Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Be Long

There are different kinds of patience. In the Old Testament, the word for patience "is related to the verb 'to be long' and involves the idea of being long to get riled or slow to become angry." It means, like Micah said, "waiting, and being okay with waiting." That could mean waiting while a package is delivered, or waiting through an oppressive situation.
We live in a very impatient society; we are always looking for the newest, fastest thing. Microwave dinners, faster internet, quicker ways to text… we hate standing in line, getting stuck in traffic, or just waiting for anything, period. A friend of mine once related a story of how she was waiting at a traffic light, and "It was taking a really long time," she said, "like… 30 seconds." What does it say about us when 30 seconds qualifies as a really long time?

But patience can also apply to waiting on God – are we any more enduring when it comes to waiting for God to take care of us? Have you ever been in a situation when you needed God to come for you, you didn't think you could last any longer, and you just wanted Him to rescue you before it was too late?

In John 11:1-44, we see a story exactly like this. Mary and Martha, appeal to Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus before it is too late. Now, it's worth noting that these were not strangers to Jesus; they were special friends that "Jesus loved" (v. 3, 5, 36). And yet, Jesus didn't seem to do anything; he just waited around for two more days. When he finally arrives to find that Lazarus is dead, you can sense the frustration in both Mary and Martha's words: "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died!" (NLT) I read those words, and hear, "Why weren't you here? Why did you wait? I am I not worth it? Wasn't he worth saving? Did we do something wrong?"

But of course we know how the story ends. And so did Martha. "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day," she said. She had faith in Jesus, faith that He would put everything right in the end; but maybe she didn't have faith that He would put everything right in the now. And I firmly believe that God always gives us what we need for now – and sometimes that doesn't make sense to us, sometimes it looks like He's waited too long, sometimes it seems like He has already answered "No" to our prayers… but He always knows what He is doing.

Patience can never be separated from faith. You should go and read Hebrews 11. These are the true heroes of the faith; people that lived and died in total dedication to God. But did you notice verse 13? Verse 39? They knew that God had started something big. But how patient do you think they had to be?

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