to fight them—those worries and anxieties.

We have two effective weapons against them—prayer and the Word of God—what Paul calls the “Sword of the Spirit” in his famous “Armor of God” letter to the church in Ephesus: “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:17, 18).

But sometimes we pray and don’t let go. We hang onto the worry and anxiety. Why? Either we don’t trust God or we feel at least we’re doing something in a situation in which we feel helpless.

So I have to pray not only about the situation but also for the grace to let go of that which robs me of the peace God wants for me.

One way I can do that is to fix my mind on God. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).

Notice the word “stayed.” Don’t let your mind wander from the One who gives help, hope, grace, and strength. Go to Philippians 4:8–9 for those things on which to focus your thoughts.

“Because he trusts in You”—the Amplified version adds to the meaning of “trusts”: “because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”

After six hours in the emergency room and several tests, my brother was released. Surgery is scheduled for this coming Thursday.

I will not worry. My mind is stayed on God. It is to Him that I commit myself, on Him I lean, and in Him I hope.

My brother is in good hands.

Thank you, Lord, for the Word that gives us peace we could never find elsewhere but in You. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Philippians 4:4–9

FYI: If you’re wondering why I was preparing a sermon, wonder no more. I’m the lay speaker/pastor for St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Punxsutawney. (I call them “my little flock.”)