Whether you are a pastor or not, it is very likely that, each day, you are given the opportunity to "exercise patience" with your friends, family, co-workers, and, most difficult of all, your Facebook "friends!"
Everyday, you are challenged to exhibit patience with those who say one thing and do another. Everyday, you are challenged to exemplify patience with those who do things differently than you do. Everyday, you are challenged to extend patience to those who strongly believe things you don't believe and express their beliefs in ways that frustrate you.
The opportunities to exercise patience with the people in our lives are endless!
For those of us in ministry, we are challenged to show patience towards those who struggle seeing their sin, admitting their sin, and leaving their sin. We must patiently deal with those who are fully aware of what God is leading them to do, but have a difficult time doing it. We must be patient with people as they do their best to exchange their will for their life for God's will for their life.
So how can we do this well?
The option that we are most familiar with is self-directed. When faced with an opportunity to exercise patience, we must reach deep down within and have self-discipline, self-control, and self-restraint to respond in ways that are healthy for you and not hurtful to them.
Now, I don't know about you, but, more often than not, this method doesn't work for me! My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak!
But, I have found that there is a Christ-inspired and gospel-centered approach that tends to provide for me a power to exercise patience like nothing else can.
At the most basic level, this approach says,
In light of how patient Christ has been with me, how patient should I be?
Paul, in his letter to Timothy writes, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."
Paul received mercy from Christ so that Christ's perfect patience could be seen and experienced by others.
In light of how patient Christ has been with your sin, how patient should you be with others' sin? In light of how patient Christ has been with your shortcomings, how patient should you be with others' shortcomings? In light of how patient Christ has been with your irresponsibility, how patient should you be with others' irresponsibility? In light of how patient Christ has been with your stubbornness how patient should you be with others' stubbornness.
The answer: VERY PATIENT.
Inhale Christ's perfect patience towards you, exhale a greater patience towards others. This is the essence of pastoral patience.
You can't receive perfect patience towards yourself and not be empowered to exercise greater patience with others. You just can't.
I dare you to try.