“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Phil 1:6)
God hates sin. There is no denying that. He hates it so much that He cannot abide with it. But He loves sinners… He loves them so much, He came to live among them and chose to lay down His life for them, fulfilling the most redemptive calling of all.
For three years of His ministry, Jesus patiently taught His disciples the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. He lived with them, when they had petty quarrels over who is greater. He patiently answered them when they wanted to call fire on their enemies, after He had already told them to love their enemies. When they did not still understand His grace, even by knowing His teaching and observing His practice, He still taught them that they must forgive those who offend them as many times in a day that they offend them…
At some point, the disciples should have gotten the message loud and clear. When they were supposed to have enough faith to cast out devils, they were still not able to…because they hadn’t learnt the discipline of fasting and prayer. When they should have been more self-aware, they didn’t know themselves, enough to watch and pray…and denied Jesus at the first threat of persecution and suffering.
Despite all their failings, God had chosen these men to be the ones to start His Church by spreading the good news of the gospel. After they fell, He had compassion on them, forgave them and strengthened them to continue in what He had called them to do. No doubt, they still had much to learn, but God was sure that they would learn and grow, and take mastery over their flesh. The Spirit He sent to comfort and teach them all things was able to teach them His grace and love and truth, so that they will continue to walk by faith, as they did while Christ worked with them.
Having received so much grace and understanding of their weaknesses by a God of strength and holiness, they ought to also be gracious with each other…patient in teaching and long-suffering with those who seem to have a hard time learning the basics. We too, who have received the grace to be called the Children of God, who have been forgiven much, know how patient God has been in teaching us through His Spirit. Some lessons have been hard to hear. Some have been painful. Some have seemed so impossible that we must have wondered if it would be easier for God to just give up on us…
But God is faithful. He doesn’t give up. We are the ones who give up easily. We are the ones who refuse to bend, to be broken, to be reconstructed. But as long as we are willing…God is able and ready. He won’t stop trying to mould us into His perfect image… He won’t stop requiring more of us. He may not always work at our pace, but that is also part of our training… Trusting Him to lead and produce His fruit, as we submit to His control.
Often, we are not patient with others…even having received patience from God. We expect them to learn at our pace. We expect them to change instantly, once we preach the truth to them. We are quick to judge others who are still struggling with sins we resolved early on in our own walk. We get angry when they resist us, as though we are the Holy Spirit, rather than speak in love and pray in faith and trust that God will do the rest. It can be frustrating, but we must learn from God and take our cue from Him.
There is a reason that God chooses patience, love, understanding, compassion and hope, and uses experience to teach us. He knows that we are more influenced by what we experience than what we are told. Our minds are best changed by practical love… Which is why Jesus’ suffering on the Cross was so very practical… God showed that He was not too great to relate with us and experience our greatest weakness too. He loved us enough to teach us His great love in that most practical way…
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Let us likewise love one another in a most practical way, that they may be persuaded about the truth…not with our words alone…but with our actions. Sometimes, it may seem so clear and black and white to us, but God alone knows where we all stand with Him. Let us learn from Paul’s epistle:
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4).
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