Human beings have always been in a hurry. God has never been in a hurry.
- God waited a very, very, very long time, after Adam and Eve, before He called Abraham.
- God waited almost 2,000 more years before entering human history in the person of Jesus.
- God (in the person of Jesus) waited almost 30 years before beginning his public ministry.
- God waited to gather and disciple the Twelve.
- God waited through his arrest and crucifixion rather than call on the legions of angels at his disposal.
From the beginning to the end of Scripture, we discover stories of God teaching his people patience. Abraham had to wait 25 years. Joseph waited between 15 and 25 years. Moses waited until he was 80 years old to begin his ministry. Israel waited 40 years in the wilderness.
It was Tertullian (204 AD from North Africa) who wrote that, when the Holy Spirit descends, patience and waiting is at its side. He argued that, without patience, which is the Spirit’s “companion and assistant,” the Spirit will feel “very uncomfortable” and leave us.
Alan Kreider, in his book The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, notes that one of the primary reasons the church grew in her first 300 years through persecutions and oppression was because of her commitment to patience. In their business dealings, sexual morality, care for the poor and refusal to participate in violence, they created a comprehensive “culture of patience.” They taught this through their careful and intentional process of discipleship (i.e., catechesis). In fact, he argues, the early church fathers wrote more about the Christian virtue of patience than about evangelism. They taught:
God, in dealing with Israel across the centuries, was never in a hurry. God’s mission is unhurried and unstoppable. [In fact] “patience is the very nature of God”…[and] the fall of Adam and Eve was marked by human impatience, which was “the original sin in the eyes of the Lord.” Patience is a distinctive sign of the Christian.
As a result, Krieider argues, people looking on from the outside were attracted to the non-anxious, unforced lifestyle of the early Christians and the church blossomed evangelistically.
Most of us struggle with the slow, mustard seed nature of the way Jesus works, especially as it relates to building our churches. For example, discipleship, the basis of our development of leaders, is slow. It requires patience. We have invested 21 years in the development of The Emotionally Healthy (EH) Spirituality Course and The Emotionally Healthy (EH) Relationship Course. And we are still learning. But I know that if we patiently persevere, this mustard seed of God will grow remarkably and powerfully in us and around the world.
Let me encourage you to register for our Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference on May 3-4. We limit the conference to 350 people. Ask God if he is inviting you to set apart those days. You can read more on our website.
This article originally appeared here.