“Patience is a virtue,” I mindlessly uttered to one of my friends today. Ah, the dull cliche sound echoes my thoughts. It scrapes the chalkboards of my mind. I cringe. I so dislike these cliche phrases. They lack genuineness. I begin to think. The more I do, the thought becomes clear to me that virtues seem to be a foreign concept to our culture. It seems good to me that I ought to look into it and derive some sort of clear and valuable meaning from this virtue. Though, the thought vanishes into thin air, a distraction comes up. Before I know it, it is afternoon, evening, and night — I’ve moved on with the day having failed to conceive a second thought to this mystery.
Yet, it beckoned me again just a few moments ago. On my drive home, I managed to hit every single red light. I started off driving extremely slow as to not be hasty. Well, I was barely missing these lights, so I figured I would peg the acceleration and that I would just start making all of them because I would get ahead of the rotation. I still missed the lights by the same distance. I texted my friend that God was testing my patience. At this point, I still did not think about my realization from earlier in the day. He texted me back saying that he was saying a little prayer for me, and I responded, “Thanks I need it. I’m guessing I’m going to have to exert this patience on some sort of situation tomorrow. That’s how it usually works — preparation followed by action.” It was at this moment that God flooded my mind with detailed thought and extravagant concepts — and I finally remembered my thought from earlier in the day. Now you are probably wondering, why am I bothering you with all of these details? Skip to the point already! Well, just hold on, patience is a virtue.
The simple statement that I made, preparation followed by action, I know to be a truth from God. If you read the Bible as a whole, the story of God’s people is always characterized by preparation followed by action. God never asked out of His people what He did not prepare them for: He did not ask Noah to build an Arc without providing Him the exact measurements of the boat, the exact type of material to use to build it, or the exact number of animals to bring in. He did not ask Moses to lead His people out of Egypt without first producing within Him leadership qualities and giving Him the confidence to oppose Pharaoh. He did not ask David to take down Goliath without giving Him years of practice with a slingshot. He did not ask Jonah to give a final warning to back-slidden towns without giving Him protection. We could go throughout the whole Bible and find the same case over and over… God prepares His people before He has them carry out a given task. Now, on the same token. God does not prepare His people without asking them to carry out that given task. After Noah spent several decades preparing for the flood by building the Arc, God didn’t just say, “Oh, good job, you did well! There is no need for the flood, you have proven yourself worthy, you can go rest now, child!” That would be quite ridiculous. He prepares us so that something can be accomplished — whether we know what that something is, or not.
Another pattern I notice with God, is that He is consistent, in the big things and in the small things. We look at events like the flood, the exodus, and the victory over the Philistines as big events. But, can I tell you that God also prepares us for small events as well? We could look at the parable that Jesus told, of the man that was given a lot and the man that was given little. Jesus held them equally accountable for accomplishing something with the amount which they had been given. In the same way, God prepares us for the little things so that we can accomplish the little things just as He does for the big things. Here’s where everything comes together.
Tonight, I was having to exercise patience with the red lights. Now, this patience did not affect anyone else, only me. It was private. I could either choose to be mad, or to just let it be. Either way, my choice had no consequence on another soul. You could look at this event as relatively meaningless, but I believe otherwise. This was a preparation event. I totally expect God to throw something at me tomorrow, where I have to dig up that same patience that I found within myself tonight. Since I had to experience this patience tonight, tomorrow I will be able to recognize an event which requires patience; only, when that happens, it will actually affect someone. My decision then becomes consequential. I can still choose whether or not to exercise that same patience. If I do exercise it, I can effectively convey a sense of love and kindness to another individual…possibly even brighten their day — an accomplishment. However, if I choose not to, then my preparation proves a meaningless waste. I built the Arc for no flood, I spread the Red Sea for no one, and I spent 3 days in a whale for the salvation of no person. My life becomes inward rather than outward. The kind of Christianity that I read about in the Bible convicts me to not become an inward person — to not become self-involved in everything I do. It speaks of going outward towards community and towards the unsaved, and spreading Christ-like attributes like wild fire. I would very much hate for my suffering, if I can even call it that, of being patient tonight to be wasted…to not have an opportunity to display that patience which I’ve harvested towards another human being.
Well, back to my original thought, what is a virtue anyways? I remember from my philosophy classes that Plato and Aristotle were the founders of the concept of virtue. Plato believed that virtue was one consistent concept. He believed that virtue could not exist without all of the values which comprise of virtue coexisting equally; meaning, one could not be wise if one was also unjust, as one could not be brave without knowledge. All of these must be at an equilibrium within the individual for the person to possess true virtue. Now, we could banter back and forth over the validity of such an ancient concept; but that is not the point here. I believe there is value to be had from this. Patience is a virtue, the same as courage, diligence, fortitude, honor, justice, morality, reverence, temperance, and wisdom…the list is actually endless. However, it is only one virtue. There are many, many virtues. If we want to consider ourselves truly virtuous, we ought to maintain a healthy balance of all of these qualities. Exerting patience does not render one virtuous, but leads us on a path towards virtue. We can apply this very concept to Christianity. Acts of kindness, a dedicated prayer life, a diligence towards relationships, a faithful worship life, devoted Bible study mornings, and a life dedicated to serving God…these are all things which lead us on a path towards a Christian life. I have preached this before and many of you reading this very well know it. But, I believe it is a good reminder that none of us have assurance of our fate the same as none of us possess virtuous totality. We are undeserving of what grace and mercy we do have, and are blessed to see the visions and dreams which we do. Let this be a simple reminder that we are owed nothing by this world, nor anyone in it. It is good to possess those qualities of Christianity, but that does not render you Christian. A Christian would be someone who picks up their cross daily, without exception or excuse, and follows Christ wherever He may go. During your day, consider it — are you where Christ would be…in your actions, thoughts, and intentions? Furthermore, have you only been preparing yourself? Have you taken action? What have you accomplished from all of your time in preparation?
I believe the time to act is now. I believe Christians are going to look stranger and stranger as the end of times approach. I believe before long, you will have to choose between being accepted by this world and being accepted by the Kingdom of Heaven. What is more important to you right now? I’m tired of hearing the chalk boards screech in my head every time I fail to act according to the example of Christ. I choose to rethink my actions, thoughts, and intentions. I choose to direct them towards the Spirit of Christ. I choose to make my actions outwards, in accomplishment, rather than solely in preparation. I choose to be of the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than of this world. I choose, possibly to look strange. And, I choose quite frankly to exert a strong dedication towards following Christ rather than my own personal desires. I choose a life of relief from chains, from lies, and from the tricks of the devil. I will not dwell in the battered halls of self-degradation. I will not be kept from a life of love.
Just a thought.