No Saints Suddenly

Oh, Lord, give me patience. And give it to me now!The poster has a variety of pictures. A harried housewife surrounded by scattered toys, a sink full  of dirty dishes and a couple of crying toddlers. A frustrated businessman with a stack of papers on either side of him and the clock over his shoulder pointing to 5 o’clock. A student with piles of books everywhere, a frozen computer screen, and a frantic red circle around tomorrow’s date on the calendar. Yet, the saying on all of them is the same:

Lord, grant me patience… and I want it RIGHT NOW!

We smile at the mental images that poster and prayer conjure up. We smile, too, because there have been times when we have prayed that very same prayer—at least silently.

There have been times when we’ve felt pushed to our breaking point, snowed under, overwhelmed by too much work and too little time. I doubt there is one person who has not, at times, felt so harried and hassled by people, projects and things that they wanted to scream, “God, give me patience!!” Nearly every person on the face of the earth has dreamed and fantasized about a world with no pressures, no problems, no difficult people, no impossible tasks. A place where everything moves at a leisurely pace, where temptation never rears its ugly head and where tension, fear and worry are things of the past.

I Don’t Get It!

Such a place of peace and tranquility we call “heaven,” and rightly so. For does not God’s Word paint such a picture of life beyond this mortal existence? Most of us, however, do not want to wait until we die to enjoy such a restful, carefree state. Some of us could admit to feeling “short-changed” if we don’t experience the peace that passes understanding written by Paul.

I’ve counseled with many good church members—dedicated, committed Christians, long time believers—who are totally perplexed by the seemingly endless roller coaster of faith and emotions that they feel forced to ride. Perhaps it is the new converts who express it best—“I don’t get it! I thought when I became a Christian that all my problems would disappear! I thought I would finally have peace and happiness. But it seems like since I decided to follow Jesus, everything got worse instead of better!”

Their confusion is understandable! We, who have been trying to walk in the footsteps of the Master for a few years, often forget how, like a toddler taking his first tentative steps, sometimes staggered and stumbled—even tripped and fell—as we started out in our faith walk. We sometimes paint such a rosy picture of how perfect life can be if we’re following Jesus that we totally forget to mention that there are “no saints suddenly.”

I want it RIGHT NOW!

MEME - Racoon in a meditation position with quote, "Come on inner peace. I don't have all day"We live in an instantaneous world. We have instant potatoes, instant coffee, instant soup. We can call a friend anywhere in the world at the push of a single button, gather information on a variety of topics from a computer or phone with a single click of the mouse or a single request to “Alexa.” We can even cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in a fraction of the time it took before microwaves and instant pots.

There are no shortcuts, abbreviated moves or jet-propelled rockets that can take us from the realm of doubt and uncertainty to the realm of unshakeable, unbeatable, undefeat-able faith and peace and joy and patience that the Word of God promises is the inheritance of all His children.

There are no saints suddenly! As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, faith if always a process. It is not a state of being, but rather, a way of living. CONVERSION is instantaneous! Spiritual birth (like physical birth) is a momentary thing, a “right now” happening. But TOTAL TRANSFORMATION—a complete “re-make” of who we are, how we act and what we believe—is a gradual thing. It’s a growth process.

Grow Up!

Peter recognized this when he wrote to the Christians scattered around the Mediterranean. In both of his letters to the Church, he admonished those who call themselves Christian to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 He reminded his readers that they should, like newborn babies, crave pure and spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.3

In the very same lesson Paul tried to teach the Ephesians. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.4 Paul didn’t stop with that reminder, though. He knew, all too well, that there are no saints suddenly. He knew that the Ephesians, while they claimed allegiance to Christ, were still holding on to some of their pre-Christian attitudes and behaviors. If we read on, we find these gentle (and not-so-gentle) exhortations to “grow up.”

 Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt…put on the new nature…putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth…be angry, but do not sin…give o opportunity to the devil…let no evil talk come out of your moths…let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you.5

Paul knew that true faith is a process—a “growing up” process. Conversion—the spiritual re-birth that takes place when we decide to give our lives to Christ—is an instantaneous thing. However, from that moment on, faith and Christian discipleship is a deliberate choice—a conscious day-by-day decision and act of our will to obey God’s Word and follow in His way. It takes a daily commitment—a sometimes moment-to-moment decision to do the right thing—the Christian thing.

Work For It

Man working signPaul told the Philippians, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.6 Full salvation, sanctification, perfection, peace and patience do not come overnight!

We have to work at our faith, sometimes against seemingly incredible, insurmountable, even impossible odds.

We have to choose to believe, be obedient and act in a Christ-like way. We need to spend time with the One we call Master and Lord. We need to pray, and study His word to share in the discoveries of those who have gone before us in this faith walk.

The trials and temptation, difficulties and disasters, sorrows and soul-sapping frustration are part of the growth process. As we “grow up” into Christ—as we strive to attain adulthood in our Christian walk—we will face conflicts, frustrations, hardships and suffering. But, as Paul wrote to the Romans, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.7

No Saints Suddenly

Just as a baby chick will be weak and sickly if we do not allow it to peck its way out of its shell, so we would be spiritually weak and sickly if we did not have the hardships and trials and difficulties we sometimes face. We may long for, pray for and yes, even demand peace and patience and joy and freedom from trial and tribulation RIGHT NOW, but chances are good that God will appear deaf to our prayers.

Oh, He hears us. He sees our frustration and anxiety, our distress and turmoil. But He knows that if He was to give us, on demand, all of the attributes and blessings that will one day be ours, then our faith might well be anemic. We might even begin to feel that we can get by on our own with no help from our Heavenly Father!

There are no saints suddenly. But we are, as Peter wrote, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own special purchased people, that we may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who call us out of darkness into His marvelous light.8

There are no saints suddenly—but it is certainly worth striving for!

Scriptures Used in Today’s Message

  1. 1 Peter 2:1-10
  2. 2 Peter 3:18
  3. 1 Peter 2:2
  4. Ephesians 4:15
  5. Ephesians 4:22-31
  6. Philippians 2:12b-13
  7. Romans 5:3-5
  8. 1 Peter 2:9 (Amplified Bible)

Maple UMC Calendar

March 2023

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