December 15th 2019
Here we are on the third Sunday in Advent, Waiting for Christmas.
Still waiting. Remember as a child how you thought Christmas Day was never gonna come? Well it does of course, but the waiting, that’s hard to do when you’re young. Patience is not a gift many of us, at any age these days, are blessed with.
Two thousand years back, Israel was waiting for its Messiah. He came, though Israel largely failed to recognise God’s intervention into history. John the Baptist warned that His arrival was imminent, but The Messiah was not what the Jews expected or perhaps wanted. They are still waiting.
But let me ask you, what as Christians, are we waiting for? ….
I think we have a twofold aspect to our patient waiting :
Firstly, in the long term; patience to wait for the time when we will be with Him in heaven
The first is a long term patience that will only be fulfilled when we meet Jesus In The Air. But at Christmas we receive a very minor taster of what that joy will be like when we meet Him face to face.
The second sort of patience is our patiently waiting for God to work in us, and then seeing His will working out in our lives, as individuals and as a fellowship.
Long and Short Term Patience- that’s what God asks of us as Christians.
He does not want us to ever be impatient.
Think of the bad example of the prodigal son, who couldn’t wait for his dad to pop off, and so wanted his inheritance Now. That can be like us as Christians, wanting God’s blessing Now, rather than await His Timing. The prodigal was impatient. Maybe in spiritual terms, he’s not unlike me or you.
Or you can think of the early Christians who became impatient for Jesus’ return in glory. They couldn’t wait and interpreted Jesus’ talk of His second coming as about to be fulfilled in their own lifetime. There is a telling verse in Luke 19:11 which reads,
“Jesus told them a parable. He was now almost at Jerusalem, and they supposed that the Kingdom of God was just about to appear.”
Any minute now!
Those people are still waiting. We have to be so careful how we listen to Jesus’ sayings. Too many in the past have predicted His imminent return.
Yes, He is coming again. But we must be patient.
The trouble is, isn’t it, that it is quite hard to be patient when, for example, you want God to answer prayer. We tend to think of patience as an almost negative thing, something that must be endured. But true Patience by contrast is in essence a positive virtue.
It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, onr of the Oasis habits, on which we are reflecting this Advent.
Maybe it might help if we remind ourselves of how God treats us so patiently, despite the fact that we fail so often to live up to His high calling. Listen to what it says in
1 Timothy 15-19 (The Message) of God’s own patience towards us:
I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience.
God’s patience with us. That’s a cue for us to be patient also!
So let me offer you a short guide this morning to the 3 Ps of Patience:
Firstly Patience is
Purposeful – it involves waiting but not wandering. A fortnight ago Jean talked about Waiting Expectantly. That is Patience with a Clear Purpose.
All sorts of things can cause us to lose patience, to be impatient, becoming distracted by temporary difficulties, like suffering.
But we need to be positive in our waiting.
The elderly John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos- what does he do? Twiddle his thumbs? Complain God has let him down? No, this is what he was doing,
It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. (Revelation 1:10 Message)
He was praying. God speaks to Him. He writes the vision God shows him. But that vision came because John was patiently waiting, in Prayer, for God. It’s a simple truth that we have all heard so many times.
He was praying.
But do we actually do it ourselves? Do you pray each day?
As a church, do you join in our prayer time?
Praying together as we seek God’s will for us as a church. That’s positive patience. But sadly we are not devoting enough of our spiritual energy into prayer as a church. No wonder we cannot discern God’s will for us!
I urge you to pray more fervently for Neatishead church, so that we become more effective in the calling to which God has called us. What is that calling? To serve Him. How? That we must patiently discover. That only comes about through prayer.
It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying.
Patience is Purposeful, Then also it is
It doesn’t sound like it has been perfect from what I’ve said does it?
But let’s stop examining ourselves and return back to our Lord.
Look at God. He showed His perfect timing – because when He sent us Jesus, it was just the right time. Listen to what it says in
Galatians 4:4 (Good News) – When the right time finally came, God sent his own Son.
Humanly speaking it didn’t appear to be the right timing.
The Holy Land was occupied, full of foreign soldiers. Though expectation was high, hope was really fixed on a worldly ruler who would wipe the Romans away.
But Paul writes in Galatians that it was God’s perfect timing. And so it proved. The time was perfect for Christianity to spread across the known world. The time was right for the good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death to be proclaimed to all nations.
So we believe Jesus will return – when the time is right. We can also believe God wants us now to spread the Good News here in Neatishead.
Yes, we are only a few. You could call us A Remnant. There are even churches called Remnant Churches!
A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion, we use the word of food, clothing material, or even a group of people.
Although remnants can be worthless scraps, and many times are, God assigns high value to those of His people whom He had set aside for holy purposes.
You are a remnant! You and I that is. It is always sadly the case that many will reject the good news of Jesus Christ. It says in Romans 9:27
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’
But the encouraging thing is that if we are patient, and wait upon God’s perfect timing, then God can use us, his remnant in Neatishead. The prophet Micah writes in chapter 4:7 (NIV)
‘I will make the lame my remnant.’
Now I am not wanting to suggest that we are necessarily lame spiritually, but it is when we are on our knees, that God can start His work among us. On our knees in prayer. For God promises revival,
Jeremiah 23:3 ‘I myself will gather the remnant of my flock.”
That is in His timing, his perfect timing.
Patience is Purposeful, Perfect, and thirdly it also offers a
I’m wait wait waiting…. we can wait so long we forget what we’re waiting for!
The goal of Patience. For Israel, as for us is The Messiah.
For them the Christ to save them, for us Jesus second coming in glory.
A more immediate prize is this, fulfilling God’s will for my life, my church.
Take our child waiting expectantly for Christmas to come at long last. Christmas Day does come, even if it seems to take for ever!
But Christmas does come. The child does know that.
Our waiting on God can sometimes make us impatient. But are we like that child, do you know that Christmas will come- or in our case that Jesus will come again?
He says He will return. Do you believe that? Nev challenged us last week over that.
Maybe you are like the singer in the song? You’re wait wait waiting- but you don’t know what you are waiting for?
We all have doubts, like poor Thomas.
But there’s a saying in sport, about top class players: form is temporary, class is permanent. In our situation as Christians, we could say that
doubt is temporary, but hope is permanent. Underneath, you are certain that you will meet Jesus your Lord and Saviour on that Glorious Day!
I’ve got one bonus P for Patience for you. It’s a Warning:
Isaiah had told God’s people:
A voice is calling out: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord.
God had promised, the people waited, but most of them missed seeing John the Baptist as that Voice in the wilderness, missed seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Don’t you miss out on God, as Israel did. They missed the Messiah.
By that I mean on two levels:
don’t miss God speaking to you NOW. How does that come about?
If you’ve been listening, you know. Firstly by waiting in patience, but secondly also waiting in prayer. Maybe you have already missed Him speaking to you? Maybe He is still wanting to get through to you.
Start listening now!
Then at the second level, don’t miss out on Jesus when He comes. Either when He comes a second time, or when you meet your Maker. Matthew 24:43 (The Message)
In any case, whether waiting for the second coming, or for God to act NOW, the advice to all Christians is simple.
Keep Waiting Patiently! And alertly!
Oh, and did I say that patient Hope is permanent? Well it is, until Hope is finally subsumed in God’s Eternal Love.