"God Who Gives Me Patience In Trials"
By Beth Claes
In the book Future Grace by John Piper, there is a whole chapter about patience. In it, he wrote many wonderful things, but one sentence leapt off the page at me loudly. It was this:
“Impatient people are weak.” Piper writes, “Patience is evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependent on external supports – like schedules that go just right and circumstances that control their fragile hearts. Their outbursts of oaths and threats and harsh criticisms of the culprits who crossed their plans do not sound weak. But that noise is camouflage of weakness. Patience demands tremendous inner strength.”
A few days later I was reading in Colossians 4 and Paul's words struck me:
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
If I was Paul – in chains at the time he wrote this letter – I would easily imagine 100 ways that I could be more effective at sharing the Gospel than to remain in prison. Paul’s whole life was devoted to the Gospel – he lived for it and ultimately died for it. I don’t know exactly what Paul was thinking when he wrote the above remarks, but one thing is certainly missing from it: Paul is not impatient. He never once complains about his chains or asks others to somehow help him be freed of them. He doesn’t even ask them to pray that he would be set free from prison. Instead his prayer is “…that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…and pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
Paul didn’t ask for an explicit out, no matter how much sense it may have made to him to get one. He just prayed for opportunity where his feet had already been set. In chains.
There is a lesson here – and it’s not just related to chains or ministry. It’s not limited to missionaries. It’s not only relevant to Paul. The connection is seen in how I view God in relation to difficult circumstances in my life. For Paul to pray for opportunity rather than release from prison, is an indicator of His trust in God’s sovereignty over even the most difficult situations in his life. The prayer seems to grow from faith that God had purpose and design for his current circumstances. Rather than seeking a change that would better fit his idea of how his life should look, he simply trusted God’s purposes and desired to please Him in the exact situation that was causing him stress and pain.
I don’t know about you, but this challenges me so much. God is sovereign, and He can be trusted no matter how grim or difficult circumstances may appear. Furthermore, it was while in prison that Paul wrote several letters that have come to form parts of the New Testament. God did answer his prayer for opportunity, though Paul could not have seen or known the impact that those divinely inspired letters would come to have for centuries.
Trusting God’s sovereignty over my life (and the world) gives me space to have patience in trials. I can have confidence in my heart that He is good, He is for me, and He will use all things in my life for my own good and His glory. Nothing is outside of His control. And if I really stop and dwell there, this is a source of endless comfort to me.
ARH Staff Writer