His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that You know all things, and do not need to have anyone question You; by this we know that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?”
If this passage doesn’t epitomize the patience of Jesus, I don’t know what does.
These men had been with Him for years–they’d seen countless signs and wonders–and now that He is about to die and leave them, now they believe.
But Jesus doesn’t get frustrated. He recognizes that everyone has to come to believe in Him in his or her own time. He realizes that there is a learning curve, and belief is a process.
He is patient with us, too.
If these twelve men could follow Jesus Christ in the flesh for such a long time and still have imperfect belief, how much more grace does God extend to us today for our imperfections?
It’s easy to start beating ourselves up when we fall. After all, if God’s standard is perfection, then there has to be some kind of consequence for messing up.
And there is, my friend.
Or, should I say, there was.
But Jesus took it on Himself. You are free. What does that mean moving forward?
When I look at John 16:29-31, as well as all the other examples of Jesus’ patience throughout the Gospels, it seems that what mattered to Jesus back then is that these men kept on following Him. They followed Him through the hardships and struggle. They stuck around–they didn’t just show up when He multiplied bread and turned water into wine.
That is what matters today, too: that we follow Him through all of life’s curve balls, that we get back up when we fall; that we keep pressing on.
God is infinitely patient with us. He forgives without measure, and He doesn’t get frustrated when we mess up. It doesn’t surprise Him. Learning to follow Him is a process. No one is great at it right off the bat.
If God is love, then I truly believe that no amount of waiting on His part is going to discourage Him from pursuing us. No amount of imperfection on our part could frustrate Him or His plans.
And that is encouraging.
What do we do with this information?
So, God is patient. Cool.
Does that really change anything for us?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is, there are two ways that it should affect our lives.
1) We can have patience with people.
People can be frustrating. Believe me, I know. Sometimes they drive dangerously, or act rude, or put you in awkward situations. It’s hard to be patient with them! It is really, really hard to become more patient naturally. I’m honestly not even sure that it’s possible when we try with our own strength. Eventually we get worn down. But God’s infinite patience naturally allows us to become more patient people.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Have you ever wondered why?
Why would spending time basking in the Holy Spirit make us more patient?
It’s because–surprise!–God is patient.
I’ve noticed that when I spend a lot of time with my friends, I start to become more like them. Sometimes I take on their traits. It’s not something I try to do; it just happens naturally because I’m around them so much.
The Holy Spirit is the same way. When we spend time with Him, we start to take on His characteristics. One of those traits is His patience.
What would happen if we let that patience change our hearts? I think it would be immensely helpful in spreading the aroma of Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14).
This patience is inseparably intertwined with forgiveness. Our patience with people will ultimately lead us to become more forgiving. This process is vitally important, because forgiveness is important to God. Since He forgave us, He expects us to forgive others. Look at Colossians 3:13:
Bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Matthew 6:14-15 is proof that forgiveness is a high priority to Jesus:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is not optional. If we want it for ourselves, we have to extend it to others. There is no other way.
Of course, this can be extremely difficult. We have all been wronged in some way or another. Some of you may have been hurt in ways that you don’t think can even be redeemed. I would encourage you to bring that hurt to God today. He cares deeply about your hurts and wants you to be free.
Forgiveness brings freedom. The longer we harbor past hurts, the more pain we will feel in the long run.
This is something of a digression, but just because you forgive someone doesn’t necessarily mean you have to trust them again or have a close relationship with them. God asked us to forgive others for the sake of our freedom and theirs, but that doesn’t mean He’s asking you to put yourself in danger. It’s okay to forgive someone without ever seeing them again.
2) We can have patience with ourselves.
God’s patience is directly correlated to His forgiveness. No matter what you’ve done, He has forgiveness for you.
Have you forgiven yourself?
If you are harboring guilt over something–some sin you’ve either committed in the past or can’t seem to stop committing, you can rest in the fact that He has infinite patience and forgiveness for you. He took the punishment for it on the cross and He wants to move forward with you.
He is kind.
We do not serve an unkind God.
Of course, as Paul reminds us in Romans 2:4, His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. I discuss what repentance looks like in this post, but you can start by just meditating on Romans 6:20-22.
If the guilt is overwhelming today, please bring that to Him. That isn’t somewhere He wants you to stay. He leads us through green pastures beside still waters, and guilt is nothing like that. Conviction is from God; guilt is not.
Take some time today to thank Him for His patience.
He doesn’t have to be patient with us, yet He always is. Always. I don’t want to take that for granted.
Until next time,