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Patience is Key

It is interesting given the circumstances in the world that we are in currently that patience is the focus of this month.

I have found great benefit in focusing on the different ways that I can focus on waiting on the Lord, staying calm, having confidence, and trusting God’s sovereignty. Often that involves taking some counter-intuitive action on my part because my natural tendency is to respond out of fear or survival strategy. We don’t like to say that we are responding out of fear, but any time we jump into a survival strategy responding out of fear is actually what is happening and not evidence that we are trusting God and having patience.

So today, I want to discuss how important patience is in our lives and how it is the key to making wise decisions and that God has a lot to say about those that are not patiently waiting on the Lord. I want to talk about 3 different examples in the bible of what that looks like and how to relate those into our lives so you can see how this might show up in your life and make adjustments. 

Patience is key and in order to recognize how we can have patience, it is important that we learn to notice the different survival strategies we use when we are not exhibiting patience. Recognizing when those things are at play will help us get out of those situations a little quicker. Many of you have heard that there are typically 3 options that people choose from when in fear. Fight, flight or freeze. I am going to call these being a doer, being a hider, and being a staller. Those are words that I think will resonate with behaviors that we get into and will be more easily recognizable. 

Let’s take the fight response, which in our case would be the doer, and look at someone in the bible operating out of fear and got ahead of what God called them to do. My favorite example of this particular situation is in 1 Samuel 13. This happens twice with the same person actually. Saul is the king of Israel and the prophet Samuel is giving him spiritual direction. In chapter 13 Saul as the king has been given instructions from Samuel. Samuel told him to go and do several things and wait for Samuel to come. 

7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 1 Samuel 7-14

So I didn’t write out the part where Samuel clearly communicated that he was coming and Saul was to wait for him, but you can look in the previous chapter and read it there. Saul got nervous when Samuel didn’t come in the amount of time he was supposed to. Saul decided that the thing to do was to take action himself and get the job done outside of the instructions he was given. This action cost him his whole throne forever. That was the consequence of this action. God took away the throne being passed down through Saul’s lineage. Saul actually disobeys later in regards to sacrifice and Samuel calls him out on it in chapter 15. I think this is an easy example to see of someone who tends to be a doer.

When we get impatient are we taking matters into our own hands and doing the task? Taking action is not necessarily wrong, but when you are coming from a place of wanting to take control because you don’t see God taking control or your expectations haven’t been met. It is important to recognize that survival mentality. It is stressful and exhausting to live this way. I know this first hand because this is my tendency. When I get nervous I know I have a lot of success with planning, being efficient, and getting the job done. My pride can get in the way of God’s plan. This is a way to eliminate the need to trust God. I was doing this the other day where I was trying to crank out a bunch of work, working on my business, and get the kids’ school stuff set up. As I kept going I got exhausted, but all I could see were the tasks needing to be done. A friend of mine called me out just trying to cram all the tasks in. When you are in this place you have to give these things to God and that might look like surrendering. It is hard to rest when it feels counter-intuitive. In the moment of choosing to surrender, I chose to go do something relaxing and it was really hard. If you are someone who feels resistant to taking a break or relaxing then you might be someone who tends to be a doer when you get nervous or start to get stressed. Patience is the key.

When we intentionally surrender when it feels counter-intuitive, it puts our confidence in God’s sovereignty, and the burden lands on Him to figure out how it all gets done. If you are a doer, I encourage you to look for a place you can intentionally rest. Maybe it looks like sitting on the couch and watching TV, going for a walk, having a cup of coffee. The intentional rest is a behavior that we can apply to being a doer that helps our spirit get back into a trusting relationship with the Lord and allowing God to be the ruler over our lives. 

The second one is flight, which I call a hider. You may run in the other direction or come up with a way to avoid a circumstance by going in a different direction. I use Jonah for this example. God gave him a clear direction to go preach to the people of Ninevah and he was scared. 

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1-3

So we see God clearly directing Jonah and he didn’t want to do it. He got nervous and was scared about the whole situation. As a result, he decided it was best to run in the opposite direction. It wasn’t smart and we know that he got swallowed by the fish and lived in the fish for 3 days. He had to pay some serious consequences. Jonah has a survival strategy around when he got fearful. His survival strategy was how far and how fast can I get in the opposite direction. If you look at a map of where he was, where Ninevah was, and where Tarshish was you can see clearly that it was in the exact opposite direction of where God called him to go. This is the flight strategy. Someone who is hiding from the situation, but again I encourage you that patience is key. Evidence that we are willing to have patience is trusting God for what he calls us to and stepping forward. That can look like an intentional action. Actually, the action to take for the hider and the staller is the same. What one next thing can you do? 

The staller is similar to a hider, except they are not running away, they just aren’t moving forward. The example for this one is the children of Israel in Numbers 13. This is a familiar story as well. 

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

They get this instruction to scout the land. God has already told them that this is the land. So Moses asks them to check it out. The men come back with a fearful response. They sent 12 to spy on the land and 10 came back with a fearful response. 2 said that this is the land God gave us and we can move forward in faith. The children of Israel were so angry about the possibility of moving forward and taking huge action that they were ready to stone the 2 men that came back with a positive response.

As a result, they got the ultimate consequence of having to stall. God was so unhappy with them and their fearfulness and dragging their feet about going in that He gave them another 40 years in the desert. That whole generation had to die off for them to be able to go in because they stalled. Talk about some significant consequences of that action. It comes from the natural inclination to freeze and prevent us from moving forward.

In today’s life that can look like doing nothing even though we have things to do (zoning out, spending time on our phones, tuning into the news over and over). Stalling is not being a good steward of our lives and it really is not trusting the Lord. It is giving glory to fear as opposed to a sovereign God. Being a hider and a staller, the action is the same. Whether you are in flight or freeze mode, the key is figuring out one action. One next thing you can do to take action in the situation. What is one next step you need to take to stay in a state of trusting God? This is one thing we discuss in Supermom School.

The other day I got stalled out when everything went down about quarantine, I found myself suddenly trying to make menus, get my work done, school my kids from home even though they are in public school. One Sunday afternoon I was trying to strategically map out a whole bunch of things and the tasks became overwhelming. I found myself zoned out in la-la land not knowing what to do next. When I realized I was giving into fear and allowing that to dictate this freeze symptom I recognized the next thing and I am so grateful the Lord prompted me this way. I knew the action I needed to take was to give God order and take back the chaos and confusion. When I realized that I just had to take one next step I found a menu that I created. It was really chaotic on paper, it was one action I could take that would help things be more calm and peaceful. I rewrote the menu and that was one thing that was organized. God is not the author of confusion, and giving Him this one thing helped me immensely. That one little piece of paper can be a testimony to taking action in one place of my life. That gave me the courage to take action in another place and before long, all of my tasks were taken care of. This made me feel like I was being a good steward of my time and thoughts and that I was using them productively. That is what coming from a place of God being sovereign looks like and using what God has given me to take the next step. With everything as volatile as it is, I know for certain is that patience is key. Trusting in the sovereignty of God looks like resting if I am inclined to do from a place of fear, taking action when I am inclined to hide, and taking action when I am inclined to stall out. 

I hope you look at this and see that we can jump into any of these survival strategies at any given time. I have definitely done all three at different times in my life. Which one is resonating with you most today? Which action do you need to take?

Honestly, it is probably the one you are most resistant to. If you are the doer, you will be resistant to sitting down and resting. If you are hiding, you will be more resistant to taking action. If you are stalling, you will be resistant to taking one step forward. If Jonah took just one step towards Ninevah, instead of going towards Tarshish I think it would be a whole different story. When Israel had gone and spied out the land, if they had been willing to admit they didn’t know how it would work out and take a step forward anyway, they could have avoided 40 years of walking around in the desert. Jonah could have avoided 3 days being in the belly of a fish. If Saul had been patient and waited instead of taking action he could have kept his kingdom. There are serious consequences when we jump the gun and refuse to trust in God’s sovereignty. Patience is key because it is evidence of trusting in God’s sovereignty. What one next thing are you going to do to take action?

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