The power of patience

She drove at 50 in the 60 zone, sped up to 60 in the 50 zone, and then slowed down to 40 when the traffic light ahead turned green, so by the time we both got to the light, it was red again. “Give me strength,” I muttered, as I ground to a halt behind her.

It was all quite normal for her, I imagine. She probably drives like that all the time, but I’m a Christian so I’m supposed to be patient, right? But why? Why is it so important to be patient?¬†Because patience changes people. When Paul realized God’s patience, for instance, it blew him away. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” he writes in 1 Timothy 1:13, but, he continues, “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” So had that lady driver, right? She didn’t think there was anything wrong with her driving. In reality it was horrible, and how she passed her driving test is beyond belief, but here’s where the power of patience comes in, because when it dawned on Paul how terrible he’d been and he realized how patient God had been with him, it totally changed him.

“Here is a trustworthy saying,” he writes in amazed response to God’s patience. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (just like that lady driver!) “But,” verse 16, “for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience.”

How could Jesus do that, be so patient when Paul had been so bad? It had an enormous impact on Paul. “Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,” he writes with flourish, “be honour and glory for ever and ever.” What “an example (Jesus had shown through him) for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” No matter how bad our sin is, Jesus has the patience to bear it.

And seeing patience like that changed Paul. Do I carry that kind of power with me if I’m patient too, then? Yes, 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, because that’s what I’m here for, “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” When I’m patient with a lousy driver, it’s a perfect illustration of Jesus’ endless patience, and when people see his patience that’s when they “believe on him and receive eternal life,” 1 Timothy 1:16.

Patience has the power to change people, maybe not their driving, unfortunately, but at least their view of God.

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