You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker: “Lord, give me patience…and give it to me right now!” Patience is not our modern virtue. We drive our fast cars to the fast food restaurant so we can eat fast so we can get to the next meeting – fast. On average, we are living longer, but we seem to have less time. Despite our modern conveniences – water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, quick transportation, the average American gets two and a half hours less sleep now than a hundred years ago.
Waiting is out. Instant gratification is in. Students want an education but do not want to truly study. We want entertainment, but everything must be resolved in 30 or 60 minutes. Reading is out – it takes too long. Better to have someone else’s imagination do the work for us on the screen. Couples want sexual gratification but will not wait for the life-long commitment of marriage. The newly married, the day after the honeymoon, want to live at the level it took their parents 30 years to reach. Nations want victory over their enemies but believe the sacrifice should be over by lunch.
One poor soul said: “I quit my job when I started screaming at the microwave because it took 60 seconds to heat my coffee.” Supposedly, 36 percent of Americans say they are rushed all the time, or at least they have come to feel this way. Do you race another car to get to the stoplight just so you can be first in line when the light turns green? If you lose the race, do you sit there fuming, eyeing up the other car or worse yet, the semi-truck, and its driver, wondering whether he or she will take an extra two seconds to the put the pedal to the metal when the light turns green?
Some things, like growing crops, or raising children through the terrible twos, and then through the rollercoaster teens to adulthood, or planting the Word and Sacraments in the hearts of people and reaping a harvest of seasoned godliness, or building a marriage despite the mutual wounds two people inflict on each other – some things take time.
No farmer is so foolish as to expect the harvest the day after planting. He knows he must continue to cultivate and fertilize and wait – days, weeks, months. He knows there will be difficulties, dry spells and disappointments along the way. Some things take time, patience, that fine old thing the King James Version calls “longsuffering.”
A woman once said to the famous violinist, Fritz Kreisler, “I’d give my life to play the way you do.” Kreisler replied: “Madam, I did.”
Many a missionary has labored for years before gaining a single convert. Our church’s work in Japan has been slow and plodding. 50-plus years have gone by and there are only 9 congregations with some 300 members. But in that same half century, some 250 congregations have sprung up in our African field with some 52,000 souls. In either case, it is the story of great patience, of waiting for God to come and help us.
Jesus always shows up – not one minute too soon – not one minute too late to lead Israel out of bondage – to send His Son into the world at Bethlehem – to reverse death itself on Easter morning – to make us His own in the water, the word and the blood – and to come one last time for sure. But He WILL show up. And He promises that we will not be disappointed.