And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.
1 Thessalonians 5:14
Billy Graham, in his book Nearing Home, tells about a day his wife Ruth had been driving through the backwoods near their home. She worked her way through miles of road construction, minding every detour and stop sign. Finally, she arrived home, chuckling about the words she had seen on the last road sign. She told Billy that she wanted the words of that road sign on her tombstone: “END OF CONSTRUCTION – THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE.”
I have to smile at Ruth Graham’s gentle theology. She reminds me of today’s scripture in which the apostle Paul calls for patience for the idlers, the fainthearted, and the weak: “be patient with all of them.” Yes, all of them! Patience is required as all of us are still under construction.
Yet, patience seems in short supply in our culture of instant coffee, instant oatmeal, microwave meals, and nanotechnology. We want it now! We’ve come to want same day delivery on Christlikeness and instant spiritual maturity. So, just go on a weekend retreat, read a bestselling book, or hear a great speaker; feel yourself instantly transformed! But I’ve come to appreciate the theologian Graham Scroggie’s caution about spiritual growth: “Spiritual growth is a gradual process. All growth is progressive, and the finer the organism, the longer the process.” (quoted in Spiritual Green Letters, Miles Stanford). A mushroom springs up overnight, but an oak tree will take a hundred years. Patience required!
I am reminded of meeting a man wearing a button with the letters “PBPGINFWMY.” Curious as to what the letters meant, I asked him. He smiled and said, “The letters mean ‘Please Be Patient God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.’” Yes, we do need patience with others, but also patience with ourselves, as we all are still under construction. There will be plenty of detours and not a few stops before we arrive home.
I think of patience as today I look out the window at the orange tree in our back patio. I call it an ‘orange’ tree, but it is anything but orange. The fruit is still green in immaturity. It is under construction. I will be patient until it is ripened orange in far off December.
The good news is that while we are patient with others, and with ourselves, “the Lord is patient toward us” (1 Peter 3:9). God hangs in there with us. He’s in it for the long haul! “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
While Scripture says it does yet appear “what we will be”, it does say, “What we do know is this: when Jesus is revealed, we will be like him” (1 John 3:2). Until then, you and I are under construction. We are works in progress! Ah, but just think what we will be! So patience. Patience! God isn’t finished!
A fellow traveler,