Friday, February 14, 2014

Character of God: Patience

I'm an addict.  Oh, I've never been hooked on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.  But I'm addicted to sin.  Wrath, laziness, gluttony, these are sins I struggle with on a daily basis.  I know they are wrong, but I find myself enmeshed in them all the time.  Maybe you can't understand why I would lazily read a book all day when there are so many things to do.  On the other hand, maybe you have sins that I don't struggle with at all.  I don't understand how people can spend money they don't have or drink themselves into a stupor.  As sinful humans, we all have sins that we fight against every day, attitudes and actions that we know are wrong, and yet we keep doing them over and over.  God has always had patience with us, even when we stumble on the same wrongs time and again.  He didn't give up on us, and if we are following Him, we cannot give up on others just because we don't understand their particular sin addiction. 

Philips Galle - Sans�o Destr�i o Templo dos FilisteusI don't understand Samson's addiction at all, but I know that God didn't give up on him.  Samson had a problem with women.  When he saw a beautiful woman, nothing would do but for him to have her, regardless of the character of the girl in question.  First, he convinced his parents to get an unnamed Philistine girl for him because she looked good to him.  That marriage failed when the woman betrayed Samson in his riddle contest and her father gave her to another man.  Despite Samson's mistake, the Spirit of God still came upon him to defeat the Philistines who would kill him.  For awhile, Samson sought comfort from prostitutes, then he saw Delilah.  He didn't learn his lesson about trusting in the beauty of a woman because he began a relationship with the Philistine woman.  He was betrayed yet again, and this time he was nearly destroyed for his sin.  Blind and weak, he calls out to God one more time.  True to his nature, God did not give up on this man who had sinned multiple times.  He gave him strength for one last effort against the people who had oppressed them. (To read all of Samson's story, see Judges 13-16).

There are many other examples of God showing patience with the same old sins.  Abraham lied about his relationship to Sarah twice, then his son did the same thing!  David saw what he wanted and took it, whether it was Bathsheba or a count of the fighting men.  Helene will give us a good look at God's mercy with the Israelites when they fell into idol worship over and over.  God doesn't give up on his children until they give up on Him, and even then He gives them the chance to come back.

I want people to know of this great patience of God, how he gives second, third, and one hundred and third chances to those who love him.  The best way to show people God's patience is to have patience myself.  That means giving to the sister who has mismanaged her money... again... so badly that she can't pay the power bill.  That means taking a brother to rehab for the third time he's relapsed into drunkenness.  Sometimes it simply means not blowing up at my kids who whine day after day or giving grace to the sister who struggles to avoid gossip.  It always means not giving up on people.

This is where it gets tough.  Sometimes we have a hard time seeing the difference between being patient with someone and tolerating unrepentant sin, perhaps because we can't truly see into their hearts.  How do we know the difference between the person who wants to repent but keeps tripping up and the person who only wants to use our good intentions to get a handout?  I don't know the answer to that question.  I do know that on judgment day, I would rather be on the side of the sheep who gave the hungry something to eat (Matthew 25:31-46).  If I truly can't tell if someone is sincere or not, I would rather err on the side of patience.

Are you an addict?  Are there sins you struggle with every day?  Maybe they aren't the "big ones," and maybe the consequences aren't very drastic, but if you think for awhile, you can probably list the sins which God has forgiven again and again.  The next time you see a brother or sister who can't seem to make the right choice, remember your addiction and the God who has the power to pull you out.  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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