Sermon for Sunday, April 30th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Pro 25:15-28 ESV] 15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. 16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. 17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. 18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow. 19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips. 20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda. 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. 23 The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks. 24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. 25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. 26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. 27 It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory. 28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
New Testament reading:
[1Ti 1:12-17 ESV] 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
[Luk 8:9-15 ESV] 9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
The virtue of patience. A sermon you’ve all been waiting for.
Last summer I gave four sermons on virtues. Charity, verity, prudence, and humility.
In one of those sermons I mentioned a number of other Biblical virtues. Some of these virtues will, Lord willing, be highlighted in a new series of sermons starting today with the virtue of patience.
I. Patience is a Virtue
And there is no doubt that patience is a biblical virtue.
The word “patience” is found some 34 times in the King James Version of the Bible.
It is mentioned among the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:
[Gal 5:22-23 ESV] 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
Similarly, the “armor of God” in Colossians 3 includes patience:
[Col 3:12 ESV] 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
II. What is Patience?
But what is patience?
We certainly want to be patient, as we want to possess all Biblical virtues. And to strive towards this end, we must know what these virtues are. Here we must know what patience means.
There are two words in the Greek New Testament that we have translated as “patience.” And there is some overlap in their meaning, but also some distinction.
The first word is Μακροθυμία which has to do with being patient with people.
The second word is ὑπομονή which has to do with being patient with circumstances.
Well, there is a rule in the world of defining things. You can’t define a word with itself. So we have these two Greek words and one is relative to people and the other relative to circumstances. But what does patience in general mean?
Let us work with this definition: patience is “to hold back anger, or to not be provoked to anger.”
And when it comes to people, our patience with them —that Μακροθυμία — some Bible’s have well translated the word not as “patience” but as “longsuffering.” And I think that is a good description – being patient with people is to long suffer whatever issue it is that they bring to the table. It is to not be provoked to anger, though a person has negatively impacted you in some way.
We are to be patient not only when people are making us wait for them, but when they sin against us. The term “long-suffering” is quite a good and more literal term. We are to be long-suffering, not short-suffering, just as we are to be long-tempered and not short-tempered.
The other Biblical word translated patience — ὑπομονή — means something more like steadfastness, constancy, or endurance. It is patience to see your work to the end, to run the race you set out upon, to persevere through trials that come about.
In either case, we are called to be patient with the Lord, for He has given us both the people and the circumstances in our lives.
Patience, it is rightly said, is not passive. Patience is not merely waiting, but requires that we actively employ effort. It is not merely enduring the bad, but focusing on the good. In fact, it can be described as “cheerful or hopeful endurance.” Not merely putting up with something, but seeing it through to the end without being provoked to anger.
Well, one way to understand something is, as we’ve done, to provide a definition. Another way is to provide examples. And there many Biblical examples of patience.
III. Biblical Examples of Patience
There are examples from the actions of God, of Christ, of the Old Testament prophets, and of the New Testament Apostles. We are to learn from each.
A. God’s example
First, there is the example of God.
We find that God often holds back his wrath for a time and for His purposes.
We see that patience of God in the time of Noah. 1 Peter 3:20 tells us that God held back his wrath so that Noah could have time to build the Ark.
We see that patience of God in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham asked God if he was was willing to put up with the evil in that place if there were any righteous in it. He asks “Suppose there are fifty righteous in the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it.” Ad God said “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” As you know, this goes back and forth. What if there are only 45? Or 40? or 30? or 20? or 10? In each case, God said he would not destroy the city for the sake of those righteous found there.
Then in Romans 9:22 we find that God holds back His wrath today in order to make known the riches of his glory to his “vessels of mercy,” all who believe in Him.
We all deserve the immediate wrath of God, but He is patient, not wishing any of His own to perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God is patient with us. Then, we have the example of Christ.
B. Christ’s example:
First, we see the patience of Christ with his disciples.
The old ESPN commentator, Chris Berman, whenever he was doing the highlights of a football game and, you know, one of the big guys that’s not supposed to get the ball somehow gets the ball, well he’d say they’re “Rumblin’, Bumblin’, Fumblin’ Stumblin’”
That is the disciples. They didn’t know what they were doing most of the time. They didn’t defend Jesus at the cross, Peter denied him three times, they often didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. They were bumbling, stumbling, fumbling along.
But Jesus didn’t say to God “Father, can’t you give me better disciples?” No, rather, he was patient with them. And they wouldn’t even come into the truth of God until after Christ had died and was resurrected. Only then, when the Holy Spirit came to them and they looked back to the Scriptures and the Word of Christ did it all make sense. Fortunately, Christ was patient with them, not kicking them to the curb earlier on, or there would be no church at all.
We see another example of Christ’s patience in our sermon text for today. While we have a topical sermon today, we also have a sermon text: 1 Timothy 1:16
There Paul says: 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
We are saved only through God’s patience. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and deserve His wrath. And we often – rightly so – speak of the forgiveness of God in the Gospel. But there is also the patience of the God in the Gospel. He is forgiving and patient with us. He must be, because otherwise we would immediately get what we deserve: death and destruction. But in the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have the patience of God. God not responded to us with anger or wrath or destruction, but with life and forgiveness.
C. The prophets example
We have the example also of the prophets.
[Jas 5:10-11 ESV] 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
If you think training your kids takes patience, consider the prophets of God. For how many years did they cry out to Israel about the wrath to come? And few listened. With great patience the prophets continued in their calling.
And there is the patience of Job. Though so much calamity came upon, the Bible tells us “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
Rather, like David in the Psalms, we could say he waited patiently for he Lord, and the Lord inclined to him and hear his cry.
Then there is the patience of Noah, building the Ark for many years, enduring through that work. Persevering.
And, I think the best story of all of patience is that of Sarah at 90 years old giving birth for the first time. This is encouraging to all who aren’t getting their way immediately. Unable to find a spouse, or a job, or to have children, the Lord teaches us patience, promising that whether on earth of in heaven, we will be blessed in His time.
D. The Apostles example
Now, finally there is the example of the Apostles. They were patient with the people:
[2Co 12:12 ESV] 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
And so Paul say of Timothy:
[2Ti 3:10 ESV] 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,
As Paul followed the example of Christ, so Timothy followed the example of Paul, and we are called to follow the example of them all.
How do we learn patience?
How do we learn to refrain from anger, hatred, and brooding?
I. Rest in the Lord.
Trust in God’s providence. Walk with the Lord like the men and women of old.
Realize that impatience is anger against God, for He places both the people and the circumstances in your life. Consider that He does so for His good purposes.
He teaches you patience in places of discomfort. If you have lots of opportunities to learn patience, then realize that God is at work in you. That is how he is growing you into the image of Christ.
A man once said “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” But the trouble is not with God, but with the man. Our plans and timing must be subservient to God’s plan and timing. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we learn patience, and the sooner does living that virtue benefit us.
Wouldn’t it be great not to get angry?
II. Extend the grace of God.
Now, second, how do we learn patience? Let us “Extend the grace of God.”
This should be foremost on our minds when we get into trying situations. Say this: “God has been patient with me, even me a great sinner against Him. If he can be patient with me, certainly I can be patient with those who have sinned against me.” And, we must realize our sins against God are much greater than other’s sins against us. For one, God is Holy and we are not, and secondly, our sins against God are far more frequent than anyone could possibly sin against another person. And yet He forgives us.
So we should extend this grace of God to others.
How does God act to sinful man? He is longsuffering.
God is slow to anger. So should we be.
If you struggle with patience… (which is all of us) …. I want to encourage you to remember the patience of God. God is patient with me the worst of sinners. Therefore, I can be patient with others.
III. Embrace patience.
So “Rest in the Lord” and “Extend of the grace of God.” And then “Embrace patience.”
Well, consider this: No expert ever made it the top without patience. The concert pianist spent many hours persevering at his craft.
So we should embrace patience because we wish to be virtuous, to be transformed in the image of Christ. We should embrace patience because we are no longer in bondage to that natural response of anger, but we are new creations in Christ Himself. Let us live according to that new nature. Let us be patient.
[Heb 12:1 ESV] 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
IV. Know that patience is rewarded.
James tells us that just as the farmer’s patience is rewarded with the fruit of the earth, so the Christian’s patience is reward with the coming of the Lord.
[Jas 5:7-8 ESV] 7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
IV. Be patient with your growth in patience!
Now, finally, be patient with your growth in patience.
Some struggle with patience with others.
And some struggle with patience in circumstances.
But many yet struggle with patience with themselves!
We want to improve ourselves, to accomplish something, to “get there” in life. But sanctification is a process.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Incidentally, I recently saw a man discuss the time and costs it would take to build the Colosseum of Rome in that day and in our day. There was a lot of work to do. A trench to be dug out, foundations to be laid, statues carved, seats built, and many tunnels cut through the earth.
So it is with patience. There is much work to do. Let us consider it gain if on one we learn a bit more patience with people. Then at another time we learn patience with some health issue we have. Or some financial issue. Or whatever else comes our way. In time, we learn more and more to rely on the Lord.
And we might just then define patience that way: to be patient is to rely on the Lord. That is a virtue indeed.
Let us pray for God to grow us in patience.