The topic today is Patience. Without patience, there is no long-term happiness. I am weak on patience, but after killing a few geese before they lay the golden eggs, I have learned some important lessons. Patience is an essential spiritual muscle everyone must develop to harvest long-term happiness. So, today, let us look at how to tone our Patience muscle.
[Hi, in case you don’t know me, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light, and I am the keeper! Your light is your service to the world, and my job is to help you shine your brightest so that you are gratified, and God is glorified.]
Let us begin by reading a passage about patience. It is from James 5:7-11:
“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:7-11).
Based on this passage, there are four different categories of patience: patience with investment, patience with discernment, patience with people, and patience with suffering.
Some people are patient with certain categories and not others. What are you patient with, and what not? Are you patient with your investment, especially that takes a long time to see the return?
Are you patient with discernment of God’s will? Are you patient with people? Are you patient with suffering, may it be from some diseases or injustice?
If you want to be happy, you have to be patient in all categories. So, let us expound on this passage to develop our spiritual muscle of patience. It began with,
“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.” (James 5:7a).
The coming of the Lord will bring us eternal happiness, but on this side of eternity, we must be patient, or we will not be happy. Then, James talked about the first category of patience.
1. Be Patient with Investment
“The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” (James 5:7b).
It means if you want the harvest the golden eggs, you must not kill the goose. Your patient investment of time and labor will bring you the precious harvest in due time.
Have you ever heard of how the Chinese bamboo trees are grown? It takes five years for the bamboos to sprout above the soil. After sowing the seeds in the ground, the farmer must water the field and nurture the soil without seeing any result for five years.
Just imagine the scenario, you bought a large plot of land, prepared the soil, and sowed bamboo seeds on it. After a year of hard work, there is no sign of a single bamboo in your field. So be it. You know the precious crops need time.
Two years went by, and there is nothing in the field. You are still patient. However, after seeing no sign of bamboo sprouts in the third and fourth years, would you be anxious and nervous wondering if your bamboos will ever show up at all?
Would you wonder if the seeds might have died under the ground or got eaten by worms? I am sure it won’t be easy for me to be a bamboo farmer because, by the third year, I might want to poke under the ground to see if the seeds are germinating at all, and I might end up killing them all in the process.
I might be thinking, what if nothing came out of the ground in the fifth year as expected? I would have wasted five years of water, sweat, and time for nothing. Water, labor, and time are not cheap.
It would have been nerve-wracking for me to invest the time and work without seeing any promising sign for four years.
However, the reality is, by the fifth year, you begin to see the bamboo plants shooting off the ground. Maybe that is why they call them bamboo shoots. What is amazing is within five weeks. They grow to ninety feet tall. That is about the height of a nine-story building.
Not only do they grow fast after they show up, but they also keep propagating annually. From now on, you can just sit and reap the harvest of your patience year after year.
You get an abundant return on your investment not only for your lifetime but also for generations to come. You can sell the bamboos for income, you can build your environmentally friendly house with them, and you can eat the bamboo shoots, in a hundred ways of cooking it.
Do you know that bamboo is stronger than steel in terms of tensile strength? It is also a sustainable resource and good for the environment. It is a fantastic product from the nature, one of God’s mavelous creation.
It takes a lot of wisdom to invest in the long-term harvest. The billionaire investor Warren Buffet advised on buying stocks, “If you don’t intend to keep a stock for ten years, don’t even think about it for ten minutes.” He made his billions by investing long term.
Patience is a rare commodity today because we live in a quick-fix culture of fast food, express transportation, prompt information, quick incomes, and instant gratification. As a result, we have lost patience and the ability to take the long view.
The reason the giant bamboo takes five years to sprout is that, in the first four years, it is growing deep and strong roots to sustain a ninety-foot pole.
So, here is the first homework for you to tone your muscle of patience. Think about an investment that will pay you in the long run, such as education, reading, learning a skill, cultivating relationships, or making long-term friends.
The second category of patience that you must develop is patience with discernment.
2. Be Patient with Discernment
The next verse says,
“You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:8).
To strengthen your heart means to become mentally and emotionally strong enough to handle uncertainty and complexity with patient discernment.
A bamboo farm is not so complicated at all because there is a certainty that you will see the harvest in five years. However, other things in life would test your patience further because of their uncertainty and complexity.
To navigate the complexity and uncertainty, we need discernment. We need to be patient with thinking. Nowadays, many people do not think; they just react. Sir Isaac Newton attributed his success to patiently thinking. He said,
“Whatever I have done is due to patient thought.” ~Sir Isaac Newton
Einstein also said,
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” ~ Albert Einstein
We are in another election season, so let us use it as an example. Elections have long-term consequences, so we must exercise patient discernment. However, I have discovered that many people vote without thinking, including those who are highly educated and very brilliant.
A friend of mine asked me why I voted the way I voted during the last election. I told him that I made my decision after spending approximately 1,000 hours digging the information online and offline about the candidates—their histories, ideologies, and policies.
He laughed at me as if I were crazy to spend so much time investigating the candidates. It was easy for him because he just voted along the party line. He does not have to think. Even if he did any research, he did it to find out how good his candidate is and how bad the others are. There is no objectivity at all. He prejudges the candidates based on partizenship. Prejudgement is prejudice and it is intellectual laziness.
Another friend of mine is an Ivy League graduate and a brilliant guy whom I admire very much, but when it comes to the elections, his frontal cortex shuts down. His emotion overwrites his brain, and he just votes along the party line.
I asked him why he voted the way he did; he said, “You have to pick a side.” He picked his side since he was in college and never think twice. He would vote for the Micky Mouse for President as long as he runs in his party.
According to neuroscience, our brains are lazy, and it tries to avoid thinking about complex issues. So, even intelligent people choose a quick fix whenever they can. Instead of patiently brainstorming, they just pick a side and choose the groupthink.
It seems that the Independent voters are doing the thinking for the country. When it comes to prayer, I also see a difference. We pray for God’s guidance to make the right choice, but they pray for God to make their candidate win.
Legend has it that, at the brink of the civil war, President Abraham Lincoln was pacing the Oval Office. His advisor asked him, “Mr. President, are you praying for God to be on our side.” Lincoln said,
“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” ~Abraham Lincoln
It takes a lot of patience to discern God’s will in times of uncertainty, but it is lazy to ask God to fulfill our own will instead. It seems that we Americans like to bring the team spirit into elections and root for our own team rather than patiently discerning who will be really good for the country.
Now, here is your second homework. Pick a complex matter, or an uncertainty, and discern God’s will and take God’s side as Abraham Lincoln did. Maybe you spend some time to investigate the candidates objectively to find out who can truly benefit the common good in this election.
The third category of patience is with people.
3. Be Patient with People
Notice that each category is harder then the previous one.
The next verse talks about being patient with people,
“Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!” (James 5:9).
Grumbling is a sign of impatience. It is about complaining without confrontation, a silent judgment, an unexpressed resentment, and unforgiveness.
We live in a fallen world and have to deal with fallen people. Every now and then, we are offended or even insulted by those close to us. The only way to maintain happiness in this fallen world is forgiveness. Forgiveness is being patient with people.
You might wonder why it says that we might be judged for grumbling. You might ask, what if my complaint is justified? Is there any room for just resentment at all. You know the answer.
Peter once asked Jesus how many times we should forgive our offenders. In summary, Jesus said we must forgive them unlimited times, meaning there is no room for resentment in God’s kingdom, even just resentment. Jesus said,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Mat 7:1).
It is a mystery of God’s kingdom. We have been told that God’s love is unconditional, but there are many verses like this indicate that God’s forgiveness is conditional to our forgiveness. Even in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught,
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
It seems to indicate that God’s forgiveness takes place in us only when we forgive others. Jesus also said,
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mat 5:7).
We are created in God’s image. Since God is merciful, we are showing God’s image when we show mercy, and it makes God smile.
So, the third homework for you this week is to stretch your patience with people by being aware of whom you are grumbling about and release them from your resentment.
Lastly, be patient with suffering.
4. Be Patient with Suffering
I believe the most challenging category of patience is dealing with suffering. The next two verses say,
“As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11).
In the context of this passage, the believers were suffering from oppression. That is why James was teaching them to be patient in suffering. Even though we are not suffering from any obvious social oppression these days, we are always suffering from something in this fallen world.
Currently, we are suffering from the oppression of the pandemic. Some of us are suffering from mental and physical diseases. For those of us who do not have the diseases personally, we suffer to see our family and friends suffer.
The Bible says the way to maintain joy during suffering is by learning from the patience of the prophets who suffer injustice in spite of the fact that they are here to diliver God’s message. Job’s story is the most powerful example of patience in suffering.
So your final homework is to read Job this week if you haven’t read it recently, and at least once a year from now on to gain and maintain profound wisdom of patience.
Now, there you have it.
- Be Patient with Investment
- Be Patient with Discernment
- Be Patient with People
- Be Patient with Suffering
Tone your spiritual muscle of patience, and you will find yourself enjoying long-lasting happiness. Let us all do it together. Amen!