Love is Patient

Title: Love is Patient

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4

Time: January 28th, 2007

Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the love characteristic of “patience.” What does it mean to be patient? Let me turn to Webster’s Dictionary for help defining this word because almost all the Bible translations use the word patience in this verse. Webster’s Dictionary defines “patient” as, 1. bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint, 2. manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain, 3. not hasty or impetuous, 4. steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.” I like to think of being patient as the ability to wait. Ok, now let’s make it interesting and find out what Webster’s Dictionary defines as it’s opposite, impatience: not patient; restless or short of temper especially under irritation, delay, or opposition. Now we all know what impatience is, don’t we? It’s being in the checkout line at the grocery store and giving people dirty looks because it’s moving so slow. It’s turning to someone in the line and starting to complain because the line is moving so slow. It’s hollering at the cashier to hurry it up because people are waiting. It’s getting madder and madder because the other lines in the store are moving right along. It’s cursing under your breath about your situation. How do you handle delays? How long does it take until you start to grumble and complain when you are forced to wait? This characteristic of love is something that we encounter every day in our lives, it’s something that we can or cannot observe in our lives and in the lives of other people around us. This is not theory; this is practice. You either do pretty good in this department or you do pretty bad or you fall in the middle with most people – sometimes you are patient and sometimes you are impatient, depending on the situation. But what the Apostle Paul is teaching us in this verse, 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient,” is that if we are serious about learning how to love, learning how to be a loving person, we have to learn how to be patient, because being patient is a characteristic of love. Are you able to wait calmly and quietly and lovingly for something or someone? If you are like most people you are patient sometimes and not patient at other times. That’s the way most people are: they can wait patiently for some things, but for other things, they are impatient, it all depends on what it is they are waiting for. But if we want to be loving people, if we want to fulfill the command of Christ to love one another, we must get serious about becoming patient people, under all circumstances. Loving people are characteristically patient people. They have the ability to draw upon invisible inner resources to remain calm and collective while other people are loosing it. Wouldn’t you like to have that ability? You can because love can be learned if we apply ourselves to it. Let’s look at three areas of patience that characterize a loving person.

First, love is patient with things. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient.” What is love patient with? Love is patient with everything, especially people including God, but also with things. Things in life don’t always go our way. Things go wrong in life. Have you ever noticed that things go wrong in life? We have in our congregation a 93-year-old man. I’m sure if you were to ask him in all of your 93 years of living can you confirm that things go wrong in life, he would be able to verify it. Things go wrong in life and there is nothing we can do about it. Now we should try to avoid as many things going wrong in life as possible, but even if we do, things will still go wrong. And if we don’t learn how to be patient in life over things that go wrong, we will never be able to enjoy the peace that God wants to give us in life because we’ll always be reacting and complaining and grumbling about something going wrong. God wants us to be patient in life over the daily things that come into our lives that don’t work according to our plans. We must learn how to be a loving person by learning how to be patient with things. But we live in a fast-paced modern world that doesn’t like to wait for any thing. And when people are so wound up and impatient about everything that affects the way they treat people too. Last week I had to put some money in the bank right when it opened; I didn’t have a lot to put in, but it had to be in as soon as possible because I had already written a check against my bank account and I had to get the money in there before the check came through. I think some of you have done that and know what I mean. So I showed up in front of the bank at 8:55am waiting for the doors to open, me and some other people too. Now we had to wait patiently in line because the bank opens at 9am, not 8:45am, not early, maybe a little late, but usually right on time. So it doesn’t help to fuss and complain or give the people inside dirty looks. I’d say we were all patient that morning as we waited for the door to open. But at other times I haven’t been so patient. Last week I went into the day-old bread store and wanted to buy 1 loaf of bread, but the price was higher than it was marked on the shelf, so I had to go out to my car and get some more change. But when I came back somebody else had started unloading a huge basket full of bread on the counter and the woman at the counter told me I’d have to go to the end of the line to buy my one loaf of bread for 75 cents. So I stood off to the side, but I didn’t go to the back of the line, hoping she’d just take my change and let me be on my way. She did because it was such an easy thing to do and it made sense to do it. Now was I impatient for not heading straight to the end of the line? I didn’t get mad or angry, but I just waited patiently until she took my money so I could leave. But if she had repeated her instructions to me I would have had to patiently go to the end of the line and wait all the while keeping a good attitude about it. That’s what being patient with things means. What about you? I’m sure you have lots of stories of victories and loses in the area of patience. But if we are going to be loving people we’ve got to be patient people.

Second, love is patient with people. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient.” Not only is love patient with things, in situations, love is more importantly patient with people. If I’m not patient with my car I can destroy it. Sometimes we have to “baby” our cars, that is, treat them patiently or else they won’t go. If we are impatient with things, like our car, we might smash it or drive it hard or break it and then we have to walk places, all because we were impatient. But it is even more important to treat people in a loving and patient way than things. A loving person is patient with people. Have you ever noticed how patient a mother is with her newborn child? Being patient with someone is a big part in how we express love to another person. Being impatient with people is an unloving thing to do. Now patience doesn’t mean we wait forever for someone in some circumstance; it means we wait and are not impatient with people. There is a difference between not getting impatience with someone and not waiting forever for someone in some situation. For example, it’s the loving thing to do to be patient with the cashier in a check out line, but that doesn’t mean that I have to stay in line for hours waiting for her to learn how to do her job right. It’s not impatient to expect to be waited on in a restaurant within ½ hour of being seated. It’s not impatient to ask about being waited on after a period of time. It is impatient to want service exactly when you’d like to have it or demand it, because waiting is usually involved. So the question is: when is it patience and when is it impatience? Patience boils down to not demanding things go and people act according to our preferred timetable. Or in other words, if the world ran according to my schedule wouldn’t things be nice? But of course, the world doesn’t. Being patient is excepting the reality that things and people are not going to move on my personal table frame and accepting that reality and being ok with it. When I’m impatient, when I treat people impatiently, I’m saying, “Why aren’t you operating according to my schedule?” or “Operate on my schedule!” Patience, which is an expression of love, says, “I accept that these things and these people are not operating on my schedule and I will not hold them to my schedule as if they were.” It takes faith, faith in God and God’s sovereign will, to relax and let go of my tightly wound will and schedule enough to love people even if they aren’t putting my will ahead of their own. Being patient with people means that I’m willing to treat people nice even if they aren’t following my will for their lives or my schedule for their lives. In this sense, patience, as a form of love, is a miracle because it means that I’m not putting myself at the center of all things, but trusting God that all things will work out together for good, according to Romans 8:28.

Third, finally, love is patient with God. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient.” This may sound really strange, but faith teaches us to be patient with God also. Love is patient with things, with people, and also with God. Again, God doesn’t do things according to our will and schedule in life. Have you noticed that God has His own timetable for things? If we are always trying to push our will on things and people and even God, we are going to be miserable because things don’t always cooperate, people definitely don’t always cooperate, and God certainly doesn’t cooperate when we try to push our will upon Him. But we are tempted to be impatient with God just like everything and everyone else. Why does God take so long in answering prayer? And why does God answer prayer that way? We find ourselves second guessing God if we don’t watch out: “If I were Him I’d answer prayer this way, at this time.” But with God, especially with God, we have to learn to love Him even if we can’t control things with God. In respect to your will and schedule, don’t expect God to conform to either of them. If you are expecting God to work according to your will and schedule you are always going to be impatient with God. You are going to have a hard time loving God. Why? Because you haven’t learned to trust God for the outcome of all things. That’s the key to being lovingly patient: trust God with your life and future. I can be patient with people because I know that everything doesn’t depend on them moving things along; everything is dependent upon God ultimately. I can be patient with the things that go wrong in life because I know that my happiness doesn’t depend on the things of life but on God ultimately. Romans 8:28 really does help us learn to be patient when it says, “God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” If I really believe that, I can wait for things, I can wait for people, and I can wait on God. I don’t have to resort to impatience, complaining, getting mean or angry. I don’t have to try to take matters into my own hands and force or impose my will unlovingly on the situation. I can pray and ask God to work His will in my life and in the situations of my life. I can ask God for patience to wait. I can also ask God for wisdom to know the difference between patience and impatience. Sometimes situations are not so easy to know what to do or how to react. There are places in the Bible where it shows Jesus acting in ways that might be called impatient. For example, when Jesus turns and says to his disciple Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!” Now did Jesus lose it? Was Jesus impatient? Should he have waited longer for Peter to see the light before raising his voice? No. Jesus was the model of perfection and patience. No. In this instance, Jesus did what needed to be done. He wasn’t acting out of impatience, but he was acting firm and decisive. There are times in life when we are called to do the same and it doesn’t mean we aren’t patient or loving. But these instances should be few and far between compared with our willingness to wait and put up with things and people as long as we need to. That’s being patient; it’s a form of love.

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One Response to “Love is Patient”

  1. Being Patient « Sorting this all out Says:

    […] just found a blog post online about God and […]

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