Friday, March 12, 2010
One of the virtues that Joseph displays throughout the narrative of his life is patience. Now, if the story of Joseph had been written by a Hollywood playwright, the plot line would have been the same - misunderstood and hated dreaming brother sold into slavery, becomes 2nd only to Pharaoh and comes face to face with his wretched brothers in need. But the driving force behind Joseph's actions would have been revenge. Can't you see it? Twenty years of mistreatment, but he endured and overcame for that one moment when he could stand before his brothers and prove their efforts wasted. Joseph could have displayed patience, but it would have been patience with revenge as the fuel.
It's a good thing Hollywood wasn't involved in this story.
Joseph gives us an opportunity to watch a man walk by faith, placing his every action and every circumstance in the hands of his heavenly Father, and patiently wait on His Father's provision. Even when his brothers arrive in Egypt, he still patiently waits to reveal his identity. His tears reveal his conflict, and yet he is resolved to test his brothers' mettle. And his brothers' words and actions reveal much.
Fast forward to today. Notice I said "fast forward" - that is a great word to describe our culture. By the way, I am the fast forward queen. We have TiVo on our television and I love to use it because it means that I can fast forward through commercials. So if I am not home for a show I want to watch, I record it and watch it later, zooming through the story and skipping what looks boring to me, including commercials. Sometimes I even record something and just start watching it fifteen minutes late, so that I can avoid the commercials that way. And then there's the piece de resistance - when I am not home to watch American Idol, I can record it and fast forward through the lengthy conversations and background videos, and just hear the singing. Or on Thursday night, I can just fast forward to the place where they knock people off and see who's gone, but not watch all the drama in between.
Now, come on...I'm not the only person who does this...but "fast forward" has changed my life.
Again, this is a great word to describe our culture. We want it fast - we don't want to get out of our cars to get our food, we want to be able to drive up and get money at ATMs and banks, we don't want to go to the mall so we order it online and we expedite the shipping so that we can have it NOW! We want an answer to a question so we go to ask.com. We get a strange pain in our back and before we see the doctor, we've already diagnosed it because of the internet. We want it fast...we are a microwave society, not a crock pot society.
So patience is a rare virtue. Every second of our time is valuable, so when our mother calls us from out of state, we quickly mention that we are "heading out the door" so that she'll make it fast. Or when we are asked in the foyer of church to come to a ladies event, we hem and haw and ask how long it will go because this is a busy time of year. Or when we see someone we know in the grocery store, we look at our watch and decide if we have the time to chat or if we should avoid them by ducking down a nearby aisle.
I think one of the keys to patience is slowing down. We all could use that in our lives. But we need to remember that patience is a godly virtue - what I mean is that patience is a character trait of God and we could learn a lot by looking to His word on this subject.
I think you might be surprised that the word "patience" only occurs 20 times in the Bible. And the word "patient" is there only 27 times. So, here's your homework for the weekend. I can either keep writing and walk you through this, or I can have you do it yourself. So...tag, you're it!
To find the 20 references with the word "patience" in them, click here. Then look up each verse (you can also expand the text online) and see what you can find out about patience. Think through questions like these: when does God display patience? When does He instruct me to be patience? What is the outcome of patience? Why does patience fit in with the lists of instructions given in some of these verses?
If you enjoyed that, here's the link for patient. Do the same with this word as well. Remember, context helps a lot, so you might have to read a few verses before and after.
And then go one step further. Ask the Lord to reveal to you where you lack patience and write it down. When you see it on paper, that's when you're ready to start working on it.
Find the time and do a little word study - trust me, it's worth it!
Thank you, Lord, for giving us a godly picture of a man enduring trials with patience. May we remember Joseph's life and seek to become more like You, as we look at what Your word teaches about patience.