Gain Understanding

Read John 13:1-7

As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.

We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.

As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.

Patience

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:11-18 (NIV)

Having patience is not always a strong suit for me. When I have determined to make a purchase, I want the item to be readily available. Afterall, I have done my research and completed my mental gymnastics regarding should I buy or should I pass. Once I decide to buy, I want to do it right then. I also want to take it home immediately. This same mental battle and impatience occurs when I am determining whether to do something or not. Once my course of action is determined, I expect to place everything into motion now and not later. Lucky for me, I have usually had wise individuals in my life who temper my impatience. Perhaps you have a similar impatience.

In the letter of Peter in which we find our passage today, we hear Peter caution the people to have patience. He speaks of the destruction of the old heaven and earth making way for the new heaven and earth. The anticipation of this change appears to make the people extremely eager for its arrival. But the Lord is patient to ensure all are given an opportunity to accept salvation. Since the Lord is patient, the people must also be patient. Peter warns them to not be carried away by the error of those who are not following God’s wisdom. Instead, during this period of waiting they should use it as an opportunity to grow.

Waiting has always been an element of what it means to be God’s people. Throughout the story of God’s people in the Bible, we see many situations in which God’s people have to wait. We also see many times when an individual or group gets impatient and tries to force something to occur or at the very least starts complaining a lot. Examples include Sarai’s wanting a child, the Israelites in the wilderness, David wanting Bathsheba, Judas wishing Jesus would overthrow the Roman oppressors, and others. Human attempts to force God’s hand or taking matters into their own hands never seem to turn out successful. Hence, the warning of Peter to be patient and not lawless.

The season of Advent in the church calendar is all about anticipation and patience. We anticipate the completion of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. The same anticipation which the hearers of Peter’s letter had. After over 1900 years of waiting, we struggle with remaining patient and some distort what Paul, Peter and other messengers of God have said. Yet we know God keeps God’s promises but the timing of their fulfillment belongs to God. Let us heed Peter’s warning and follow his suggestion. May we use this time to not become impatient and strike out on our own but instead grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Need Patience

I struggle with being patient most of the time. If I decide to buy an item, I do my research, I spend some time going back and forth, I work through the financial aspects, and then I head to the store to make the purchase. Once I have gone through these steps, I expect to walk out of the store with the item I have chosen. If for some reason I do not have the opportunity to get the product or I have to wait for some reason, then I become extremely frustrated. My patience does not hold out well for me at this point.

Recently, I was reading a passage from Habakkuk. In this passage, the prophet complains against God because he feels that God is not listening. He has made request after request for life changes but the changes are not coming. He is losing his patience with God. The prophet is speaking for the nation of Israel but I could relate to the complaints on a personal level. Like my shopping routine, if I take a request to God, I have the expectation that the request will be fulfilled in the time frame of my choosing.

Following Habbukuk’s complaints, God responds. In God’s response, God reminds the people that relief will come but it will be according the correct timing. The people are told that they are to await this right time. God tells them that the source of their agony has not escaped notice. If the people will wait and remain faithful, the relief will arrive.

The words recorded in Habakkuk often convict me. I am reminded that I need to have patience. The message of God’s faithfulness and listening to my requests comes through these words clearly. I need to remember to wait on the Lord and I will not be disappointed.

This is not a new message to me. While I can understand the message and I believe the words to be true, putting them into practice in my life is not easy in any way. As I stated at the start of this post, I struggle with patience most of the time. I am convinced that this will be a lifetime struggle for me. Reading this passage often will be a valuable reminder to me. Being reminded that God’s time is much better than my time will assist me in my efforts to be patient.

How do you do with waiting on the Lord? What do you use as reminders of God’s faithfulness?