February 17, 2019
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
Fruits of the Spirit
6th Sunday after Epiphany
In this message series we are learning about the nine Fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23. So far we have discovered the Christian believer’s attitude toward God through the first group of three fruits, love, joy, and peace. This next group, those Fruits of the Spirit that reflect the Christian believer’s attitude toward other people involves the fruits of patience, kindness, and goodness. It is through these nine Fruits of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul challenges us in Galatians 5 to live by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit.
Today, we will delve more deeply into the fourth Fruit of the Spirit, patience. How many of you have prayed to God at some time for patience? Does your prayer sound something like mine? “Dear God, please grant me patience. And I want it now.” We seem to want everything right now. We are an impatient society.
The story is told of a man whose car stalled in heavy traffic just as the light turned green. All his efforts under the hood to get the car started failed and a chorus of honking horns behind him made matters even worse. Finally, he walked back to the first driver behind him and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and honk your horn for you.” Many times patience is not one of our virtues when we are dealing with other people.
For many of us, patience is a precious commodity, but when practiced diligently, it can reap great rewards. You probably don’t realize it but almost all of you know Mark Hansen and Jack Canfield. Patience was all they had when they were getting their ministry off the ground.
For over two decades Mark Hansen and Jack Canfield shared “stories of hope, inspiration, and encouragement.” in their seminars. When they saw how their stories touched their audiences, they tried to find a publisher to put them into print. Some publishers thought the stories were too “nicey-nice.” Others said “Nobody wants to read a book of little stories.” Others said just plain “No!” After three years and 33 rejections, they finally found someone who would publish “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I’m sure each of you has at least one of their many Chicken Soup books in your home. Their own experience mimics the power of the stories they tell; it is the drama of triumph through hardship and the victory of the human spirit. It shows that hard work, patience and determination will pay off, if you don’t give up (Jim Wilson, Fresh Sermons 2009).
Jim Wilson in his book “Fresh Sermons” writes: Failure doesn’t have to be fatal. Too often we give up before we realize our potential. Most people wouldn’t have pressed on past 33 rejections, but Hansen and Canfield did, and millions of readers are glad they did.
In the book of James, James tells us that we need to be patient with God, we need to be patient in circumstances, and we need to be patient with one another. As Christians we need to realize and understand that God is in control and everything will work out in the end. In chapter 5 James says this: Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. Would you pray with me?
Once upon a time long ago, we had to turn on the TV set well before our shows came on. Why? The transistor tubes in the TV had to warm up. You people who are less than 40 ask your grandparents. Now, I see people pacing impatiently, even a little upset that the microwave popcorn is taking so long. Or I see people tapping their fingers impatiently waiting for their computer, frustrated over all those wasted milliseconds.
Culturally we’ve come to expect and demand instantaneous results, for things to finish quickly, to complete in the immediate. That impatience seems to pervade our whole lives placing our focus on the now, the urgent, and the immediate; and so we are unwilling and unaccustomed to waiting for things to fully develop or to consider the longer view. The problem is, the here and now, our immediate concerns, tend to overwhelm and dominate all other things. Our impatience blocks out our larger and longer term considerations.
As a child, did you ever get all worked up over one particular test or report in one particular class in school? And yet in the overall flow of your life, has it really turned out to be all that important? Do you even remember what your grade was on it? Up close many things seem devastatingly crucial and momentous, and yet at a distance, taken in the total context of our lives, they fade insignificantly into the fabric of our backgrounds. This is the same sense of perspective that Paul writes about in our scripture passage today. We need to be patient with each other because there is a great glory that is coming. The here and now is not as crucial as the eternal yet to come.
Listen again to Paul’s words: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
The Jews knew patience. They were familiar with God’s promise of a redeemed world, a renewed creation. They were willing to suffer now, in the present time, knowing that a future and eternal glory awaited them. In behalf of the Lord, Isaiah predicted, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). The Jews anticipated a glorious time when all pain, oppression, slavery, anxiety, sorrow, and persecution would end and the Lord would establish His own perfect kingdom of peace and righteousness.
That hope of future glory and a new creation that belonged to Israel is now pledged to the church of Christ. It is worthwhile for the church and for us individually to endure our present suffering, because our pain will be a distant memory in the light of the glory that is coming. In fact, that glory will be so great that all of God’s creation is waiting for the total and final redemption of all of God’s people, “the revealing of the sons of God,” so that all creation might once again fulfill its function as when it was first created before the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. We are to be patient with God and with each other as God brings about his total redemption of all that he created. But why is all of creation going through this suffering? Paul answers that in verses 20-21
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Who subjected creation to frustration? It was God. Why? Because Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command. Because of their disobedience, not only humankind but the earth and all the rest of the world was cursed and corrupted.
Remember back to Genesis 3 after the Fall, God said to Adam: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Because of man’s sin, no part of nature now exists as God intended it to be and as it originally was. Decay, disease, pain, death, natural disaster, pollution, and all other forms of evil will never cease until God, who sent the curse, removes it and creates a new heaven and a new earth, as told to us in Second Peter and the Book of Revelation.
All of us now wait in patient hope, that the same God who subjected the created order to the “bondage of decay,” will someday also set it free. That is our hope as Christians. Right now, like Eve, whose sin brought the curse of painful human childbirth, nature itself endures its own kind of labor pains. Paul tells us, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We know as believers that we have not been able to fulfill our complete divine purpose as God created us to be because of the stain of sin. Well, all creation feels that same thing. It has not fulfilled its purpose either. The futility, decay, and frustration of the present world signal its incompleteness and failure to reach its full potential All of creation anticipates the total redemption of God’s children because that is the day when it shall be liberated from its curse, from its own futility and decay.
But Paul gives us hope, because he says that we, as Christian believers, are already experiencing that promise of redemption. We just have to be patient until it comes to full fruition when we once again receive our spiritual bodies. That is the glory. That is the hope. That is why we are saved.
But for now, we have the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit is giving us a taste of the fullness of the fruits that await us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
The author and pastor John MacArthur says this: Because the Holy Spirit now indwells us, His work in us and through us is a type of spiritual first fruits. They are a foretaste of the glory that awaits us in heaven, when our corrupted and mortal bodies are exchanged for ones that are incorruptible and immortal. Although we will not be totally free of sin’s power as long as we are in our present bodies, the Lord has given us complete victory over the dominion and bondage of sin (John MacArthur, Romans 1991).
Folks, here is the bottom line. We need to be patient with ourselves and with each other. Why? Because God has been patient with us. How long has he waited for some of us to believe in Him and his son Jesus Christ? None of us can become perfected overnight. There are no short cuts to holiness. It requires patience, or as some Bible’s read, long-suffering.
Sometimes patience means giving others the time and space that we would like to have ourselves. Sometimes patience means holding back and staying calm when we really feel more like blowing up. Sometimes patience requires us to submit to God so he can help us be patient with others, just as we would want Him to be with us.
Having patience sometimes can seem like suffering. But God says we should endure the present sufferings with eagerness, knowing that all suffering in the present can be endured because the final reward is so glorious.
A four-year-old boy and his mother were on a long trip together. The little boy kept asking the same question every few miles, “When are we going to get there?” Finally, his exasperated mother said, “We still have ninety more miles to go. Don’t ask me when we’re going to get there again.” The little boy fell silent for a while and then he timidly asked one more question from the back seat, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”
As Christians, we have an opportunity to demonstrate patience and long-suffering to others. We can only do it with God’s help. It is sometimes a long road and you might think you will never get there, but we need to demonstrate the same patience with others that God demonstrated in us.
The next time someone cuts you off on the highway, instead of giving them a piece of your mind you can’t afford to live without, remember it was probably an accident. When you are tempted to be impatient with your children or grandchildren, remember that you were once a child, too. When you feel like lashing out at your spouse, remember, patience. You are in this marriage for better or for worse. Patience is a gift you give to someone else. Patience is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working within you. After all, God showed his patience and mercy with us by sending his Son to die for us instead of condemning us to spiritual death.
If you read on in the scripture, Paul summed up this whole lesson in verse 28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.