“Lord, give me patience and give it to me now.”
That’s often how I pray. In my own life and for the church I serve, I want God to work, but I want him to work now. Let’s move past all that patient endurance stuff that clutters the Bible and get things moving right away.
But that’s now how it works, is it? Ministry is slow-moving. I realize this principle most regularly in the way that I preach. If I’m honest, I have an impatient attitude and unrealistic expectations for how people should respond to my ministry efforts.
Preaching can change a life in one moment, but God also uses the steady plodding of a faithful preacher to imprint truths into a person’s soul over time.
I realize that I often want to preach something one time on a topic where everyone has all their questions answered, all their motivations inspired, and all their issues fixed.
In my naivete, I don’t think that someone should struggle with something currently that I have formerly preached about with them in the room. I said it, you should have gotten it, right? Wrong.
People take time. Sanctification is a process. And getting frustrated with people isn’t going to speed them along anyway.
I should grant others the type of patience that I expect God to have for me.
You might praise the long-suffering nature of God, but are you willing to exemplify that through your position as a shepherd to your flock? You may have to preach on something, and preach on it again, and remind them until you can’t remind anymore.
If your expectations are unrealistic, prepare to be disappointed. You cannot preach on a belief or a behavior one time and expect that people’s lives are forever changed without the possibility of any further struggle.
If it took you 30 years of professional study to understand a biblical doctrine, don’t expect a 30-minute sermon to fix it for your congregation.
You may be good, but you’re not that good. When I develop as a theologian through academic degrees and professional discipline, I must learn how to apply those truths patiently to the people God has called me to lead. I cannot expect to cram something down their throats that requires some steady chewing. If it takes a lot for a “professional” to grasp and teach, don’t expect others to receive it any simpler.
The longer that I serve God and others through ministry, the more I realize that I have to play the long game. Whenever I preach, I know that a heart can be changed, an addiction can be dropped, or a calling might be heard. But I also believe that we have to realize that anything good takes some time to be established.
I realize that people won’t remember a lot of what I say. They aren’t going to be 30 years later remarking about the sermon I will deliver this coming Sunday.
They will remember some of what I will say, but they will be imprinted by how I say it.
God has been patient with me, and so I better be patient with others as well.
Work hard to be patient and realistic in your preaching. God is using it and can even use it more, but he also uses elements outside of just the pulpit.
If you believe something strongly, preach on it, but also apply a tender pastoral spirit in the way that you shepherd them to the truth.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.James 3:1