Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Longsuffering, the Will of God, Then the Promise

We have been praying to be in God's will in 2014. This might require that we take an honest assessment of ourselves, particularly in how we are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ. Black History Month reminds us that Christians come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. This can make it difficult for us, as Rodney King once said, to all get along. For some of us, to do God's will and receive what God has for us will require that we first grow, or cultivate the fruit of longsuffering (Galatians 5:22). The word, "longsuffering" is not used very much in everyday, contemporary 21st century language. It is often translated "patience" in newer versions of the Bible.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul addressed people who were not getting along. The church in Galatia had some serious problems… one, there were false teachers called Judiazers who were trying to sway the people back to a works-based religion; secondly, there were people in the church that couldn’t get along. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:15, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” There were people in that church who were engaged in back biting and talking about one another. They might not have done this to each others’ faces. More likely they did behind one another’s backs. The O’Jays once sang, “Smiling in your face; all the time they want to take your place…oh, backstabbers!” Paul wrote: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-14).

God is patient with you and me. If He weren’t patient with us, none of us would literally have a prayer. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because God loves us and is patient with us He forgives us - even though we have sinned. As a matter of fact, the Bible states that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Because Christ is patient, we have to be patient with one another. There are going to be people in your life who rub you the wrong way, who get under your skin, and on your last nerve; and who only speak to you when they have something negative to say. The Bible says we can't profess to love God whom we've never seen if we don't love our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we see every day.
Now the problem is patience DOESN’T come naturally or easily to most of us. Galatians says that true patience comes by allowing the Spirit of God to control us. Galatians 5:25 tells us “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:22 & 25. Don't fight fire with fire. Fight fire with love. Fight fire with prayer. Kill them with kindness. You may have to suffer long. Be patient. Know that these tests and trials only come to make you strong. The black and white picture above is of students peacefully protesting in front of Blue Boar Cafeteria in Louisville in 1961. I was one of the pictures on exhibit at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage on February 1st It is just one of thousands examples of African Americans exhibiting the fruit of longsuffering during the Civil Rights Movement with non-violent civil disobedience. I was able to eat in Blue Boar in the 1970's and '80s without any problems or discrimination because of the efforts of my forefathers to change American for the better.
The Bible says “But we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
“For you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36).
Long Suffering or patience is something we all have need of. There is no getting around it. It is the Spirit-given quality that helps us fit everyone together into a unified church that glorifies God.


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