Seven Modern Maladies and God’s Solutions (6 of 7)

Anger & Self-control

Anger can quickly lead to other sins.  If controlled, we can avoid a falling-out.

If you are 50 year of age or older, you probably know this guy:

skipper2

the “Skipper” character from the TV series “Gilligan’s Island.  Do you remember the character’s real name?  Jonas Grumby.  Do you remember the actor’s name?  Alan Hale Jr.

Do you remember we identified the Skipper as a symbol of GLUTTONY in a previous message?  Perhaps you’re wondering why we’re picking on the Skipper twice.

We needed a symbol for WRATH or anger, and who was the guy that when he lost his temper hit Gilligan on the head with his hat?  That must have happened at least once an episode.   As often as it happened, you’d think I could find a picture of it on the internet, but I could only find this one.  Remembering what I can of the episode pictured on your notes, I recall the Skipper was only pretending that he was going to hit Gilligan.  His anger never broiled over into really harmful violence.

Of course, that doesn’t make anger right.  Physical abuse is only one kind of abuse, and anger can cause all kinds of harm without leaving any physical marks as evidence.

  1. The vicious vice of uncontrolled anger (Matthew 5:21-26).

Anger is a feeling of opposition and the emotions/actions it motivates.  (I was careful to use the word “motivates” in that sentence to counter the excuse that someone “makes” us angry.  We always have a choice whether to be angry or not and therefore always bear responsibility for our choices.  No excuses allowed; angry reactions can be avoided.)  The classic word for this sin is “wrath.”

Anger can be a deadly sin.  It says “can be” because we need to understand that the one word, ANGER, can refer to two situations.  One situation is a flash of anger and the second is a settled and lengthy decision to remain angry and act upon it.

Initial anger (the “flash” of anger”) is most typically a morally neutral experience.  Like temptation, it can come out of nowhere to surprise us.  We are not morally responsible if a sudden feeling of anger hits us that way.

That said, if we predispose ourselves to feel anger by being characteristically unhappy, negative, overly sensitive, grudge-holding, or a drama queen, then even flashes of anger can be immoral; they are our responsibility because we’ve made anger a greater part of our character.  Anger isn’t as likely to come as a surprise to a person who makes it a way of life.  Character is always a factor in determining moral guilt.

A decision to be angry or sustain anger is more common than a flash of sudden anger.  It’s what we do with our feelings of anger that makes us guilty.  Words and actions are other factors in determining moral guilt or innocence.  What we choose to say and/or do in response to anger is where our responsibility clearly lies.

Motive is a third aspect in judging moral guilt; of the three motives for anger, only one of them is good.

FRUSTRATION is a motive for anger where the person says, “I didn’t get my way.”  We typically get frustrated over little things.  Frustration is founded on self-centeredness and immaturity.

FEAR is a motive for anger that says, “I might not get my way.”  Fear and anger are the two most basic human emotions.  We respond more quickly to these stimuli because a quick response might be necessary to survive a life-ending threat.  However, at least 90% of the things we fear never happen and when they do, they rarely threaten our survival.  This is a survival mechanism that God hard-wired into our brains; it can make us overreact to fear, causing nervousness that is unhealthy and too often immoral.   If fear is ongoing, we call it “stress.”

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION is a spiritual motive that declares, “It didn’t get done God’s way.”  There is only one instance in the Gospels were Jesus is said to be angry.  In Mark 3:5, Jesus is angry and distressed at the stubbornness of hypocritical hearts.  People commonly cite Jesus’ chasing the moneychangers and sellers out of the temple as a time He got angry, but none of the Gospel writers explain it that way.  Instead, zeal is the motive offered for that act (see John 2:17).  Following Jesus’ example, we can say several things about RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION to distinguish it as the only godly motive for anger

ANGER is a sin when it is based on self-centeredness; it begins as a perceived threat to self-interest.  RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION starts in love for God & addresses sin and/or disrespect of God.  RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION is often a response to hypocrisy where ANGER is often a result of hypocrisy.  Here are several observations about the difference between the virtue of RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION and the vice of ANGER.

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION defends the truth while ANGER often tramples over it.

Like Jesus, persons expressing RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION are not characterized by aggressive words and deeds while people given to ANGER are often aggressive in what they say and do.

ANGER tends to be sudden, explosive, and frequently out of proportion to the actual offense suffered.  RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION is measured because it is a considered response and never out of proportion.

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION is never an act of revenge and would not consider “fighting fire with fire.”  Unlike ANGER, it seeks reconciliation, repentance, and restoration.

ANGER is characterized as flaring up over trivialities while RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION upholds fundamental moral issues, encouraging obedience to God’s will.

Unlike ANGER, RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION is not about self-defense or even defending others or God’s reputation.  Instead, it is about doing what is right and calling others to do the same.

We’ve looked at Jesus’ example regarding anger, now we’ll look at what Jesus taught about anger in Matthew 5.  First, He proved the seriousness of anger; it can become a sin (vs. 21-22).

Were you to ask a stranger if they were a good person, what would be the most likely answer?  “Well, I haven’t killed anybody.”  Is that because we consider murder to be the most serious sin?  Would that person be surprised to hear that Jesus considers ANGER to be as serious a sin as murder?  That being angry is akin to murder?

“YOU HAVE HEARD THAT IT WAS SAID…BUT I TELL YOU” is the expression of contrast we read throughout the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus is introducing a newer, better, deeper, and more true understanding of spiritual and moral life.

Under the old way, anger that did not result in murder was more or less OK.  Certainly considered a “misdemeanor” if at all.  But under Jesus’ way, anger is a sin, without regard to whether violence occurs or not.

Second, to avoid being guilty of serious sin, Jesus commanded swift and righteous resolution of anger (vs. 23-26) by giving two examples, one set in a religious context and the other in a secular context.

In the context of temple, Jesus taught that resolution must precede worship.  Consider: ANGER is sin.  Sin disrupts our relationship with God.  Worship is impossible under that circumstance.  In this predicament, it is essential to pause BEFORE worship to reconcile with other person, (your BROTHER or sister).  By way of another example, 2 Peter 3:7 implies that a disrespectful husband risks having his prayers “hindered” by the way he treats his wife.  Here is an overlap of relational and spiritual that merits a deeper examination.  (I can personally vouch that Peter’s warning is true.)

In the context of the legal system of the day, Jesus appealed to a practical and wise side of the issue.  Jesus advised that it is easier to settle a lawsuit out of court than it is after the judge has arrived.  That is probably still true today!  Just as an issue should be settled before worship, so should an issue be solved before appearing before a judge.  The person who fails to resolve in a timely way risks losing everything.

In this teaching Jesus underscores the foolishness of giving into anger.  Whether it’s a quick fuse or a slow burn, anger has destructive consequences.   Wise people will consider the consequences and exert the self-control necessary to squelch anger, reconcile relationships, and honor God instead of disobeying His will.

  1. The vital virtue of self-control (James 1:19-27).

As James presents it, self-control is a matter of timing.  We write this because he makes three references to time as central to his teaching about self-control in communications.

The first reference to timing is QUICK TO LISTEN; which means to get all the facts before reacting.  Begin by checking your perceptions.

– Do you have all the facts straight or are you overreacting to a misunderstanding?

– Are you really angry at that person or are you angry because something going on in your mind or heart that does not involve them?  If there is not a cause and effect relationship, then your anger is more likely to be a sin.

– Ask yourself, “What is my motive?”  If it is to “get even” or anything other than giving God glory and reconciling people, there’s a good chance your anger is just selfishness, no matter how self-righteous or reasonable you can make it sound.  Cancel the “spin” in your head!

– Ask yourself, “Is this any of my business?”  Previously in this series we’ve learned that godly ambition includes living a quiet life, minding our own business.

Next, since you can’t read minds, look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

– Try to think of extenuating circumstances or other meanings to their words and deeds.

– In conversation with that person, check your perceptions and their intention.  Tell them how you see things and ask them if they see them differently.  Try to forge a common understanding of what is causing anger in your relationship.

Finally, by faith, try to see the situation from God’s perspective.

– If there is not a command of God being violated or a good deed left undone, is there really any reason to take offense?

– Can you be certain you are in the right on the matter and how you intend to resolve it?

– We have been warned that on Judgment Day, all “careless words” will be judged by God (see Matthew 12:36).  How will you feel when petty and hurtful words are repeated before Jesus?

The second reference to timing is SLOW TO SPEAK, which means to prefer silence and to carefully guard your words.  As we’ve been learning on Wednesday Bible Studies, the Bible has a lot to say on the subject of words.  One piece of wisdom is that the best away we can avoid speaking rashly is to avoid speaking.  Silence may not always be the best choice, but taking time to think is always good.

The amount of time we need to take before giving a comment or answer depends on how long it takes you to do the aforementioned three steps of homework prior to answering.  Besides, if you take your time, you will find that a good deal of hurtful speech and miscommunication can be avoided.  Taking time may give you an opportunity to recognize bad speech and its effects.

The final reference to time is to be SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY. This means to carefully and prayerfully guard your actions.

Obviously, words aren’t the only way we give in to anger.  But they are the most common way and I believe that’s part of the reason why the Bible has so much to say on this subject.

It takes time to be certain an offense is truly intended, who is at fault, and decide what, if anything, needs to be done to reconcile the parties involved.  If you practice this, you will find that simply because you waited to react, the situation resolves itself.  God will always do a better job than we can hope to do.

Modern scientific studies of emotional intelligence show that our brain structures are set up to respond most quickly to anger and fear.  There is literally another set of brain parts that are used for reason, love, and self-control.

This is evidence of what we have learned by experience: it is not in our natural self to be self-controlled.  Doing right requires that we take more time and use the parts of our brain that work more slowly than the mouthy, angry, and evil parts.  James’ double use of the word SLOW reflects the findings of modern science!

Our best motive for self-control is to achieve the RIGHTEOUS LIFE GOD DESIRES (v. 20).  Stated briefly, the RIGHTEOUS LIFE GOD DESIRES is becoming more like Jesus.  James is also clear about the details of what a RIGHTEOUS LIFE looks like.  Verse 26 says that a RIGHTEOUS person has a TIGHT REIGN ON HIS TONGUE. Verse 27 says that a RIGHTEOUS person looks after the needy and keeps themselves from being morally POLLUTED BY THE WORLD.

Elsewhere in James we develop a broad view of a RIGHTEOUS LIFE:

2:10 = Keep the entirety of God’s commands, not just your favorite parts.

4:7 = Become submissive to God, resistant to the devil.

5:13-16 = Rely on prayer.

James instructs us that self-control is a mark of maturing faith.  Writing plainly, verse 26 warns that uncontrolled speech betrays a RELIGION that is WORTHLESS.  We need our faith to be true in order to be saved and to persevere in this life.  When trials and death come, a false faith will be WORTHLESS to us.

One way to cure self-deception about our status before God is to look at what we are doing.  James gave three examples:

A person who says what they think reveals they are self-deceived and they will find, on Judgment Day, that their RELIGION is WORTHLESS in regard to getting into heaven.

Anyone can claim faith, but God-approved religion is proven by two actions: keeping from following the WORLD so closely that your moral status becomes as dirty as theirs.  God approves service and protection for the neediest members of the community, not the wealthiest.

In James 3:2 we understand moral perfection is proved by control of what one says: WE ALL STUMBLE IN MANY WAYS.  IF A MAN IS NEVER AT FAULT IN WHAT HE SAYS, HE IS A PERFECT MAN, ABLE TO KEEP HIS WHOLE BODY IN CHECK.

Ideally, self-control is achieved by surrendering to the Holy Spirit and thereby being Spirit-controlled.  GLS 5:22-23 = self-control is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.

Anger can quickly lead to other sins.  If controlled, we can avoid a falling-out.

If you are younger than 50, you know all about

twitter

Twitter as a place where angry exchanges can easily take place.  Twitter is an app and website that aims at providing news and social networking by allowing users to post and interact with messages called “tweets”.  Originally, tweets were restricted to 140 characters, but late last year, the limit was doubled to 280 for most languages.   On this basis, it may be argued that Twitter’s greatest virtue is brevity.

Twitter was launched in July, 2006. In ten years Twitter grew to more than 319 million active users.  Another gauge of the influence of Twitter occurred on the day of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when 40 million election-related tweets sent by 10 p.m.

The gentleman who may have benefitted most from all that election day activity was President Trump, who has also become one of Twitter’s most famous/infamous users.  I have a Twitter account with a whopping THIRTY followers.  This means 30 people get notified when I tweet.  Nine out of ten times my tweet is simply an announcement that I have posted my sermon notes on the internet.

Because of the relative anonymity (you can use a net name – pseudonym) and the brevity of the messages, Twitter has become a place where social interactions take on the form of angry opposition.  The word “Tweets” sounds like a happy thing, but the fact is, these brief messages too often take on hateful, condemning, and argumentative tones.  Occasionally you will hear about a celebrity who has closed their Twitter account because the messages left were so hurtful.

In fact, in February of this year the company announced that they were responding to constant criticism of the wrathful aspect of tweets by providing help for those who tweeted about self-harm or suicide, and restricting the access of users who encourage others to harm themselves or commit suicide.  This ought to come as no surprise to anyone: human nature is such that if we make it easy to hurt others, more people will engage in that behavior.

One of the things that is supposed to distinguish followers of Jesus from the rest of the world is the presence of peace and the absence of anger.  We will show the world we are different if we don’t tweet or talk in anger.  We will demonstrate we truly belong to Jesus if we take the time needed to act in love, not anger.  That will take pursuit of self-control and avoidance of the deadly sin of wrath.

RESOURCES:

Wikipedia.

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Fearful Heart or True Heart?

 

Get and keep the kind of heart God has for you.

Some folks think courage is something like adrenaline: it will be there when you really need it. That makes for a good story, but it is rarely true.

The fact is, courage is like a muscle you build through constant exercise.  Like all character traits, it must become a functional part of us through repeated practice.  I realize words like “practice” and “exercise” are not popular words and they do not make for a dramatic story, but they are the means by which character is built.

So, in order to have courage when you need it most, you have to exercise it every day.  It’s the little decisions, the daily tests that develop more courage in us.

  1. Fear God only; do not have an anxious heart (see Leviticus 26:36-37).

In a lengthy section detailing the warnings of penalty for disobedience, God said, “AS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE LEFT, I WILL MAKE THEIR HEARTS SO FEARFUL IN THE LANDS OF THEIR ENEMIES THAT THE SOUND OF A WIND-BLOWN LEAF WILL PUT THEM TO FLIGHT.  THEY WILL RUN AS THOUGH FLEEING FROM THE SWORD, AND THEY WILL FALL, EVEN THOUGH NO ONE IS PURSUING THEM.  THEY WILL STUMBLE OVER ONE ANOTHER AS THOUGH FLEEING FROM THE SWORD, EVEN THOUGH NO ONE IS PURSUING THEM.  SO YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STAND BEFORE YOUR ENEMIES.’

An anxious heart can be a sign of disobedience.  Among all the warnings in this section, this one has to do with a state of heart.  If they won’t fear God and respect Him, then He will ironically send a fear so strong that they will retreat from shadows; worry over nothing.  The picture here is rather comical; like Abbot and Costello or “Dumb and Dumber,” these characters are going to be falling over one another to retreat from things that are not actual threats.  Though is mocking or comical, it’s not a funny situation.  The outcome will be constant defeat: YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STAND.  This truth is also expressed in the form of a contrast in PBS 28:1; THE WICKED FLEE THOUGH NO ONE PURSUES, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS ARE AS BOLD AS A LION.

An anxious heart can be a sign of discouragement.  Ten times in the Old Testament fear and discouragement are directly linked.  God repeatedly said to His people; “Do not be afraid or discouraged.”  There were different threats at different times, but always His message was the same; “do not be afraid or discouraged.”  Based on human nature, fear and discouragement are typically our first responses when we have to face setbacks.

  1. God does not want you to have a fearful heart (see Isaiah 35:3-4).

STRENGTHEN THE FEEBLE HANDS, STEADY THE KNEES THAT GIVE WAY; SAY TO THOSE WITH FEARFUL HEARTS, “BE STRONG, DO NOT FEAR; YOUR GOD WILL COME, HE WILL COME WITH VENGEANCE; WITH DIVINE RETRIBUTION HE WILL COME TO SAVE YOU.”

The context of this Scripture is a word of encouragement first given to the Jews who were captives living in the nation of their conquerors.  The people of God spent 70 years in captivity before these promises were fulfilled.  These promises are also for us, for our encouragement in anxious hours.

A fearful heart needs to be strengthened.  We can strengthen our human nature by means of reason and emotion, but we can receive spiritual strength only as we rely on God.  Prayer and knowledge of the Word are used the Holy Spirit and are the ways we begin the process of receiving this strength from God.  The process continues with the encourage-ment God’s people give to one another.  Fear in one’s heart weakens not only one’s resolve but also one’s hands; our physical strength is sapped when fear takes over.

We are strengthened by trust in God.  There are two specific promises in this passage.  When He appears, God will bring about completion of all the woes of creation.

He will bring about perfect justice.  This is indicated twice in our text: HE WILL COME WITH VENGEANCE, and WITH DIVINE RETRIBUTION.  These promises have a negative ring in the ears of some.  However, we need to be reasonable; the only way perfect peace can be achieved is by the destruction of all evil.  This isn’t negative at all; it is God keeping His promises and rewarding the faith of His people.

He will save you.  He will save His people from all their enemies, all evil doers.  He will save them for eternal fellowship with Him and with one another.

The two sides of the ultimate victory of God are the eternal life given to His people and eternal destruction visited upon those who refused to be His people, choosing evil instead.

3. Follow Joshua’s example to have a courageous heart (see Joshua 1:5-9 + 18)

God promised Joshua complete victory over his enemies.  There were a lot of them and the territory they occupied is described in v. 4.  Let’s note all God’s promises:

– “I WILL GIVE YOU EVERY PLACE YOU SET YOUR FOOT, AS I PROMISED MOSES.” (3)

– “AS I WAS WITH MOSES, SO I WILL BE WITH YOU; I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU.” (5)  Moses occupied a unique and important role in God’s salvation plan, but the grace of God did not end with him; it continued with Joshua as Moses’ replacement.  What is noteworthy here is that it is the presence of God that makes all the difference.  Military power or any kind of earthly advantage is nothing compared to the works of God.

– “YOU MAY BE SUCCESSFUL.” (7)

– “YOU WILL BE PROSPEROUS AND SUCCESSFUL.” (8)

– “GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.” (9)

– “GOD IS GIVING YOU YOUR OWN [land].” (11)

God repeatedly commanded Joshua to be “STRONG and COURAGEOUS.”  Moral strength and courage are part of this command.  As God repeated promised His people, doing the right thing is a key to achieving the right result.  This is important because people can be stubborn or in some similar way display something that looks like strength or courage.  However, it is the strength and courage that come from God that matter.  These we receive by faith and obedience.

 

Biblical courage can be defined as “following through on your faith-based decision to obey God’s will.”  This results in doing the right thing without regard for earthly support or opposition.  Courage is built by consistently choosing God’s way in the daily and seemingly trivial daily decisions we all make.

For example, why do bullies prosper?  It’s because their victims are not prepared to exercise courage from the beginning, when the stakes are comparatively low.  Instead, they give into their emotions early and repeatedly until their emotions get out of control and they explode from pressure.  The result is sometimes very unpleasant and always avoidable.  (Think of “Ralphie” teeing off on “Scot Farkus” in the movie “A Christmas Story.”)

One other example.  Some of the most courageous acts we do is to have an open mind and trust others.  The person who insists on “my way or the highway” is a bully whose mind is closes and is distrustful.  Courage is manifest in the undramatic and ordinary circumstances where we obey God in His timing.

Wait Gain

(This is a topical message on patience.  I will be citing the NLT in the article below, but please read your favorite version of the Bible.)

Continuing our celebration of a Year of Jubilee, we turn in April to the Spiritual Fruit of Patience.  I suppose I could give you an opportunity to demonstrate patience by giving 40 minute sermons…  Instead, let’s examine what the Bible teaches about this virtue and assume that life will hand you opportunities to exercise patience.

            (Newser) – “At New Zealand’s National Aquarium, workers thought Inky the octopus had settled in nicely after he was brought in by a fisherman who found him in a lobster pot in 2014. Turns out he was just biding his time. Staff at the Napier aquarium believe that after the lid of Inky’s tank was left slightly ajar one night, he climbed out, slid across the wet floor, and escaped through a drainpipe that led to the sea, reports Stuff.co.nz. The football-sized, freedom-loving cephalopod would have had to squeeze through a pipe six inches diameter for more than 150 feet to make his escape.

“’Octopuses are famous escape artists,’ aquarium manager Rob Yarrell tells the Guardian. ‘But Inky really tested the waters here.’ He says Inky—who had games, toys, and three hand-fed meals of fish a week at the aquarium—is an ‘unusually intelligent’ octopus who was ‘very friendly, very inquisitive, and a popular attraction here,’ with more personality than Blotchy, the other resident octopus. After the amazing escape, ‘the staff and I have been pretty sad,’ Yarrell says. ‘But then, this is Inky, and he’s always been a bit of a surprise octopus.’”

(Retrieved from http://www.newser.com/story/223515/octopus-breaks-out-of-national-aquarium.html on 4/14/16.)

Inky was such a smart octopus, in fact, that he learned to unlock a box to get at the shrimp treat hidden inside.  If an octopus can be patient, why can’t beings with a backbone – like you and I – be patient too?

            Patience is a virtue commanded and commended throughout the Bible.  As is the case with all virtues, you will find that the practice of patience will make your life more enjoyable! This is the case because impatience creates crankiness and ruptures relationships.

Today we’ll see that patience is a virtue that God has shown to us in abundance.  He commands His people everywhere to follow His example and be patient.  Next Sunday we’ll examine how patience works in our relationships with one another.

  1. Wait upon the Lord to deliver you from trials (Psalm 27:14).

CONTEXT: Psalm 27 is arguably one of the most hopeful, upbeat psalms attributed to King David.  V. 14 ends this psalm with a realistic note that some time may pass between promise and fulfillment; we must be prepared to wait patiently for the Lord to act.

COMMENT: Two phrases stand out.

The first is WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE LORD.  To WAIT for the LORD to act is to exercise faith; it is to demonstrate trust in God.  It is easier to WAIT PATIENTLY if you are certain the Lord’s promise will be fulfilled.  Patience and certainty are two sides of the same coin.

– Certainty comes from experience – try God and you will find Him faithful.

– Certainty comes from knowledge of the Bible. The more you know God’s word, the more certain you are.

– Certainty comes from a personal relationship with God. The more you pray, the easier it is to trust Him.

The second is BE BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS.  Circumstances and emotions will sometimes conspire to test our patience.  Fear can set in and make us impatient.  This is why bravery and courage are so important.  The world and the Enemy will try to distract, discourage, and destroy your faith – don’t allow it!  Waiting on the Lord requires resisting temptation and fighting discouragement. The Lord’s promises are worth the wait!

  1. Wait upon the Lord for strength to endure trials (Isaiah 40:28-31).

CONTEXT: Isaiah 40 emphasizes the divine power of God at work on behalf of His people.  It was a comfort in the trying time of their captivity in Babylon.

COMMENT: We’ve already talked about fear, but during the time between promise and fulfillment, when faithful waiting is required, weariness can also set in. All four of these verses mention the weariness of life in one way or another.

These verses encourage us to depend on strength from God to empower our patience. After all, the LORD never GROWS FAINT OR WEARY (28); He is perfectly dependable.  He gives POWER and STRENGTH to people who find their circumstances exhausting (29).  In this life, even young & vital people experience weariness in body and soul (30), so depending on your own strength is not a good idea.  Promises of restoration are made to those who WAIT on the LORD (31).

– NEW STRENGTH

– We find three encouragements to keep moving forward:

— FLY HIGH ON THE WINGS OF EAGLES

— RUN AND NOT GROW WEARY.

— WALK AND NOT GROW FAINT.

As this encouragement was first given to the Jews who’d been held captive in Babylon, it seems likely that the movement motif is to lift up the hopes of the returnees.  God is saying, “The journey is long and a lot of work awaits those who return.  But don’t quit; I will strengthen you for every step of the journey back and for every stone lifted to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem and the temple within.”

These promises remind us that patience is not merely a version of endurance; there is more to waiting than passively standing by until something happens.  Patience is the virtue in which we surrender the illusion of control.  We learn by experience to depend on God for the strength we need to wait upon Him.  If we fail to be patient, it is a failure to be faithful.

  1. Wait upon the Lord as He waited upon you (1 Peter 3:9).

CONTEXT: Peter’s second letter attempts to provide some perspective.  He’s trying to show us WHY these things are important.  What we believe and what we do based on those beliefs have eternal consequences, which is as important as things get.

COMMENT: In v. 8, Peter tells us something important about God – He is eternal.  That means He is not stuck in any one moment in time like we are. Because that is so, He is not SLOW about keeping His promises just because we perceive a long time between promise and fulfillment.

Peter wrote that SOME PEOPLE (v. 9) use this as an excuse to be antitheists.  He had earlier (v. 3) identified them as SCOFFERS.  People will find lots of excuses to reject and mock the truth, and to persecute the faithful: the seeming slowness of God is one of them.

God is not SLOW.  Instead, He is being PATIENT with the human race.  He is giving everyone MORE TIME to REPENT.

Why?  Because, at this moment, the love of God moderates the holiness of God: HE DOES NOT WANT ANYONE TO PERISH.  It is never God’s will for anyone to go to hell.  That outcome is the product of their will, not His.  It is God’s will that everyone should REPENT and live eternally (see Ezekiel 18:23 and 1 Timothy 2:4). Rather than being evidence of God’s non-existence, impotence, or indifference, it is yet another sign of His mercy.  The point is, God is PATIENT (see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalms 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22) and His children are identified by patience.

At a time of His choosing, the Father’s holiness will take precedence over His love and judgment will be served (10).  Because we don’t know when that time will be, TODAY is the appropriate time to be saved.

Vernon McGee tells of a southern pastor who preached a powerful sermon on Isaiah 40 and concluded it in this way; “Brethren, this church, it needs to walk.” This comment was met with a chorus of “amens” from the deacons’ bench.

Encouraged, the preacher continued, “Brethren, this church, it needs to run!”  This comment was met with an even larger number of affirmative “amens.”

His voice reaching a crescendo, the preacher said, “Brethren, this church, it needs to fly!!”  Several people said, “amen and hallelujah.”

Then the preacher said, “Well, it’s going to cost money to make this church fly.”  One of trustees said loudly, “Let her walk, brother, let her walk!”  (Through The Bible, Vol. III, p. 287.)

Let me introduce you to what may be a new word:            ENNUI.  It is defined as a” lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest:  a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction.

“The French loanword ennui comes from the very same Late Latin word that gave us ‘annoy’ – ‘inodiare’ (‘to make loathsome’). We borrowed ‘ennui’ several centuries after absorbing “annoy” into the language. ‘Ennui’ deals more with boredom than irritation – and a somewhat specific sort of boredom at that. It generally refers to the feeling of jadedness that can result from living a life of too much ease.”

(Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ennui on 4/14/16.)

I believe the word “ennui” sizes up one of our problems in the American Church.  We’ve been complacent, bored, and asleep at the wheel.  We’ve allowed secularists to define our culture and push us to the margins of political and public consciousness.         Then, ironically, our complacency turns to impatience with one another and petty differences cause deep divisions.  This does not honor God and is properly understood as SIN.  God has been patient with you and I, so we should exercise the same patience toward one another.

Patience is a virtue commanded and commended throughout the Bible.  Hasty words are as destructive as hasty actions; they both make life unpleasant. To sum it up, we’ll be happier and more holy if we remember to slow down and be patient.