Faith And Patience

This is a reblog of an article that my daughter recently posted on her blog, “My Soul Found Rest”.  It is an essay that she wrote for Honors College at Belhaven University on Dietrich Bonhoeffer  (used with her permission). It dove-tailed so perfectly with my own recent post, “Holding On To Hope”, that I felt it was worthy to be reblogged here. My daughter is only twenty years old. I didn’t reach this kind of understanding until my late forties. What a blessing to see that what her father and I have worked so hard to instill in her is bearing much fruit.

Faith And Patience

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”     Hebrews 12:1-3

The road of faith, though ultimately rewarding, is often very difficult. It is not for the faint of heart or those easily discouraged. Time seems to stretch on as the thing you are waiting for seems more and more unlikely. But if you believe that what you are waiting for is the will of God, then you must see it through. Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed this with all of his heart, and he had many opportunities to practice his patience as he watched his plans, whether for the Confessing Church, the assassination of Hitler, or his own marriage, be delayed or fail time and time again. In one of his circular letters to the brethren of the Confessing Church, he wrote on the subject of faith and patience. Bonhoeffer points out that faith and patience are interwoven. We cannot stand in faith for something and be impatient about it at the same time. Impatience causes us to lose heart and question whether or not what we are doing is right.

To have enough patience to carry you through difficult times, you must be certain that what you are hoping for is the will of God. F.F. Bosworth said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” Until you know that what you hope for is God’s will, how are you to stand in faith for it?

Once you are sure, the battle begins in earnest. While it is true that Satan will try his hardest to make sure that we are sufficiently distracted so that we cannot hear God, he also has plenty of opportunities to play on our fears and make us waver once we have heard God’s voice. There is often a gap (that feels far too long to us, to be sure) between the time of God’s promise and the time of its fulfillment. This time is particularly vulnerable to attacks, especially of impatience. Bonhoeffer states the following:

“…our impatience always wants to play nasty tricks on us, by giving itself out as a special sort of obedience, and leading us into unfaithfulness… We think that we are acting particularly responsibly if every other week we take another look at the question whether they way on which we have set out is the right one. It is particularly noticeable that such a ‘responsible reappraisal’ always begins the moment serious difficulties appear… Dear brethren, our real trouble is not doubt about the way upon which we have set out, but our failure to be patient…” (Testament of Freedom 443).

As the days (or weeks, or months, or years) pass by without fulfillment of the promise, it is easy to get impatient! Nagging doubts continue to pop up, and no matter how much you think you have squelched them all, new ones continue to surface. Nothing but the grace of God strengthening your faith will enable you to stay faithful during this period. There is a reason why faith and faithfulness have the same root. Being faithful requires that you stay in faith. If you entertain doubts, toy with them, give them room to roost in your spirit, you are not being faithful or obeying what God has asked you to do. He told you to believe, so believe you must.

That being said, we are human. We make mistakes, and we can, and frequently do, hear God incorrectly. There are times when an honest appraisal of the situation is necessary. But if, once you have earnestly sought the Lord, you come to your original conclusion that whatever it was that you were believing for is God’s will, then you must stand. Be assured: the promise will come. Unlike us, God is always faithful. There has never been a time when He forgot, or failed to carry through. “[He] is not a man… that he should change his mind” (Num. 23:19).

It is inevitable that once you deal with your own doubts, other people will begin to doubt for you. Some of them will mean well, and some won’t. The first is almost always more difficult to deal with, especially since they are usually your closest friends, and are trying to protect you. Although they are genuinely concerned and are trying to help, their friendly concern usually only serves to exacerbate the problem, as it is difficult to deal with others’ doubts when they begin to trigger your own again. Others that mean well add in a hint of scorn to their questions. They may be trying to help, but underneath is an element of arrogance that shows they really think what you believe is foolish. Whether or not they realize this, it is evident, and you must be prepared for your reputation among your friends and acquaintances to suffer if you are standing in faith for something unlikely or perhaps unpopular. Of course there will always be people who truly wish you ill, and will openly criticize you for your faith. While this is irritating, it is sometimes easier to deal with this sort of criticism, as you may not care nearly as much about their opinion of you as you do about your friends’ opinions.

One way to avoid such discouraging conversation is simply to not discuss the matter with others. It is understandable to want to talk it over with others, but if you know that the people to whom you are talking will not be receptive to your belief, then don’t talk about it! Some things that God commands us to do are meant to remain private.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, sometimes the fulfillment of the promise doesn’t always look like we think it will. Bonhoeffer is exactly right when he says, “…we simply cannot be content with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful” and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm” (Testament 443). It takes absolute trust in a sovereign, good God to believe for something, wait for it, and sometimes still see that it is not as you expected, but to know that God is working things out perfectly.

When God calls us to do something or to believe for something, nothing should move us. No matter what happens that seems to prove such a thing hopelessly impossible, no matter what scorn is heaped on you, no matter what feelings or doubts may arise within you, nothing should move you. “For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24, ESV).

Author: My Soul Found Rest


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