Christian patience differs from common patience. The one who is patient in Christ can be said, variously, to “count temptation as joy,” to “pray for those who hate her personally,” to ” count it all joy when she is attacked unfairly.” We could say more on the matter, but the word is fairly delivered, in this way, that Christian patience is an active process of growing in holiness, which will most often be recognized as virtue by those who see its fruit.
In the churches to which John wrote his letters, new, more popular belief systems have arisen. Many are carried away. Naturally, those who are left behind are discouraged, hurt, frustrated and embarrassed. John, the Good Pastor, tells them, as congregations, “Stay where you are are. Keep on letting the Spirit abide in you. Stay where you are and demonstrate patience.”
And, this i s aparticularized commandment. John spends a great deal of ink describing the failings (sins) of those who are in the process of departure. They miss the Lord in their hurry to catch the bus. He has much to say about them but then, he realizes, he must encourage those who remain.
As for you, let that abide in you which has been there from the start, I John 2:24a. Practice patience. Do not be spiritually ADD. To abide is meno, meaning “to remain.” In this commandment John means the believers should let that first teaching of Christ remain in them, practicing patience to the place where it is a crown jewel of their virtues.
Here is Christian patience. Ready? Not only should the believer hold fast to the belief that justified him from his sin, but he, the believer who remains, must cling so tightly to God that God feels at home in the believer’s heart. This is abiding in God. Christian patience does not mean only that we wait sullenly through hard times. Instead, it means we may scarcely note the hard times because we work so hard to make a home place for God in our heart.
Jesus, our Lord, is not recorded to preach on patience. No, not once. He teaches on grace, forgiveness, recognition, et alia, but our Lord never gives us a word on patience. Now, certainly, Jesus gives us the greatest of examples on the subject. He just never actually lays out how a believer is to look patient. So, what do we do now?
We accept active obedience as Christ’s teaching on patience, I John 2:24b. Wesley got this in his holiness questions. Instead of looking for every piddly little act, Wesley asked holiness questions. They were broad, panoramic queries, like, “Why are our people not better? Why are our people not better?”
Those who lead astray the early church only tickle their ears with some new word. Darkness ever encroaches on light. The antidote for evil is not a new invention but more of the same truth, with God made so at home in your heart there is less for evil and the arrangements of the heart such that any lingering evil seems out of place.
I have been stricken lately by the testimony of ministers I have met. So many report how they heard God’s call very early in life but ran from that call for years, even decades. Finally, the Spirit that abides in them brought them along to new endeavors. Take care that we do not hear in this the testimony, “I did what I felt like until I could do not other, then gave God what was left.” Instead, here, God never actually gives up on us.
If God never surrender us, what does God do when our times are hard? God might remind us:
- Evil is the friendly fellow who calls us “to be a little less with God so that we may be a little more with him,” so calling us out of the church and away from God a bit at a time. If God is at home in our heart, this evil will immediately show to be out of place.
- God’s transformation in us and of us is complete and so completely effective, even if we are not complete as yet, as Tolstoy told us about his transformation in Christ, to wit: “What was good and bad changed places…The things I used to do i don’t do them now. The places I used to go, i don’t go there now. The thoughts I used to think, I don’t think them now.”
- The evidence of a real conversion is this; that God so changes us the world is changed by God’s work in us. Remember your church history; the great sinners become the saintliest saints for they know the magnitude of what God has covered in and for them. If we do not recognize God as the great Savior, it might be because we have only the piddly little sins anyone could lightly excuse. No, give me big sinner every time. When he is justified he sees a boat of crimes sailed away for a Viking funeral. He knows when he is sanctified for God has to move all the furniture in his rumpus room to make a space.
This is the enigma of Christian patience, with which we started this message. A Christian does not exhibit patience by a kind of bovine truculence, standing stupidly in the pasture while the storm clouds gather and the winds swirl.
Indeed, Christian patience is what John preaches here. As for you, John says, abide in God and remain in the congregation. Remain, actively abide in the Spirit that abides in you by the attractive grace of God.