I once attended a church conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the central idea of the evening sermon was that we serve a “slow cooking God.” Throughout the message, the speaker frequently referenced his wife’s cooking, with the point that his wife’s greatest recipes are those that take the longest to cook. Anyone can cook a frozen meal in the microwave, but it takes a skilled cook to deliver a delicious meal that has taken days to prepare.
If most of us are honest, we prefer our calling and vocational dreams to be like a frozen meal that is cooked in the microwave for five minutes and then delivered hot and ready. We want that job fast, and we want it now. The problem with this expectation is that God is not subject to our timetables. We are concerned about the destination, but God is concerned about the process.
In this installment in our series on applying the fruit of the Spirit in the workplace, we will discuss the characteristic of patience. In Galatians 5:22, the Apostle Paul states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (ESV, emphasis added). For the sake of this discussion, patience is defined as contentment with contemporary provision while maintaining an expectation that the Lord will fulfill every promise he has made to us. As we seek the Spirit’s empowerment to grow in our patience, there are a couple principles we need to grasp.
Patience Increases Our Recognition of God
First, we must remember God is as concerned about the process as he is the destination. He will take care of the destination, but he wants to do a work in us through the process.
Psalm 23 reminds us that God does not take us around the shadow of the valley of death, but he takes us through it. There is a process that is required for God to complete the work in our lives that he has prepared. It’s during the process that we learn to recognize the presence of God in every moment. God wants the glory for everything He accomplishes in our lives, and the process provides repeated opportunities for us to depend upon him to provide the supply for life’s demands.
If God immediately took us to the destination, we would struggle to recognize our need for Him. The more we recognize our need for God, the more patient we will be as we witness His faithful provision for every need.
Patience Is Not Comfortable
This is not meant to imply that waiting patiently on the Lord for that promotion is easy. If it was easy, patience would not be required. This leads us to our second principle which states that remaining patient is not always comfortable. In fact, it will often be very uncomfortable to wait on the fullness of God’s plan for our lives. Patience is needed when there is tension between our timeline and God’s timeline.
The need for patience implies we want that job or promotion faster than God is willing to provide it. The need for patience says we have not arrived at the destination, but we are content with God’s supply for the present moment. If we receive instant gratification, patience will never be required. If patience is not needed, we will miss out on repeated opportunities for growth because God does some of his greatest work in the tension between almost and not yet.
Joy In The Process
At the beginning of his letter, James writes,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas. 1:2-4, ESV)
The need for patience in the middle of life’s difficulties is at the heart of James’ exhortation in this passage. Patience in the process is required if we are to reach our destination, a point in life where we are mature, equipped, with our sufficiency in Christ. Let’s not despise the place of small beginnings, and let’s not begrudge the process.
God is up to something, but we may not be ready for the destination yet. That is okay. He will provide sufficient supply for each step in the process. And one day we will reflect and rejoice when we reach the fullness of the promises of God, so long as we invite his presence into the process. When we walk into that job or position that God has prepared for us, we want to be able to say, “Thank you Lord for the great things You did in the process.”