I seem to have been born without the gene for patience. Even Disney World annoyed me as a kid because I could not stand waiting in lines. I’d like to think I have matured some in my old age. While lines don’t bother me so much, a current problem is my need for seeing immediate results. That’s one of the many reasons the coronavirus pandemic has been stressful for me. It is hard to see results, or feel you are making progress, when so much of the “regular” ministries of the church have been postponed, moved online, or done in some other creative (and distant) way. In many ways I feel like I’ve spent the past few months running full speed in a hamster wheel, expending lots of energy but not getting anywhere. This is certainly not a new problem for me, it’s just been exacerbated by the pandemic (the pandemic started later in Nicaragua, so we are still relatively shutdown). I want to see ministries I’m involved in make a noticeable impact quickly, and I tend to want to measure the impact of prayer with an egg-timer instead of a calendar. I grow frustrated if I do not see the impact of my work and prayers quickly, and often want to give up on something, or someone, when I don’t see results.
My patience was tried for many years by my best friend, Erik. Erik is aN exceptionally brilliant person Growing up, Erik had no interest in God or church. He was always the first person who came to mind when we had “invite a friend” Sundays, but he was never open to the invitation. We had many discussions about faith, but we never seemed to get anywhere. He was a skeptic, and it seemed he would always stay that way. I have to admit, there were many times I just wanted to give up on him. But, I kept praying, politely encouraging him, and sharing how I saw God working in my life. Fifteen years after first sharing my faith with him he gave his life to Christ. Now he is heavily involved in his church, and even helps to lead their men’s ministry. His passion for God is amazing to see, and he is doing a lot of great things for God’s Kingdom.
It can be very tempting to lose our patience and give up on ministries or individuals who seem to not respond to our efforts. Yet, God has called us to persevere in His name. Jesus sums it up in this parable:
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9
Jesus’ point is to keep the faith. Yes, the ministry you lead may feel stagnant. Yes, that person you love may keep rejecting Christ. Despite the failures, don’t give up. Instead, pray, and trust in God’s prayer and timing.