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Craig Smith - Patience


Craig Smith - Patience
TOPICS: Chasing Peace, Patience

Welcome. So good to have you here. We are in the midst of our Chasing Peace Series. And here’s what we know already. We know that peace is never a product of circumstances. Even if our circumstances are perfect, we’re gonna worry that they’re gonna change so we won’t have peace. But peace is always a byproduct of the pursuit of godly character. That when we’re focused on becoming more like Jesus, as we do that, we’ll actually look around and find that we’re experiencing peace in spite of the particular circumstance that we have to be.

And our guide for this series and the pursuit of godly character has been the Book of Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” And we know that God hates these things because he loves us. He hates these things because he knows the damage of these things do to us and through us to other people. He knows that these things are peace killers. And so, what we wanna do is, actually, is pursue the opposite of each of these things.

And today, we are gonna lean into the opposite of feet that are quick to rush into evil. Which is kind of an interesting thing to say, right? Because I would think that God hates feet that take us to evil, no matter how fast they get us there, wouldn’t you? I would think that God hates feet that are slow to creep into evil, right? But it’s interesting, in the original Hebrew as well as in English, there are two separate words there emphasizing speed, which clearly indicates that, you know, what God’s really focused here is on the speed with which we get there. Okay. So really, what God is talking about here are impatient feet. Impatient feet.

Probably, also helpful to understand that the Hebrew word for evil, ra’, it doesn’t just mean sin or wickedness. It doesn’t just mean moral evil. It’s a bigger word than that. And it includes wickedness, it includes sin, but it also includes all kinds of bad circumstances, like tragedy, like disasters. And when we put that together, what we’ll realize is what God is saying here is God hates impatient feet because they usually take us to bad places. Let’s just be honest with each other. If you are watching online, I want you to go to the chat thing so you can participate in this. Some of you are gonna raise your hands, some of you are gonna type guilty. This applies to you. Okay.

So here’s the deal. How many of us have ever made a really bad decision? Type guilty. Come on, everybody. Most of us. Okay. Now, here’s the real question. I want you to think about that bad decision because you probably only made one. Just that one. Think about that one bad decision you’ve made and I want you to ask yourself this, did I make that decision slowly or quickly? Did I make that decision with lots of time to think it through, with lots of prayer, with plenty of time to go and talk to wise counselors to get their input? Or did it, “I rushed into that.” How many of us would say we rushed into that bad decision? You can type guilty, again.

Yeah, most of us do. And that’s just the way it works, right? The reality is that impatient feet usually take us to bad places. They very rarely take us to good places. And that’s what God is talking about here. And so, what we wanna do is we are gonna talk about the opposite of impatient feet, which of course would patient ones, patience. We are gonna talk today about patience and how it is that that produces peace in our lives. Now, let me just tell you right off the bat, I’m not good at patience. I’m an impatient person. I know that for an absolute fact because at Mission Hills, we use a personality survey a little bit like StrengthsFinders or the Enneagram. Are you familiar with those? This is called Culture Index. And it’s crazy accurate.

In fact, independent scientific testing has confirmed that it’s 92% accurate. The Enneagram for comparison has about 64% accuracy rating. So, this one is 92% accuracy, which means that when I took it, science told me that I was less patient than 90% of the people on the planet. Seriously, I am top 10% most impatient people in the world. Top Ten. Woohoo. Probably not a good one, right? This is not something that comes naturally to me. Patience is not something that I come by naturally. So what I want to do today is I wanna take you to a passage in the scripture that’s become my kind of go-to place when I need a patience top off. And that is Psalm 40. I would love for you to grab a Bible and join me in Psalm 40.

Psalm 40 has a little bit, even before it starts, it says, “For the director of music of David, a psalm.” And what that means is this was written by David. That’s King David, David of David and Goliath fame. But what you need to know about David is all of David’s giants did not fall on his feet the moment that he faced them. David knew what it was like to be in circumstances that were difficult and that lasted for a long time. David knew what it was like to desperate to get out of his circumstances. David knew what it was like to be desperate to get out the circumstances that he was in. And maybe that’s you right now. And may be, as you’re listening to this, you’re facing something in your personal health, or in your marriage, or relationship, or in your family, or at work, or in some other circumstance where you’re just desperate to see a change. You’re desperate to get out of that.

And I want you to know that David knew what that was like. And it is in that awareness and that familiarity that he writes this. He says, “I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry.” A couple of things. First, I want you to notice that he waited patiently for the Lord. He didn’t just wait, he waited patiently for God to move. And that’s really important because there’s two different kinds of patience. Okay? There’s what I call regular patience. And then, there’s biblical patience the kind that the Word of God talks about. Now, regular patience is just the willingness to wait. Okay, that’s regular patience. It’s just the willingness to wait. Biblical patience is the willingness to wait on God. And that’s a very different thing.

I mean, imagine, you went outside today and you saw a guy sitting on the curb and you said, “Hey, what are you doing?” He goes on, “I’m waiting for a bus.” “Oh, is this a bus stop?” “I don’t know.” “Well, do buses come by here?” “I have no idea.” “Well, have you ever seen a bus?” “No.” “Did somebody tell you that a bus was gonna start coming here?” “No” “So what are you doing again?” “I’m waiting on a bus.” Okay. That’s very different kind of patience. In this kind of patience, it’s waiting on something that you have good reason to think is gonna show up right there when you need it, right? And that’s what we’re talking about. God, who has a history of showing up to deliver his people. We’re waiting on God. That’s biblical patience.

Now, biblical patience is also tied to an attitude. Okay? It’s not just waiting on God, it’s an attitude. And I want you to notice that it says, I waited patiently. In the Hebrew, that’s actually, literally, waiting, I waited. It uses the same Hebrew word twice. And typically, in Hebrew, when the same word is used twice, when there’s a double emphasis, a doubling down on the word right in a row like that, what it’s doing is it’s indicating some kind of certainty, some kind of confidence. And so, what David is saying here is, not just that he waited, but he waited with confidence. He waited with expectations. He waited with sort of sense of anticipation. He’s not just hoping God might show up. He’s fully expecting. He’s fully anticipating that God will show up.

When my kids were little, and I was younger, I would often be out on the roads and speaking. And when I would come home, my favorite things in the world is I would kind of head down my street. And as I would turn in my driveway, both of my girls would come running out. And it was awesome. And they would do it even before the car was in the driveway, even before they heard the sound of the door closing. How do they do that? Well, the answer was they were at the front window with their noses pressed, I know because we often had to clean the window. And they were watching. So the moment they saw my old beat-up Isuzu Rodeo coming, they’re like, “Dad’s here.” And they run out.

That’s what David’s talking about here. It’s waiting, not just hoping that maybe something might happen, but it’s waiting with a sense of anticipation. They know. They are just waiting for that moment and then, they’re out there. That’s what David is talking about here. Okay? Biblical patience is waiting with an attitude of anticipation for God to move. It’s not just the act of waiting, it’s waiting with an attitude of anticipation for God to move. Now, when we do that, when we wait with our noses pressed to the glass, waiting for God to arrive, three things happen.

Number one, biblical patience turns waiting into expression of faith because we’re not just waiting, we’re waiting on God, which means, we’re trusting that God will arrive, and that God will do what only God can do. And that’s faith, okay? And faith is important to God. Hebrew 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” As followers of Jesus, of course, we want to please God. Well, actually, biblical patience is one of the ways we do that because biblical patience turns waiting into an expression of faith and trust. Second thing is that biblical patience changes our perspective. It changes our perspective because when we are waiting with a sense of anticipation for God to move, we’re no longer just looking at the circumstances, what we’re beginning to get our eyes off them and look to the heavens waiting for God to arrive. And that has a powerful impact on us in very practical ways.

When my kids were little…I’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating. When my kids were little, when they were upset about something, I would often say, “Well, the thing that you’re upset about, it’s real. It’s a big deal. I get that. But it’s like your hand.” It’s not the only thing in the room. It’s not even the biggest thing in the room. But as long as you keep focused on that thing and this happens, it suddenly feels like the only thing. It feels like a much bigger thing and it’s overwhelming and that creates anxiety, that creates panic. It kills peace in our lives. Biblical patience pushes the thing and the circumstances, the situation that we’re upset about. It pushes it out a little bit so that we can look for God. And in the process of doing that, it changes our perspective. We realize that thing is not only thing. And it reduces the panic, it reduces the anxiety because it puts the thing that we’re upset about in perspective. So biblical patience changes our perspective.

And then third, biblical patience keeps us from making things worse. And God hates impatient feet because they usually take us to bad places. The problem is, often, we find ourselves in difficult situation and we panic, and we rush to do something that we think, maybe this will help. And often, it doesn’t help. Actually, it makes it worse. In fact, let me tell this important principle. There has never been a situation so bad that a lack of patience couldn’t make it worse. One of the hard things in ministry is talking to couples whose marriage is just a mess. And it’s amazing to me how often I talk to a couple whose marriage is really messy.

And I find out that, honestly, it’s been that way for a long time. It’s been that way from day one because they rushed into the marriage. One or both of them were so desperate to not be single anymore. They are so desperate to be married that they rush into a marriage with somebody maybe they didn’t share their faith or didn’t share some core values, or they didn’t know much about yet. And then, I talk to couples that maybe that’s not how it started, but things kinda got bad and then they rushed and had an affair, or they rushed, and they got a divorce. And now, things are just so much worse than they were before. See, God hates impatient feet because they usually take us to bad places. Biblical patience, on the other hand, keeps us from making things worse.

David is writing about that. He’s writing about biblical patience when he says he waited on the Lord. He says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and he gave me a firm place to stand.” And I love that. When I picture it, I sort of picture David as a little kid and he’s stuck in a well. He is down at the bottom of the well and he’s in mud and muck. And he’s already lost one shoe and he can’t find that. And the other one is about to get sucked off in the mud and the walls are slimy and their moldy and he knows that he’s never gonna be able to climb.

But that’s okay because he’s not looking at any of that. He’s looking up waiting and then Jesus throws him a rope and he grabs over the rope and Jesus pulls him out. He probably loses the other shoe, but that’s okay. He’s out. And part of that, I think what’s powerful about those, as I picture it, is that I picture David not looking at the mud, but looking up so that he sees the rope the moment it comes down. If he was looking at the mud and the muck, Jesus might have dropped the rope and then like, “What’s he doing?” He would wiggle a little around, whacks him in the head a couple of times. And then he goes, “Okay.” He grabs a hold, right?

And see, here’s the thing. Sometimes, biblical patience lets us spot God the moment he moves. In fact, it always does that. When we are looking for God to move, biblical patience, let us spot God the moment he moves, which means that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, biblical patience actually allows us to experience God’s deliverance a little bit sooner because we grab it the moment that it arrives.

It’s what David’s talking about here. He says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” He says, God didn’t just only give me a deliverance, he gave me a story to tell. He gave me an opportunity to praise God to other people so that they will come to trust him. And that’s an incredibly powerful statement. Listen, God hates feet that rush to evil, but he loves tongues that rush to praise, right? Not because he’s an egomaniac, not because he just wants to be praised. Because he knows that when we praise God in the hearing of others, they begin to go, “Oh, maybe, I could trust God.” And they begin to experience the blessing that comes in biblical patience from trusting the Lord.

And so, really, what happens is we look at difficult circumstances, we begin to realize that when God delivers us, what we’re facing right now will actually become an opportunity to help other people trust God. And that changes our perspective in those circumstances big time, right? Listen. Patience changes difficult circumstances into an upcoming opportunity to tell other people that God can be trusted. And so, we don’t wait just to be delivered from our circumstances, we wait to have a new opportunity to help others trust the God that we are trusting. It says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” It’s interesting, he says, bless this one who does not look to the proud. And this kinda the proud where the people go, “I got this. I don’t really need God. I don’t need to wait on him, I can fix this, I can take care of this.” But instead, in the process of doing that, they turn aside to false gods. They turn aside to other things that can’t save them. Right?

Biblical patience protects us from that because opposite the proud, biblical patience is an expression of humility. Biblical patience is an expression of humility, saying, “I know that I can’t fix this. I know that a lot of what I’m gonna do here is just gonna make it worse. So I need to wait for the Lord. He’s the only one that can do anything real about this.” That’s humility. Biblical patience is an expression of humility. And if you’re with us a few weeks ago, as we talked about humility in depth, you know that humility produces peace. Biblical patience, that’s expression of humility which produces peace in our lives, partly that’s because it keeps us from turning aside to false gods to other things, not just other religions, but anything else that we think, “Maybe that can do it. Maybe that can save me. Maybe that can help me. Maybe that can get me out of this.” But we get there and we realize, it couldn’t do any of those things and now things are much worse.

And so patience keeps us from trusting things that don’t deserve it. It keeps us from putting our trust in something that has no history of trustworthiness. But in desperation, we’re willing to try it and we find ourselves in worse circumstances than we were. And that kills peace, right? Patience keeps us from trusting things that don’t deserve it. He says, “Many, Lord, my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you. Were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they will be too many to declare.” This is so important. This is really the foundation of biblical patience. What David’s doing there is he’s looking back. He’s looking back at his history of trusting God. He’s looking at the history of all the things that God has done. He’s saying, “Hey, if I were to try to tell all the things that you’ve done, I wouldn’t even be able to do it because there’s such a rich history there.” And I understand it’s important.

Biblical patience isn’t rooted in the present, okay. It doesn’t come from looking around at the present, it doesn’t come from looking at the future and thinking, “Well, maybe God could do this or maybe that.” No, it comes from looking to the past. It comes to looking at what God has done and from that beginning to go, “Oh, yeah, that’s his track record and I can trust him to continue with that track record.” It always comes from the past. And I’m gonna be honest, this is something I don’t do well naturally. I don’t think about the past too much. In fact, the same survey that says that I’m one of the top 10% most impatient people on the planet, it also says that I’m in the top 5% of people who think towards the future. I’m just wired to think future oriented, but that means that I don’t naturally think to the past and so what I have to do is I have to use strategies and tactics.

So, one of the things that I’ve learned to do over the years is I just write down every time I see God do something in my life to change a circumstance that I couldn’t change myself. I write them down. I use the Evernote, it’s an online app. It’s on all my devices. I write it down and I go back and I review that when I’m finding it hard to trust God. And I say, “Oh, yeah, he did that and he did that he did that.” And, man, it just goes on and on. One of my favorite ones lately, you know, I didn’t go into ministry to make money, and I succeeded. I spent most of my life just barely over the poverty line. That was fine because God provided. And it was awesome to see. And I have a lot of stories of that. But you know my kids were getting a little older, and actually, my daughter was going into senior of high school.

And I was like, “Yeah, I have no way to pay for college for them. They’re both smart girls, but I have no way to do that. And started praying, “God, would you provide that?” It was interesting is in the midst of that, that the call to Mission Hills came. And I want you to know, this is 100% true, you can check with the elders, I said yes to the job here because I felt God calling me before I asked anything about salary. In fact, it was after I’d said yes, they said, “Can we tell you about the salary?” I said yeah and they told me and I thought, “Huh, I’m gonna be able to pay for my kids to go to college. Cool.”

I don’t know about you, here’s my experience of God. God always anticipates my needs. He rarely telegraphs his intentions. You got to look to the past and all of the ways that he’s done up to this moment. That’s what David is saying. And really, what happens then is the biblical patience, check this out, biblical patience is just waiting for God to do more of what he’s done before. Right? That’s all biblical patience is. It’s just waiting, it’s waiting with an attitude of anticipation for God to do more of what he’s done before to carry on his track record.

He says, “Sacrifice and offering, you did not desire, but my ears you have opened. Burnt offerings and sin offerings, you did not require.” He says, “God I understand. You’re not looking for offerings. You’re not looking for sacrifices.” Okay. Well, what is he looking for? And the answer is faith. He’s looking for us to trust him. Remember, Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” But check this out. Patience is an expression of faith. We’ve already talked about that today, right? Patience is expression of faith. And faith pleases God. Without faith, it’s impossible. Well, with it, it’s possible. Faith pleases God. So that means that patience pleases God. Are you with me?

And I thought my intro to logic course in college wasn’t gonna be worth anything. It’s just good logical reasoning. Patience pleases God. But wait, there’s more. In the Christmas story, I love this line, I was thinking about this week is the angels came and they announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus. They said, this this is Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven. And on earth, peace to those of whom his favor rests.” And the Greek word for favor is also the Greek word for pleasure. Those with whom God is pleased, receive peace. Okay, follow me on this. Patience is an expression of faith. Faith pleases God. God gives peace to those who please him. So, God gives peace to the patient. He gives peace the patient. To those who are willing to wait with an attitude of anticipation, God actually gives peace.

And it’s not a peace that comes from the circumstance, it’s a peace that comes from the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s a supernatural peace. It’s what the Book of Philippians calls the peace that passes understanding. It doesn’t really make sense but we experience it nonetheless as a gift from God. When we’re patient for God to move, he blesses us with peace in the meantime. It’s one of the ways that patience produces peace because it opens us up to the supernatural blessing of it coming from God. “Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come. It is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, God. Your law is within my heart.'” And I love that because even though David’s in difficult circumstances, his primary question is not, how fast can I get out of them? His primary question is not, God, what’s taking so long? His primary question is, God what’s your will, right here, right now? And I love that. That’s only possible through biblical patience.

And see every difficult circumstance provides a unique opportunity to serve God. It’s so important we understand this. Every difficult circumstance that you will ever face provides you with a unique opportunity to be on mission with Jesus. And once the circumstances have changed, the opportunity is gone. But we’ll often miss the opportunity if we’re just asking, “How quick can I get out of this. God, what’s taking so long?” So, listen, patience changes the question from what’s the delay God to what’s my mission right here, right now. And that changes the way that we deal with difficult circumstances, when we’re asking God what’s my mission in the midst of all this.

“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly. I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart. I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.” And again, he’s going back to this idea that God doesn’t just give us a deliverance. He gives us a story. A story that we’re called to share with others because it enables them to trust him.

So, again, patience changes difficult circumstances into an upcoming opportunity to tell others that God can be trusted. He says, “I refuse to be quiet and rush to praise.” He says, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord. May your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me. My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.” And I think it’s interesting there that he acknowledges that at least some of his circumstances or at least as bad as they are, it’s partly because of what he’s contributed to the mess. His sins are part of that package.

“They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. So be pleased to save me, Lord. Come quickly, Lord, to help me. May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion. May all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!'” In other words, those who go, God has abandoned you, may they realize that they’re wrong. And, “May they be appalled at their own shame because he arrived. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. May those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’ But as for me, I am poor and needy. May the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer. You are my God, do not delay.”

And I love that it begins with, “I waited patiently” and it ends with, “But please, don’t take too long.” I love that it’s okay to say, “God, if you could hurry this up, that’d be awesome.” But in the meantime, in the meantime, I’m gonna wait with an attitude of anticipation for that moment that you arrive. David knows what it’s like to be desperate. But David also knows that patience brings peace by turning desperation into anticipation. That’s the bottom line. Patience brings peace into our lives by turning desperation into anticipation. So how do we do that? How do we help build biblical patience? Four simple things to remember that come directly from this Psalm.

Number one, we do it by remembering who we’re waiting on. Remember who you’re waiting on. We’re not just waiting. We’re waiting for God to move. Remember who you’re waiting on.

Number two, remember how you’re going to wait. You’re going to wait with an attitude of anticipation with your nose pressed to the window for the moment that you first spot that God’s on the move and wait with an attitude of anticipation.

Number three, you’re gonna remember what exactly we’re waiting for. You’re waiting for God to do more of what he’s done before. You’re waiting for God to just continue his long and perfect track record.

And then, fourth, remember where impatient feet usually take us. God hates impatient feet because it usually takes us to bad places. So we’re gonna be aware of that tendency to jump into something because there’s a very good chance we’re actually gonna make it worse. And we know it’s never gonna be as good as what God will bring if we just wait on him. We’re in the midst of a lot of difficult circumstances right now. We’re all facing some of those and some of you, I know, are facing particular circumstances that you are desperate to get out of.

And so I think this is a very applicable word from the Lord to us today to take a moment right now to step back and to acknowledge our temptation to be impatient, to recognize where this life could have take us and to recognize that the benefits that come from practicing biblical patience from growing in biblical patience. And so, what I encourage you to do right now, we’re gonna sing a song, and you’re certainly welcome to sing this, but I’ll also maybe encourage you to just take some time during the song to do some business with God, to go before the Lord with that circumstance that you’re desperate to be out of. Acknowledge that, be honest about it. You’re free to ask him to come quickly.

But at the same time, ask him to change the way that you’re thinking about circumstance. Ask him for the strength to lift your eyes off of the circumstance and on to the heavens waiting for him to do what only he can do, to remind you, maybe even as we sing the song, remind you of all these past examples of faithfulness so that we can wait for him to do more of what he has done before. I encourage you to take some time right now to that business with the Lord.
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