What most challenges your patience?
- Traffic jams?
- Rudeness in people?
- General delays within our “have it now” culture?
- The pandemic?
What if those challenges to our patience could help us find and utilize our true purpose?
Consider the biblical account of a woman named Anna.
In Luke 2:36-38 it says that 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
We’re led to understand that Anna lost her husband at a very young age; just 7 years after they were married. Luke teaches us that Anna never left the temple but worshipped there day and night, fasting and praying. She encouraged others in her midst by speaking about the Christ child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
We can learn from Anna’s example in finding our true purpose and, in so doing, developing our own fruit of patience.
4 Things We Can Do While Waiting to Increase our Patience
- Prayers of Intercession
- Fasting (yes, from food but also from temptations that ultimately slow our progress)
- Become an encourager
Anna didn’t just wait.
She applied the principles cited above and was transformed though the process.
Patience isn’t just about getting to the end; it’s about having our lives radically changed in the process.
With the story of Anna as our backdrop, let’s now consider Paul’s letter to the Philippians, as previously taught in a sermon by our very own Chris Brown.
(If you’d like to view this teaching in its entirety, you may do so by clicking on this link.
The following is an abbreviated and paraphrased transcript.
I think it does an amazing job of helping us to find our purpose and allowing ourselves to be changed while we “wait.”
Coupled with the earlier example of Anna, it is my hope that you will develop a greater sense of patience and experience meaningful growth as you find and develop your true purpose.
I also hope it doesn’t take 84+ years.
Some of the first things Chris reminds us of regarding Paul’s letter to the Philippians are:
- It was not written to us.
- It was written to believers in the Greek city of Philippi in the region of Macedonia.
- It was not written to us but it was written for
- Because the way God dealt with people then is how God deals with people today.
So if we are going to be able to live out our faith and use what Paul wrote then, we’re going to have to answer the questions, “Are we Philippian-type people?” And if so then, how is it that we can have a Philippian-type faith?
Chris brings out four main points from Philippians 1 for us to wrestle with and answer.
4 Questions for Phil-Type Faith
- What do you want to be known for (eternally)?
Among all of the other “titles” he could have chosen and opened with, Paul introduces himself and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus.”
Are you catching the significance of that? What is it that you want your reputation to be based on? When people talk about you when you’re not there, what is it you want them to say? Is it something that will travel only in this world or will it have meaning in the next?
Consider that very other title you may adopt except “servant of Christ Jesus” is less than and temporary.
- How do I really see myself?
In his letter, Paul addresses the Philippians as “Saints.”
Do you consider yourself a saint? If you identify as a Christian, do you act like one?
Are you patterning the way you live your life after Christ? Too often, we try to get cute and identify ourselves as “sinners, saved by grace.”
Fine; if you like, we can acknowledge that we’re “works in progress.” But Christ didn’t die so we could continue to identify as sinners. God sees us through Christ as fully justified Saints.
It’s why He came down into our world from Heaven, suffered the scourging and death on a cross IN OUR PLACE; FOR OUR SINS…, why he rose again from the dead (defeated death) and now sits at the right hand of the Father (to reign over his kingdom), will come again to judge the living and dead that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
You are a child of the most high God. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord; if you have committed yourself to follow His lead then you are Son or Daughter to the Creator of the Universe.
You are prince or princess to the King of Kings.
You are heir to the throne.
You are the most loved, most dangerous, most valuable people on the face of this earth.
Not because of who you are; but because of Whose you are.
Have you accepted that?
Or, are you allowing your sins of the past to create a lie in your present; that you’re still a sinner?
Consider Psalm 113: 8-12:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
…and Romans 4: 7-8:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.
Who you were B.C is not who you are the way God sees you A.D. You have been justified through the blood Christ shed for you. When you understand who you are; what God calls you versus what your past lies to you about; it’s easier to become His servant.
Again, in his letter, Paul introduces himself and Timothy as servants of Christ. Most of us wouldn’t naturally choose the title of servant, because it can be seen as demeaning. It calls and holds us accountable to more than we might always find comfortable.
Oh, I’ll serve on my terms (for my glory and for how it might make me look good in the eyes of others), but don’t you dare call me a servant; that’s demeaning.
Yet, when you understand who you are despite what you deserve; when you understand that God has never treated you fairly; and when you come to understand God will never treat you fairly; He will never give you what you deserve; He will give you forgiveness, grace and mercy instead; it becomes easier to serve.
How you feel about being a servant depends on who it is that you’re serving. Paul claimed the title of servant because he remembered what the one he was serving had saved him from.
How do you really see yourself?
- Where am I partnering with God?
If I am to be a servant of Jesus Christ because His taking the punishment I deserve made me a saint; then, as the people of Philippi partnered with Paul from the very beginning of his ministry; where (how) am I now partnering with God?
Jesus told us in advance that the very day we die, God is going to ask us one question; “What did you do with the life I have given you?” (i.e., How did you invest it? How did you grow the kingdom?)
(You can read more about this in the parable of the rich man who gave each of his servants 10 minas and asked them to invest the gift while he went away. It can be found in Luke 19. )
You see, God believes in you more than you believe in Him. And He doesn’t expect us to live out our lives in complacency. He has entrusted to us the entire Church (big C); HIS Kingdom.
He’s given us life, our positions, our possessions, influence, talents, time…
And He tells us that he will come back expecting that we’ve done something great with these things for the Kingdom.
He calls us to partner with him in growing His Kingdom until He returns. You are “plan A” for your family, your neighborhood, for your workplace. There is no “plan B.”
One day he will come back and ask and then say, “Whatever you have done for me and my Kingdom, that is how I will bless you in Heaven.” There is reward and a hierarchy in Heaven; not equality.
You’re saved because of faith.
But what you get; your treasures, your rewards, your position…all of that will be based upon what you did with what He gave you in this life.
What can you show God in your life today that would give him an idea how you’re using what he’s given you in this life toward investment in His Kingdom?
- Where am I Impacting and Encouraging Others?
Jesus called His followers together as He calls us today; from now on you are to be light; you’re called to be seen; you’re called to attract people to a lifestyle that’s different.
You’re called to live out a lifestyle that elicits (good) curiosity in others. He called that “being a light.” Does a light shine brighter in the darkness or in the daytime?
Answer: Trick question. It shines the same level of brightness regardless of what time it is.
Light doesn’t care what time it is. It gives off the same lumens whether it’s dark or light. Can you see light better in the darkness or in the light? You see light a whole lot better in the darkness, don’t you?
Light is best seen in the darkness.
Anna probably didn’t plan or desire to lose her husband at such a young age any more than you invited some of the challenges, pain or suffering you’ve experienced in your life. But she saw in herself what we, too can see and plan out for our lives.
What do you want to be known for?
Anna’s become known as a worshipper, a pillar of faith, obedience, encouragement and servanthood in the Church.
As she patiently practiced out her purpose, partnering with God and using what He had given her. She is a beacon of light, especially in our darkness.
Like Anna, the unexpected things that happen in our lives; especially those things that challenge our patience can be an opportunity for “waiting well…” to listen for, to hear and to apply the voice of God toward real purpose in this world and investments in our eternity. It is an opportunity to really consider what we ultimately want to be known for and beginning to live in ways that represent that.
Seeing ourselves through our faith in Christ as truly HIS; justified and sanctified by His blood; willing to share His love and extend His grace and mercy through service to everyone He places in our paths.
Committed to partnering with God from this new beginning forward and through the rest of our earthly lives; hearing and answering His calling to whatever it is He asks us to do; to invest our time, talents and every other gift He has given us wisely for a good return and our part in helping to expand His kingdom.
Encouraging one another and all the others…to live our lives as a beacon of light in the darkness; to love one another as Christ loves us and to share the good news of salvation to all who will listen.
A most worthy challenge that lays out meaningful tasks ahead for each of us; to His honor and glory, forever.
Right here with you,