Summary: Learning the character trait of patience through two Bible characters, one who got it, one who didn’t
CHARACTER UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Patience is no virtue in our society. We’re the society that invented
- fast food,
- the Concorde jet,
- pizza delivery in 20 minutes or less,
- and express lanes. (Confession time, how many have you ever found yourself counting the number of items of the person in front of you in the express checkout line? Raise your hand.)
I bet almost all of your pet peeves revolve around impatience of some kind or another:
- Long lines anywhere,
- waiting for hours at the doctors office,
- slow service at McDonald’s,
- long sermons,
- slow drivers in the fast lane.
Speaking of traffic, here’s a George Carlin question for you: why is the hour when traffic moves the slowest called “Rush Hour”? Rush hour is revealing about our patience level. I have a favorite story about that:
This woman had her car stall in heavy traffic. The cars began to back up as she tried again and again to start it. A chorus of honking horns blared behind her. She got out to look under the hood as the honking continued. Finally she walked back to the first driver behind her & said,
“I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there & give it a try, I’ll stay here & honk your horn for you."
We might think impatience is a quaint little quirk in our character, but today we’re going to find it’s more insidious than that. Hiding just under the surface of our impatience, is a caldron of anger, and selfishness and a spirit of entitlement and something dysfunctional about our relationship with God.
So today I want to first lay the foundation of how important this character trait is by underlining the cost of impatience. To do that, I want to tell the story of a Bible character named King Saul. But then I want to spell out the benefits of patience, and how we might acquire more of it with God’s help. To do that I want to tell the story of a Bible character named Job.
King Saul was the very first king of the nation of Israel. After the period of the Judges that I mentioned last week, the nation demanded a king and even though it was God’s ideal to have only himself as their king, the people persisted and God decided to grant their request.
The prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Saul was a tall man, of impressive bearing. He led the country to it’s first military victory in years over one of it’s oppressive neighbors. Everyone’s happy. But there’s a problem in Saul’s inner life that is going to grow and spell disaster for him and the people around him.
Another oppressive neighbor taking advantage of the kingless Israelites were the Philistines (Sampson). But now, with a king, the Jews have a new sense of boldness, and desire to throw off the oppressors and be free people under God. So they start border skirmishes with the Philistines.
Word gets to the Philistines that Israelites in full revolt and aren’t going roll over for them anymore. So they say, we’re going to teach these upstarts a lesson they’ll never forget. Then the Philistines mustered a huge army against Saul’s brand new regime.
Needless to say, there’s the Israelites are afraid, and a large part of Saul’s army loses it’s nerve goes into hiding in caves, holes, rocks, tombs and cisterns. Despite these worsening odds, Samuel has charged Saul to look to God for protection and victory and not trust his own power or lack thereof!
As an expression of that trust, Samuel has told Saul clearly… to wait for him for 7 days and he would come and offer the sacrifice and officially invoke God’s blessing on them and victory would be assured. But he’d have to wait, with the Philistine army breathing down his neck, with deserters fleeing left and right and the remaining army shaking in their boots.
Every day that passes, every hour, another deserter, and the chances of victory are growing slimmer and slimmer. Saul waited impatiently for 7 days and finally he took charge and said,
“that’s it, Samuel’s not coming, bring me the burnt offerings and let’s get on with it already! If we need a priest, here I’ll play Samuel, let’s, offer up the sacrifices, sing a few songs, pass an offering plate, sing 5 verses of “Just As I Am,” close in prayer – then can we go already?! I’m losing men by the second, come on, come on! Let’s go! Time’s a wasting here, folks, if we need holy water sprinkled on us before we go to battle, here, give me the Evian bottle… let’s GO!!!!!