You know, Jesus had to have a tremendous amount of patience. Think about it… he lived among a group of people (including twelve men he called apostles) for at least three years. They heard him speak, saw him heal, followed him from place to place, ate with him. In every circumstance and situation, he showed them what it meant to live in the kingdom of God.
Finally, they watched him die and spent 40 days with him after he was raised from the dead. Then, just as he was about to physically leave them – as he had told them he was going to do – they asked him, “Hey, Jesus, is this when you’ll finally usher in your kingdom?” (Alan’s paraphrase)
If it was me, I would have started over right then. I mean, everything Jesus did and said to show them and teach them about the kingdom of God, and they still didn’t get it. But, like I said, Jesus had a tremendous amount of patience, and he was willing to continue to work in these people – at least 120 in Jerusalem and perhaps as many as 500 in Galilee – through the Holy Spirit.
Of course, someone could argue that Jesus had so much patience with these earliest disciples because the Holy Spirit had not indwelled them yet. But, then, Paul comes along, and he also spends a long time with people helping them follow Jesus and live in the kingdom of God. True, at times, he only has a short time to spend with people in some cities. But, at other times, he spends up to 2 years helping people follow Jesus.
We can learn something important from this. Patience is necessary when we are helping other people follow Jesus as his disciples.
However, in the same way, I think we should expect progress – both from ourselves and from others. True, progress will be different with different people. God works differently in different people and different circumstances and different contexts. But, he does continue to work, and so we should see continuous progress.
This “progress” is referred to by many terms or phrases in Scripture. For example, Jesus and the authors of Scripture often pointed out that God’s children should “bear fruit.” “Fruit” is one indication of progress as a disciple of Jesus.
So, while we should definitely be patient with ourselves and with others, we should also expect to see progress in following Jesus.
Interestingly, what I’ve found (typically) is that we expect patience for ourselves and progress from others.
Do you think we should have patience in ourselves and others as we learn to follow Jesus? Do you think we should also see progress?
How do these two (patience with progress) affect the way we help others follow Jesus as his disciples?
Have you also noticed the tendency to request patience for ourselves but require progress from others? How can we work against this tendency?